Acts 1:6-11. 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 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.” 9 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. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 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.”
Imagine the emotional roller coaster it must have been to be one of Jesus’ disciples. We can only imagine the heart dropping sadness that must have overtaken them on that mountain. All they could do was stand there in shock looking into heaven. What just happened?
This is the anti-advent. Jesus doesn’t arrive. He departs. And it can seem as though Jesus is leaving humanity behind on earth while he goes to heaven. But in reality, Jesus is returning humanity to its proper position, seated next to God the Father at his right hand. His resurrected life has secured our rightful place next to God. A human on the throne of heaven? This is finally the rule and dominion that we were granted in the garden now restored. This is the intimacy with God lost in Genesis 3 now finally renewed. Christ isn’t moving farther away from us, he’s moving us closer to God than we’ve ever been.
Jesus is entering heaven so that heaven can enter us.
At the ascension we learn of two future advents. Jesus reveals the first, the angels reveal the second. Although the ascension looks like, and probably felt like, abandonment, without it we would not be able to experience the fullness of God’s salvation. The fullness that will come from these next two advents.
The Ascension of Christ (1958), Salvador Dali (1938-1989).
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you – First, Jesus describes the advent of the Spirit. The “other comforter” that Jesus promised would come.
John 16:7. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
How can losing Jesus be to our advantage? Because we don’t lose him at all. By the Spirit, we gain more of him than we’ve ever had before. The Spirit unites the life of Jesus to our own life in a way that humanity has never experienced until this age. All of Christ’s glory, grace, and love graciously granted to us. His eternal life filling every void in our hearts. We are never alone. Never forsaken. Never condemned. Never empty. Never unloved again.
This advent of the Spirit is paramount because it is not the physical birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ that saves us. It is the indwelling life of Christ by the Spirit that saves us. Our salvation IS our spiritual union with Christ. A salvation made possible only by the crucified and resurrected Christ’s ascension and the Spirit’s advent into our hearts.
But Christ’s post-resurrection advent is not only spiritual, it will also be physical. Therefore, our salvation is not only spiritual, it will be physical too.
This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven – The angels remain behind to announce the second advent of Christ. He will return in the same way he left. Bodily. In clouds. To earth. With angels.
Advent means God brings heaven to us. That’s always what God has done – the garden, the temple, Jesus, the church, and one day the second advent of Christ. That’s grace! He comes to us. We don’t climb up to him. He returns to restore not only our spiritual relationship to God, but also our physical relationship to God. This is the fullness of God’s salvation. A full salvation of the body, soul, and spirit. A glorious transformation allowing us to worship God in spirit and serve him in body for all eternity with every longing of our soul now satisfied in our God. Amen!
The ascension is an invitation. An invitation to wait. To wait for Christ’s return. To wait within our spiritual salvation for our final physical salvation. To wait by faith in his grace and peace knowing that God is coming to rescue us. Again.
Have you experienced the advent of the Spirit into your life by faith in Christ? How does knowing that you are joined spiritually to Christ start to satisfy your longings today? What excites you about the second advent of Christ to earth? What are looking forward to doing in the presence of God?