Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Apostles Creed -- He Ascended Into Heaven

For our 2013 Hymn of the Month we will be exploring the Apostles Creed
With each post we'll look at one of the statements in the creed,
consider its significance, and share an appropriate hymn.  
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth:  
And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirt, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from there He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.  
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. 
I want to begin this post by saying how much I appreciate the work of Timothy Tennent, in his book This We Believe! Meditations on the Apostles' Creed. Much of what I think and write about the Apostles Creed has been shaped by this book. Today's post is particularly influenced by Dr Tennent's writing.

When Jesus returned to Heaven, His followers stood looking up into the sky. He was gone! Two angels spoke to them, assuring them that Jesus had gone to Heaven and that He would return. They waited for His return and we, 2000 years later, continue to wait.

Today's portion of the Creed tells us that He is seated on the right hand of God the Father Almighty and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. What does this tell us about Jesus?

Jesus as Prophet -- Prophets declare God's word to people, and then they wait to see what the people will do with the truth they have received. Jesus is the living Word of God who lived in among us, boldly declaring Truth. Then, as Hebrews 10:12b-13 tells us, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. We read in Acts 3:21 that he must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. Even creation groans in frustration during this interim period while it waits its liberation from its bondage to decay and the return of Jesus (Acts 8:19-21). And so Jesus waits until the time appointed by the Father, a time known to the Father alone (Matthew 24:36), to come back to Earth.

Jesus as Priest -- "A prophet is one who faces the people and proclaims God’s Word to them. A priest, in contrast, faces God and intercedes on behalf of the people" (Timothy Tennent). There is much in Scripture to remind us that our Great High Priest prays for us! We read in Hebrews 4:14-15, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin. Let us, then, approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. That high priest is further described in Hebrews 7:25-26: Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need -- one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Jesus, the Perfect One, is praying for you. Today in real time, He knows your needs and He is lifting you to the Father as only He can do! You may approach Him boldly, knowing that He is waiting for you at the mercy seat.

Jesus as King -- A king rules; he is sovereign and has great authority. That describes Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand -- with angels authorities and powers in submission to him (1 Peter 3:22). In writing to the Philippians, Paul said, Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (2:9-11). We hear the strains of the Hallelujah Chorus quoting Revelation 11:15, The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever. And we add our bold Amen!

Jesus as Judge -- When the time is right, Jesus will descend from Heaven and will judge the living and the dead. For he [God the Father] has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:31). Paul prefaces his charge to Timothy with these words: In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom... (1 Timothy 4:1). Jesus will have the final word, based upon how every person, both living and dead, has responded to Him.

And why should He not? He is the faithful Son of God, the atoning Lamb who took upon Himself the sins of the whole world, who alone is worthy and for whom all creation waits. Even so, come Lord Jesus!

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