Ascension day – it is an important, yet neglected day on the church’s liturgical calendar. It is observed on the 40th day after Easter Sunday, as that is when Scripture tells us Jesus ascended into heaven. Acts 1:1-3 says,
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
Acts 1:9 describes the ascension:
And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
But then what? Why is the ascension so important? It is a reminder that, as the Apostles’ Creed tells us, Jesus “ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” It is the start of his reign over all things for the church (cf. Ephesians 1:20-23).
Not only that, but it also marks the start of what is often called His “Session” at the right hand of the Father. This is His high priestly ministry wherein He represents His people in the presence of God the Father & ever lives to intercede on our behalf (cf. Hebrews 7:25).
The ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ was also the necessary precursor to Pentecost – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all flesh. In Acts 2:33, Peter explains the connection:
Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
The Apostle Paul also shows the connection between the Ascension & Pentecost by quoting Psalm 63:9. He writes,
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (Ephesians 4:7-8 ESV)
So the reign of Christ, His Session, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the giving of Spiritual gifts to His church are all associated with His ascension.
In other words, it is an extremely important day, not only in church history, but in the very life of the church (and so every believer) as well.
For more teaching about the Ascension of Christ, see The Westminster Larger Catechism, Q.53-56.