EIGHTEENTH LORD'S DAY.
Question 49. Of what advantage to us is Christ s ascension into heaven?
Answer. First, that he is our advocate in the presence of his Father in heaven: secondly, that we have our flesh in heaven, as a sure pledge that he, as the head, will also take up to himself, us, his members : thirdly, that he sends us his Spirit, as an earnest, by whose power we seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, and not things on earth.
The fruits, or benefits of Christ s ascension into heaven are chiefly these three:
1. His intercession with the Father in our behalf. This embraces, as we have already remarked, the perpetual force and virtue of the sacrifice of Christ; the divine and human will of Christ which is favorable to us, by which he desires that we may be received of the Father for the sake of his sacrifice; and the consent of the Father, falling in with this will of his Son, and approving of his satisfaction as a sufficient atonement for our sins. In a word, it is the will of the Father and the Son, that the sacrifice of Christ may for ever avail in our behalf. Obj. But intercession was made before the ascension of Christ; yea, even before his advent. Therefore it is not one of the fruits of his ascension. Ans. It is true, indeed, that intercession was made before Christ s entrance into heaven, but it depended upon that which would be made after his ascension, that is, it was made with reference to that intercession which was yet to come, just as it was with every thing that pertained to the reception of the fathers, into the favor of God from the beginning of the world. Again, the intercession which was made before the ascension of Christ was not such as that which is now made. The mediator, under the Old Testament, made intercession with reference to the value of his sacrifice yet to be accomplished, and the Father received the saints of old into favor, by virtue of that sacrifice which was yet to be offered ; but now he receives us for the sake of the satisfaction which Christ has already made. So also in the church of old sins were remitted, and the Holy Spirit was given on account of a future sacrifice; but now in view of this sacrifice already offered. But the value of the one sacrifice of Christ continues for ever, because by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. (Heb. 10:14.) Nor is the fact that Christ no longer offers sacrifices a proof of the imperfection of his offering. It is rather an argument in favor of its perfect character ; for if he were frequently to offer sacrifice after the manner of the Levitical priests, this would be an evidence that he could not by one sacrifice make those perfect who would come to God. But he has by one sacrifice perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Hence he now performs his priestly office, not by offering sacrifices frequently, nor by meriting favors for us in the same way, but by applying unto us, through the perpetual and infinite worth and dignity of his one sacrifice, grace, righteousness and the Holy Spirit, which is certainly something vastly greater, than if he would repeat his sacrifice.
2. Our glorification results from Christ s ascension into heaven; for if he who is our head has ascended, we also, who are his members, shall certainly ascend. Hence, Christ himself said, I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a, place for you I will come again, and receive you unto myself: that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2, 3.) Obj. But Elijah and Enoch ascended before Christ. There fore, the ascension of Christ is not the cause of our ascension. Ans. They ascended in respect to, and by virtue of Christ s ascension, which was yet future. The ascension and glorification of Christ are not only the type, but also the cause of our ascension and glorification; for had he not been glorified, we could not be glorified. The Father has decreed to give us all things through the Messiah, and has placed all things in his hands. Bu how could Christ have given us a kingdom, if he himself, as the first-beg9t ten, had not first taken possession of it? And in as much as he has ascended and now reigns there, he will translate us, who are citizens of his kingdom, to the same place. Where I am, there shall also my servant be. I will receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also. (John 12:26; 14:3.)
3. The third fruit of the ascension of Christ is the mission of the Holy Ghost, by whom he gathers, comforts and defends his church, even to the end of the world. The Holy Ghost was indeed given also under the law, before the advent and ascension of Christ; but, as has been remarked, it was in respect to his ascension and glorification, which were then still future, and was not only a fruit of it, but also a part of it. And again, since the glorification of Christ, the Holy Ghost has been given more copiously, as on the day of Pentecost, which had been foretold by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass afterwards, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, &c. It is by the efficacy and influence of this Spirit that we seek those things which are above, because it is there that our treasure is. and there our goods, and that because Christ has ascended for the purpose of making those good things ours, which were there long before. This is the argument which the Apostle employs in Col. 3:1.
There are other fruits which result from the ascension of Christ, less important than those which we have specified. They are such as the following:
4. The ascension of Christ is a proof that remission of sins is fully granted to all those that believe, in as much as he could not have sat down upon the throne of God, if he had not endured the punishment which our sins required. For where sin is, there death is also. He shall reprove the world of righteousness, because I go to my Father. (John 16:10.)
5. It is a proof that Christ is indeed conqueror of death, sin and the devil.
6. It is an evidence that we shall never be left destitute of comfort; because it was one great object of Christ s ascension, that he might send the Holy Ghost. If I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. When he ascended up on high, he led captivity
captive, and gave gifts unto men. (John 16:7. Eph. 4:8.)
7. It is an assurance that Christ will for ever defend us, since we know that he is our ever glorious head, and is exalted above all principalities and powers.
What then are we to understand by the Article, I believe in Jesus Christ, who ascended into heaven? It means, I believe, first, that he did truly, and not merely in show, ascend into heaven, and is now there, and will be called upon at the right hand of God, until he shall come from thence to judge the world. And, secondly, that he has ascended for my sake and thy sake, and now appears in the presence of God, makes intercession for us, sends us the Holy Spirit, and will at length take us to himself, that we may be with him where he is, and reign with him in glory.
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