Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 18 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 46 - 49.
This week, we are talking about the Ascension of Jesus. The word ascend means to rise up or to go up, which is exactly what Jesus did while His disciples watched.
Acts 1:9 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.”
This passage recounts for us the act of Christ’s ascension, the moment in time when He rose up into Heaven. But ascension means more than simply that He rose up. In Philippians 2 we learn that when Jesus ascended, He was actually receiving the reward of His completed mission. The Ascension of Christ marks the highest point of the Son of God’s exaltation. As He ascends into Heaven, to the right hand of God, He is entering into the glory that He has earned.
Phil 2:5 …Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
It is important for us to know that Jesus’ ascension is more than simply the way He ended His earthly ministry, it was also the point when He received the reward for His suffering.
Now that we have a basic Biblical understanding of what happened in Jesus’ ascension and why it happened; let’s look a little closer at this doctrine and work through the questions that Heidelberg wants to throw at us.
Lord’s Day Focus...
Question 46: What Do you mean by saying, “He ascended into Heaven?”
Answer: That Christ, while His disciples watched, was lifted up from the earth to heaven and will be there for our good until He comes again to judge the living and the dead.
No mystery where this answer comes from, since I just read it a moment ago. But there is more that needs to be considered about the ascension than the basic fact that it occurred.
Question 47: But isn’t’ Christ with us until the end of the world as He promised us?
Answer: Christ is truly human and truly God. In His human nature Christ is not now on earth; but in His divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit He is not absent from us for a moment.
This is a great question and it is probably one that many of us have never thought about, at least not very much. Jesus promised His disciples that He would never leave nor forsake us. He promised that He would be with us until the very end of the age. Then just a few verses later, He left and ascended to Heaven. So how do we understand the apparent contradiction of His promise to stay followed by His leaving?
The way we answer this question is going to get into the theological weeds a little bit, but that’s the way it needs to be. We understand that Jesus has two natures; one divine and one human. He is the God-man and while it is true that His human nature is no longer present on earth, His divine Spirit is present.
Jesus actually prepped His disciples for this to happen and told that them it would be better, on the whole, when He was gone preparing a place for them and the Holy Spirit was present dwelling in their hearts.
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. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment
Jesus’ physical absence does not mean that we are without the comforting, abiding and guiding presence of God. The Spirit of God is with us. The Spirit dwells within every true believer and the Spirit testifies to us about Jesus.
John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
While Jesus, the second person of our triune God, is not physically present with us on earth at this time; His Spirit is very much present with us.
Question 48: If His humanity is not present wherever His divinity is, then aren’t the two natures of Christ separated from each other?
Answer: Certainly not. Since divinity is not limited and is present everywhere, it is evident that Christ’s divinity is surely beyond the bounds of the humanity He has taken on, but at the same time His divinity is in and remains personally united to His humanity.
Just so we are clear, when Heidelberg mentions that divinity is not limited and is present everywhere, it is not referring to Jesus’ humanity. Jesus is a person with a resurrected body that is subject to the laws of space and time. We have no evidence of His physical body being in two places at once.
But the fact that He is part of our triune God means that He is at the same time beyond the bounds of those laws, having created them. The answer to how Jesus can be in Heaven and at the same time dwelling in the hearts of His people lies in the mystery of the Trinity.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ according to the apostle Paul in Romans 8.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
Where the Spirit is, there Christ is also. The unique unity of the Godhead is such that though they are distinct persons, they are still one. They are united in their divine essence and purpose.
Question 49: How does Christ’s ascension to Heaven benefit us?
Answer: First, He pleads our case 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.
The first way that Christ’s ascension benefits us is that Jesus is right now an advocate for us in the Fathers’ ear. He is praying for us, pleading for us, and defending us before God. Where Satan is ever the accuser of the brethren, Jesus sits at God’s right hand and He has our back.
The second way that Christ’s ascension benefits us is that Jesus represents humanity within the confines of divine space. One Scottish preacher has said, “The dust of the earth is on the throne of the majesty on high.” In this, we have a sure pledge/promise that Christ will one day bring the rest of us with Him to heaven.
The third way the Ascension of Christ benefits us is that we have the Spirit dwelling in us as a down payment of what is yet to come. The Holy Spirit was not given to us in the fullness of His power. The day is coming when we will be changed by the power of God’s spirit to be transformed from a state of imperfection to a state of perfection. When that day comes, we will then be fit to come into the presence of God.
Just as Jesus was able after His ascension to come into the presence of the Father, so we too who believe will one day be made able to come into the presence of the Father. Until then, we have the Spirit in us who serves as a promise that looks forward to that great day that is to come.
Since our Savior King is in Heaven pleading for us, and since a representative for humanity is in Heaven guaranteeing our own entry, and since the Spirit of God is in us now awaiting the day of final redemption; we ought to live as people on a journey to Heaven. We ought to set our minds on things above. We ought to make it the goal of our lives to be heavenly minded. We should be faithful to Christ till the end while knowing that when the end comes, it will be far better than even our best life now.
Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 19 together and discuss question 50 – 52.
If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.
Thanks for listening.
 Quote taken from Walter Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Baker, pg. 87)