Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD. (Ex 28:29)
We have such a High Priest, One who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a Minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. (Heb 8:1-2)
It would be interesting to do a poll regarding which 'moment' of gospel activity shapes our theology/spirituality the most. Is it incarnation, or life, or death, or resurrection, or ascension, or pentecost or return? I know they all belong together but if I had to tick only one box I might well identify 'ascension' as the moment that most shapes my Christian outlook. Either cross or ascension anyway. Thankfully we don't have to choose and in Hebrews (which we're preaching through at the moment) the sacrifice and the priest are kept very much together. But ascension is so close to my heart because it blows my mind to think of the One on the throne as my Brother!
A Man occupies the true seat of power. Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh rules heaven and earth. The very One who was down here - teaching and healing, washing our feet, cleansing the temple, gathering the children, denouncing His enemies, silent on trial, dying in agony, forgiving His executors, risen with those same wounds, walking and cooking and eating and drinking with His friends and speaking of the kingdom - He's the One who is up there. We have a Friend in High Places. The greatest Friend in the highest place.
And if we're in Him we've arrived. We are already safe, already secure, already sat down, already blessed in the heavenly realms, already beloved, already honoured, already in the circle of God's triune love. The Anchor of our souls is secure in the very safest place (Hebrews 6:19f). In the meantime we'll be blown about here and there but "My Anchor holds within the veil."
Chin up - He's ascended. And we in Him.
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Rev 3:21)
Some Ascension Day resources here.
And here's the audio of Dev's ascension sermon. Text below...
Our Savior descended when He became flesh, indeed made a little lower than the angels, when He came to the manger of Bethlehem, a babe, and further descended when He became "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." He descended lower still when he was obedient to death, even the death of the cross; and further yet when His dead body was laid in the grave. Descending into death. Long and dark was the descent--there were no depths of humiliation, temptation, and affliction which He did not fathom. Seeing He stood in our place and stead, He went as low as justice required that sinners should go. At the utmost abyss of desertion heard Him cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Low in the grave He lay.
Then on the third day He rose to the light of the living. He had commenced His glorious ascent. To test the reality of His resurrection, He stayed on the earth forty days, and showed Himself to many witnesses. He gave infallible proofs that He was really risen from the dead. He ate a piece of a broiled fish and of a honeycomb. The fact that Jesus died was put beyond question by the spear-thrust; and the fact that He was alive, in the body, was equally well established by the touch of Thomas, as he thrust his hand into His side. Beyond a doubt, Christ Jesus has risen from the dead
This being settled beyond question, the time came for our Lord to continue His homeward, upward journey, and return unto the glory from which He had come down. And from the Mountain of Olives while His disciples surrounded Him, "He was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight." From there He continued His ascent, and let us look as He approaches the gates of heaven,
Psalm 24:3-10 3 Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. 5 He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
It is as though the Holy Spirit raising Him up with the mighty power of God approaches the great gates of the throneroom of the Most High, in the highest heaven, and declares mightily to the angels that stand guard with their flaming swords, the Cherubim that prevent all flesh from accessing Paradise, the Spirit declares: 7 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
They in some confusion perhaps reply, seeing His new creation body, a form they are unfamiliar with, more so, seeing a man, an Adam, flesh and bones. Who dares intrude into the sanctity of Him who dwells in unapproachable light: 8 Who is this King of glory?
The Spirit with the sound of rushing waters answers back: The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! He has conquered sin and death, He is our victor, fresh from the grave, indeed He is of mankind, He is of the earthly creation, but see He has made it new, He has redeemed it all. I call upon thee: 9 Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
Now in fear and further confusion the angelic hosts reply, who is such a man? Who could have done such a thing? Could anyone of flesh have defeated death and sin, and Lucifer the Morningstar as well? Who is this one called Lord? 10 Who is this King of glory?
The Spirit opening their blind eyes reveals to them, He is the eternal Son of the Father, indeed the commander of their legions, He is your Master, He is the LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! Open and let Him in! Come follow Him in royal procession! Now is the time for the coronation of the great King of Kings!
Now we see Him enter, in glorious triumph, see Him approach the Father, see Him approach the One who sent Him.
Daniel 7:13-14 3 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. 14 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.
We hear the Father say in His coronation:
Psalm 110:1-7 The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." 2 The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! 3 Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power,1 in holy garments;2 from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.3 4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." 5 The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. 6 He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs1 over the wide earth. 7 He has drunk from the brook by the way; therefore now he lifts up his head.
