Ascension Day which normally falls on a Thursday does not get as much attention as Easter or Pentecost. Yet, theologically, it is important to the Church. It is found in all our creeds - Nicene, Apostolic and Athanasian. It is also mentioned in Article 4 in our 39 Articles. It is observed in every Christian tradition.
Ascension reminds us that Christ reigns. Resurrection reveals that He lives whereas Ascension reveals that he reigns. Mark 16:19 says “The Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven (ascension) and sat down at the right hand of God (session).” Ascension and session belongs together. To be “seated on the right hand” is a position of power in ancient times.
In Ephesians 1, there is a long sentence of doxology spanning over 14 verses, which ended this way: “…that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
Globally, we have been hit by one crisis after another. The world has been on a knife’s edge for some time now from terrorism, economic crashes, pandemics and wars. Likewise personal crises will affect us as well. These can hit us any time. In the midst of life’s uncertainties and our human mortality, we need to know who we are leaning on. The pandemic has brought to centre stage again in our human consciousness the reality of our mortality. In being aware of our limitations, we learn to trust in Him who reigns eternally.
Hebrews 7:25 tells us that “He always lives to make intercession for us.“ We also need to be reminded that He is in session that He may make intercession for us. He promised to pray for Peter and likewise for us. He is in a position of authority but His eyes and favour are always on us. He is able to “keep that which we have committed to him” (2 Tim 2:12). He has saved us and he will keep us safe.
Another significance of His ascension is found in Acts 1:11, where the disciples were told “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” In celebrating His Ascension, we remind ourselves that He is coming again (parousia). What does the phrase “in the same way” means? His Incarnation, Resurrection, Ascension and Parousia was and will be about Jesus in His body. Human existence will be redeemed and made new. Yes, we often feel that the world is a failure. It seem like we are a "failed state." We are disillusioned by humanity’s foolishness, capacities for evil or the violent randomness of nature.
Ascension reminds us that we can look forward to Parousia where creation will be re-ordered and made new.