CHRIST INCARNATE--HIS PRESENT MINISTRY

     In this web page this writer is considering Christ's present ministry proper (sometimes called "The session").  The importance of  His present ministry has unfortunately neglected or only covered lightly.  The fact that this ministry of  Christ was hardly touched on by the Reformers and did not appear in ancient creeds does not lessen its importance.  Before one discusses that ministry His ascension to Heaven is to be pondered.  His ascension is an important  preliminary to His present ministry.

THE ASCENSION OF  CHRIST 

     "The doctrinal importance of  Christ's ascension lies not so much in His departure from the world as it does in His arrival in heaven." (Chafer, Systematic Theology, V:262)   It is believed that there were actually two ascensions of  Christ.

1. His ascension resurrection morning.  The idea that Christ may have ascended on the day of  His resurrection may surprise many.  In John 20:17 one reads, "Touch Me not; for I am not ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say unto them, 'I ascend unto My Father and your Father; and to My God and your God.'"  Yet that very evening He encouraged them to touch and handle Him.  There is no suggestion why the difference.  Of  course, unbelievers try to point out this as a contradiction.  Rather it is a matter of  His presenting the shed blood in the heavenly Holy of  Holies.  The Johannian passage states, "I ascend unto My Father."  If this referred to the ascension recorded in Acts1, there would have been no necessity to inform the disciples of  it.
     a. His entering into the heavenly temple.  His ascension on the resurrection morning was a fulfillment of  the Day of  Atonement (which was a type) when the high priest went in to the holy of  holies to sprinkle the shed blood before the mercy seat.  The fulfillment in the antitype is set forth in Hebrews 9:23, 24 (also look at the immediate preceding context). Whether Jesus actually carried blood  to that sanctuary  has been debated.  Some argue that it was done in a figure; that it is the picture, the illustration that is in view.  Yet Hebrews 9:19-24 implies that blood itself was taken to cleanse the heavenly things.  Not enough has been revealed by God to be absolutely sure.  The types involved (including the two birds--one slain and the other dipped in the blood of  the slain bird and then released) suggest this to be the case.  This then changes the judgment throne to a grace throne.
     b. His being the first-fruits.  The disciples, as Jews, believed  in the resurrection of  the dead.  However, after His transfiguration, Christ spoke of  the resurrection from among the dead.  The study of  1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 will show this aspect.  Also Romans 8:11 speaks of  Jesus being raised up "from [literally "out of"] the dead."  The term "first-fruits" has, of  course, the picture of  the wave sheaf set forth in Leviticus 23:9-14. The details of  these passages can not be covered in this brief presentation.

2. His ascension in the clouds.  The historical event of  His ascension, which occurred 40 days after His resurrection, is recorded in Luke 24:49-53 and Acts 1:9-11.  The question does arise as to whether Christ's glory was evident during the 40 days of  appearances.  It would seem obvious that it was veiled even as it was during His earthly ministry.  On resurrection morning He was not readily recognized by the women; and Luke specifically declares that the eyes of  the two disciples on the road to Emmaus were "holden" so that they did not recognize Him.  Furthermore, when John beheld Him in all His glory recorded in Revelation 1:17, 18, John fell at "His feet as dead."  Besides, the actual historical record, there are several Scriptures that deal with the ascension.
     a. Psalm 68:18.  This passage is quoted by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:8.  The Apostle tells us that passage was speaking of  Jesus Christ.  Paul speaks of  Christ's descension "into the lower parts of  the earth" thus taking captive those believers who were in captivity.  Christ then ascended into heaven bringing those with Him.  At the same time He gave gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11.
     b. Proverbs 30:4.  The first part of  this verse ties in with Psalm 68:18 and clearly identifies the "Who" as God.  The latter part of the verse asks, "What is His name [obvious answer is God.], and what is His Son's name, if  thou canst tell?" The answer is clearly set forth in the New Testament  where Jesus Christ is repeatedly declared to be God's Son.  It is either ignorance or blatant unbelief not to see that who is referred to here is Jesus Christ.
     c. John 3:13.  Though this verse does not explicitly speak of  His ascension, it is an essential aspect to the verse.  The connection with Proverbs 30:4 should be clear to any candid mind.  The phrase, "which is in heaven" shows He is presently in heaven.  At the same time it seems to show Him on earth by the phrase "He that came down from heaven."  As God He could easily be both places at once for He is omnipresent.  Whether John was writing from the perspective of  the time he was writing these words or whether he was writing from the time in the past is not easy to say.  This very ambiguity may be the key, for the Holy Spirit may have been trying to convey both thoughts.
     d. Ephesians 1:20-23.  This passage unequivocally implies His ascension by the words, "and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places."  Chafer sets forth the idea well, "The span of  the ascension of  Christ is measured in this Scripture.  Not only has He left the tomb and returned to His native place, but He is exalted above all others, with authority in heaven and on earth committed to Him; yet His humanity is present, too.  There is a man  in the glory.  His glorified humanity is retained forever." (Ibid., 272)
     e. Ephesians 4:8-10.  This passage (parts thereof) was referred to in connection with Psalm 68:18.  His ascension is clearly set forth in this passage.  His exaltation is declared in the latter portion.  Christ Himself declared this fact in John 17:3.  This writer is reminded of the passage in Philippians 2:9-11:  "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above evey name; That at the name of  Jesus every knee should bow, of  things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of  God the Father."  This passage tells of  the highly exalted position of  our Lord.  Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Him as Lord.  Hitler, Krueschev, etc.; every person who has rejected Jesus Christ; every one who has claimed that the Bible is full of  myths will be forced to bow the knee and acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Lord of  the universe.  It will be, however, accomplished.    
     f. Acts 1:9-11.  This passage was cited before as presenting the historical fact of  the ascension.  It also sets forth, however, other facts.  First, it strongly implies His presence in heaven now.  It does not present what He is doing at the present.  That is left to other passages.  The latter part shows His return from heaven.  Just as His ascension was historical accomplished, so will be His return.  The ascension was visible at least to His disciples (not just the eleven); so will be His return.
     Not only has this writer set forth the historical fact of  the ascension, he has shown its doctrinal significance.  The ascension was necessary for the present ministry of  Jesus Christ in heaven.

