Christmas and Easter are important markers on the Christian calendar. And rightly so. If Christ was not born, and if Christ was not resurrected, we would not be saved.
Another important marker, forty days after the resurrection the ascension occurred (Acts 1:3, 9). (May 26 this year.) Unfortunately, the ascension is often overlooked. Many Christians do not celebrate the ascension as they do Christ’s birth and resurrection. This lack of celebration is unfortunate because without the ascension, we also would not be saved. How is this so?
When Christ ascended to heaven, He sent the Spirit to earth. Only when Christ had ascended could He send forth the Spirit. Jesus clearly said that “if I do not go way, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).
And the Spirit provides so much advantage for us. Here are but a few examples:
- The Spirit provides illumination of the Scripture (John 16:12-13).
- The Spirit provides power to fulfill the Great Commission (Acts 1:8).
- The Spirit provides gifts to the church (Ephesians 4:7-11).
- The Spirit provides baptism into the church (Acts 1:4-5; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13).
The last one on the list is important because it is Christ’s church that serves as the means to sanctify his people. Through the preaching of the gospel, the practice of the ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and the performance of church discipline, God’s people are being saved: progressively sanctified and preserved to the end.
This is why the writer to Hebrews commands Christians to “not forsake assembling together” (Hebrews 10:25). When Christians do not regularly attend church, the outcome is never good. In fact, John Owen (1616-1683) warned that “forsaking of church assemblies is usually an entrance into apostasy.”
Of course, this does not mean that if you are a true believer, that you can lose your salvation. It means that a primary and ordinary way God keeps you as a true believer is by your attending church. God has ordained His church to be a means of His keeping power.
The point is that without Christ ascending, He could have not sent His Spirit to create the church—a primary and ordinary way God continues to save and keep us! Thus, the ascension matters a great deal. We should celebrate it as we do Christmas and Easter.
For more reasons why the ascension is important, see the sermon here.