Responding to a question from a listener, noted theologian and author John Piper recently offered reasons why Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven rather than permanently staying on Earth after His resurrection.
In an episode of “Ask Pastor John” posted to the website Desiring God on Thursday, a listener asked Piper, the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, about the purpose of the ascension.
“Why did Jesus leave Earth after his resurrection?” the listener named Dalton asked. “I understand that Jesus left to leave us the Holy Spirit, but couldn’t He have just stayed and continued His ministry as the risen Christ in tandem with the Spirit? Wouldn’t that have been more effective? Why did Christ leave the Earth?”
The 77-year-old Baptist said that one of the reasons Jesus left the Earth is that He “would be spatially bound” and “could not be in one place and another place and another place at the same time.”
“His presence would introduce a serious confusion for how Christians are to relate to Him,” Piper contends. “Some would be trying to relate to him by the Spirit, but put off-balance — knowing that he’s 100 or 10,000 miles away on Earth.”
Piper also said that the ascension demonstrated Jesus’ authority, noting that “Christ’s post-resurrection role as the God-man ruling the cosmos is better signified if He’s sitting at the right hand of God than walking on the Earth.”
“This exalted role — as above all rule and authority in the universe and as the head of the universal church — would be obscured, wouldn’t it? It would be obscured if Jesus were still walking among us,” Piper said.
A third reason, Piper said, is that the ascension was “the fitting coronation for His triumphant work on the cross and His new incarnate superiority over angels,” adding that if Jesus “had not taken this seat, the greatness of his achievement on the cross and the greatness of His new incarnate superiority would be obscured.”
Jesus’ intercessory role for those who believe in Him is better achieved with Jesus being in Heaven than if He had remained on Earth, Piper argued.
“The present intercession of Christ at God’s right hand would not be rightly exercised or exhibited if Christ were still here among us after the resurrection,” the theologian noted.
Piper cited Romans 8:33-34: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
Piper also stressed that sending the Holy Spirit to believers “could not come until Christ [was] completely glorified — which included his ascension to the Father.”
“The glorification of Jesus at the right hand of God was essential because the Spirit who would be sent by Jesus and the Father is the Spirit of the glorified Christ,” he added.
The final reason Piper gave was that the ascension was “God’s way of glorifying His Son,” as seen with the eventual Second Coming of Jesus during the End Times.
“God’s plan is that the risen Christ would get great glory at the end of this age, not by itinerating on the earth for 2,000 years, but by descending from Heaven in power and great glory, and defeating the man of lawlessness, and being marveled at by all His people,” Piper said.
The apologetics website Got Questions also addressed the significance of the ascension.
The ministry contends that the ascension signaled the end of Jesus’ ministry in the world and signified “success in His earthly work.”
“God the Father had lovingly sent His Son into the world at Bethlehem, and now the Son was returning to the Father. The period of human limitation was at an end,” noted the apologetics site.
“It marked the return of His heavenly glory. Jesus’ glory had been veiled during His sojourn on earth, with one brief exception at the Transfiguration.”
Got Questions also stated that the ascension “set the pattern for His return,” noting that once “Jesus comes to set up the Kingdom, He will return just as He left-literally, bodily, and visibly in the clouds.”