The Person of Christ - 28 - Ascension in Hebrews

 

Chapter 28 - The Ascension of Christ

In Hebrews and The Prison Epistles

Norman Crawford

 

The deepest impression made on the heart of the exercised reader of the Hebrew letter is that there is a real Man in the Glory. His glorified Manhood was the ?triumphal car? in which He ascended to the Throne of God. Little is said of His coming out of death (see 13:20) but much is said about His ascension from earth and His entry into Heaven. It is this subject we wish to reverently explore. An attempt will be made to examine the Hebrew epistle and use statements from Paul?s prison letters to further develop this wondrous truth.

 

HIS DEPARTURE OUT OF DEATH

 

He came out of the place of death. ?The God of peace... brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus? (Heb. 13:20). The force of the word ?from? is ?out of? death. He must have gone into it to have come out. This helps us to understand a rather difficult passage (Heb. 5:7) where ?in the days of His flesh (the incarnate Son) offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears (Gethsemane) unto Him that was able to save Him from (out of) death, and was heard, in that He feared.? Various interpretations have been given to this verse (the strangest of all to this writer is that He is praying not to die ih the garden of Gethsemane). Though He went into death and willingly took the cup from the hand of the Father, yet He was truly heard and saved out of it in resurrection. This is the sense of ?when He cried unto Him He heard? (Psalm 22:24). He came from the undefiled tomb in a glorified body that yet distinctly bears the marks of His suffering.

 

Though there were many faithful witnesses to His resurrection, Colossians 2:15 tells us that other eyes beheld this great event. The hosts of darkness were more than mere spectators but actively joined in attempting to impede Him. It was in His cross work and glorious resurrection that He engaged the foe and flung them from Him, displaying His triumph over them in resurrection power.

 

Ephesians tells us it was the mighty power of God that so ?wrought in Christ, when he raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand? (Eph. 1:20).

 

HIS PASSAGE THROUGH THE HEAVENS

 

A cloud veiled from the sight of the tiny band on the hill the passage of their Lord as He ascended. The Hebrew writer allows us to follow His journey; ?We have a great High Priest, that is passed into (through) the heavens, Jesus the Son of God? (4:14). The great star systems of the universe could not impede the passage of their Creator. It was Jesus, in glorified Manhood, Who made the journey.

 

Israel?s high priest, once a year, passed from the sight of the people through the restricting veil (Lev. 16:12-14). So the Lord Jesus passed from the sight of the Apostles, caught up in the glory cloud (Shekinah) to pass through the heavens. We cannot relate our earthly concepts of space and time to this tremendous event. It is a fact that far transcends any thought of a space traveller, for this is the language of transcendence. Not only did He ascend but passed through the heavens, beyond the limits of time and space, ?far above all heavens? (Eph. 4:10). No human mind can fully comprehend the majesty of Paul?s statement, ?He that descended is the same also that ascended up, far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.? We bow before Him in worship.

 

HIS ARRIVAL IN HEAVEN

 

No man of earth can conceive the joy of Heaven, when He who had stepped from its bright glory to accomplish the mighty work of redemption, ascended back up where He was before. David coming from the valley of Elah with the head of the giant in his hand can only faintly picture the triumph of the victorious Lord ascending to His Father?s throne. Psalm 24 looks on to the day of millennial glory, yet it can be applied to the salute Heaven gave to Him.

While Heaven rejoiced at His arrival, we on earth by faith. rejoice that He is there. ?Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us? (Heb. 9:12). It was not the holy place into which Christ entered, but the holiest of all. This word is used repeatedly in Hebrews to describe the holy of Holies (vs.4-5). He did not take His own blood in, to fulfil the type of the high priest of Israel, on the great day of atonement, taking in the blood of the sin offering (v.7). In virtue of the blood He had freely shed at Calvary He entered into the very presence of God. His entry was not to procure redemption, for this He had already accomplished on the cross.

 

?He entered in once? and Israel?s high priest went in ?alone once every year? (v.7). The latter expression means that one day of the year the high priest went in, for on that day he entered several times, in vestments of white linen, carrying the golden censor from which the fragrance of the incense filled the holy of holies. and not without the blood of the sin offering which he sprinkled on and before the mercy seat. This ?once a year? entry was finite but the ?once for all? entry of the Lord Jesus was infinite and eternal. He has entered Heaven itself in all the purity of His Person, and in all the fragrance and value of His ?once for all? sacrifice

(10:12).

Later in this chapter a great key is given to us to unlock the typical teachings of the tabernacle service. ?For Christ has not entered into the holy place made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into Heaven itself? (v.24). The heavenly sanctuary is not patterned after the earthly but ?the patterns of things in the Heavens? (v.23) was only an earthly representation (a copy) for a time, of Heaven?s reality. While looking at the shadow Israel lost sight of the reality.

 

This great truth of an ascended Lord in the heavenly sanctuary relates to us in a most practical way. Our eternal security is based, not upon my appreciation of Him, but upon the value God has placed upon His ?once for all? sacrifice. His acceptance there puts beyond question the position of every believer, for we are ?accepted in the beloved? (Eph. 1:6) and have been raised ?to sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus? (Eph. 2:6). My Beloved is there, my affections are to be there (Col. 3:1).

 

He is there, ?even Jesus? a real Man in the Glory. In Him we have a ?strong consolation? and a ?sure hope? for He is there as our Forerunner (Heb. 6:18-20). We are assured of a finished work for He sat down; we are assured of a continuing High Priestly service for He now ?appears in the presence of God for us? (9:24).

 

HIS PRESENT POSITION

 

Reference has just been made to the sitting Great High Priest above. Unlike Israel?s priests He has finished the work God gave Him to do. Their work was never finished. The Lord Jesus is seen in Hebrews as sitting and to His Son the Father has said, ?Sit upon my right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool? (1:13). Four other times in this book, which has as its theme the exalted Man, the Lord Jesus is seen as sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on High. It is not only a seat, but a throne, so He is not only sitting but ruling. At the present time He has sat down with His Father on His throne (Rev. 3:21) but this is until He takes His own throne in universal dominion.

 

He is at the Father?s ?right hand? so it is a place of distinction, and in Him all the Father?s delight is centred. It is also a place of authority and power and He has taken His seat as the Son of God, the possessor ~f the more excellent Name (1:3-4); as the Great High Priest, the minister of the heavenly sanctuary (8:1); as the Saviour, whose ?once for all? sacrifice has settled the sin question for every believer (10:12); and as the author and finisher of faith, the one great

Example for our walk here on earth (12:2). With such an Object before us, how can our eyes fail to ?look away unto Jesus?.

 

?God also hath highly exalted Him? (Phil. 2:9). While we have been looking at His ascension it has been impossible not to include the truth of His present exaltation and this must be, for the Holy Spirit does not separate these great truths. To careful readers of the New Testament a problem arises here. The descriptions of the resurrected Christ on earth vary widely from the way He was seen in exaltation. As a gardener, he appeared to Mary Magdalene; as a fellow-traveller on the road, He appeared tJthe two who walked to Emmaus, and as a man on the shore of the lake, He appeared to the empty-handed fishermen in John 21. In contrast to this, Saul of Tarsus was struck blind by the radiance of the glory of the exalted Christ, and John fell at His feet as dead before a countenance that was as the sun shining in its strength. We can only believe that while according to the divine title He is ?The Same? yet, while appearing to His own on earth, in grace for their sakes, His radiance was veiled, it is now in radiant glory that He appears and so we will see Him.