4 Benefits of the Ascension

He is gone! Jesus is no longer here because He has ascended. There are tensions in the Christian life we are meant to feel, and the ascension presents us with one of them. It is true that Jesus said He would be with us always, even to the end of the age, but He did not mean that He would always be with us bodily. Though He is with us in one sense, His absence is something with which every believer must wrestle.

We feel His absence daily as we look at this world. He has left us with His word which speaks authoritatively to everything we need to know regarding faith and practice, but if we could see Him, some of our concerns would begin to fade. Though there are those who claim to have taken His place while He is gone, their fraudulent claims are evident by how far they fall short.

While we are left to wrestle with the truth of His absence, we begin to get a glimpse of how important the ascension is to Christian life and doctrine, and while His absence is painful, we must also remember that it is good. Jesus Himself said it was to our benefit that He go away.

Why is the ascension important, and how does it benefit us? Here are four reasons it is good that Jesus has left us.

1.) We receive the Holy Spirit.

After the ascension, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). Though we are consciously aware of the absence of Jesus, the Holy Spirit comforts us in our distress. The Spirit continually points us to Jesus and His word. He guides, convicts, and keeps us at all times. It is the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our salvation. He never leaves us. In this way, we are never truly alone, even while we long for Christ’s return.

2.) We see Jesus properly crowned as king.

When He took on flesh and came to walk among us, He emptied Himself of His rightful glory to do so. The ascension returns Him to His glorious state, seated at His Father’s right hand. From there He rules and reigns over all things until His enemies are made his footstool (Hebrews 10:12-13). We live during the time when the Kingdom has been established but not yet fulfilled, and we are to march on with the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, and as we march as citizens of His kingdom, the gates of hell will not prevail. Our King is on His throne and will reign forever.

3.) We see our acceptance with the Father.

We long to be with the Father, and through the ascension, Jesus enters the presence of His Father on our behalf. We see this in the fact that Jesus is seated with the Father. His sitting down shows us that the atonement He made for our sins is complete, for no other high-priest in the old covenant was ever allowed to sit in the holy place. Since we are in Christ, we see our acceptance before the Father as well.

4.) He is preparing a place for us.

He has gone to prepare a place for us, and He will come back for us as well. At that point all things will be set right, the kingdom will reach its full expression, and we will spend eternity with our Savior. Though His absence has its difficulties, those difficulties find their comfort in the Holy spirit and they cannot outweigh the glory that awaits. As believers, this tension should move us to worship. We glory in His ascension while longing for His return.

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.” – Acts 1:6-11

D. Eaton

The Day Death Became Life

It was darkness, and it was light. It was torment, and it was peace. It was death, and it was life. The Cross; two heavy wooden beams, shouldered by the man of sorrows. It pressed hard upon His back. A back that had already been turned into an open wound by the lashes it had received. Compared to the burden He was about to bear, it was nothing, but it brought Him to His knees.

It was His choice to do it, but it was a choice that caused Him to sweat blood as He wrestled in prayer in the garden. He had made His decision; He would drink the cup that caused Him so much dread. If this cup were visible, the sight of it would have caused our hearts to stop, our stomachs to turn, and all our strength to vanish. It was a mixture of every dark deed we, as His people, would ever commit. It also included every foul emotion, every impure motive, and every heart’s desire for evil that we were unable to fulfill. If you have ever felt the weight of sin, you know it can break your heart and darken the soul, and because our hearts are still clouded by our lust, we have never felt it to its full degree. It is crushing.

Not only were every one of our sins in that cup, but everything they deserved as well. The cup contained distress, depression, and despair. It included desolation, disease, and death. That cup was the wrath of an all-knowing, all-powerful God of righteousness. What we saw in the bodily suffering of Jesus was only the surface, and He drank the cup until it was dry.

At that moment, life left His body. His chest stopped moving, His tongue lay still, and His eyes went cold. The enemy of death had taken Him. He was supposed to be our Savior, but He was dead. The wages of sin had taken the sinless one who was meant to set us free. They wrapped His body, laid Him in a cold tomb, and covered it with a stone. Our hope had died. He had borne the brunt of our sins, and it had killed Him.

Then something happened on the morning of the third day. Though it occurred in the dark of the tomb, a light came back into his eyes. There was a newness to His body unlike anyone else who had ever returned from the grave. His body was alive, never to die again! The stone rolled away, and He emerged. Death had not defeated Him. He bore our wrath, and it had not overcome Him. He had conquered it. The bonds of death could not hold him!