THE PRESENT MINISTRY ITSELF

     The ministry of  Christ in this present age is of  paramount importance to the life of  the each believer.  Unfortunately this area of  truth has been neglected or passed over lightly.  The refusal of  those who do not believe  in the security of  the believer  is in part the result of  this light regard for His present ministry.  A few of  these have been touched upon previously.

1. His universal authority.  The Scriptural evidence shows that the Son has equal authority with the Father.  Matthew 28:18 states that "all power" is given to the Son.  His authority is implies by Ephesians 1:20, 21 whereas Colossians 1:16, 17 establishes His authority over all creation as the Creator and Sustainer of  the universe.  1 Corinthians declares His authority over death itself, for He arose from the dead.

2. His headship over the church.  The headship of  Christ over the church has been touched upon in other parts of  this web site.  In this present age, His headship has been too often ignored by church leaders.  Ephesians 1:22, 23 declares, "And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is His body, the fulness of  Him that filleth all in all."  Colossians 1:18 states the same truth.  The church is not the organization but rather the organism.  He guides the church through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  That indwelling is for each believer; church leaders do not a corner on the Holy Spirit.  They may be directed by the Holy Spirit, but it is up to each believer to check their teaching, methods, etc. against the Word of  God.

3. His bestowment of  gifts.  Jesus Christ gives gifts unto each believer as He sees fit.  This is done through the Holy Spirit. This fact is set forth clearly in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.  Romans 12:3-8 put forth another set of  gifts.  Ephesians 4:8-11 gives some special gifts.  It is not this writer's purpose here to discuss the issue of  which gifts are permanent and which were temporary.  These will be discussed on one of  the web pages dealing with the Holy Spirit.  Suffice it to say that some are temporary and others permanent.  As Chafer puts it, "The bestowment of  gifts is but another instance in which the personal and individual supervision of  the exalted over each member of  His Body is disclosed." (Ibid., 276)

4. His intercession for His own.  The ministry of  prayer for believers is generally called "intercession."  His intercession began while He was on earth (John 17:1-26).  A detailed analysis of  this passage is beyond the purpose of  this web page, but it would be profitable.  The main statement of  His intercession is found in Hebrews 7:25.  This truth is further stated in Romans 8:34.  This intercession is one of  the reasons the believer can feel secure in his salvation.

5. His advocacy for believers.  Closely allied to His intercession is His work as the believer's Advocate. The major difference between intercession and advocacy is that the latter is specific while the former is more general.  Believers are not yet perfect, and thus do commit sin.  When one does sin, he needs the advocacy work of  Jesus Christ.  When one sins, fellowship is broken and can be restored by confess of  sin as set forth in 1 John 1:9.  Hebrews 9:24 suggests the advocacy work of  Christ.  The prime verse, however, is 1 John 2:1, " My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if  any man [obviously referring to the little children] sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."  Why do believers need an advocate?  The reason is because Satan accuses them before God when they sin (Cf. Revelation 12:10).  Jesus Christ can be the believer's Advocate because of  His death on the cross and the shedding of  His blood.  Thus, "He is the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:2).

6. The building of  believers' heavenly home.  Jesus Christ is building a home over in glory land for each believer.  This is evident from John 14:1-3.  This preparation is for the church, His bride.  And He promises to return to take believers to that abode.

7. The expectation by Christ.  As a groom looks forward with expectation to receive his bride, so does Christ anticipates the coming day when He will return on the clouds to received His bride (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13ff).  This expectation also includes the vanquishing of every foe.  This thought is set forth in Psalm 2:7-9; Isaiah 63:1-6; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; and Revelation 19:15. Hebrews 10:13 explicitly declares:  "From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool." This expectation, of course, is an anticipation of  His return which will be discussed in the next section, His Second Coming.        

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