Heidelberg Catechism Q49

Q.49. How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?

A. First, he pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of his Father.  Second, we have our own flesh in heaven – a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, his members, to himself in heaven.  Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee.  By the Spirit’s power we make the goal of our lives, not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.


Have you ever had to make a difficult request to someone from afar?  If you had been there, would it have made any difference?  As a pastor, I receive hundreds of letters each year asking for money to support a cause.  Which ones do I take the time to really read? None of them, rather I consider the ones where a real flesh and blood person comes into my office and makes the request.  Now God is not like a busy minister and he doesn’t ignore folks. He is very tangibly involved in the life and concerns of humanity through Jesus Christ.  Jesus is flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone.  He is human and divine and when he ascended to heaven in bodily form, he walked right into God’s presence and started making requests for his church.  Jesus’ presence guarantees that the prayers of the Kingdom are presented directly to the Father  and heard because Jesus is right beside him asking for all that is good and worthwhile for his people and his throne.  What a gift we have with our Lord interceding for us.  Read Romans 8:34.


Not only does Jesus request all that is good for us, but he also ensures our forgiveness when we sin.  Read 1 John 1:8-10. Every person is a sinner, whether they believe in Christ or not.  We all offend God and violate his intentions for living and serving in the world.  When we do, what are we to do?  John told us to pray and our sins would be forgiven but can God hear the prayers of a sinful people?  Yes he can, but only because Jesus is in God’s presence willing to defend us with his blood.  Each and every sin we commit, our Lord takes upon himself and washes away with his blood.  Jesus defends our purity with his very life.  What a gift to have a savior who defends us.  Read 1 John 2:1.


Because of Jesus’ ascension, the Christian can be assured of a resurrection and subsequent reunion with Christ in the New Heaven and New Earth.  Jesus’ presence in heaven assures us that flesh and blood is welcome in the presence of God and can dwell with Him.  Furthermore, Jesus promised to go and make a place for us where we could enjoy God’s presence as well.  So when Jesus left the earth we have faith to look forward to his return.  Read John 14:2.


Christians are convinced they will join Jesus in heaven because we know that he is praying for us and interceding for us.  In the long prayer passage in John’s gospel, Jesus specifically prays that we will be with him.  How can God the Father refuse to answer this request of his Son?  He can’t.  Be assured the prayers of Jesus are answered.  If he can ensure your innocence and the cleansing of your sin, his request to bring you into heaven is simple in comparison.  Read John 17:24 and Ephesians 2:4-6.


The ascension of Christ also brought the presence of God to each and every believer in a very personal and tangible way.  When Jesus lived on earth, only a few people could stand in the presence of God at any given time.  But when Jesus rose to his throne, he didn’t leave his people without his presence.  Instead he sent his presence to dwell within them and continue the refining work he began and ushered in.  Now every believer can stand in his presence all the time through the wondrous work of the Holy Spirit.  Read John 14:16 and 2 Corinthians 1:21-22.


Without supernatural divine power living within us would we ever choose to seek Christ’s kingdom?  No!  Without God’s animating work in our lives, humans are incapable of seeking God or choosing to obey him and live in accordance with his desires.  Read Romans 3:11. But when Christ ascends to heaven and starts interceding for his people, and sends his Spirit to dwell in them, we are made anew.  A new birth occurs and in that new birth, a new set of desires begins to grow and be nurtured by the Spirit.  Slowly we grow up to Love Christ more, to love his ways and to seek his kingdom, but none of this would have happened if Jesus had not ascended to heaven, prayed for us, sought our forgiveness and sent his spirit into our lives.  Truly the ascension is just as much a part of the gospel as the cross and the resurrection.  Read Colossians 3:1-4.


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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