Because He Descended and Ascended...
In His incarnation Jesus descended from Heaven to earth; in His crucifixion He further
descended from earth to Hades; in His resurrection He ascended from Hades to the earth;
and in His ascension He ascended back to Heaven. Through such an infinite journey He cut
the way that “He might fill all things” (Eph 4:10).
We are repeatedly beckoned to identify ourselves with these historical and redemptive acts
of Christ. “Crucified with Him... Buried with Him... Seated above with Him” (Rom 6:3; Eph
2:6). Every spiritual blessing is ours because of this identification (Eph 1:3). Psalmist David
sang this profound truth prophetically; “You have ascended on High... You have received
gifts for men... that the Lord God might dwell there! Blessed be the Lord who daily loads us
with benefits!” (Psa 68:18,19).
The greatest benefit of the descent and ascent of Christ is the liberation of captive souls.“He led captivity captive” (Eph 4:8). “Glorious liberty!” (Rom 8:21). Let’s study here seven
gleaming facets of this liberty we can enjoy.
1. Liberation from Carnalism
“Since Christ suffered for us in the flesh” we need “no longer live in the flesh for the lusts
of men” (1 Pet 4:1,2). No more “licentiousness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties
and abominable idolatries” (v3). No longer slavery to sin! (Rom 6:6).
This is what baptism is all about. Immersion is a symbol of our death and burial with
Christ. The old man of carnality is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done
away (Rom 6:6). As we come out of water, we put on the new man “created according to God,
in righteousness and true holiness” (Rom 6:3-5; Eph 4:24). Noah was saved through water
from a world sold to carnality and corruption. Baptism which is the antitype is meant to
minister the same blessing to us “through the resurrection of Christ” (1 Pet 3:18-22).
We are no more debtors to the flesh (Rom 8:10-12). We are released from the slavery of sin,
because Christ is risen (1 Cor 15:17). Whereas the death of Christ frees us from the penalty
of sin, His resurrection frees us from the power of sin (1 Cor 15:3,17). Faith in the resurrection
of Christ grants us an instant supply of power to say no to sin. The “Spirit of Holiness” which
resurrected Jesus works mightily in us also. The “exceedingly great promises” and the “exceeding greatness of His power” become ours. We are thus enabled to escape devilish lust
and enjoy divine life (Rom 1:4; 2 Pet 1:3,4; Eph 1:19,20).
When Christ left Heaven, in His farewell address He said to the Father: “Sacrifice and
offering You do not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me... Behold I have come to do
Your will, O God!” (Heb 10:5,6). So also we are to present our bodies a living sacrifice to Him.
By this act is meant that we accept transformation to God’s will and refuse conformation to
Satan’s world (Rom 12:1,2).
2. Liberation from Materialism
His encounter with the Risen Christ on the Damascus Road blinded Paul to earthly gains
so he could behold eternal glories. He pledged, “God forbid that I should glory except in the
cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the
world” (Gal 6:14). His tears were uncontrollable when this liberated man thought about
preachers in the clutches of materialism: “They are the enemies of the cross of Christ—who
set their mind on earthly things” (Phil 3:18,19).
“A satisfied soul tramples on the honeycomb” (Prov 27:7). When spiritual blessings satisfy
us, material benefits fail in their attempts to allure us (Col 3:1-3). We turn down the booty
offered by the King of Sodom because we are taken up with the “bread and wine” of the King
of Salem (Gen 14:18-23). To the surprise of the worldlings we refuse to bow before the goddess
of wealth (Col 3:5).
But unfortunately a new breed of Christians and preachers has come which considers the
material and earthly benefits as “the” blessing from God. This health-and-wealth gospel is
the most popular stuff served by pulpits and press. The customers are obviously the Biblical
illiterates. No one has properly taught them why Christ descended and ascended. There is a
striking example to this situation in the gospels—
Many disciples of Christ left Him when He contrasted the heavenly bread with earthly
manna. They called it a “hard saying!” Jesus confronted them, “Does this offend you? What
then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?” (Jn 6:58-66). Jesus did
not become nervous when His entourage fell sharply. He asked the twelve, “Do you also want
to go away?” He rejoiced when Peter replied that it was the words of “eternal” life that held
them stuck to Him. In this context, Jesus called Judas a devil because he was moneyminded
Beware of the Sadducees in the Church today! They live for this world only. They laugh at
the thought of the other world (Acts 23:8). But God’s word warns us, “If in this life only we
have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the
dead!” (1 Cor 15:19,20). Those who stress the earthly blessings over the eternal are no better
than beasts! (v32).