For indeed the reason why He is crowned, as the Psalm has said, Hebrews 2:9 9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
In the ascension of Christ, is the consummation of the cross. Although as Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished” as He gave His final breath, the work is finally come to an end, a completion, it is secured as the author to the Hebrews says, in and only in His ascension to God the Father. Now this is explained by Moses, perhaps most clearly in Leviticus 16. On the Day of Atonement. In this we see a picture, a shadow, of what happened from the cross to the ascension of Christ. For on that day, which happens but once a year, the high priest, is permitted to enter behind the curtain, to proceed into the Holy of Holies within the tabernacle, within the Most Holy Place, to behold the Lord God seated on the throne. On that day, the high priests takes all the sins of the people and indeed even the very camp itself and everything in it, and places them on the head of a perfect, spotless sacrifice. That sacrifice is then both killed and taken outside the camp and burned, and cast out, paying the price for sins, we know that is the cross. Yet after this the priest then takes the blood from that sacrifice, with the coals from the alter, and sweet smelling incense, a fragrant offering and, brings it from the courts of the tent, into the Holy place, past the curtain with many Cherubim angels sewn on it, to approach the most Holy God, seated on the throne. He then sprinkles the blood across the mercy seat, the atonement cover of the ark, the throne. He consummates the sacrifices, securing it, making it complete, and then returns out to the people, indicating that their sins are forgiven, and the time has come to dwell freely with God.
Hebrews 9, commenting on this passage, as well as many other sacrifices, simply reinforces what we already know. This is about Jesus.
Hebrews 9:11-15 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come,1 then through the greater and more perfect tent (tabernacle) ( not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies1 for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our1 conscience from dead works to serve the living God. 15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.
He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, so that we have atonement by His blood on the throne, which intercedes for us. So then Christ is our great high priest. Now,
Hebrews 4:14-16 14 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. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Because Hebrews 7:16-17 16 He has become a priest, not on the basis of fleshly command, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is witnessed of him, in Psalm 110: "You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek."
So now then we have an eternal high priest, whose sacrifice shall be forever before the Lord, His blood always interceding for us, for those who access it by faith in Him. Indeed because of His ascension how confident should we be in Him, how thankful, how full of praise. And how secure, as Paul says: Romans 8:34-39 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died - more than that, who was raised - who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.1 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Yet there is more. As Christ marches triumphantly up the mountain of the Lord, entering the heavenly Jerusalem, His enemies are assured of their defeat. 1 Timothy 3:16 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He1 was manifested in the flesh, vindicated2 by the Spirit,3 seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. We remember when Christ rose up from the dead He remained 40 days, and as we have said, it was to test the new life that He has procured, whether He truly had victory over sin and death, to test the new flesh. Indeed in His ascension, He was seen by the entire angelic host and declared to all the rebellious and fallen angels, that He reigns supreme, and their destruction is imminent. Satan has been defeated, where O death are your plagues, where O grave is your sting? 15 He disarmed all rulers and authorities1 and by His ascension He puts them to open shame, by declaring His triumph. Even the very angels from the times of Noah who committed unspeakable errors and are held prisoners in the bowels of the abyss heard of His mighty victory as He declared it far and wide, and is still declaring through His body, His people. Psalm 68:18 18 You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train.
The Beloved One, King David has defeated the enemies of the Lord, King Solomon’s reign is coming soon, peace is here and there will be peace in the land, a peace that no wickedness can penetrate. Goliath is decapitated, Dagon lies facedown across the threshold, the Baals are burning, the idols have been smashed into pieces, Jezebel has been thrown over the wall and dogs have eaten her flesh, Satan, the ancient serpent, the so-called great leviathan, writhes its last few lashes in agony. The Lord proclaims His defeat over sin and death and the tyranny of the heavenly rulers, and they shudder and flee. All those powers which held you captive have been vanquished by Christ. "Sin shall not have dominion over you." Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, who shall deliver us even from this body of death!
Even the earthly kingdoms will come to no more, for in His ascension, The Father says to Him who is crowned with many crowns, on that holy hill:
Psalm 2:7-12 You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break1 them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
1 Peter 3:21-22 Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
They are defeated, subject to Him willingly or unwillingly, but not yet destroyed. The Philistine army runs away in terror at the mighty works of the Shepherd King, and now God commands all men to behold the Son of God, and repent. The Kingdom of God flung from the hand of God is the Rock that will grow into the huge mountain, smashing the kingdoms of this world. Surely there is nothing left, no chance of rebellion, they have been utterly and completely conquered, and yet would some men still hold on to vain pride? He holds captivity captive, and their destruction is assured, it is now a mere matter of moments till that day of days.
