Calvary Road Baptist Church

“HOW CHRIST’S PRESENT SESSION BEGAN: HIS ASCENSIONS”

Acts 1.9

What is Jesus doing right now? Have you ever given thought to the Savior’s present activities? It is generally known what Jesus Christ did long, long ago, when He walked the earth. However, almost no thought is given these days, by either theologians or pastors, to what the Lord Jesus Christ presently does.

Do you think it might be of interest to most Christians to learn what their Savior is doing, and has been doing, for the last 2,000 years? Do you think it might be of interest to unsaved people to think about the Lord Jesus Christ’s present activities, as well as what He did so long ago and so far away?

If someone asked you, “What is Jesus doing right now?” what would you say? If someone asked you an even more basic question, “Where is Jesus right now?” what would you tell him? Do you think it is important where Jesus is right this minute and what He is doing at this very moment?

When I talk to people about their sins and their hope of salvation, it is more important for me to discover what they believe about Jesus than for me to tell them yet again what I believe about Jesus. To that end, I frequently ask very simple questions that reveal a person’s understanding of important matters related to the Son of God. I typically ask, “Where is Jesus right now?” After hearing a person’s answer, I usually move on to ask, “Where was Jesus before that?” Then, if the response reflects an understanding of Bible truth, I will finally ask, “Where was He before that?”

You see, the Bible teaches, and therefore I believe, that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of the living God, that He is the second Person of the Triune Godhead, without beginning and without end, the Alpha and the Omega. If this be true, then He must have existed from eternity past with His heavenly Father in heaven. Two thousand years ago, He left heaven’s glory to take upon Himself human flesh and live among us, until He became sin for us Who knew no sin and died on Calvary’s cross, the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God. Having accomplished all that He set out to do here on earth, the Lord Jesus Christ returned to heaven in His glorified resurrection body, which is where He is presently, and where He has been continuously for these last 2,000 years.

Most people who have been to church have an idea what Jesus did, and what was accomplished by His crucifixion and bodily resurrection. However, few people give thought to what Jesus is presently doing, and what He has been doing for the last 2,000 years. Do you know? Would you like to know?

The Lord Jesus Christ’s present ministry in heaven is known as His session.[1] However, before we take note of His activities during His session, we should investigate how it began. From the Lord Jesus Christ’s humiliation, which encompassed His incarnation, His crucifixion, and His burial, what events took place that brought about His exaltation to the Father’s right hand on high?

There are four things which occurred that brought about the Savior’s exaltation, which we will briefly consider before this morning’s sermon from God’s Word:


First, THERE WAS THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST FROM THE DEAD


One of the most stupendous miracles ever performed, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the pivotal events in the history of creation, ranking with the creation of all things in the beginning and the virgin birth of the Son of God as a grand and majestic demonstration of divine power.

Though time constraints do not permit an exhaustive treatment of the topic, let us briefly consider seven reasons why Jesus Christ rose from the dead in His glorified body:

(1) Christ arose because of who He is, (2) Christ arose that He might fulfill the Davidic covenant, (3) Christ arose that He might become the source of resurrection life, (4) Christ arose that He might become the source of resurrection power, (5) Christ arose to be Head over all things to the Church, (6) Christ arose on account of justification, and (7) Christ arose to be the First-Fruits.[2]

Two oftentimes overlooked details related to our Lord’s resurrection deserve mention here: First, I am not sure I have ever heard a preacher point out that the resurrection of Christ was an event not observed by witnesses. To be sure, there were hundreds of witnesses that He had risen from the dead, but no one actually saw Him rise from the dead. Many saw Him in His glorified body after He rose from the dead, but no one was on hand when He rose from the dead. The stone was rolled away from the tomb to show that He had risen from the dead, not to provide for any witnesses any observation of His raising up from the dead. Next, little attention is typically paid to the changes in our Lord’s appearance after His resurrection, other than to point out that He was difficult to recognize. More on this later. However, we will learn about our Lord’s glory and His physical appearance by observing John the Beloved’s reactions each time he encountered the Lord Jesus following His resurrection.

Leaving heaven’s glory to take upon Himself the nature of a man by means of the virgin birth was humbling for the Son of God. He was further humiliated by His experiences, by His passion, by His trials, by His crucifixion, by His death, and by His burial. The first step in exalting Him was His glorious, miraculous, stupendous, awesome resurrection from the dead. If the angelic choir rejoiced at His birth in Bethlehem, imagine the shouts of victory when He rose from the dead!


Next, THERE WAS THE UNOBSERVED ASCENSION OF THE RISEN JESUS TO HEAVEN


Please turn to John chapter 20. We know that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been rolled back from the mouth of the tomb, John 20.1.

