Question 51: Of what advantage to us is Christ's ascension?
Answer: Christ physically ascended on our behalf, just as he came down to earth physically on our account, and he is now adovcating for us in the presence of his Father, preparing a place for us, and also sends us his Spirit.
Christ's ascension is crucial to our salvation because it makes possible his continual high priestly intercession for us. In Romans 8:31-39, Paul walks through a series of rhetorical questions that lay out the security that we have in Christ. There is a logical order to Paul's questions that, if we follow it, gives us confident repose in Christ's intercessory work for us:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (v. 31)
The answer, of course, is "No one!" Though we have many enemies, none of them can hope to stand against us as any kind of genuine threat so long as God is on our side. But here a possible objection comes in: How do we know that God is on our side? Paul then answers:
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (v. 32)
Do you doubt that God is for you? Look at what he has done! He gave up his Son for you, and if he would go to that extent, he will surely complete the easier task of giving us the entirety of the universe in the day of the new creation. But then another possible objection raises its head: We are guilty sinners. Won't our sins disqualify us from this kind of favor from God? Paul answers again:
Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (vv. 33-34)
The answer to the problem of our guilt is twofold: God has justified us, and there is no court of appeal beyond his decision. He is the Supreme Court of Courts. And his declaration of our justification is predicated on the death, resurrection, and present intercession of Jesus Christ for us. We have a high priest in Heaven who has answered the law in our place, satisfying its last demand, and whose presentation of his completed sacrifice before the Father keeps us, moment-by-moment, in the status of justification. So long as Christ intercedes in Heaven, we are right with God.
But then one more objection comes: Can we be sure that Christ will continue interceding for us indefinitely? Suppose we are torn away from him? What then? Again, Paul answers:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (vv. 35-39)
Follow the logic from the end back to the beginning: Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Therefore, we can have complete confidence that he will go on interceding for us. In turn, that means we will always stand justified before the God who gave up his Son for us, and thus we can always trust that God indeed is for us. And with God for us, there is nothing in this world or beyond it that we have to fear.
The ascension of Christ is, therefore, the linchpin of our assurance. Praise God that the man Christ Jesus stands before the Father in Heaven!
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: Romans 8:31-39. Can you go through Paul's argument in this passage? What does it teach about Christ's heavenly intercession? How does it promote our assurance of God's favor to us?