Many people are asking themselves today, on Thursday, 17th May 2012 : “Ascension Day. What on earth is that?” Christmas we know , Easter we know – but Ascension day, what is that ?
The simplest answer we can give to them is that Ascension Day marks that day when our dear Lord Jesus Christ, having completed His work on earth, visibly ascended ( he was lifted up by a miraculous force) into Heaven to take up His glory once more : “ And now , Father , glorify me in your presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:5 ). He is now seated in heaven. This all happened 40 days after His resurrection from the dead.
Every year I observe that it is an amazing fact that Ascension day still forms part of our national calendar . I say that this is quite remarkable , for after all our country’s constitution claims to be secular . Technically we should not observe religious holidays. But not only that! It is amazing to think that against the background of so little actual interest shown in this day by the general public (and sadly even by the church) it should still occupy a place on the list of national holidays! The fact that this day is publicly still recognized among us singularly honours the Lord Jesus , and therefore I say : “God bless Namibia !” In remembrance of this event then I wish to read a few texts from Scripture that speak about this historical happening , and draw some applications from this .
1. Acts 1:6-11 So when they 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.”  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.” This text from the book of Acts describes the actual happening . Jesus had appeared to many of His disciples during the 40 days following His resurrection. On the 40th day, He appeared again to the apostles and led them out to the Mount of Olives where He instructed them to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem. Then the 11 disciples saw Him ascending into the clouds, disappearing from their sight . As they continued to watch, two angels appeared and assured them that just as He ascended in visible form , He would also return in visible glory. ( see also Revelation 1:7)
2. John 14:1-3[14:1] “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. This text from John’s gospel tells us what He is doing in heaven for us. He’s preparing a place for His people. Heaven is waiting for those who love Him now and believe in Him now ( 1 Peter 1:8,9)
3. In Romans 8:34 we read of another work of the Lord Jesus for us . He is at the right hand of God… interceding for us . The ascended Lord Jesus prays for His people even now !
4. 1 Peter 3:21-22 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. This text from Peter’s epistle tells us something about the amazing authority of our ascended Christ . He occupies a realm of power that would dazzle us!
5. History : Has the church in history observed such a day in her calendar ? Yes! According to Augustine the bishop of Hippo in North Africa (354- 430 AD) , the Feast of Ascension originated with the apostles. John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nyssa, contemporaries of Augustine, refer to this as one of the oldest feasts of the Church, possibly going as far back as AD 68. The older denominations of the modern church have generally kept this day as a holy day. Namibia’s largely Lutheran influence has, I believe , secured this day for us in our national calendar .
So why should we continue to remember this day ? 8 reasons
1. We remember that Jesus is our man in heaven ! He ascended to heaven as a man , and He is seated at the right hand of the Father as a man while also at the same time being ‘true God of true God’ ( Nicene Creed)! As a man He is able to relate to us, and therefore the writer to the Hebrews calls Him our sympathetic High priest ( Hebr 4: 14 -5:10). Thank God that we are so well represented before God the Father by our Advocate – Jesus Christ the righteous , who is the propitiation for our sins ( 1 Jn 2:1)
2.We remember that the ascension is also the promise of His descension. This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven. So, we not only remember today that Jesus ascended to heaven . We also remember today that He will return as the coming Judge.
3.We remember that according to our text in John 14:1-3 our future lies where He is now, as our ascended King . This helps us to maintain perspective on our life , which does not consist only of these feeble 70 or 80 years here on earth , but it focusses our perspective on eternity ! Our home is with Him!
4. We remember this day that Jesus is our ascended King with great authority. (He) … has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. ( 1 Pet 3:22) He has left His humble state and is now exalted and enthroned at the right hand of God the Father, Almighty. We remember that He still rules this world and the Universe from there . He is above every other name and authority. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Ascension day is a bold declaration about ultimate authority. Jesus is in charge of all things . Every knee must bow before Him. Abraham Kuyper (1837 – 1920) , one time prime minister of the Netherlands and also University professor and pastor, at the turn of the 1900’s declared : “There’s not an inch of this universe of which Jesus does not say “Mine!”. The contemporary theologian R.C. Sproul says that “ there is not a maverick molecule in the universe”. Everything is under the sovereign control of our King Jesus. He rules. Oh how we need to hear this truth in our fear riddled society! Currently the world is undergoing a huge financial crisis , and no one knows how this is going to end. What fears such news brings to the heart of men . People worry : How will I eat , how will I drink , how will I clothe myself ( see Matthew 6 ) .Ascension Day affirms ultimate authority in Christ , and my heart is therefore at peace! Jesus authority in heaven is not an abstract authority simply related to heaven. The Bible tells us that from where He is “ knows how to rescue the godly from trials “ ( 2 Peter 2:9) . From His heavenly throne He has empowered His church. So when she lives in His strength , and in obedience and submission to Him , she shall have His power and authority. Pentecost ( remembered on Sunday , in 10 days time) proved this .