We also know that she then ran and told Peter and John, who quickly returned with her to the empty tomb. Looking inside the tomb and taking note of the linen that had once wrapped His body lying there empty, as well as the napkin that had been wrapped around His head off to one side, Peter and John then left her at the tomb and returned to their lodgings, John 20.2-11.

Mary Magdalene then saw two angels inside the tomb and was overcome with grief and began to weep, because she did not know where the body had been taken. Turning around, she then saw the risen Savior, but did not immediately know who He was. She thought He was a gardener, verses 12-15.

Verse 16 reveals that when the risen Savior spoke to her she recognized who He was. Then, and this is very important, in verse 17, “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”

Here, then, is the situation. Early on Sunday morning, the Lord Jesus Christ has already risen from the dead and tells Mary Magdalene not to touch Him. Why not? Because He had not yet ascended to His Father.

My speculation is that as our High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ had not yet offered His blood for the remission of our sins following His resurrection, has risen from the dead but has not yet ascended to heaven to perform His high priestly duty. However, this is only my guess, and there is no way to be dogmatic about such a thing.

Later in the day, when the apostles gathered for their evening meal, we are told of another appearance of the risen Savior, in Luke 24.36-43:

36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.

38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?

39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.

41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?

42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.

43 And he took it, and did eat before them.

To recap, early in the morning on that first Sunday, the risen Savior cautioned against touching Him. He had not yet ascended to His Father. Yet, hours later, He encouraged touching Him. What are we to think? “The implication is clear that, since He could not be touched in the morning until He ascended and yet He could be ‘handled’ at evening of the same day, He had ascended during the day.”[3]


Third, THE POST-RESURRECTION APPEARANCES OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST


Though no one witnessed Christ’s resurrection at the time His resurrection was accomplished, the post-resurrection appearances of our Lord during the next forty days did attest that the resurrection had taken place, that it was undeniable. He had conquered sin, death, Hell, and the grave.

“Five appearances are given as occurring on the day of his resurrection, and five subsequently during the forty days. The five appearances on this day were (1) to Mary Magdalene (John and Mark); (2) to other women (Matthew); (3) to the two going to Emmaus; (4) to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34); (5) to ten apostles and others.”[4]

The Apostle Paul summarizes the Lord Jesus Christ’s post-resurrection appearances in First Corinthians 15.1-8:

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

Though many lost people question the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible, what cannot be denied are the following facts about Christ’s resurrection: #1 Hundreds of witnesses were so convinced of Christ’s resurrection they laid their lives on the line to testify of it. #2 Two well-known skeptics claimed to have seen the risen Savior, His own unbelieving brother James, and the greatest of all Christianity’s enemies, Saul of Tarsus, and gave their lives to testify of a resurrection they had once refused to acknowledge. #3 The resurrection was preached without hesitation in the very city where it occurred, before people who were in a position to refute it if it did not happen, yet there is no historical record of anyone in Jerusalem challenging the reality of Christ’s resurrection.

Christ’s exaltation began with His astounding resurrection. His exaltation continued with an unobserved ascension to glory, a return to His heavenly home that was without doubt a magisterial triumph by the Beloved Who had perfectly obeyed His Father. However, Christ’s exaltation was also accomplished by means of His post-resurrection appearances, designed to silence His critics, convince His doubters, and show His conquest and ultimate victory to His followers.


Finally, THE OBSERVED ASCENSION OF CHRIST TO HEAVEN


In Acts 1.8, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to His disciples one last time before His ascension, which we shall see was an ascension that was observed by all who were present. This appearance was an occasion on which He would charge His followers with what we refer to as the Great Commission for the last time: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

Then, in the very next verse, we read that “when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.” That is the description of Christ’s observed ascension to heaven. That is the ascension everyone is familiar with. That is the ascension everyone knows about.

What can be said about Christ’s ascension to heaven from our text? First, that the ascension of Jesus Christ was of His whole person. It was the whole Person who ascended to heaven, complete with a physical, glorified, raised from the dead, body. Second, His ascension was visible, the disciples witnessing the whole transaction. Finally, it was a transfer from one locale to another, from earth to heaven, confirming yet again that heaven is a place and Jesus is presently there.

It is important for us to pay attention to the exaltation of the Savior. While it is wonderful to see Him as the Lamb of God, and to envision Him in His humility, bear in mind that throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity (except for those few short years He was here on earth) He was, and is, and will always be, exalted. Philippians 2.9-11 reveals God’s will for every man in light of Christ’s high exaltation:

9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This is my Lord. The is the Savior of my sinful soul. What an honor, what a privilege, what a thrill it is to serve the King of glory, the exalted Son of the living God!

