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(From “The Crises of the Christ”) By : G.Campbell Morgan

The ascension of Jesus of Nazareth was the final crisis in His great work. To omit it would be to omit that which is a necessary link between His resurrection from among the dead, and reappearance amid His disciples; and the coming of God the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
It is not easy to follow Him as He passes out of human sight. This difficulty is recognized inferentially in the very brevity of the Gospel narrative. Very little is said because little can be said which could be understood by those dwelling still within the limitations of the material, and having consciousness of the spiritual world only by faith. Still the positive fact is definitely stated, and following closely the lines laid down, we may reverently attempt their projection beyond the veil of time and sense.
It is almost pathetic that it is necessary to pause one moment to insist upon the actual historic fact of the ascension into the heavenly places of the Man of Nazareth. If the resurrection be denied, then of course there is no room for ascension. If on the other hand it be established, that Jesus of Nazareth did indeed rise from the dead, then it is equally certain that He ascended into heaven. No time need be taken in argument with such as believe in the authenticity of the New Testament story, and with those who question this, argument is useless.
That there is an unconscious questioning of this fact of ascension is evident from the way in which reference is sometimes made to the Lord Jesus. It is by no means uncommon to hear persons speak of what He did or said “in the days of His Incarnation.” Such a phrase, even when not used with such intention, does infer that the days of His Incarnation are over. This however is not so, any more than it is true that Abraham, Moses, and Elijah have ceased to be men. Indeed the presence of Jesus of Nazareth in heaven as a Man, is more complete than that of any other save Enoch, Moses, and Elijah. All others wait the resurrection for the reception of their body. He in bodily form has passed into heaven. So also Enoch passed, as a sign in the dim and distant century of the triumph over death that God would win in the Person of His Incarnate Son. Thus also Elijah passed, for a testimony in the midst of corruption, which was issuing in unbelief in immortality. Moses’ body was brought out of the grave by Michael the archangel, for reunion with his spirit for the purpose of communion with the Man Jesus. This again was an act of God’s faith in Christ, and though the devil disputed with the archangel his right to appropriate the benefits of redemption, until redemption were accomplished, by this very act God declared the absolute accomplishment of redemption in the Divine economy, long before it had been wrought out into human history.

Jesus therefore through Whom, and through Whom alone eventually, men as such will be found in the heavens, ascended in bodily form to those heavens, being Himself as to actual victory First-born from the dead.

The stoop of God to human form was not for a period merely. That humiliation was a process in the pathway, by which God would lift into eternal union with Himself all such as should be redeemed by the victory won through suffering. Forevermore in the Person of the Man of Nazareth, God is one with men. At this moment the Man of Nazareth, the Son of God, is at the right hand of the Father. Difficulties arising concerning these clear declarations as to the ascension of the Man of Nazareth must not be allowed to create disbelief in them. Any such process of discrediting what is hard to understand, issues finally in the abandonment of the whole Christian position and history. It may be objected for instance that if He be indeed localized as a Man, in heaven, how can He be present with His people on earth. In answer to that, it must be stated, that working in the inverse way, the same difficulty obtains in understanding His presence on the earth as a Man. In the very mystery of the Being of the God-man, as has been shown, there is the limitless and the limited, the omnipresent and the localized. Just as He was here upon the earth in order that the grace of God might have its outshining in a Person, and yet while here, spoke of Himself as the “Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18) today the Man Christ Jesus is in heaven, and through Him the glory of God is having its outshining in a Person, while He is yet in the deep and unfathomable reaches of His Being, the infinite and eternal I AM.
In considering the ascension first as the coming into heaven of God’s perfect Man, there are three things to be noted,
First, His perfection in the realization of the Divine purpose for man;
Second, His perfection in the accomplishment of the Divine purpose of the redemption of ruined man;
Third, His investiture with a name.

I. The coming of Jesus of Nazareth into heaven was the arrival of such an One as had never before been there. The coming to heaven of Abel was the coming of the first human being, and so far as it is competent to measure the interest of heaven by earthly interest in the things of God, it may be reverently declared that it was a great occasion when this first soul representing a new race, and, more marvellous still, representing a fallen race, appeared in the unsullied light of the home of the unfallen. He came by faith, ransomed by love, at the cost of sacrifice. As the Scripture declares that “the angels desire to look into” (1 Pet. 1:12) these things, this must indeed have been a mystery of life and love demanding their close attention, and not per-chance, even fathomed by them, until the explanation of the mystery of sacrifice enfolded in the sublimer mystery of love, was wrought out upon the Cross of Calvary. It Is more than probable that Abel, and all who succeeded him, had to wait the fullness of the earthly time for the explanation of the method of their acceptance with God. They passed into the dwelling place of Infinite Love, upon the basis of their faith in God, so far as they were concerned. In the Divine economy they were received upon the basis of God’s faith in His Son. The Father trusted the Son to accomplish His purpose in the fullness of time, and upon the foundation of that confidence of God in Himself, the sinner was admitted to heaven.
On ascension day something still more marvellous occurred. The Man of Nazareth, the First of the new race, the last Adam, passed into the Divine presence in the right of His own perfect humanity. In His coming, He asked for no mercy. No mediator opened the door of heaven for Him. He proceeded along the hue of the outworking of the infinite order to consummation, basing His claim to reception upon the even and inexorable justice of God. He passed from earth to heaven, and stood unafraid in the white light of the Eternal Purity. In all the record of the race there has been no other like unto this Jesus of Nazareth.
The greatest of Old Testament characters are seen overshadowed by their own sin and failure, and the men of the New have no claim or merit, save that which is imputed to them, and outwrought through them, by the Spirit as He reveals to their understanding, and realizes in their character, the perfections of the Christ. Jesus stands in heaven, having perfectly realized the original thought of God which found expression in the first covenant of creation, “Let Us make man in our Image, after Our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26) Both in character and in conduct do men learn the meaning of that Divine thought as they know the Man of Nazareth.
Perhaps the sublimest description of perfect character is that which Paul uses in writing to Timothy, when he says “God gave us ... a spirit ... of power and love and discipline.” (Tim. 1:7)
This exactly describes the character of Christ; -the spirit of power, the spirit of love, the spirit of discipline. It should be noted here that discipline does not signify self-control, so much as power of ruling others. It is the spirit of order, of authority. This indeed is perfection of character. Out of this sprung His perfection of conduct. The whole conduct of His life was the outward expression of this perfect character whether at the feast, or the funeral; whether with the scholars, or the simple; whether with the adults, or the children; whether in loneliness on the mountain height, or amid the crowds that surged around Him, He was ever acting in response to the impulse of the spirit of power, the spirit of love, and the spirit of discipline. At last this Man Whose creed was truth, Whose character was true, and Whose conduct was triumphant, was received into heaven upon the basis of His own absolute perfection.

