For some years now, I have been thinking about how Christians—with our anointing (I John. 2:20,27)—participate in the story of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed. Like Him—or rather, in Him—we have incarnation, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection. Recently, though, I have been thinking about the fact that the first advent of His story included a final piece which we call the ascension, followed by His enthronement at the right hand of the Father.
If I am crucified and risen with Christ (I can’t take the time just now to explain how I see our sharing His incarnation and life of ministry), am I also ascended and enthroned? Well, Ephesians makes clear that I am seated with Him in the heavenly realms, so, yes. This speaks to enthronement, at least; but what about ascension?
There is a day coming when our Lord will return to effect our literal ascension, our being caught up into the air with Him. That is the ‘not-yet’ part. What about the ‘already’?
Enter, Colossians 3.
“If you have been raised up with Christ,” says Paul, “keep your upward momentum!” Look up! Standing on your tiptoes, focus on the sky, not on the earth! See Christ seated beside the Father! Reach up! Reach up as those who can’t wait to join Him there!
What is pictured as a straining forward in Philippians 3, then, is a straining upward in Colossians 3. Just as surely as we can live into our (Lord’s) resurrection while not yet having died physically, we are told to live into our (Lord’s) ascension while still living this earthly life. The apostle says we do this by setting our minds on the things above. In day-to-day life, this amounts to a murderous eradication of the aspects of ourselves which would seek to keep us chained to the earth (v.5).
One of the most striking features of the ascension that awaits us is that it is to be the moment of our final revealing. The world around us is really in for a shock. “The world knows neither Christ nor Christians,” wrote the 18th century NT scholar, J.A. Bengel, “and Christians do not even fully know themselves.” He was referring to the revealing of Colossians 3:4.
The apostle John speaks in similar terms. “… It has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” As always with the Lord’s apostles, such a thought leads quite naturally to a present-time application: “And everyone who has this hope on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (I John. 3:2-3). For Paul, in Colossians, it leads to the rest of what he writes in chapter 3: putting to death our earthly members, putting on the new man, clothing ourselves in love and much more.
When the Lord returns, He will start by bringing His dead out of the ground. Then He will bring us all up into the air with Him. Will this give us whiplash, or will we be found already stretching ourselves in His direction? Or as He put it, “…hen the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth” (Luke 18:8)?
Father, thank You for raising us up with Your Son, our Lord Jesus, and for embedding us within Him so that His glorious revealing will be our revealing too. Thank You for giving us—in Him—the power to kill the ugliness that still attaches to us to the fallen world and to put on the new man whom You are renewing in His image. Lord, make me into a tiptoe Christian. Like a toddler anxious to be picked up by his Daddy, let me strain upward to Your throne. In the name of our risen, ascended and seated Lord, Amen.