If you have been counting along with us, then you will know that today is the 40th day of the Omer. That means today is the day on which Yeshua ascended into heaven. The ascension was more than just a flashy exit. Today we want to look at what the ascension means for us as Yeshua’s disciples.
Sitting at God’s Right Hand
The events of Yeshua’s ascension are recorded in two of the Gospels (Mark and Luke) and most fully in the book of Acts. It is from Acts that we learn Yeshua ascended on the 40th day of the Omer: “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Yeshua began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3).
Although the narrative of the ascension isn’t recorded in John, there are multiple references to this event there (John 6:61-62, 20:17). And in Matthew, the end of the Gospel seems to cut off just before the ascension would have taken place, since the last verses are similar to those which Yeshua is recorded as saying just prior to His ascension (compare Matthew 28:18-20 with Mark 16:15 and Acts 1:8).
The first Gospel which recounts a narrative of the ascension is Mark, although it is very brief. After His resurrection, we are told that Yeshua appeared to His disciples, telling them to preach to all the nations. He also speaks about the authority and power which those who believe in Him will demonstrate. After these words, He is taken up into heaven: “So then, when the Lord Yeshua had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19). Although this is a brief statement, it is informative. We are told that Yeshua went up into heaven and sat down at God’s right hand.
What is the significance of Yeshua’s location at the right hand of God? This would seem to be a reference to Psalm 110:1-2: “The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’ The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Your enemies.’”
Being seated at the right hand of God is thus a position of power and authority. This Psalm declares the kingship and authority of the Messiah. In fact, Yeshua uses this verse to prove that the Messiah (thus He Himself) is the Son of God: “Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Yeshua asked them a question: ‘What do you think about the Messiah, whose son is He?’ They said to Him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘Then how does David in the Spirit call Him “Lord,” saying, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies beneath your feet’”? If David then calls Him “Lord,” how is He his son?’ No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question” (Matthew 22:41-46).
Once again Yeshua refers to Psalm 110 when He speaks of the position of authority He will have in heaven after His ascension, and He also speaks of His eventual return from heaven: “And the high priest said to Him, ‘I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Messiah, the Son of God.’ Yeshua said to him, ‘You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven’” (Matthew 26:63-64). Here He uses the phrase the “right hand of power.” This once again emphasizes that seated in heaven, Yeshua has the position of victory. As 1 Peter 3:22 says, Yeshua “is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” And this is likewise beautifully expressed in Ephesians: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Messiah, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:18-22).
He is reigning there for now, and He will return to the earth and establish His kingdom here. When He returns, the rest of Psalm 110 will be fulfilled: “The Lord is at Your right hand; He will crush kings in the day of His wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead; He will crush the leaders far and wide” (verses 5-6). The fulfillment of this role of Messiah as warrior is in Revelation 19:17-21, 20:7-15. Yeshua will indeed rule from Zion (Revelation 20:6, 21:1-5).
The Kingdom likewise is a feature of the ascension account in Acts: “So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth’” (Acts 1:6-8). The disciples were expecting the Kingdom to come right away after Yeshua’s victory over death. But, there was more work to be done. He redirects the focus of His disciples to the task that they are to accomplish in the meantime, giving witness to God’s power and the salvation He offers through Yeshua. This continues to be our task today.
Our High Priest
In Luke’s account of the ascension, we are told that Yeshua blessed His disciples: “When Yeshua had led them out as far as Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51). Although the text does not say it outright, this very well may have been the high priestly blessing. In Leviticus 9:22, we are told that Aaron, the high priest, lifted up his hands and blessed the people of Israel.
Yeshua now lives to make intercession for us, fulfilling His role as high priest in heaven. This role of the Messiah is alluded to, once again, in Psalm 110:4, “The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’” The author of Hebrews refers to this verse in particular when speaking about Yeshua. In chapter 7 he explains how Yeshua is the heavenly high priest in the order of Melchizedek, that is, a priest not based on lineage but on the basis of an indestructible life. “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). As he continues into chapter 8, he also mentions the part of the Psalm which talks about Yeshua being seated at God’s right hand. While earlier we saw that this position is one of kingly rule, the author of Hebrews emphasizes that Yeshua is both king and priest: “Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man” (Hebrew 8:1-2).
Because of Yeshua’s ascension, we have access to Him in this role as high priest of the heavenly tabernacle. We can draw near by His blood and receive forgiveness of our sins.
He Gave Gifts
The last thing I would like to look at today regarding the ascension is what the power of Yeshua means for us. We have talked about what the ascension means for our understanding of Yeshua: it means He is ruling in heaven with power over every authority and principality, and it means He is our high priest who lives to intercede on our behalf. But the authority which Yeshua received He also freely bestows on all of those who come to Him in faith.
We see this in the ascension account in Mark. Just before He takes His leave of them, Yeshua tells His disciples about the authority which He is giving them: “These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17-18). Likewise in Acts Yeshua tells His disciples, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This power, of course, would come on Pentecost (Shavuot) ten days later.
Paul also speaks about the spiritual gifts which have been bestowed on us as a result of Yeshua’s power in heaven: “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Messiah’s gift. Therefore it says, ‘When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.’ (Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Messiah; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Messiah” (Ephesians 4:7-13). Yeshua is not a tyrant who accumulates power to Himself selfishly. He has given us who believe in Him certain abilities and portions of His power so that we will be adequately equipped to accomplish His will here on earth.
Thus we see that Yeshua’s ascension was much more than an exit. Although He has left this earth in bodily form, He remains with us through His Spirit which abides in us and empowers us. He is seated with authority over every power and principality. He has given us gifts which we are to use for His glory. He remains a high priest for us, the one who we can call out to in times of trouble and in the times when we have drifted away from Him. Nothing can separate us from His love: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).