The Ascension of Jesus Christ
Scripture Reading: II Kings 2:1-18, Acts 1:1-11
In Acts 1:1-11 we hear the details of a final, great accomplishment of Jesus while he was on earth. Forty days after his resurrection, he ascended into heaven. The Church universal remembers this event and with that accomplishment we were made ready for Christ to pour out another gift on his people. After the Ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is given. In the power of the Spirit the Church is now sent into the world with the gospel of the Kingdom which proclaims Jesus Christ as Lord over all. All our individual lives and stories are caught up into the Great Story of the God who created us and redeemed us to be his people in all areas of life. We don’t exist for just ourselves and our personal goals and aspirations. As Christians we live and serve in this world which is under the authority of our ascended Lord. Jesus is King. We are Kingdom citizens.
In II Kings 2:1-18 we read about the ascension of a prophet named Elijah. As an Old Testament prophet he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord in order to proclaim the Word of the Lord to the people of Israel. As such, Elijah was a forerunner of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the “Word made flesh”.
As Elijah and his attendant, Elisha, make their way to the place where God will take Elijah away, what is the pattern we see repeated throughout their travels?
If Elijah’s being “taken away” is an open secret that is already stated in the first verse, what is the real focus of this text?
Take a look at what the Heidelberg Catechism says about the Ascension of Jesus:
Q & A 49
Q. How does Christ’s ascension to heaven
A. First, he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father.
Second, we have our own flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that Christ our head will also take us, his members, up to himself.
Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a corresponding pledge.
By the Spirit’s power we seek not earthly things but the things above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.
Ascension and Gift
What does Elisha request from Elijah in II Kings 2:9? What does this mean? How does Elijah respond to this request?
The ascension of Elijah takes place in verses 11-12. It’s a vivid picture that has captured the imagination of many. A “chariot of fire” and “horses of fire” appear and separate the two men. A whirlwind comes over Elijah and he is caught up in the air and taken into heaven.
This chariot and horses of fire are to be understood as a revelation of God’s powerful Word that has come through Elijah. Fire was the Lord’s revelation to Moses at the burning bush. A pillar of fire led the Israelites through the wilderness to the Promised Land. A fiery revelation of a chariot and horses at the end of Elijah’s life is meant to confirm the Lord’s pleasure in this man’s ministry. By the end of verse 12 Elijah is gone. It says, “Elisha saw him no more.”
What “gift” is left behind for Elijah? What does he do with it? What does it symbolize?
From Elijah’s ascension in II Kings 2 we are taken to another place where another ascension happens. In Acts 1:1-11 we read that after his resurrection Jesus met with his disciples over a period of forty days. He said to them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After this Jesus was taken up and a cloud hid him from their sight. Like Elisha, the disciples watched the ascension of their Lord. Also, like Elisha, they would receive the gift of the Spirit to carry on his work.
So what does this mean for our lives today?
II Kings 2:12 says, “Elisha saw him no more”. This is reflected in the story of Christ’s ascension and in our reality today. Like Elisha, like the apostles, like Peter says to us in his letter, “Though you do not see him, you love him. You are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy over receiving the goal of your salvation.” By God’s Word and Holy Spirit we will “see” Christ as we live our lives for him. In our public worship and in our day to day living, we must have a single-minded devotion to the true and sovereign God and his Kingdom of love, grace, and truth. To know the Ascended Lord is also to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We are rooted in a Word that gives a vision of the Kingdom. Amen.