5. We have confidence that our Great Commission from Jesus must succeed ! This is why Jesus, knowing all this, could say to His disciples on the eve of His departure, “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you . . .”( Matt 28:18-20.). Our ascended, glorious , all powerful Lord guarantees the success of the church’s mission!
6. We remember this day because it proclaims the Lordship of Christ everywhere on earth and in all areas of life. Jesus has all authority over every continent , country and city. He has authority over every people group. For reasons known only to Him some people groups are presently more favoured with the gospel than others . Others have been more favoured in the past (e.g. North Africa ; Middle east ) . The reason why the gospel is scarce in Iran and Saudi Arabia is not because Jesus is powerless and helpless in those countries . They may rage against Him now , but according to Psalm 2 He has the last say. Mockers must tremble , and Christians must be bold in prayer.
Jesus is the King of the Universe. He possesses the hearts of the kings of the nations . He must rule over every area of our life. Does Jesus care what we see , and what we listen to ? Is He not also concerned about our business ethics, our legal practices? Is He not also the Lord of business, sports, entertainment, and government? Is He not also concerned about what is taught in our schools ? Does He not care about how the sick are being looked after in our hospitals? Is He not concerned about the decisions that our parliamentarians make?
Indeed , there is no area of life that is outside of the authority of Christ. Every doctor, teacher, policeman, parliamentarian, businessman, factory worker, mother, father, magistrate etc. will have to individually stand before this ascended , enthroned King and coming Judge, on the Day of Judgment. All will have to give an account to Him (see Matt 25) .
7. We remember this day because it reminds us that the ultimate victory over all evil belongs to Christ. Many rulers think that they have power and authority in themselves . But where are they now ? Swept away in death. Think of Caiaphas, the high priest, Herod the king and Pontius Pilate the Roman governor, who thought that they were very important and powerful people. Where are they ? I tell you where they are. They are in hell awaiting the coming final judgment reserved for all the enemies of God at His descension. They were so blinded by their self styled notions of grandeur, that they didn’t recognise that they were condemning their Creator to death. It did not occur to them that they who judged Him, would one day have to stand before the righteous Judge. The Emperor Augustus who issued the decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world, requiring everyone to return to their town of birth, did not realize , that this baby born under his rule to lowly peasant class people in Judea would one day judge him.
8. The Ascension is a great comfort to believers who suffer persecution. “Therefore, since we have a great High Priest Who has gone through the Heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the Faith we profess.” Hebrews 4:14. Jesus will soon judge our enemies. “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” (1 Cor 15:25).There will be a day of accounting. Your suffering is only for a brief period. Your future joy shall be everlasting. Do not fear evil men, governments or evil systems. Don’t fear them that can destroy the body… fear Him who can destroy of body and soul in hell . Do not bow before idols. Do not compromise the essential principles of your faith. Remember that Jesus rules. Remember that “. . . the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)
Remember who is on the throne of the universe right now : “Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Phil 2:9-11.
9. We remember this day , because it is presently entrenched in our national calendar as a great testimony to our Lord Jesus Christ! It gives us gospel opportunities . Whenever people , or our children ask, “ What day is this ?” we have an opportunity to share about the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. ( See the example of the Passover as a day to be remembered in Ex 12:26 ) . Such days are like the erecting of a memorial ( e.g. the stones in Joshua 4:6) for future generations . The Lord commanded Israel to observe a number of important days in Israel. The most regular one was to be the Sabbath (the 7th day). We have other such memorials in our year : Christmas , Easter , Ascension and Pentecost , and although the NT does not insist that we shall keep them ( for fear that we make the day greater than the person of Christ – Col 2:16,17) , we do well to see Christ in them .
Whatever glorifies our Lord Jesus must be upheld by the Christian Church . So thank God for Ascension Day , when we can remember the Lord Jesus as He is now : Our glorious coming King! Amen !