Finding this little 92-page gem last week at the Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore was an answer to prayer. As I prepared to place my order online, I only needed to spend couple more dollars to meet the minimum order for free shipping. So, I browsed around for good deals and caught this one on sale for 50% off - only $4.50. I had no idea that inside I would find the answer to one of my more recent theological queries; How do I understand and believe the mysterious statement of Paul in Ephesians 2:6?
"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus"
Certainly, this short verse speaks volumes on its own merits, but I had only the barest of understanding with regard to what the ascension of Christ has to do with me in the here and now. As it turns out, many of my theological gaps reside in my lack of understanding of the ascension and why it is important to me - right now. The already and the not yet of our Christian experience is embodied in the ascension. Our mission as the Church in this world finds its true explanation, not in in the incarnation as we so popularly think these days, but rather in the ascension. An ascensional mission, rather than an incarnational mission, is understanding that this world is simultaneously being ruled over by Christ from heaven and simultaneously groaning for His return when we will rule with Him in the consumated and glorified new creation. The ascension helps me to reconcile the remaining sin and falleness and depravity that is visibly prevalent with the fact and knowledge that when He returns every knee shall bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Evangelism is not so much persuading someone to invite Jesus into their heart, but rather a proclamation to be believed and embraced - that He already is reigning; that Jesus already is the risen King.
Another amazing factor in the theology of the ascension which I had not previously studied or have not heard much about is why it matters that Jesus, as a man, risen to the right hand of the Father should matter at all practically. For me, this teaching is the beginning of a healing of a wound, or a sealing of a gap theologically perhaps. The authors say that we are not on hold and that we are not on pause in our experience of the already and the not yet. Wesley Hill wrote about his experience caught between the times in "Washed and Waiting" in a vivid and heartfelt manner with which I could personally identify. Chester and Woodrow connect the dots and bridge the gap by unfolding the doctrine of ascension.
Several weeks ago, when I first began to explore and question the meaning of Ephesians 2:6 and how I might better understand what it meant, I had no idea that stumbling upon the doctrine of the ascension in such a well-written little paperback would be so enjoyable and rewarding. I look forward to digging deeper into the ascension in the future, but for now, I highly recommend that anyone who is unfamiliar with these ideas, or anyone perhaps perplexed by the mystery of humanity in the presence of God, to get this book, read it and pass it on to someone else!
The Ascension: Humanity in Presence of God from TCH Sheffield on Vimeo.
For further study: The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ by Bruce Ware on sale via Amazon Kindle.