Section 4: Jesus
Week 4: Jesus Rose from the Dead, Returned to Heaven, and Will Come Again
Day 3: Jesus Returned to Heaven
After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples a number of times before returning to heaven (Matt. 28, Luke 24, John 20-21). Why did he go back? Why didn’t he just continue to hang out here with us? Is it because heaven has fancier accommodations?
Heaven is no doubt a much nicer place. But that’s not the primary reason Jesus returned. When Jesus returned to heaven, it was a demonstration of his authority. He had completed his mission here on earth. And now the Son, the one through whom the universe had been created, was returning to his rightful place. That’s why Peter says Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father with angels and authorities and powers subject to him (1 Pet. 3:22).
It’s important to remember, God’s plan to save us from sin is part of a larger plan to bring all things under Christ (Eph. 1:10). Whether we know it or not, we are part of a cosmic battle. In the beginning God created the universe and everything in it was good. When we think of the creation, many of us tend to think of the material world—the world we can see and touch. But God also created a spiritual world. Even though we can’t see and touch it, the Bible makes it clear the spiritual world does exist. And everything God created in both the material and spiritual realms was good.
But something happened. We’ve discussed Adam and Eve’s sin and the tragic consequences that flowed from it. Sin’s effects, however, aren’t limited to the world around us. Obviously, something happened in the spiritual realm as well. If Satan is there in the garden tempting Adam and Eve, something had already gone wrong by the time we come to Genesis 3.
Although he was doomed to fail, Satan decided to rebel against God, and in doing so, he created a mess. In a real sense, his foolish rebellion fractured the universe. Satan’s rebellion had disastrous consequences for himself, for us, and for all of creation. But none of this took God by surprise. He knew it would happen and he knew what he’d do to repair it. What’s his plan? According to Ephesians 1:10, God’s plan is to restore his creation back to its original design by bringing all things in heaven and on earth together under Christ.
By returning to heaven, Jesus signals that process has already begun. He has been given power and authority to restore things, to remove the effects of sin and to put down the rebellion (Satan’s and ours).
When I was kid, I would challenge my dad to arm wrestling matches. Not surprisingly, he always beat me. I would try my best, though. I really wanted to beat him. But there always came a point when, no matter how hard I fought, he would gain the advantage by rolling my wrist over. At that point, I was essentially finished. I could hold out a little longer, but I wasn’t strong enough to reverse the momentum. It was just a matter of time before he pinned my arm to the table.
Now that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, it’s just a matter of time before all things are brought together again under him.
Read Acts 1:9-11 again.
What would it have been like to watch Jesus ascend into heaven? How do you think his followers felt? When you understand the link between his ascension and his authority, how does it make you feel? What comfort do you find in this statement of victory?