It is now the end of the short season of the Ascension. On the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus told His disciples;
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning (John15:26 & 27).
Jesus tells His disciples to look ahead into the future, “When the Comforter is come.” This text is from Christ’s farewell address to the Disciples at the Last Supper called the Last Discourse. It spans from John chapters 14 through 17. One of the main purposes of His address is to tell them that He is going to go away from them.
On Ascension Day, Jesus told the Apostles to pray for the Holy Ghost to come down. We know the Holy Ghost arrives on Pentecost. Anglicans call this day Whitsunday, named for the white garments worn by those who were baptized on that day.
In the Last Discourse, Jesus says that when the Holy Ghost has come He will, “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment.” He will show the world that it was wrong about what is right.
The world thought Jesus was wrong, so the world killed him. Jesus’ Ascension proves that He was right, when He, “…goes to the Father, and they see him no more.” Who could possibly rise from the earth and enter the cloud of the presence of the Almighty except God Himself? If the one who went up is God Himself, then He must be right after all. Since He is right, we should pay attention to what He says.
The Proper Preface for the octave points to a second implication for the Ascension. It says that Jesus “…after his most glorious resurrection manifestly appeared to all his Apostles, and in their sight ascended up into heaven, to prepare a place for us.” That is an allusion to yet another part of Jesus’ farewell address. He says as a matter of introduction of the discourse to the apostles, “Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not true, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:1-2).”
Those are comforting words. Jesus tells us that one major purpose of His Ascension is to get our places in Heaven ready. We don’t know exactly when He will return. We know from the first chapter of Acts, when the apostles asked Him, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power (Acts 1:6 & 7).” We know that if He bothers to go to Heaven to get our places ready, we can be confident that He will come back to get us. He will come back and take us to those heavenly places where we can be with Him forever.
Another purpose of the Ascension of Christ that we typically don’t consider is the completion the cycle of Old Testament sacrifice. God told the Hebrews to sacrifice animals as thank offerings for delivery from the slavery of Egypt and as propitiatory offerings to take away sins. The most important sacrifice came once a year, when the high priest carried the blood of the atonement offering into the Holy of Holies in the Temple at Jerusalem.
The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that the Holy of Holies in the Temple was just an earthly shadow of the real Holy of Holies which is the throne room of God in Heaven. It says, “Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24).”
In His Ascension, Jesus presents God with the blood of His sacrifice of Himself, just as the high priest presented the blood of the atonement offering. Jesus is both the priest and the victim. He is both the one who offers, the Great High Priest, and He is the sacrifice, the one who is offered. His sacrifice is perfect and not repeatable. God requires no more blood sacrifices.
In the Creed we say that Jesus is sitting down at God’s right hand. He can sit down. His priestly work is done. He doesn’t have to stand at any sort of altar. He pleads His sacrifice for us as our mediator and advocate, “…we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14).”
As we look forward to Pentecost, and as we look farther into the future toward Jesus’ return, our hearts need not be troubled. Instead, we should rejoice in Christ’s glorious Ascension. He has shown the world who is really right. He finished His sacrificial work as our great High Priest. He has gone back to Heaven to get our places ready, and He will come again.