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What the Ascension Means

The Ascension and Seating of Christ at the Right Hand of the Father is an event that is often overlooked in terms of its importance of God's plan of salvation. Join us as we look at the Ascension, Daniel 7, and what it means to us that Jesus ascended. Church members and friends can support St. John's By-the-Sea by visiting our website, where a donation can be made by PayPal or credit card, if you prefer that to mailing your donations to the church.

Good Morning. One of the hardest things about trying to read through the Bible in a Year happens when you get about halfway through the Book of Exodus. From there, through Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, you get complicated descriptions of all the qualifications that are necessary for temple priests, along with a seemingly endless lists of jobs that they have to do to keep ritual purity. They are never done.

I have heard more than once that the hardest thing about the Bible in a Year is February, even though it has the fewest days. There are times you want to ask, “How does it benefit me to read and know all this?”  Today we see the fulfillment and the benefit of all of this holiness code.

Today, we are looking at the fact that Jesus Ascended into Heaven and is seated at the Right Hand of the Father. Something that we say every week in church, but may not know why it is so important. And I say that because, in listening to ten or so sermons in preparing this message about the Ascension, many pastors began saying that most people probably don’t know why this is so important to us.

This morning, we read the ending of Luke and Luke’s record of how Christ Ascended into Heaven. Luke also records it at the very beginning of the Book of Acts (clouds). There are many applications, so I am going to limit it to the three offices of Jesus, as Prophet, Priest, and King which you find in the Gospels. Each emphasizes one. Jesus Ascension completes all three offices. He is the final, the ultimate, in each of these categories.

First, the Ascension fulfills Jesus’ position as Prophet. In John 14 through 16, which we talked about for a few weeks, Jesus gives his Farewell Address, telling his disciples that he is leaving them, which is what they feared most. At the Last Supper, in John 14, Jesus says:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

Despite this, the disciples were in tears, weeping because he was leaving them, and the thought broke their hearts, despite his promise to send a Comforter. However, at the end of today’s lesson from Luke, they are no longer crying or heartbroken. It’s an incredible change.

Jesus parted from them and was carried up into heaven. (CLOUD) And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. J&J!!

What happened? First thing in our Luke lesson, we see Jesus had begun to make God’s Word clear by the power of the Holy Spirit.

(Jesus says) I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me … must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

The job of a prophet is not simply telling the future. A prophet is one who speaks and teaches God’s word. A Prophets main job was making God’s word clear to those who were supposed to hear it. Preaching is a type of prophecy when it is telling people: HEY!!

“This is what the Lord says to you!!” This was essential at a time when very little of the Bible was written, and almost none would have been compiled so you could read it like we have it today.

Jesus teaches his disciples, and then he Ascends into Heaven to send the Holy Spirit to teach God’s People all they need to know through His Word. Jesus is the last Great Prophet.

Second, Jesus ascension is the Ultimate Fulfillment of his Office as Priest of His people.  And here is where all that holiness code comes in.

Did you know that there is actually a book of the Bible in which the main purpose of the book is to teach its readers how important the Ascension of Christ into Heaven is, in that it changes everything.

That book is the Epistle to the Hebrews. Hebrews unfortunately doesn’t get its due in Bible Studies because it is so heavily steeped in a mindset that is hard for us to grab, as it depends on all those priestly codes.

Hebrews was written before the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. Hebrews teaches us that Jesus has Died, Resurrected, Ascended and present himself to the Father as a Spotless Sacrifice for the sins of mankind. That part we should know. Now for the hard part.

When Hebrews was written, the Temple was still standing in Jerusalem. The priestly sacrifices for purity were still taking place, allegedly to God, even though Jesus had offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Before he was crucified, Christ had promised its imminent destruction (not one stone), but, in the meantime, people were still offering sacrifices on the altar in the Temple, now Offensive to God.

Offensive because Christ was THE ultimate sacrifice for sin. Many Christians were confused as to whether they should continue in Temple or not. Moses had established it after all. But Hebrews teaches that new sacrifices for sin are the worst thing a believer can do. Asking a priest to offer a sacrifice so your sins could be forgiven is a statement that you believe that the Sacrifice of Christ is not sufficient.

When you read through Leviticus, you really get overwhelmed with how many things the Priests were responsible for while standing to make the people holy. It was an ongoing, never-ending process.

Hebrews teaches, in comparison, Jesus is done. Hebrews 10:11-13

Every priest stands ministering daily and offering often the same sacrifices which are never able to take-away sins— but this One, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat-down at the right hand of God, henceforth waiting until His enemies are put as a footstool of His feet. (the footstool image comes back for King)

Jesus sits, because He is done. His one sacrifice, once offered, is sufficient for all sin. So…Luke and John (among others) says Jesus is the Great Prophet for preaching the Word, and sending the Spirit, Hebrews teaches that Jesus is our Great High Priest who has offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin and sat down enthroned, , which leads nicely to King.

Did you notice in our Daniel reading how the Son of Man came on the clouds and was enthroned at the right hand of the Ancient of Days?

It’s easy to miss, but it’s a continuation of the Luke lesson.

The neat thing is, that it was written hundreds of years before Jesus disappeared into those very clouds. Again Daniel 7:13-14-

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

What an amazing passage proving that Jesus is the King of the Universe, Jesus is Lord, and Jesus is God. Daniel is blessed to witness Jesus coming on the same clouds that he left in in Luke. Daniel tells us how the Son of Man appears before God the Father, the Ancient of Days.

And since the Ancient of Days is pleased with his offering of Himself as our High Priest, the Son of Man, is given an everlasting kingdom that will never pass away. And He is worshiped and served by people of all nations and languages.

So today is a glorious day, where we celebrate how Christ ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. As Prophet, He has given his Word to us. As Priest, He has washed away all our sins, and He now reigns as the Lord and King of the Universe.

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