The Present Work of Christ Part I: The Ascension of Christ -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 121:481 (Jan 1964)
Article: The Present Work of Christ Part I: The Ascension of Christ
Author: John F. Walvoord

The Present Work of Christ
Part I:
The Ascension of Christ

John F. Walvoord

In the general theology of the historic church, the ascension of Christ has not been given much attention. It has been overshadowed, on the one hand, by the importance of the incarnation, the death, and the resurrection of Christ; and, on the other hand, it has been eclipsed by the present work and future work of Christ. Considerable confusion has arisen relative to the nature of the ascension itself, coupled with disagreement concerning the nature of the present age stemming from the conflict between postmillennial, amillennial, and premillennial theology. In the light of these facts, the ascension becomes important, not only for its obvious significance, but also as an introduction to the present work of Christ in that it lays down a number of guidelines concerning the nature of His work prior to His second advent.

Some important distinctions must be observed if the doctrine of ascension is to be properly delineated. The present lordship of Christ in heaven should be distinguished from His future lordship, the former being introduced by the ascension and the latter being introduced by His second coming. In a similar way, the work of Christ in heaven should be distinguished from the work of Christ indwelling the saint in the present age, and both should be distinguished from the present ministry of the Holy Spirit. Each of these categories of truth must be kept in its proper bounds and yet related to each other.

The ascension is important because it constitutes the second step in the exaltation of Christ which began at the time of His resurrection. When Christ rose from the dead, He assumed a resurrection body which was suited for glorification, even though for the time being the glory was veiled in order that He might minister to His disciples. When He ascended into heaven, however, this veil was taken away, and Christ resumed His rightful place of honor in heaven with the added glory of His victory over sin and death. The ascension, therefore, marked a new step in the exaltation of Christ as well as a new phase in His ministry.

Within orthodoxy, none will question that Christ actually ascended into heaven. This was in keeping with His deity and His preincarnate glory and is supported by two lines of evidence, namely, (a) the departure of Christ from earth, and (b) the arrival of Christ in heaven. For those who accept Scriptural revelation as authoritative, there can be little doubt that these two aspects of His ascension were fulfilled. There are, however, problems in definition and in the statement of the theological significance of the ascension itself.

The Departure from Earth

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