II. Yet that is not the greatest wonder of ascension day. It would seem as though one could hear the antiphonal singing of the heavenly choirs, as this perfect One passes into heaven,

“Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates;
And be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors:
And the King of glory will come in,” (Psa. 24:7)

is the exulting challenge of the angels escorting Him. To this comes back the question, inspired by the passion to hear declared again the story of the victory,

“Who is the King of glory?”

And yet gathering new music and new meaning the surging anthem rolls,

“Jehovah strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle...
He is the King of glory.” (Psa. 24:8,10)

Thus the song is also of One who was mighty in battle. Looking upon Him the glorified One, and listening to His words, the wonder grows. In that form all filled with exquisite beauty are yet the signs of suffering and of pain. The marks of wounding are in hands, and feet, and side, and His presence declares in His own words, “I am ... the Living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.” (Rev. 1:17,18)
This is indeed a mystery demanding explanation. In the life of the Perfect, there is no reason for death. Death is the wage of sin, and apart from sin there is no place for death. Sometimes men declare that death is a necessity, a part of a process. This may be declared, but cannot be demonstrated. The mystery of life has eluded all scientific examination, and therefore so also has the mystery of death. The reason for death in ordinary human life has never yet been declared. The human frame, according to scientific testimony, reconstructs itself once in every seven years. Why may not this process go on indefinitely? Why is there any necessity for death? The scientists are unable to answer the question. They can do no more than declare what seems to be a necessity from the perpetual recurrence of the experience in the human race.
What science has failed to do, revelation has clearly done. It simply and sublimely states that death is penalty for sin. Such is the meaning of the story of Genesis, and such the meaning of the explicit declaration of the apostle “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) If then pain be the issue of sin, and death its penalty, why has the Perfect suffered and died? As was seen in the consideration of the transfiguration of Jesus on the Holy mount, His human nature, having passed through all temptation victoriously, was metamorphosed, and might so far as it was concerned, have been received into heaven. Between that crisis and ascension, He has been to the deepest depth of suffering, and through death itself. There can be but one answer to all these questionings. He has wrought a victory for others. The One in Whom death had no place, has died in the place of those who ought to die. Gazing upon the perfections of the ascended Man, the heart is filled with astonishment, and humbled with a great shame, as the light of His glory falls upon the failure of all others. Gazing upon that Perfect One, the “Lamb as it had been slain,” realizing that the wounds tell of penalty borne, and the words of death vanquished, the heart is filled with unutterable sense of the infinite Love, the lips break out in song,

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
Let the water and the blood
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.” (Toplady)

III. Thus ascending, He led captivity captive, He passed into the presence of God with the defeated foes of the race dragged at His chariot wheels, the Master of sin, the Vanquisher of Satan, the Overcomer of death, the insignia of Whose victory were the wounds that He bore, and the fact that He lived the life taken up after having been laid down in death. For Himself He stood in the perfection of His manhood. For man He stood in the perfection of His Saviourhood.
It is now that He is invested with the Name. In that sublimest of all passages dealing with His descent and ascent, the apostle declares that God gave unto Him “the Name which is above every name,” (Phil. 2:9) and the occasion of the giving of the Name was His exaltation to heaven, after the perfect carrying out of that Divine work of Love which included humiliation and suffering and death.
In the ascension light what Name is this now bestowed upon the all conquering Man? It s the old Name, full of ineffable music, the Name of Jesus. It is the Name by which His mother first called Him in the innocence of infancy. It is the Name by which men knew Him in the purity of His boyhood. It is the Name by which men called Him in the victory of His Manhood. It is the Name by which disciples knew Him in the days of His teaching. It is the Name which men wrote over His Cross in the hour of His dying. It is the old Name, and yet He had never received it in all fullness until now. At His Incarnation the Name was a prophecy. “Thou shalt call His Name Jesus; for it is He that shall save His people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21) That prophetic Name He carried through all life’s mystery and ministry, the Name that told to those that understood, that God's faith was centred in this innocent child, and holy Man. And now having accomplished all, perfected to finality the infinite plan of the Eternal Love, He is invested with the Name which at His birth was prophetic. The issue is reached, and in the centre of the universe of God, the Man of Nazareth is enthroned, and named by the sweet Name that ever speaks of perfect humanity, and ever declares the fulfillment of the purpose of salvation. At His birth the Name of Jesus was the proclamation of a Divine purpose. On ascension day it was the ratification of a victory won. He gave Him the Name- JESUS.

By : G.Campbell Morgan

(From “The Crises of the Christ” - Chapter 28)
Published by Fleming Revell. USA. (Out of Print)

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