When Jesus ascends to heaven he takes our humanity with him. This begins the prophetic ministry of Christ through the Church, the priestly ministry of Christ in heaven and inaugurates the Kingdom of God
The Prophetic Ministry of Christ Through The Church
Jesus says to the disciples, “You will be my witnesses”. The ascension of Christ represents the magnification of God’s prophetic presence on Earth. In the past God spoke and performed miracles through Spirit-filled individual, the prophets. Now, joined to Christ our head in Heaven, the whole Church is filled with the Spirit and commissioned to be God’s prophetic witness. Our experiences of flawed churches and christians may tempt us to question this plan, to stay away from church ourselves or evangelise people without introducing people to other Christians. But God calls us to show grace to one another and trust that he can use his Church to speak powerfully to the world. Indeed, this grace is a key part of that witness as it forms the foundation of our love for one another.
The cloud that takes Jesus from the Apostles’ sight speaks of Christ’s priesthood after his ascension. Christ’s human nature in heaven means that he mediates God’s divine life to us. Significantly, because Jesus does not dispense with his humanity at his ascension, we can see that created order is, like a telephone, the channel for God’s grace to the us. We share in God’s life and know him, not despite the material world, but through it. This helps us to understand the uniquely Christian approach to the value of human life and reminds us that Christians are strictly bound to use the creation as God intended. Ideas that Christians can affirm same-sex relationships or transgender theory fail to understand this historical centerpiece of Christian orthodoxy.
The literal ascension of Jesus makes clear that like a natural King “ascending to the throne”, Jesus is now enthroned in heaven. This is the moment when Jesus sits down at the right hand of the Father and begins to reign. God the Son has always reigned in one sense, but now, as man, he inaugurates the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom that is made manifest in concrete ways in the world as he works through the Church to bring the blessing of his rule to all things. From this moment the world is set on an inexorable course that will lead to the total rule of Christ and the defeat of all his enemies. This reminds us of our vocation to bring all things under Christ’s Lordship for his glory, their fulfilment and our joy. It also reminds us that we each must make the personal decision not merely to accept Christ’s salvation or to follow him in some non-specific way, but to acknowledge his Lordship and submit to him totally in every part of our lives.