3. Liberation from Ritualism
The death of Christ rang the death bell to ritualistic religion. When He gave up His spirit,“the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom” (Mt 27:51). There was no more to be an
exclusive place called the Holy of Holies. It became a thoroughfare. Also there were no more
to be two categories among God’s people, namely clergy and laity. Wherever God’s people
would meet in the Name of Jesus, the very presence of God was assured. Whoever became a
child of God was instantly declared a priest unto God. “All” the people of God have become a
royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:5,9).
How sad that we still have so-called altars in our worship places! How unscriptural it is
under the New Covenant! Sheer idolatry! What God Himself has torn— “from top to bottom”—
why should man stitch together? Reality has come. Let go rituals. Setting up altars, attaching
sanctity to particular places, burning candles and incense, bowing before crosses and
crucifixes, ministers wearing special dresses, etc, are nothing but “dead works” (Heb 9:1-14).“Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Eph 5:14).
The Throne of Grace is open anytime to anyone who trusts in the shed blood of Christ (Heb
4:14-16). We can enter the very presence of God instantly in simple faith without any human
mediator, because Jesus the Forerunner has entered there “for us” (Heb 6:19,20). Because
He has become “higher than the heavens,” He is able to save us from the guttermost to the
uttermost! (Heb 7:25-27).
Commandments given to the Old Covenant people regarding food, drink, festivals or
sabbaths were merely shadows. “But the substance is of Christ” (Col 2:11-17).
Adding ritualistic flavour or attaching ceremonial importance to the Lord’s Supper is also
idolatry. It is just simple bread and wine to remember the death of the Lord until He returns.
Believers can come together anywhere anytime to celebrate the Lord’s victory through these
emblems of His body and blood. No “special” order of service is necessary, or “fulltime” minister
a must. Is it not a bread which “we” break, and a cup which “we” bless? (1 Cor 10:16,17; Acts
Sure such a teaching will invite the fury of some “clergy,” but it will invoke the favour of
4. Liberation from Legalism
“Christ is the end of the law” (Rom 10:4). While contrasting the righteousness which is of
the law and the righteousness of faith, Paul wrote, “But the righteousness of faith speaks in
this way: Do not say in your heart, Who will ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ
down from above) or, Who will descend into the abyss? (that is, to bring Christ up from the
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Gal
3:13). He has “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was
contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col 2:14).
Christ was crucified, but He came back alive. The Law was crucified and was cast away,
never to be resurrected. The New Covenant was not added to the Old, but the New annulled
Before his conversion Paul was a legalist. But he dumped his long-cherished legalism as
dung that he might know Christ and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His
sufferings (Phil 3:4-10). Next to the Epistle of Romans, every Christian must study the Epistle
of Galatians thoroughly. Otherwise having been justified by faith we will be easily jolted by
false teachers who would enter secretly to steal away our liberty in Christ (Gal 2:4).
Some choose to gather for worship on Saturdays, others on Sundays, and still others on
anyday. Let each one decide for himself according to his conviction and convenience. Some
freely eat pork and crab, others only mutton, beef and fish, while still others only vegetarian
food. Let each one decide his menu for himself. “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived
again... But why do you judge your brother?” (Rom 14:1-10).
Even spiritual disciplines like tithing and fasting cannot be made legal commandments for
Christians. How much to give and how often to fast are left to the discretion of individuals,
though under the Better Covenant we should excel the Old Testament folks. It was to the
question why His disciples did not fast like the disciples of John and the Pharisees, Jesus
answered, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins!” (Mk 2:18-22).