In the resurrection, we have confirmation that His redeeming work was complete. He was a hostage to our debt, and now that debt had been paid. He died for our sins and rose for our justification. Death could not hold Him because He had laid His life down of His own will; no one could demand it from Him. He could lay it down, and He could take it up again.

Since the bonds of death cannot hold Him, neither can they hold anything that belongs to Him. Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus in faith will be saved. Child of God, what is it that brings you down? Is it sin, guilt, failure, shame, condemnation, accusation, or a body that is experiencing death? Whatever it is, it will find its defeat in Jesus Christ.

He is King of Kings and Lord of Lord! He has risen, and He is alive!

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” – Jesus (John 11:25-26)

D. Eaton

Christ Jesus is the One


The following is a guest post from Pastor Jeff Saltzmann of Bethel Grace Baptist Church in Bellflower, California.

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. -Romans 8:33-34 (ESV)

This Easter, Bethel Grace Baptist Church celebrated the truth that Jesus Christ saves sinners. Furthermore, He is uniquely qualified, and more than competent, to defend their case against satanic opposition (Rev. 12:10).  Jesus is the one who died, who was raised, and who was exalted to His Father’s right hand in Messianic glory. Christ saves, preserves, and defends his people on the basis of His crucifixion, resurrection, and coronation.

To close the sermon, I posed five questions hoping to drive home the point that we are secure in Christ. Each question has the same glorious answer.  I pray these five questions, by drawing attention to the one recurring answer, will fortify and encourage every believing heart.

  1. When you’re on Satan’s hit list, and that time of spiritual warfare is at hand, who is the one that can be your sure defense? Christ Jesus is the One.
  1. When you’re walking through the shadowed valley, and the storm clouds of the curse gather and life becomes dim, and you feel the heaviness of it all, and unseen spiritual enemies perceive your weakened state and unite to do you harm, who is the one at your side, who can guide you with His staff and protect you with His rod? Christ Jesus is the One.
  1. When that hour of temptation comes when sin entices you, and your flesh wants to give in, who is the one who can provide for you a clear way of escape, giving you the clarity and the perspective that you need to say, “No” to sin and stay on the path of obedience and blessing? Christ Jesus is the One.
  1. When you let your sin get the best of you, and you stumble into transgression, and you, as a Christian, do what your soul hates, and you are discouraged and downtrodden asking yourself “Why have I done that again?” When you despise yourself under this oppression of sin, who is the one who loves you still, who will scatter your accusers, who will lift you back up to your feet, and hold on to you, and prop you up, and see you through, and restore you to that path of blessing and holiness and joy in the Lord? Christ Jesus is the One.
  1. When the time comes, and your body expires, and your soul departs, and you go before the awesome throne of the Living God and find your soul quaking before the majesty and the glory and the immensity of appearing before the pristine purity of God Almighty, who is the one who can present you faultless, sinless, perfect, and righteous in the midst of the sound of mighty shouts of joy? Christ Jesus is the One!

-Pastor Jeff Saltzmann, Bethel Grace Baptist Church

To listen to Pastor Jeff’s powerful full sermon, click the following link and be blessed. Christ Jesus is the One!

 

Defending the Resurrection of Jesus: The Core Facts Approach

Resurrection

There are several approaches to defending the resurrection of Jesus. One way is called the core facts approach. It involves using four core facts held by Christian and non-Christian scholars and applying them to naturalistic explanations of the resurrection. Here are the four facts.

1. Jesus was crucified and died
2. Jesus’ tomb was found empty
3. The Apostles believed they had experiences with the risen Christ.
4. Christ’s disciples were radically transformed after these experiences.

1) Jesus was crucified and died– Virtually every scholar holds to this proposition. They believe that Jesus was crucified and that He did in fact die. Rarely is this fact contested. The idea of the actual crucifixion being a conspiracy is not one that is generally held. He was nailed to the cross and died.

2) Jesus tomb was found empty– The first point that this core fact assumes is that Jesus was actually buried. William Lane Craig, in his article The Empty Tomb of Jesus, goes into great detail and gives us five points why scholars believe this. 1) There are many early sources that attest to the burial of Jesus. 2) Even skeptical scholars agree that it is unlikely that Joseph of Arimathea was a Christian invention because he was a Jewish Sanhedrist. Christians were at odds with the Sanhedrin, so why would they create a story of a Sanhedrist doing what was right in burying Jesus. 3) The story of the burial is simple and is not trying to conjure theological reflection, and it is non-apologetic. 4) It is also believed because this type of burial was the custom in dealing with the death of a Holy man. 5) Finally, this is the only burial tradition that existed, which means it would have been entirely out of character to do something different. The belief in the burial is necessary because it is needed to believe in an empty tomb. He had to be buried, and they had to know which tomb he was buried in to find it empty. Why it was found empty is where scholars differ.

