Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell readers about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They recorded stories about his teachings, his miracles, and his disciples. Yet unlike his followers in the first century, people today can’t see Jesus with their eyes, hear him with their ears, or touch his nail-scarred hands and feet. This leads many people to ask about where Jesus is now.
Jesus Christ is now in heaven with the Father, having ascended there 40 days after his resurrection. Jesus prophesied his ascension, angels confirmed it, and the disciples saw it. The benefit of the ascension for believers includes the arrival of the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ intercession for believers.
How does Jesus being in heaven right now benefit Christians? Where does the Bible refer to the ascension? What does Jesus say about it in the Gospels? What does Paul say about it? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
How does Jesus being in heaven right now benefit Christians?
At first, it may be difficult for some Christians to understand that Jesus’ ascension benefits them more right now than if he had stayed on earth. Sometimes his absence feels similar to the death of a loved one; they are gone and their absence creates a deep longing for them.
However, Jesus isn’t dead and believers aren’t alone, which makes the ascension an event to celebrate.
Jesus’ ascension (1) prepares the way for Christians to follow him, (2) enables the arrival of the Holy Spirit to establish the Church, (3) empowers believers for life now, and (4) positions him to intercede for believers.
Jesus’ ascension prepares the way for believers
Because believers have union with Jesus, they will ascend into heaven as he did. Paul refers to this in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (ESV)
Jesus also promised his followers, not only that he would come back for them, but that he would take them to be where he is now. John 14:3 reads, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Jesus’ ascension leads to the Holy Spirit’s arrival at Pentecost
The Holy Spirit was present and working prior to the ascension. However, after Jesus rose into heaven, the Holy Spirit would come in a unique way that empowered Christians.
Right before his ascension, Jesus told his followers: “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49; cf. Acts 1:4-5).
Similarly, Jesus told his followers that “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
The unique arrival of the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ ascension not only establishes the Church but enables God to minister to all people at all times and in all places. If Jesus were still on earth in bodily form, he could only be in one location at a time. Through the Holy Spirit, his ministry is exponentially expanded.
Jesus’ ascension empowers believers now
Because believers have union with Jesus, they benefit from his exalted heavenly position in a way that empowers them to have victory over sin and evil.
Paul writes that Jesus “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). Though believers are on earth, they are presently “seated with Jesus” in the sense that his authority over Satan extends to them now.
Jesus’ ascension positions him to intercede for believers
Jesus uses his exalted and authoritative position, in part, to pray for his followers. His intercession is heard and answered from his position at God’s right hand.
Romans 8:34 reads, “Who is there to condemn us? For Christ Jesus, who died, and more than that was raised to life, is at the right hand of God — and He is interceding for us.”
The writer of Hebrews teaches that Jesus ascended to heaven and prays for believers. “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” (Heb. 9:24)
Where does the Bible refer to the ascension?
The fact of Jesus’ ascension is well-attested in the Bible. The Old and New Testaments reference the event. It’s described in the Gospels and Acts and mentioned in Paul’s letters. The application of the ascension is discussed in Hebrews, and the result of the ascension is observed in Revelation.
The longer ending of the Gospel of Mark describes Jesus’ ascension. Luke mentions the event at the end of his Gospel and at the beginning of the book of Acts.
- Mark 16:19, “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.”
- Luke 24:50-51, “And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.”
- Acts 1:9, “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”
John doesn’t describe the moment that Jesus rose into heaven, but his Gospel contains multiple statements that Jesus made predicting his ascension.
- John 3:13, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.”
- John 6:62, “Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?”
- John 20:17, “Jesus said to her, Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
|Definition||to go up, ascend|
|Usage||82x in the New Testament|
|Scope||e.g. ascend a mountain; into heaven; etc.|
Jesus’ ascension in Paul’s letters
The historical reality of the ascension as well as its implications for believers today is a fundamental aspect of Paul’s theology. He mentions that Jesus is now in heaven with the Father multiple times in his letters.
- Ephesians 4:10, “He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)”
- Colossians 3:1, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
- 1 Timothy 3:16, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”
Peter also refers to the ascension: Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Pet. 3:22).
The writer of Hebrews also refers to Jesus’ ascension: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Heb. 4:14).
The ascension in the Old Testament
Twice when Paul alludes to Jesus’ ascension into heaven or his present location with the Father, he quotes the Old Testament. In this way, it can be said that the Old Testament refers to the ascension.
In Ephesians 4:8, when Paul writes that Jesus “ascended on high” he quotes Psalm 68:18, “You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there.”
And in Acts 2:34-35, Luke records Peter who said that David didn’t ascend into heaven. Then Peter refers to Psalm 110:1, which reads, “The Lord says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
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