Friday, June 10, 2011

Ascension Sunday

Daniel 7:13-14 (NKJV)
13 “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.

Today is Ascension Sunday. On this day we celebrate the moment when our Lord Jesus Christ, having taught the disciples for 40 days following his resurrection, ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. Ascension Day was actually last Thursday – 40 days since Easter. However, we haven’t yet reached the point of celebrating Ascension Day during the week and so celebrate it on the Sunday following.

But why celebrate this event? What’s so important about the Ascension? Daniel answers these questions for us. In chapter 7 Daniel has a vision of various animals who would rule the kingdoms of the earth in the years and centuries to come. He sees Babylon as a lion with eagle’s wings; then comes Medo-Persia, a bear with three ribs in its mouth; next comes Alexander the Great and Macedonia symbolized by the speed and agility of a leopard with four wings; finally comes Rome, a great beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong, having iron teeth with which it devoured all other kingdoms.

As Daniel was meditating on these visions and wondering what they might mean – for from his vantage point in history he didn’t know what we know of the rise of these kingdoms – as he was wondering what this might mean, something even more startling happened. Suddenly a Son of Man, a Son of Adam, appeared – not a beast but a man. And this Son of Man came up to the Ancient of Days, the Ruler and Judge of all, the one who raises up one kingdom and puts down another. Note that the Son of Man is not here coming down to earth but up to the Ancient of Days – this is not a reference to the Second Coming, in other words, but to the Ascension. The Son of Man came up to the Ancient of Days and what happened? The Ancient of Days gave the Son of Man dominion, glory, and a kingdom – in other words, He made the Son of Man King, Ruler.

And here’s the question: Ruler over what? Over just the land of Israel? Over just the people of God? No. Ruler over all the nations of the earth – listen to Daniel: “Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.” The dominion that the animal kingdoms had for a time exercised over the earth is replaced with the rule of the Son of Adam. In the Ascension Jesus enters upon His duties as the King of kings and Lord of Lords. He begins to reign from the right hand of God and the first thing He does, on the day of Pentecost, is pour out His Spirit upon His people to enable them to carry the message of His reign throughout the earth.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus reigns, let the earth be glad! Jesus reigns, let the nations rejoice! The rule of the beasts of the earth, the governmental principle that might makes right, has come to an end to be replaced by the rule of the Son of Adam and the exaltation of justice. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”

Reminded that Jesus is Lord of all, Ruler of all, and that it is Him that all men, nations, and languages are to serve, that it is Him we are to proclaim as King of kings and Lord of lords, let us confess that our nation refuses to honor Him and that we Christians frequently fail to bear witness to Him. Let us kneel as we confess.