Q 46. What do you mean by saying, “He ascended to heaven”?
A 46. That Christ while his disciples watched, was taken up from the earth into heaven and remains there on our behalf until he comes again to judge the living and the dead.
Q 47. But isn’t Christ with us until the end of the world as he promised us?
A 47. Christ is true human and true God. In his human nature Christ is not now on earth; but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit he is never absent from us.
Q 48. If his humanity is not present wherever his divinity is, then aren’t the two natures of Christ separated from each other?
A 48. Certainly not. Since divinity is not limited and is present everywhere, it is evident that Christ’s divinity is surely beyond the bounds of the humanity that has been taken on, but at the same time his divinity is in and remains personally united to his humanity.
Q 49. How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
A 49. First, he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father.
Second, we have our own flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that Christ our head will also take us, his members, up to himself.
Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a corresponding pledge. By the Spirit’s power, we seek not earthly things but the things above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.
The ascension of Christ is not something that falls under anyone’s “first things I think about in the morning” list. This event is treated by Christians and the Church in most places as an afterthought, almost like it seems to appear in Scripture, the segway between Christ’s death and resurrection and the beginning of the Christian movement.
But the reality of what the Ascension of Jesus Christ accomplishes for us is quite important. It also raises some important questions that we also should consider as we think about such things.
The first has to do with the dual natures of Christ, being both fully human and fully God. As we have talked about before, Jesus has to be 100% of both to accomplish the work of salvation that He did. It is an important point to make, though, that while Jesus is indeed fully God and fully human, these two natures are never separated. It was not the human Jesus that died while God the Son looked on. Neither was it God the Son that endured the wrath of the Father while the human Jesus was somehow unconscious. Both endured, both died, and both were raised; never are they separate.
Why does this matter? Well, two main reasons are brought up in the Heidelberg Catechism and therefore deserve mentioning. First, it is important to know that Jesus, being now in heaven and seated at the right hand of God is both human and God. His human presence in heaven is a guarantee that we too, as humans, will be welcome into heaven. His presence as God ensures that He can and will rule and reign over the entire universe as the eternal King of kings and Lord of lords.
The second is brought up by questions 47 and 48 have to do with Christ’s presence here with us. We often talk about how Jesus is with us always, He even states that at the end of the Great Commission: “Behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” But, how is this possible if Jesus Christ is in heaven and His natures as both God and human cannot be divided. Human Jesus is not sitting up in heaven while God Jesus is floating around the earth. Does this make Him a liar? Or is our theology incorrect?
The answer to this question lies, quite perfectly, in the nature of the Trinity. God is one God in three persons. Jesus speaks a lot about sending the Holy Spirit, something we will talk more about in the coming weeks, and it is through the Holy Spirit that the things of God continue to be revealed to us. It is also through the Holy Spirit that, as Scripture says, we are “united to Christ.”
God’s spirit is implanted in our hearts and on our minds, a gift and a deposit which guarantees our inheritance in Christ. Because the Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son, though being distinct in person, Christ is with us and we are united to Him, and He to us through the Holy Spirit. And through Him, we participate in the united life of the Trinity and God fulfills His promise moment by moment, faithfully walking with us through every experience of our lives.