That day when they will see Him in His full glory, when the full splendour of His heavenly coronation will bear down upon them, and indeed on that day will they beg the earth to cover them, they will beg the mountains to fall upon them, to stay dead within the ground, not to meet the conquering King, with His iron rod, ready to smash them like broken pots. Shall we all not repent and be willing subjects to the victorious King that will share with us all things?
Yet there is more. For in His ascension, Ephesians 4, quoting Psalm 68 states:
Ephesians 4:8-10 8 Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." 9 ( In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
In His ascension He fills all things. Christ by His resurrection and ascension establishes His new body. It is as though the old body of flesh had to be destroyed, such that the new body could then incorporate us, the church, and the whole world. Like the temple that had to be destroyed so that a new and better temple could be built, so then Christ’s fleshly body of Adam’s nature had to be destroyed, and it was created new using us the church as building blocks, as the living stones, as His bodily parts, with Him as the head. As He ascends, He establishes the church, His new body, containing the whole world. As Ephesians 1 states:
Ephesians 1:20-23 God raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 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. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in everyway.
Martin Luther states: This is to say, not only does he sit up there but he is also down here. And for this purpose did he ascend up thither, that he might be down here, that he might fill all things and be everywhere present; which thing he could not do had he remained on earth, for here in the body he could not have been present with all. He ascended to heaven, where all hearts can see him, where he can deal with all men, that he might fill all creation. He is present everywhere and all things are filled with his fullness.
In His ascension, the church becomes His new eternal body, forever bound up to Him, a Heavenly City made up of us all, with our Head residing in the heavens itself. The true tower - that Babel could never achieve. The old body is dying in dust and is passing away, the new body is now experiencing its firstfruits, and will be consummated on that great day of the Lord, when all is finally come to its full harvest, when we share completely in everything He shares.
It is then no wonder that the Spirit of God, which always resides in the body of Christ, is now free to roam within the world. As though it were seemingly restricted before, as the other angels and spirits roamed allied with the rebellious nations besieging Israel. But now the true Israel fills all things, the Spirit of God is pleased then to bless all who enter His body through faith with every spiritual blessing, as both Ephesians 1 and 4 state, such that He gives gifts liberally to all His church.
Psalm 68:18-25 18 You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and gave gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there. 19 Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.
Even though we still remain sinners, we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are numerous and abundant. Every gift is accessible to us and freely given by the God who bears us up, the God of our salvation. All given for the singular purposes of building the body in number and maturity, up to perfection.
Ephesians 4:11-16 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,1 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,1 to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Indeed as the Songs of the Ascent declare:
Psalm 133:1-3 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!1 2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, the high priest, running down on the collar of his robes! 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.
The pure oil of the Spirit of peace is poured out upon the head of the high priest and flows down for us, like Dew coming from the heavenly city itself, to enrich and nurture the olive tree of life. Indeed thus after the ascension of Christ it was a matter of days before the first dew-drops coming from His coronation oil-pouring were felt, at Pentecost and at the home of Cornelius, to both Jew and Gentile as had faith in Christ, as they saw mighty signs of the surety that Our Lord and Savior sits on the throne, and is at the heavenly table, being anointed with oil. The Spirit came with a mighty force, as He still blows today, causing many signs and wonders within the body of Christ, death is pushed back, diseases are healed, the confusion and tyranny of sin is restored with the understanding of many tongues.
Ephesians 1:3 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
And so by understanding the ascension, we understand our Teacher when He tells us,
John 14:16-17 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,1 to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 16:7-8 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:
And just before He ascends He says:
John 20:21-22 21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 28:18-20 "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in1 the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
The nations must sit up and take notice, Christ is crowned King, worthy is the Lamb we cry, and His Kingdom has come and is coming, the Father commands all men to repent! The church His body are now His hands and His feet, all authority has been given to us, we have simply a work of proclamation to carry out. To go to all the nations, to all the world, telling them the good news of Christ and His victory, and inviting all to participate in the great celebration for all eternity, warning those who refuse. And so these days are termed, the end times, the last days, simply a time of waiting, with no more sacrificial work to be done, no more great war to be fought. Everything earthly is passing away, together with the angelic and earthly rulers of this age. The new age to come is here and coming soon, where Christ rules supreme, together with all who follow Him, celebrating in His wake. Jesus is enthroned forever.