3) The apostles believed they had experiences with the risen Jesus– Again most scholars will agree that the apostles had some experience which they believed was the risen Jesus, but they do not agree on what the experience was. Some say it was a hallucination; some say it was the ghost of Jesus, and others believe it was the physical resurrected body of Jesus. These issues will be covered in the arguments against the naturalistic theories about Jesus’ death and resurrection, but no one disagrees that the disciples had some kind of experience.

4) Jesus’ disciples were radically transformed after these experiences– We can look at the example of Peter, who denied Jesus three times in fear of his life during the events that lead up to the crucifixion. After these experiences with the risen Christ, he went on to be the leading spokesperson for the resurrection of Jesus. He was later crucified and would not back down even if it meant death. In fact, all of Jesus’ disciples were killed for their belief, except for John, who was dipped in boiling oil and survived.

Virtually every scholar holds the four core facts listed above. In light of these four facts, there have been three naturalistic arguments which try to explain that Jesus did not rise from the dead. They are 1) the swoon theory 2) the hallucination theory, and 3) the stolen body or conspiracy theory.

1) Arguments against the swoon theory– The swoon theory is the argument that Jesus never actually died on the cross, he merely went into a swoon, a kind of coma or unconsciousness, and later he was revived by the cool of the tomb. The first thing we notice is that this theory violates core fact #1 that Jesus was crucified and died. It also violates core fact #4; Jesus disciples were radically changed after the experiences of seeing Jesus. This raises the question, would the disciples have been radically transformed by the sight of a half-dead Jesus? The swoon theory is not a highly regarded argument because of these violations, but to not commit the bandwagon fallacy, let us look at a few other reasons why this is not possible. A) Kreeft and Tacelli in the book Handbook of Christian Apologetics, point out that Jesus’ body was completely encased in a winding sheet (we know this from the burial tradition mentioned earlier). How could a half dead man escape a virtual straightjacket? B) We know that a swooning corpse could not have overpowered the Roman guards. C) Who moved the stone? D) Kreeft and Tacelli also make a great point that the swoon theory actually turns into the conspiracy theory, because the disciples attest to a resurrected Jesus, who did not swoon. The conspiracy theory will be addressed later. E) Finally, a swooning Jesus would have had to die eventually, so where is His body?

2) Arguments against the hallucination theory– the hallucination theory is the theory that the disciples did not really see a resurrected Jesus, but merely hallucinated. This theory would explain why the disciples were radically transformed because they actually thought they saw a resurrected Jesus, but this violates core fact #2; Jesus’ tomb was found empty. If the disciples were hallucinating why didn’t the Romans take them to the grave and show them the body when the disciples began preaching. This would have stopped them in their tracks. Kreeft and Tacelli bring up some other arguments also. A) There were too many witnesses. At one point Jesus appeared to 500 people at on time. Did they all have the same hallucination? B) One of the criteria that doctors say is needed hallucinations of this type is that the people expect to see what they see. The disciples didn’t expect to see Jesus. In fact, when they did see him they still didn’t believe, which lead to Thomas touching His wounds, and hallucinations do not have material properties. C) Jesus ate. Hallucinations do not eat. At one point the disciples sat down and ate with Jesus. If this was a hallucination, then either a hallucination (Jesus) ate actual food, or the disciples ate hallucinated food. It is clear from all the details of the appearances of Jesus that they could not have been hallucinations.

3) Arguments against the stolen body or conspiracy theory– This is the idea that the disciples stole the body to make people believe Jesus had actually resurrected, but this violates core fact #4 the disciples were radically transformed. How could a group of men go from being men who feared for their lives to men who would die for their beliefs if they knew that their beliefs were a lie? Another argument is that this goes against the character of the disciples. These were honest, upright men who would have had to violate their core beliefs to pull this off.

Some might say that it was not the disciples who took the body but the Romans, but we have already shown earlier that if it were the Romans, all they would have to do to put a stop to the disciples preaching would be to produce the body. This also violates core fact #3 that the disciples believed they saw a resurrected Jesus. If the Romans had taken the body then the disciples would have had hallucinations, and we have already shown that this does not work.

Up to this point, there has not been a plausible naturalistic explanation for the resurrection of Jesus, which leaves us with the alternative that he did rise physically from the dead.

He is not here, but has risen. – Luke 24:6

D. Eaton