THE LIMITLESS AND THE LIMITED
THE OMNIPRESENT AND THE LOCALIZED
The ascension of Jesus of Nazareth was the final crisis in His great work. To omit it would be to omit that which is a necessary link between His resurrection from among the dead, and reappearance amid His disciples; and the coming of God the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. It is not easy to follow Him as He passes out of human sight. This difficulty is recognized logically in the very brevity of the Gospel narrative. Very little is said because little can be said which could be understood by those dwelling still within the limitations of the material, and having consciousness of the spiritual world only by faith. Still the positive fact is definitely stated, and following closely the lines laid down, we may humbly attempt their projection beyond the veil of time and sense.
It is almost pathetic that it is necessary to pause one moment to insist upon the actual historic fact of the ascension into the heavenly places of the Man of Nazareth. If the RESURRECTION be denied, then of course there is no room for ASCENSION. If on the other hand it be established, that Jesus of Nazareth did indeed rise from the dead, then it is equally certain that He ascended into heaven. No time need be taken in argument with such as believe in the authenticity of the New Testament account, and with those who question this, argument is useless. That there is an unconscious questioning of this fact of ascension is evident from the way in which reference is sometimes made to the Lord Jesus. It is by no means uncommon to hear persons speak of what He did or said “in the days of His Incarnation." Such a phrase, even when not used with such intention, does infer that the days of His Incarnation are over. This however is not so, any more than it is true that Abraham, Moses, and Elijah have ceased to be men. Indeed the presence of Jesus of Nazareth in heaven as a Man, is more complete than that of any other except Enoch (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5), Moses (Matt. 17:3; Jude 9), and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11). (See article TESTIMONY OF THE FATHER). All others wait the resurrection for the reception of their body. He in bodily form has passed into heaven. So also Enoch passed as a SIGN in the dim and distant century of the triumph over death that God would win in the Person of His Incarnate Son. So also Elijah passed, for a testimony in the midst of corruption, which was issuing in unbelief in immortality. Moses' body was brought out of the grave by Michael the archangel, for reunion with his spirit for the purpose of communion with the Man Jesus (Jude 9). This again was an act of God's faith in Christ, and though the devil disputed with the archangel his right to appropriate the benefits of redemption, until redemption were accomplished by this very act God declared the absolute accomplishment of redemption in the Divine economy, long before it had been wrought out into human history. (Jude 9) Jesus therefore through Whom, and through Whom alone eventually, men as such will be found in the heavens, ascended in bodily form to those heavens, being Himself as to actual victory the First-born from the dead.
The condescension of God to human form was not for a period merely. That humiliation was a process in the pathway, by which God would lift into eternal union with Himself all such that should be redeemed by the victory won through suffering. Forevermore in the Person of the Man of Nazareth, God is one with men. At this moment the Man of Nazareth, the Son of God, is at the right hand of the Father. Difficulties arising concerning these clear declarations as to the ascension of the Man of Nazareth must not be allowed to create disbelief in them. Any such process of discrediting what is hard to understand, issues finally in the abandonment of the whole Christian position and history. It may be objected for instance that if He be indeed localized as a Man, in heaven, how He can be present with His people on earth. In answer to that, it must be stated, that working in the inverse way, the same difficulty obtains in understanding His presence on the earth as a Man. In the very mystery of the Being of the God-man, as has been shown, THERE IS THE LIMITLESS AND THE LIMITED, THE OMNIPRESENT AND THE LOCALIZED. Just as He was here upon the earth in order that the grace of God might have its outshining in a Person, and yet while here, spoke of Himself as the "Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father"; (John 1:18) so today the Man Christ Jesus is in heaven, and through Him the glory of God is having its outshining in a Person, while He is yet in the deep and unfathomable reaches of His Being, the infinite and eternal I AM.
In considering the ascension first as the coming into heaven of God's perfect Man, there are three things to be noted,—
1st, His perfection in the realization of the Divine purpose for man;
2nd, His perfection in the accomplishment of the Divine purpose of the redemption of ruined man;
3rd, His investiture with a name.