Forty days after the Resurrection of the Lord (Easter Sunday), we remember and celebrate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ into heaven. (See Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:1-11; see also Mark 16:19-20.) On this day, the church gives thanks for Christ’s sovereign rule over all the earth, as well as his priestly intercession for us at the throne of mercy (Hebrews 4:14-16).
CHRIST IS LORD
An excerpt from the Companion to the Book of Common Worship (Geneva Press, 2003, 108-109)
The seven weeks of the Easter season include the festival of the ascension of our Lord — Ascension Day. Throughout the earliest centuries of the church, every Sunday celebrated the unitive festival of the paschal mystery: the passion–death–resurrection–ascension of Christ, the giving of the Spirit, and Christ’s coming in glory at the end of time. Over the years, however, Christ’s redeeming work was gradually separated into individual feasts on specific days. For instance, by the late fourth century, the Lord’s ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit we commemorated as two distinct aspects of Christ’s redeeming work. Ascension Day’s exaltation of Christ, however, still looks both back to Transfiguration and Easter and forward to Christ the King (or Reign of Christ).
In that John Calvin’s theology placed great importance on the ascended and regnant Christ, Ascension Day is in some ways the Presbyterian feast day. Christ is Lord of the world and head of the church, we proclaim. Christ’s ascension, therefore, concerns us not only with ecclesiastical matters but also with social and political ones. If Christ has ascended, then there are no other rulers — all others are merely pretenders. Christ reigns supreme.
With the raising of Christ to a position above all worldly powers, the earthly ministry of Christ begun at Christmas’s incarnation now concludes. The path of faithfulness obediently followed by Christ traveled through the suffering of the cross to the exaltation of the glory. From glory to suffering to glory again is the shape of Jesus’ ministry as well as ours. We too, are destined for the glory we share now in Christ only by faith. “It does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when Christ appears we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).