Psalm 102:26-28 26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 27 but you are the same, and your years have no end. 28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.
Like the Israelites waiting for the high priest to come out from behind the curtain, after the sacrifice has been consummated on the Day of Atonement; Hebrews 9:28 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
And what is He doing up there now? No more work of redemption to be done. Well He tells us,
John 14:3 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.
Christ who came from the bosom of the Father, from His side, from His rest. Now has entered the eternal rest, the eternal Sabbath. As the hymn declares:
Bore it up triumphant, with its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures, to its central height,
To the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast,
Filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.
He is Lord of the Sabbath and invites others there as He prepares the place for us. Paul Blackham states: The God-Man has gone to the source of life at the centre of reality, the place from which all existence and life comes from, and He’s gone there to change it from top to bottom. To prepare His creation as the family home for all eternity with His bride, to make it all that He wants it to be, to every last corner, from the invisible realm of the spirits, to the visible realm. We await till He comes to bring the light, and life and glory of that heavenly realm with Him, and to destroy death, disease, sin and confusion.
John seeing visions of this heavenly place, this city of peace, proclaims to us that very day:
Revelation 21:2-3 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place1 of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,2 and God himself will be with them as their God.3
What a glorious inheritance is established for us in the ascension of Christ. What a great hope we have and what eager expectation burns within us, indeed groans for that great day, when Christ, our light and life, comes to be with us in full.
Indeed as we said right now, the Man of Flesh and Bones, the firstfruits of the new creation, the 2nd Adam sits on the right hand side of the Father, our perfect representative. And not just our representative, but us in Him and Him in us, this means, not just that we will share everything, but we right now, all of us in Him share everything with Him.
Karl Barth said this: Christ is now, as the bearer of humanity, as our representative, in the place where God is and in the way in which God is. Our flesh our human nature is exalted to Him to God. The end of His work is that we are with Him above. We with Him beside God.”
As Spurgeon says: In His ascension, He bore all His people with Him. As Levi was in the loins of Abraham, when Melchizedek met Him, so were all the saints in the loins of Christ when He ascended up on high, to The King of Righteousness. Not one of the number shall fail to come where the head has entered. Not only will He not leave us behind, but He cannot be so, since we are one with Him; and where He is His people must be. We are in the highest glory in Jesus, and by faith we are raised up together, and made to sit together in the heavenlies, even in Him.
Indeed, Hebrews 12:22-24 22 We have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly1 of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
It is no wonder Scripture implores us:
Colossians 3:1-4 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your1 life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Let us put our minds on the things that are above, to put our head in the clouds, that we may only see Jesus. Do not earthly anxiety, worldly ambition and sin that so easily entangles destroy such a vision, such a sure hope? Let us remember our great high priest, who has ascended through the heavens, and is crowned with glory and honour - all that He has done, is doing and will do for us. For as surely as the Sun rises, He will come again and make everything new.
We pray with Spurgeon:
The man Christ Jesus has gone back to the place from whence His Godhead came. Thou art the King of glory, O Christ! Thou art the eternal Son of the Father! Thou sittest ever in the highest heaven, enthroned with all glory, clothed with all power, King of kings and Lord of lords. Unto thy name we humbly present our hallelujahs, both now and forever. Amen
0 thoughts on “Our Friend in High Places”
Thanks Glen, that was an excellent thing to read, edifying and pointing me to Christ ascended and reigning. I cannot understand why such great truths are so neglected by the church in the UK (and America). Could it be because today's Thursday? But we cope with the midweek dates on the church calender 40 days before Palm Sunday (despite them being rather undermining of the gospel - perhaps that's why they are more well-known and more celebrated?), so 40 days afterwards and the middle of the week should be doable.
The Theology that comes with an ascended Christ is as neglected as the day. Perhaps that gap between Exodus 20 and Joshua 1 that we seem to have created (with a few verses, and if you are lucky a couple of whole chapters) has meant that we neglect the priesthood of Christ, especially in so-called 'Low Church' circles. We talk about Spiritual Gifts, neglecting that the gifts are given by all three persons, and that the Spirit himself is a gift that comes from the ascended Son (asking his Father to send, and also sending). We love Pentecost, but ignore what had to happen (that sounds as if it was a bad thing - clearly it's one of the greatest events ever!) just before.