Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Our King enthroned in Heaven

Ascension Day

Hymns

  • 559 – Praise Him, Praise Him
  • 220 – He is Lord (repeat)
  • 266 – I cannot tell
  • 602 – Sing we the King

Scripture Readings

  • Acts 1:1-11
  • Ephesians 1:15-22

Introduction

During 1951, George VI’s health declined and Elizabeth frequently stood in for him at public events. In early 1952, Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand by way of Kenya. On 6 February 1952, they had just returned to their Kenyan home, when word arrived of the death of the King and consequently Elizabeth’s immediate accession to the throne.

At that point in time Elizabeth was the the Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well the Head of the British Commonwealth.

It was not before 2nd of June that her Majesty was officially coronated during a service held in Westminster Abbey.  She wore an exquisite gown with the floral emblems representing her realm of authority, the Commonwealth countries, and the crown of Saint Edward which was first used in 1066 was placed on her head.

Although princess Elizabeth was formally the next monarch in February 1952, she only took tactual responsibility as monarch almost 18 months later.

The point I want to make here is that we have a sort of a shadow, a type, of how we may understand our Lord’s ascension.

This King is from heaven

From all eternity He was God and as such King over all of the universe.  In time God’s plan of redemption unfolded and Jesus Christ was born as a human being.

His ministry on earth can be understood in two stages:

  • His humiliation, which includes his incarnation, birth, his life under the law to fulfil the law, his sufferings (taking the wrath of God on sin), his death and burial.  These things He endured to become our High Priest who can sympathise with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:14-16).
  • His exaltation, which includes his resurrection, ascension, his sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and his return to judge the living and the dead.

But what we must never forget is the fact that He has been, according to his divine nature, always King.  According to his human nature He represented all that we are, yet without sin.

His ministry on earth proves the point that He was always King:  He raised the dead, calmed the storm, restored sight to the blind,  resisted the devils, escaped the violence of the crowd when He wanted to, and preached like someone with authority.

This King in human flesh

But all along there was an element of a mission which He had to complete.  He in some cased ordered the disciples and some of those He healed not to tell others the He was behind their healing.  In Matthew 16 He revealed Himself as the Son of Man, but He also said:

Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. Then He ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah. (Matthew 16:17–20, NIV)

This King in authority

It was a different story after He completed the work of salvation.  He rose in glory, overcoming death, sin, satan and hell, and sent his disciples into all the world with these words concerning Himself:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20, NIV)

In the forty days following his glorious resurrection He taught them about the Kingdom of God.  He, the King-apparent, now teaches about the Kingdom.  When his disciples still did not understand how and where this kingdom will be established and who will be included as the subjects, Jesus said:

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7–8, NIV)

Then He blessed them with a blessing far more significant than any High Priest on earth ever could do, and next the disciples witnessed Him being taken up in a cloud into heaven.  Two angels in white clothing then assured them:

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11, NIV)

We might think that the departure of Jesus would upset them greatly, but Luke records:

Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. (Luke 24:52–53, NIV)

Between their initial dullness of mind about the kingdom of Christ and his blessing and ascension God made them to understand that Christ was made King.  His ascension was his coronation.

This King ascended as God-man

Let’s see what the Bible teaches us about Christ’s ascension:  (See:  Hodge, C. (1997). Systematic theology (Vol. 2, p. 630). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.)

That the ascension of Christ was of his whole person. It was the God/man, the Son of God clothed in our nature, having a true body and a reasonable soul, who ascended.

That the ascension was visible. The disciples witnessed the whole transaction. They saw the person of Christ gradually rise from the earth, and “go up” until a cloud hid Him from their view.

It was a local transfer of his person from one place to another; from earth to heaven. Heaven is therefore a place, the place where God dwells, where the angels and the spirits of the just are congregated; from where Christ came, and to which He has returned.   Our Lord now as a God-man occupies a definite portion of space. He is as to his human nature in one place and not everywhere. But as our representative, the fruitfruits of his church, He is still human;  He is now not subject to death, and now dwells in heaven as a glorified man.

Locally He is absent from the world, but He is dynamically present to all his people in his present human existence-form.  The (P)person who is present with us, is both God and man. We have all the advantage of his human sympathy and affection; and the form of divine life which we derive from Him comes from Him as God still clothed in our nature.

He came from heaven. Heaven was his home. It was the appropriate sphere of his existence; this world is not suited for the Redeemer’s abode in his state of exaltation.  It is therefore in need of restoration to become a new heaven and a new earth.

This King as High Priest

It was necessary that as our High Priest He should, after offering Himself as a sacrifice, pass through the heavens, to appear before God in our behalf. His eternal priestly office needs to be exercised in heaven. He there makes constant intercession for his people.  What the high priest did in the earthly temple, is necessary for the High Priest to do in the temple made without hands, eternal in the heavens.

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. (Hebrews 9:24, NIV)

We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being. (Hebrews 8:1–2, NIV)

It was necessary for Christ to ascent into heaven, so that the Holy Spirit would come to teach us about the work of Christ.  Men if left to themselves would have remained in their sins, and Christ had died in vain. To secure that blessing for the Church his ascension was necessary. He was exalted to give repentance and the remission of sins; to gather his people from all nations and during all ages until the work was accomplished. His throne in the heavens was the proper place from where the work of salvation, through the merits of his death, was to be carried on.

This King of all kings

He is doing this as King:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9–11, NIV)

Hebrews 1:3 teaches us:

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:3, NIV)

Paul echoes this truth:

He [God] raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, (Ephesians 1:20–22, NIV)

Daniel saw a vision of this King of kings:

He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:14, NIV)

This King is God

No creature could have done it, not even angels.  The writer of the Hebrews makes it clear.  No angel ever hear the words, “You are my Son”, or “I will be a Father to him”, or “Your throne will be forever”, or “God has anointed you”, or “They will perish, but You will remain”.   In fact, we hear that angels worshipped him, and are like servants at his feet.

Divine perfections, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, as well as infinite wisdom and goodness, are essential for a true king to rule in righteousness over all orders of beings, all creatures rational and irrational, being greater than all reason and conscience,  as well as having dominion of a world unseen and unknown to us.

No creature is excluded from the rulership of Christ.

On Ascension Day He ascended his throne after He completed the work as Mediator to bring God and fallen man together.  What went wrong in paradise – and all its consequences – was restored.  And now we may pray in His Name:  Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.  And before Him we bow in total submission to do his bidding.  In His Name we pray for the things we need to see this kingdom come.  By his shed blood we look forward to the vindication of his elect when He will call them to reign with Him into all eternity.  At his feet we wait for the final destruction and his dominion over the forces of darkness.  On his promise we stand as we wait for our eternal mansion with our Father.

Yes, He is coming again!.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 5 May 2016

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