SERMON:

The Lord Jesus Christ is in His present session in heaven, greatly exalted. His exaltation began when He rose from the dead. It continued when He ascended to heaven without observation. It further continued when He appeared to His disciples some ten times over the course of forty days following His resurrection. His exaltation was culminated by His final, His visible, ascension to heaven.

Where is Jesus now? Below you will see a list of passages showing where Jesus presently is, where He will remain until His glorious second coming in power and great glory.

Therefore, in light of Christ’s great exaltation by the Father, in light of His present session in heaven seated at the Father’s right hand, may I suggest several things?


First, I SUGGEST YOU RECONSIDER YOUR APPRAISAL OF CHRIST IN LIGHT OF HIS EXALTATION


It is one thing to think about responding to Him when you see Him as the Lamb of God, that meek and lowly Savior. It is quite another thing to contemplate Him as the exalted Lord of glory, as the enthroned King, and the One before whom all knees will bend, every head will bow, and every tongue will confess Him to be Lord.

Therefore, in light of the fact that your decision to refuse Him was made without a full consideration of His present exaltation, in His present session, would it not be wise to review your opinion of Him, reconsider your estimation of Him, reevaluate your appraisal of Him? I think it would be very wise.



Next, I SUGGEST YOU RECONSIDER YOUR POSTURE TOWARD CHRIST IN LIGHT OF HIS EXALTATION


You remember during the exposition that Paul informed his readers in Philippians 2.9-11 about the bending of the knees, the bowing of the heads, and the confessing by the tongues of Jesus Christ at the mention of His name. Were you also aware that Paul made reference to that same thing in Romans 14.10-11?

Paul is, in both passages, alluding to something the God of Israel said in Isaiah 45.20-23. Let me read the passage to you:

20 Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.

21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.

22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.

What an impressive passage. This is Jehovah speaking. However, in Romans and Philippians, the Apostle Paul identifies the One bowed before and worshipped with the tongue as the Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, in light of His exaltation, would it not be wise to reconsider your posture toward Him? Would it not be in your best self-interest to bend your knee to Him now, to bow your head to Him now, and to confess Him as Lord now?


Finally, I SUGGEST YOU RECONSIDER YOUR RESPONSE TO CHRIST IN LIGHT OF HIS EXALTATION


Surely, your appraisal of the Lord Jesus Christ changes as a result of your consideration of His exaltation. As well, surely your posture toward the Lord Jesus Christ could stand some revision in light of your new insight into His exaltation.

I suggest one, final, reconsideration in light of this new light that has been shed on your understanding of Christ, this new information about His exaltation. I suggest you respond to His directive to come to Him differently. I encourage you to obey Him and to come to Him.

A wise man wants to make good decisions. A wise man’s good decisions are the result of an appropriate consideration of the pertinent facts.

This morning I have set before you some facts that you have never before considered, the exaltation of the Son of God by means of His resurrection and ascension to His Father’s right hand in glory.

I urge, therefore, your reconsideration, your reevaluation, of your present relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. If you are not a child of God, think about who it is you are refusing, who it is you are rejecting.

Your life, your eternity, your soul, deserves another look at the facts, a reconsideration of Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf. My prayer is that you will make the right choice based on the facts presented to you.

_____________


Some Bible Verses Showing Christ’s Presence In Heaven During This Present Era


1. (Psalm 16.11) “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

2. (Psalm 110.1) “A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”

3. (Matthew 26.64) “Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

4. (Mark 12.36) “For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.”

5. (Mark 14.62) “And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

6. (Mark 16.19) “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.”

7. (Luke 20.42) “And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand.”

8. (Luke 22.69) “Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.”

9. (John 3.13) “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.”

10. John 14.2-4: “. . . I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”

11. (Acts 2.33) “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”

12. (Acts 2.34-35) “For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand. Until I make thy foes thy footstool.”

13. (Acts 7.56) “And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”

14. (Romans 8.34) “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”

15. (Ephesians 1.20) “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.”

16. (Colossians 3.1) “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.”

17. (Second Thessalonians 1.7) “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.”

18. (Hebrews 1.3) “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

19. (Hebrews 1.13) “But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?”

20. (Hebrews 8.1) “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.”

21. (Hebrews 9.24) “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”

22. (Hebrews 10.12-13) “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God. From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.”

23. (Hebrews 12.2) “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

24. (1 Peter 3.22) “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”

25. (Revelation 19.11) “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.”



[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. V, (Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), page 273.

[2] Chafer, page 245.

[3] Chafer, page 263.

[4] A. T. Robertson, A Harmony of the Gospels, (New York: Harper & Row, 1950), page 242.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org