Hallelujah! Jesus Has Ascended!
O Lord, who has ascended on high to exercise all authority and power as the Head of Your Church, I pray that You would be with and bless me this evening as I enter Your house of worship. Lead me to sincere repentance, uplift me with Your mercy, and fill me with both hope and joy. It is in Your saving name, Jesus, that I pray. Amen.
Jesus, identified here as “the LORD,” is pictured by the psalmist in His exaltation having “gone up” and reigning over all the earth from heaven’s throne!
Luke begins his book of Acts retelling in greater details the story with which he ends his Gospel account—the ascension of our Savior Jesus.
Text: Ephesians 1:15-23
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
In Christ Jesus, who while invisible remains present both with and within us, dear fellow redeemed:
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” or “Out of sight, out of mind!” Which of those two familiar adages regarding relationships better describes your relationship with our ascended Lord Jesus? I would hope that it would be the first—that even though we cannot see Jesus, for through His ascension He has withdrawn His visible presence from us, we would still with the apostle Paul “groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for…the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23) and recognize that no matter how wonderful our lives here in this world may be, it would still be “far better…to depart (this life) and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23). On the other hand, I fear that at least some of the time the second adage—“Out of sight, out of mind”—applies to many of us with regard to our relationship with our Savior. All too often, it seems, our decisions reflect fear rather than faith, and our words and actions reflect frustration rather than hope!
That is why this evening we want to examine the words of the apostle Paul found in our text, for they describe the present activity of our ascended Savior as it pertains directly to our lives and our futures. When we examine Paul’s words we find that the word “hallelujah,” which we associate primarily with Jesus’ resurrection, is also very applicable to our understanding of His ascension. “Hallelujah” is a cry of praise, proclaiming the greatness and the wonder of God! This evening, therefore, as our theme for our meditation, I have chosen these words: HALLELUJAH! JESUS HAS ASCENDED! We have every reason to praise our Savior, because He is seated at His Father’s right hand, and He is at work within our hearts!
Yes, Jesus is seated at His Father’s right hand! What does that mean and involve? Paul writes in the second half of our text: “He (God the Father) raised Him (Jesus) from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
Jesus’ sitting at the right hand of God refers to His exalted position and the authority He possesses and now exercises. It does not refer so much to “where” He is, for Jesus after all is omnipresent—He is everywhere at once. Rather it refers to “what” He is now doing—He has complete authority over all things and exercises that authority on behalf of all of us believers. We believers are described by Paul as “the church,” which in turn is further described as being “His body.” I believe this thought is most easily understood if we keep in mind the words Jesus spoke when He gave us the Great Commission: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations….” (Matthew 28:18-19a)
But to what is Paul referring when he speaks of Jesus being “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come”? Think of every source of power you can name! Think first about individual people such as Presidents or Kings. Then think about groups of people that form agencies or administration. Think about national armies or international organizations, such as the United Nations. Think secondly about natural phenomena! Think about tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes—all of which exhibit such destruction power. Think about the energy contained within atoms—the building blocks of God’s creation. Think thirdly of the myriad of angels and the variety of spiritual powers that God created—good angels, who willingly serve under our Savior’s command, and evil angels, who are in a state of rebellion, but whose fate has been sealed given the all-encompassing power of our Lord.
God the Father has “put all things under His (Jesus’) feet!” He, therefore, possesses the ultimate authority in and over our individual lives, within our homes and communities, over our nation and every other, over all of nature—both things we see and things we do not see! You and I are not independent of His authority, although at times we may rebel against it and attempt to throw it off. Whether man chooses to recognize it or foolishly chooses to deny it, does not alter the fact that Jesus is and ever will remain the “head over all things.” That phrase, however, should bring us, who are His believers, such great comfort, for Jesus uses His authority to bless us and fulfill for us His ultimate plans and final goal—leading us through this life and bestowing upon us the gift of heaven! Therefore, we say: HALLELUJAH! JESUS HAS ASCENDED! We have every reason to praise our Savior, because He is seated at His Father’s right hand!
We have every reason to do so, secondly, because He is at work within our hearts! Paul writes at the beginning of our text: “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”
Paul first speaks of the “faith” of the Ephesian Christians and their “love for all the saints.” Do you have a strong relationship with Jesus? Do you trust in Him and rejoice in the promises of His Word? If you do, then Jesus through His Holy Spirit has been at work in your heart. You are God’s own dear child, not because of your own works or merit, but rather because by His grace God the Holy Spirit has led you to believe and bestows upon you His gifts. Do you have a love for other people, especially your fellow believers? Do you take a genuine interest in their welfare and as opportunities arise, do you strive to encourage and help them to overcome the challenges confronting their lives? If you do, then Jesus through His Holy Spirit has been at work within your heart. Such words and actions are a fruit of faith and a demonstration of His abiding presence!
Paul prays that we be given a wise and understanding heart when it comes to Jesus. Because He is seated at God’s right hand and, therefore, possesses all authority, He is our ultimate source of power and help. As Paul later explains to the Colossian Christians, we are “complete in Him” (2:10) and through the study of His Word, as Paul later would explain to Timothy, we are “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). My dear friends, our faith in Jesus brings us His complete and perfect righteousness, so that we know where we stand before our God. We are forgiven; we are His saints; we are His children and heirs; we are His instruments to carry His message of salvation to others.
Consequently, Paul prays that “the eyes of (y)our understanding” would be “enlightened,” so that we might know three things: “the hope of His calling,” “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” and “the greatness of His power toward(s) us.” We have a hope that cannot and will not ever fail. It is a hope that has been shared with believers of every age. David shared that hope when he stood before Goliath and told him that the LORD God would deliver him into his hand (cf. 1 Samuel 17:46). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego based their words to King Nebuchadnezzar upon that hope when they informed him that they would not bow down to his idol, because their God would deliver them from his hand (cf. Daniel 3:17). The apostle Paul rested in that hope when he assured his fellow passengers in the midst of a violent storm on the Mediterranean Sea that no one would lose their lives, but that all would be saved (cf. Acts 27:22).
Jesus calls us to faithful service with the promise that He will always be at our side, that He will enable us to accomplish everything He asks us to do, and that in the end we will enjoy the gift of eternal life throughout eternity. That finally is our inheritance, and because of His great power, there is no one and nothing that can prevent Him from bestowing that good upon us. Only let us not forget, and so fail to exercise the faith that the Holy Spirit has so graciously given us. Let us not fail to nurture that faith through a daily study of God’s Word. Our ascended Lord watches over us and seeks to work within us. He stands at the door of our hearts knocking with this precious promise: “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:20-21).
My dear friends, may Jesus never be “out of sight, out of mind” for us, but rather may we invite Him into our hearts each day, so that He might abide there with His power, His grace, and His mercy! :HALLELUJAH! JESUS HAS ASCENDED! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!