5. Liberation from Defeatism
The defeatist mentality of Peter and the other disciples disappeared the moment the
ascension gift of Christ, even the Holy Spirit, descended upon them. Addressing the confused
Jewish community on the Day of Pentecost, Peter authoritatively declared, “This Jesus God
has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God,
and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which
you now see and hear!” (Acts 2:32,33).
If Jesus had not ascended, the Holy Spirit would not have descended. The disciples got
into feelings of fear when Jesus began telling them that He would leave them soon. But He
assured them, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not got away, the Helper
will not come to you” (Jn 16:7).
The greatest blessing therefore of the ascent of Christ is the descent of the Spirit with His
gifts and power. “When He ascended on High, He... gave gifts to men... some to be apostles,
some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the
saints” (Eph 4:8-12). Not only corporately but also individually every Christian is gifted (Rom
12:4-6; 1 Cor 12:7). The Church is thus fully equipped to assault the enemy and accomplish
its call and commission on earth.
When Christ came out triumphantly from the grave, He gave the disciples marching orders:“All authority is given to Me. Go therefore!” When He ascended, the disciples advanced. He
caused them to triumph everywhere (Mk 16:19,20; 2 Cor 2:14). They went plundering hell
and planting churches in colonies and countries. The gates of Hades could not stop their
aggression. They kept challenging, “O Hades, where is your victory?” (Mt 16:18; 1 Cor 15:55,57).
But the Church of today is bowed before the world because Christians have not had their
eyes enlightened yet to know God’s power which was demonstrated at the resurrection and
ascension of Christ (Eph 1:17-21).
Onward Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.
Christ the royal Master,
Leads against the foe;
Forward in the battle,
See His banners go!
6. Liberation from Factionalism
“There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian,
slave nor free,” because Christ has become “all and in all” by virtue of His descent and ascent
(Col 3:11). Because He is supreme and sovereign in His Church, there is no place for national,
racial or social distinctions. All are equal before the majesty and splendour of the ascended
Lord. Boasting or despising is ruled out.
If there were two groups who perhaps could never come together; they were Jews and
Gentiles. The Jews would despise the Gentiles to the extent of calling them dogs. Even with
Samaritans, who were half-Jews, the Jews would not have any dealing—including asking a
drink! (Jn 4:9). The Jews would rather travel a few extra miles than passing through a
Samaritan village! But Christ broke down “the middle wall of partition” (Eph 2:14). He put to
death the “enmity” between the two groups (v16).
Christian groups which are factionalised by caste, class, colour or any such thing are not
founded properly on Christ (Eph 2:19-22). The apostle hammered the Corinthian contenders
with the root question: “Was Paul crucified for you?” (1 Cor 1:10-13).
We the Indian Christians are yet to realize that the major cause of our weakness and
witnesslessness before the non-Christian majority is our individualism and denominationalism. May we rise above the interests of our little kingdoms to serve the King of kings and the Lord
7. Liberation from Pessimism
Pessimism is another word for unbelief. The immediate outcome of a pessimistic attitude
is fear. Following crucifixion the disciples locked themselves in out of fear. But the Risen
Lord entered the room greeting them, Shalom! To blow away their fear He breathed on them
the Spirit. And He urged them not to stay shut in but go sent out! (Jn 20:19-22).
Christ’s message to the churches of today is just the same: “Do not be afraid; I am the First
and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore. And I
have the keys of Hades and Death” (Rev 1:17-19).
Forty days after resurrection when Jesus ascended in a cloud, pessimism and uncertainty
once again gripped those men of Galilee. God therefore sent two men in white uniform—not
in black which would symbolize death—to tell the disciples something like this: “Why do you
stand gazing as if all is lost? As He went up, so He would come back. You get on with the job
He has given you!” (Acts 1:9-11).
The ascension of Christ is the pledge of His Second Coming! The Jesus who lived, died,
and rose again in history past will come again, and His return will mark the beginning of
history’s end! Friend, live everyday and do everything with these words of Christ sunk in your
heart: “Let not your heart be troubled ... I go to prepare place for you... I will come again and
receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also!” (Jn 14:1-3).
Because Christ descended and ascended, all “isms” have become “wasms”, and we will
soon leave this lowly habitat for the lofty Heaven! Hallelujah!