The (Almost) Forgotten Day of Celebration by Doug Erlandson

Guest blogger Doug Erlandson writes at Faith Seeking Understanding. He can also be found on his Facebook Kindle Page where he promotes his books on witnessing, bioethics, the problem of evil, and more.

Now that we are past Easter (or, as some would prefer, Resurrection Sunday), it is time to focus on the significance of what I like to call the forgotten day of the church calendar–Ascension Day, which this year falls on May 9. While Ascension Day is not forgotten in all quarters (the Roman Catholic church still regards it as a holy day of obligation), many Protestants simply ignore it. And this is a shame.

I first began thinking about the significance of the ascension when, as a relatively young pastor (age 36), I was called to my first charge, a small Reformed church in Aberdeen, South Dakota, thirty years ago. I had been there less than a month when I was informed that Ascension Day was coming up on Thursday and I would be expected to give a sermon. Like many Protestants, I had never attended church on Ascension Day, much less preached a sermon.

So, why is Christ’s ascension significant enough to set aside a day of celebration? Three reasons stand out.

First, it proclaims that Christ now rules over all creation. Shortly before His ascension, Christ spoke these familiar words to His disciples: “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). The ascension of our Lord was to the right hand of God the Father. In the ancient world the one seated at the right hand of a ruler was typically the one through whom the ruler reigned. Christ’s session at the right hand of the Father is confirmation that He now reigns over heaven and earth.

Second, as the Heidelberg Catechism says, because Christ has ascended into heaven, “He is our Advocate in the presence of His Father in Heaven” (Article 49). He is interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:34) and answering the accusations of Satan, so that we may boldly approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).

Third, though we are still on earth, because Christ ascended we are in principle reigning with Him in the heavenly realms. As Ephesians 2:6 tells us, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Enabled by the Holy Spirit, we are able to seek those things that are above, “where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1-2).

Let us therefore celebrate the ascension of Christ with gladness of heart. Although many will overlook Ascension Day, what it commemorates is as integral to our salvation and our final glorification as are Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

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tagged as , in Christianity,theology

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1 Elizabeth May 17, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Doug’s book Faith Reborn: A Personal Apologetics is available for 99 cents today through May 23, 2014.


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