Correction: An Even More Neglected Element of the Gospel

Not that long ago I wrote a post, based on Mike Bird’s Evangelical Theology, in which he had said the resurrection was neglected and perhaps the most neglected, but that’s not quite right: the most neglected element of the gospel, and in the life of Jesus, is the ascension. He calls it the “poor cousin” (449), and today’s post is from Bird’s discussion of the ascension.

It’s in the NT, there’s no doubt about that: John 20:17; Luke 24:49-53; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Timothy 3:16.

What happened is not clear: “visual marvel, strange metaphor, and utter mystery” (450). Here are Bird’s theses, and I would recommend reading Tim Perry’s fine little reflection (He Ascended into Heaven).

1. Jesus ascends in order to send the Holy Spirit — this Jesus says: John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7.

2. After his ascension, there is an expectation for the worship of Jesus and the witness to Jesus by the disciples. That is, he sees here the onset of Trinitarian worship. Hence, Luke 24:52; Acts 2:38 (in the name of Jesus).

3. Jesus’ ascension means he is exalted to God’s right hand and is invested with divine authority. Psalm 110 at Acts 2:34-36; 1 Cor 15:24-25; Heb 1:3.

It is at this point that we need “gospel” — the story of rule and of kingship and kingdom and the ups and downs of Israel’s story and how Jesus now at the throne fulfills that story. God is now ruling through King Jesus.

4. The ascension demonstrates that God has placed a human being as vice-regent on of the universe. Genesis 1:28 emerges here, as does Psalm 8. Then Heb 1:5-6.

5. Believers embryonically share in the reign of Christ by virtue of their union with Christ. I like that he taps into the saints of the most high in Daniel 7, and Matthew 19:28 … and then 2 Tim 2:12; Rev 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:10; 20:6; 22:5.

6. Jesus’ work of intercession follows continues in his heavenly session (the word used for his rule). Here we go to Heb 10:19-23. (Yes, also Eph 3:12.)

7. From that throne to which he ascended he will return to earth in the Second Coming. Acts 1:11 says this explicitly.

Read this chp and then Tim Perry’s book and you will be ready for Ascension Day.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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