The Importance Of The Ascension (A Book Review)

The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God by Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow, Christian Focus, 2013. $8.09.

I had mostly heard cursory references to Christ’s ascension for most of my life as I’d been exposed to teaching on Scripture both as an unbeliever, and as a younger Christian. Christ ascended into the clouds after He makes His great commission. And it’s usually on to the next thing: we’re waiting for Jesus to return, and our job is to evangelize the lost. All true, but the fact that Jesus did ascend, and is ascended now as we wait for Him, is a truth to dwell on and make much of. I’m learning this more and more, and I’m so thankful for this book by Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow, that clearly and concisely gets us into the significance of Christ’s ascension, and makes sure we don’t miss the glory of this truth. Here are a few points about this little volume that you might consider:

First, the drawbacks (let’s get these out of the way).

This book fits the description of having a weighty subject, wrapped up into a very small package. So in a sense, this book can be a great starting place for a much more in-depth study about Christ’s ascension, and the Kingdom of God. If you find yourself not fully convinced by every point, take the book on its own terms – it’s intended to be a small, lively overview of the ascension for pastors and church leaders. Seen in another light, one might say this book is too ambitious for 94 pages.

That being said, the other drawback is the use of Biblical theology, and theology of Christ’s kingship in chapter two, entitled “Ascended King.” Be on your guard, as some of the points could prompt some head-scratching depending on who’s reading. Particularly in chapter two, Daniel 7 is compared with the scenes of Christ’s ascension in the Gospels and in Acts 1, arguing that Daniel 7 depicts the ascension from the other side of the clouds – that in the Gospels and Acts we see the ascension from the ground, but in Daniel 7 we see it from heaven as one “like a Son of Man” is presented to God and given a seat of authority. Also, chapter two asserts that Christ is reigning as the ascended King of the universe even now, which might’ve needed a little more space to unpack. This may or may not fit with the chronological events in one’s eschatology, depending. Again, be a discerning reader and a discerning student of Scripture, and deal with the book’s assertions accordingly.

The benefits of the book (and there are many).

In a recent book review, Doug Wilson talks about truths that are “radical truths — the kind that affect everything.” This book falls into such a category. For a short volume, it packs a punch and communicates much of the Savior for us to glory in.

The significance of the ascension – that Christ physically and bodily ascended, and is ascended now, affect everything related to our faith. For instance, in chapter one, entitled “Ascended Priest,” we read,

“Jesus ascended for your salvation. He is the memorial before God of your atonement. Can you see how powerful this is? Can you see how this is good news to those who doubt their salvation or feel the on-going weight of their sin or who sin in a spectacular way? In these moments we lift our eyes heavenwards and see Jesus in the presence of God on our behalf. He is the complete sacrifice who has taken away sin for ever. He is the eternal priest whose ministry never ends. While He stands in heaven you are secure in God’s family” (23 emphasis added).

The book is full of weighty, clearly-communicated truths like this, that we should take special care to believe, and to preach and teach in our churches. Our Savior is in the presence of God, in the real Holy of Holies, as both Priest and Sacrifice; He is there bodily as well, which assures us of a bodily resurrection, as well as both physical and spiritual eternal life with God, “secure in God’s family.” All that Christ is now as our ascended Savior is substituted to us by grace, through faith.

The book continues,

“The ascension of Jesus is the foretaste of the ascension of a new humanity to our royal status…Those in Christ will once again be what we were meant to be and what we were born to be…In the present our life is currently hidden with Christ (Col. 3:1-3). Until the revelation of the sons of glory at the return of Jesus we express our royalty in the power of the ascension…Until our glory is revealed, restored humanity looks like crucified humanity in the sense of people who embrace the sacrifice, submission, self-denial and service modelled in the cross” (77-79).

This is so very important  – our present life is hidden with Christ in God. But we will be revealed, and be like Christ when we see Him as He is at his second coming (1 John 3:2). But what Chester and Woodrow communicate as well here, is the importance of the way of the cross. We also unite ourselves with our King now, in this world the way it is, by taking up the way of life modeled by Jesus in the cross. It’s the truly redeemed, the people of the kingdom, who walk in the way of the cross in this life, because our true life in Christ has not been revealed yet. The truth of the ascended King causes us to walk in humility, sacrifice, and self-denial, enduring suffering and mistreatment just as Christ did. Until the ascended King returns, and puts the world to rights.

May we grasp the ascension better because of this great little book, and grasp our place in redemptive history better as we wait with great expectation for Christ to return and establish His kingdom on the earth for good. This book forced me to do my homework to be able to write this review, for which I’m thankful. Study the kingdom of God with diligence, and know your eschatology. And as a supplement, this is a great book for interaction with this glorious subject if read with a discerning mind, nourished by the Scriptures.

Thanks so much to Christian Focus Publications for the gift of a copy to read and review.

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