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The Ascension Of The Victor

Our thoughts at the outset go to a sorrowing woman standing beside an empty tomb. Mary Magdalene weeps for her Lord, whose body she supposes has been taken away, for as yet she knew not that He had risen. As she hears the voice she does not realize who it is that speaks, until He calls, "Mary"! The truth dawns upon her sorrowing mind and, with joy, she cries out, "Rabboni"! We note carefully His words, "Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father" (John 20.17). We pause and marvel at the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, in appearing to Mary and comforting her troubled heart, before He ascended unto the Father.

Shortly after this meeting, the Lord Jesus Christ meets a group of women and as they hear His words, "All hail", it is recorded that they "came and took hold of His feet, and worshipped Him" (Matthew 28.9). Why was it that Mary was forbidden to touch Him, whereas, later, others were allowed to clasp His feet? The inference is that between these two meetings, the Lord Jesus had ascended unto the Father and presented Himself in fulfilment of the Old Testament type of the waving of the sheaf of the firstfruits on the morrow after the sabbath (Leviticus 23.11) i.e. the first day of the week - the resurrection morn. He is "the firstfruits of them that are asleep" (1 Corinthians 15.20) and as such, we suggest, He entered heaven above to stand before the Father as the Victor over death and Hell.

However, there was work on earth yet to be done before He could sit down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. His loved disciples needed preparation for the work of establishing the kingdom of God and had much to learn which they were not ready to receive before His death and resurrection. So, during forty days, the risen Lord appears to the apostles speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1.3), firmly implanting into their minds and hearts the principles which would be passed on to others by them. On the fortieth day, having now completed His talks with the apostles, He raises His hands and blesses them (Luke 24.50). Then, as they stand amazed, He rises from, the ground and commences to ascend into heaven. Their eyes follow Him upward until a cloud receives Him out of their sight, "and He "was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God" (Mark 16.19).

From the foregoing, we have suggested that there was (a) the ascension between His revealing Himself to Mary alone, and the later meeting with the women, and (b) the ascension forty days after, when He took His seat on high after completing His ministry to the apostles. Thus His ascension was twofold-firstly, private and unseen to mortal eye, later witnessed by the apostles. Perhaps the Spirit of God by the Psalmist gave a hint of this, in the repetition of the words, "Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in" (Psalm 24.7-8). His entrance into heaven was majestic, and He is lauded as "the LORD strong and mighty". Truly, the triumphant entry of the Victor! Nor did He enter alone, for there were the spoils which He had won in His victory. "Wherefore He saith, 'When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive... "(Ephesians 4 8) He wrested from the devil the keys of death and Hades (Revelation 1.18). "When the strong man fully armed guardeth his own court, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him his whole armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils" (Luke 11.21,22). Rising from among the dead, the glorious Victor led forth from Satan's domain a multitude of captives - the Old Testament saints whose souls had been waiting in upper Sheol - to accompany Him in His triumphant entry into the glory.

Let us now consider what it meant to the Son of God again to take His place at the right hand of God. When on earth He had the knowledge that "He came forth from God, and goeth unto God" (John 13.3), and just prior to the cross, He lifted up His eyes into heaven and prayed, "And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was," (John 17.5). When He came into the world on the work of redemption, He "emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant ... " (Philippians 2.7), but, when the work was finished and He had risen from the dead, then He would return to God to know the blessedness of His glorification by the Father and to take His seat beside Him. This position was His from all past eternity, but for a little while, He had descended to earth and into the grave, in order to effect our redemption. The work now completed, He has the boundless joy of again entering into His glory (Luke 24.26).

Long centuries before, the Psalmist had recorded the words of Messiah's expectation, "Thou wilt show Me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16.11). The apostle Peter, by the Holy Spirit, takes up this prophetic word in his message to Israel concerning the Lord Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost. He speaks of the resurrection: "Thou madest known unto Me the ways of life; Thou shalt make Me full of gladness with Thy countenance" (Acts 2.28). The personal joy and gladness of the Lord Jesus as He entered again into the glory above as the victorious One, is indescribable. Our finite minds cannot grasp the overflowing greatness of His pleasure. Just as His sorrow on earth and on the Cross was beyond the understanding of man "Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow" (Lamentations 1.12), so His joy and gladness in His ascension are outside the range of our capabilities to enter into in any measure.

The prophetic words of the Psalmist are also taken up by the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews, concerning the Son of God, "Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, Thy God, bath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows" (Hebrews 1.9). Yes, as we meditate upon His deep sorrow, His pain and agony, how it lifts our hearts and brings forth praise and worship, when we remember that His "sorrows all are o'er" He suffered "once for all" and never again will He have to endure as He did, and now, He has joy, gladness and pleasure above all others beside.

The lofty tones of Hebrews 1 ring out, "Who being the effulgence of His glory, and the very image of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become by so much better than the angels, as He hath inherited a more excellent name than they".