By Josh Spears
He ascended into heaven.
Stuck between the resurrection and the return of Christ are two seemingly out of place statements in the Apostle’s Creed. We confess that Christ ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. If we think of the creeds as summaries of the Gospel, then these two claims are essential to our understanding of Christ’s work of redeeming that which was lost in the fall. The church has traditionally referred to the former event as the Ascension of Christ and the latter as the Session of Christ. In this post, I’d like to briefly look at Christ’s Ascension.
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
By the time we read these words, the last in the book of Judges, we’re not surprised in the least. Israel has cycled through 12 judges, all graciously raised up by God to combat a foreign enemy sent to oppress the rebellious Israelites. Judges is a sustained argument that ‘when the cat’s away, the mice will play.’ The times without a central figure (i.e., a judge) ruling in Israel are exactly those times when Israel fails in faithfulness to God’s covenant. We read that ‘the land had rest’ until the reigning judge dies. Upon his death, the people of Israel would ‘again do what was evil in the sight of YHWH.’ It’s clear that what Israel needs is a righteous king to rule, discerning between good and evil and bringing all things into conformity with the law of the covenant.
As much as God’s people needed a king, the Israelites found that even the best of human rulers failed faithfully to lead Israel into covenant faithfulness. Even David, the man after God’s own heart, stumbled in infidelity and murder. So, while Judges argues that Israel needs a king and I-II Samuel argue that David is the rightful king , the sweep of the biblical narrative points us elsewhere. We see that a merely human king isn’t sufficient to bring our unruly, rebellious wills into line with the beauty and truth of God’s law. What we need is a greater David to rule over the kingdom.
In the ascension of Christ we find that King. The God-man, the Creed calls us to believe, is the true king who has taken the true throne. His ascension 40 days after the resurrection is Christ’s ascent to the very throne of God. The Ascension proclaims Christ’s kingdom come, his enthronement on high to reign and rule over all things. This reigning and ruling consisting in subduing all things in redemption, bringing all things back to himself, through whom and to whom and for whom are all things. We’re reminded that God has not abandoned his purpose to rule his world through humans and has seated his man on the throne to bring all things together under the rule of the true King.