Christ Ascended, Christ Rules

One of the fundamental affirmations of the faith is “the ascension into heaven” of Christ.

In the 6th article of the Apostles’ Creed, we confess Christ “ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty” (ascendit ad coelum, sedet at dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis). The language of “sitting” is symbolic of his present heavenly rule or royal session over all things. It is ecumenical, ancient, biblical Christian truth that Christ is reigning now.

 

Sometimes we give the impression or might be tempted to think that the last time we see Jesus in Scripture is at the end of the gospels but, of course, that is not true. We see him in Acts chapters 1 and 9 as well as in the Revelation. There are changes, however, in how often we see and where we see him. That change is recorded for us in Acts 1:9–11:

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (ESV).

One of the earliest recorded confessions of the Christian faith occurs in 1 Timothy 3:16. It says Christ was,

…Manifested in the flesh;
Vindicated by the Spirit;
Seen by angels;
Proclaimed among the nations;
Believed on in the world;
Taken up in glory.

The ecumenical (i.e., universal) Christian confession that we know as the Apostles’ Creed has its root in this confession and in what the earliest post-apostolic Christian church called the “rule of faith” (regula fidei). We see that rule being preserved in the writings of Irenaeus, the senior pastor in Lyons, in the 170s AD. He was not inventing anything, however. He was preserving the shared confession of faith.

The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the administrations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,” and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all (AdvHaer. 1.10.1).

The substance of what we later know as the Apostles’ Creed is clearly present. Reading the passage aloud one can hear the same language, the same phrases, the same pattern as found in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. We find the same language elsewhere in this same work and in Tertullian in the early 3rd century. One of the fundamental affirmations of the faith is “the ascension into heaven” of Christ. In the 6th article of the Apostles’ Creed, we confess Christ “ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty” (ascendit ad coelum, sedet at dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis). The language of “sitting” is symbolic of his present heavenly rule or royal session over all things. It is ecumenical, ancient, biblical Christian truth that Christ is reigning now.

In the church calendar, this past Thursday we remembered the bodily ascension (“taken up in glory”) of our Lord Jesus Christ. The ascension in part of the complex of events by which our Lord Jesus accomplished our salvation. It marks the beginning of the end of history. We await his bodily return—pace our Dispensational friends, the Scriptures promise but one return of Christ and it will be bodily, visible, noisy, and final. Scripture says:

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thess 4:15–18; ESV).

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