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Archive for May 31st, 2011

Introduction:  I know the quote below is lengthy!  It is from a book, The Ascension of Our Lord by Rev. Peter Toon (Anglican priest).  It is a sound book on the Biblical doctrine and significance of the Ascension.  This quote is from the introduction.  We tend to think that Christmas (Incarnation),  Good Friday (Crucifixion), Easter, or Pascha (Resurrection) and the Ascension are all done deals in history:  they are!  But they are not because the risen and ASCENDED Lord has continuing Life and significance for us all  by what He has done “for us and for our salvation” because He is ascended.  Rev. Toon makes this clear.–Pr. Schroeder

When you think about Jesus, what thoughts or images come into your mind?  Possibly you think of him as the babe of Bethlehem, visited by shepherds and magi.  You might imagine him walking the dusty roads of Galilee and Judea with his disciples, stopping here and there to teach and to heal.  You may picture him on a wooden cross outside the city walls of Jerusalem praying, “Father, forgive them….”  Or, you think of him as the resurrected Jesus appearing to his disciples in the garden, in the upper room, on the road to Emmaus, and by the sea of Galilee.  Perhaps you look upward and see him sitting or standing at the right hand of the Father, ruling the universe.  Furthermore, because you believe that he is “mysteriously” present with believers, you think of him standing alongside you, walking with you, talking to you, being at the center of the fellowship of believers, and presiding at the Lord’s Supper.  Maybe you see him in heaven as the great Priest, praying that the salvation of God be fully known and received by those who believe.  Or, because you think that the end of the world is near, you see him prepared to leave heaven to return to earth as the judge.

      All such thoughts are valid and each of us needs to think all of them – and more of a like kind – regularly.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).  Thus it is right to think of him at any point in his incarnate life, from his birth through his ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and life in heaven, until his return to earth as Judge.  In this book you are invited to think especially of Jesus Christ as the One who ascends into heaven.  He is seated at the right hand of the Father and, through the Holy Spirit, is deeply involved in the creation, growth, and health of God’s Church on earth.  There is much more information about the life and role of Jesus as the ascended Lord in the New Testament than most Christians realize.  It will be our joyful purpose to discover this material and reflect upon it, that we may live as disciples of the living Lord Jesus.

      You may have one or two lingering doubts about the value of studying and meditating upon the existence and role of the incarnate Son of God in heaven.  Here are two reasons to help you recognize the importance of Jesus’ heavenly life, not only for your enjoyment of God’s salvation, but also for the mission of redemption, reconciliation, and liberation in God’s world.

      First, at the level of simple arithmetic, consider that the eternal Son of God has been the incarnate Son of God for about 1985 years.  His life as God is eternal, but from the womb of the virgin Mary he took upon himself our human nature and flesh.  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us … full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  Thus his life as God-Man had a beginning in space and time, and for his first thirty-three years he devoted himself to fulfilling the will of the Father as the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world.  Now, as incarnate Son, he has been in heaven for over 1950 years as the victorious Savior and Messiah.  His life and role as incarnate Son in heaven since the Ascension should not be neglected.  It demands our prayerful attention, study, and meditation.

      Second, let us not forget that the achievements of Jesus the Messiah in his ministry and work on earth would be without universal power and permanent significance, were it not for the fact that he was exalted to heaven through resurrection and ascension of his perfected and glorified body.  Perhaps an illustration will bring out the importance of this point.  Think of the explorer who leaves one country and discovers wonderful things in a faraway, unknown land.  His discovery will be of no avail for his fellow countrymen until he returns home and describes what he has seen and found.  Likewise, the incarnate Son had to return home.  The Father sent him on a mission which was not complete until he returned to the Father in the manhood that he had assumed, fulfilling the will of the Father.  Had Jesus not been raised from the dead or, as the resurrected Jesus, he had been lost somewhere in the created order, his mission would not have been completed.

      Heaven is the place and sphere from where the universe is sustained and ruled; heaven is the place and sphere from where salvation goes forth into the world of space and time.  For God’s salvation to be a universal and everlasting salvation, the incarnate Son, Jesus the Messiah, returned to heaven where he could be the source of salvation everywhere to all who believe.  From heaven, through the agency of the Holy Spirit (whom the Father sends to the world in the name and for the sake of the exalted Jesus), the incarnate Son preaches the Word of God, builds up God’s church, and continues universally the divine work that began in the restricted area of Palestine.  Remember that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) did not occur until the incarnate Son was in heaven, enthroned as co-Regent with the Father.  Recall the promise of Jesus, “I am with you always…” (Matt. 28:20).  Now he is present in and through the Holy Spirit, whom Paul calls the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9).

      Because the heavenly life and role of the incarnate Son are obviously so important for the faith, worship, life, and witness of the people of God, you are invited in this book to think of the exalted Jesus with the help of three biblical models – King, Priest, and Prophet.  These models will function as an opening door, allowing you to enter the holy of holies for a deeper knowledge of God.

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