We sometimes talk about kings and queens “ascending to the throne,” and this—the ascension of Christ—is the supreme example. It’s nothing less than the visible demonstration that Jesus Christ is now enthroned in heaven. So when we talk about the ascension, the word isn’t simply referring to the physical “rising up” of Christ. He is also ascending to the throne. The ascension is the coronation, the crowning, of the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords.
In many countries, Ascension Day is considered to be so important that it is celebrated as a national holiday—though not in the U.K. (where I’m from), and I think that’s contributed to the fact that the ascension seems to have slipped off the radar for many people, even professing Christians, many of whom don’t quite know what to do with it.
And yet the great church father Augustine said that Ascension Day should be the greatest of all Christian festivals. He said, “Unless the Savior had ascended into heaven, His nativity would have come to nothing.” What did he mean?
The ascension is described like this at the end of Luke’s gospel:
[Jesus] led [the apostles] out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.
Luke adds more detail at the start of the book of Acts:
When [the apostles] had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”