The Ascension: Shrouded in Glory
Today is the feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ.
The transfiguration, the ascension, and the second coming are three theophanies reminiscent of the cloud that shrouded God’s presence in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10–11). In all three Christ is hidden/revealed within a cloud just as YHWH was in the OT. The cloud was the visible sign to Israel that the divine glory was with Israel and that YHWH was seated on his throne (Lev 16:2; 1 Sam 4:4; 2 Sam 6:2).
In other words, the cloud was a sign of both presence and authority. Hence Jesus' words to his disciples at the ascension, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me… and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20).
The apostles asked Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) which is just another way of asking, “when will you become king?” Instead of answering their question, Jesus shows them by being lifted into the sky and being enveloped by a cloud.
The cloud was their answer: Christ was already king.
In the apostolic witness Jesus’ resurrection and ascension form one continuous movement, and both together constitute his exaltation.
The resurrection of Christ opens up wonderful possibilities because it turns death from a wall into a door. But the ascension of Jesus is the final and climactic step of humanity’s entrance through the door into the kingdom of God. It is the completion of our salvation with Christ because it is the enthronement of the Incarnate Son of God in glory at the right hand of the Father.
Christ being king means that as the ruler of this world he has authority to redeem all things, save all those who believe, and make his creation new. And most importantly, it means he has the authority to strip every disease and pain from our bodies and minds to make us whole again. It means that he has the authority to open the graves and reunite us with all those we have lost along the painful path of life.
The king who ascended into heaven, shrouded in a thick cloud of glory will reappear in the heavens, seated on his throne, and with all the authority of heaven will say to us:
Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. —Matt 25:34
Glory to the Living Word and King of Kings, Jesus Christ.
Come, Lord Jesus.