The Ascension of Our Lord – Revelation 5:1-14
It happens just about every time.
The same news is delivered to two people; one person is extremely excited at hearing the news, another is depressed upon hearing the same news.
The candidate who wins an election is overjoyed, the one who loses not so much. The team that wins has a mass celebration, the team that loses boards the bus and goes home dejected. One county suffers, and another rejoices. One business thrives, while another declines. One person sees a rainy day as the best news ever; another sees canceled plans and sees it as the worst news ever.
The exact same news elicits completely different responses from the people who hear it and now must live with it.
Which brings us to the Ascension of Our Lord. For in our readings, we see that one group is extremely happy about the news that Jesus has ascended into heaven, and another would seem to not be very happy at all at the very same news.
Traditionally, we look at the Ascension of Jesus into heaven only from the perspective of the disciples in our Gospel text, standing on the Mount of Olivet, straining their necks as they stare up into heaven, trying to get one last glimpse of Jesus as He disappears into the clouds.
And indeed, as we gather here on The Ascension of Our Lord some 2000 years later, we have the same posture, straining our necks as we stare into heaven, looking for even the slightest glimpse of Christ as we await His return in glory, to judge the living and the dead.
And so it is easy for us to sympathize with those disciples standing there on that mount outside of Jerusalem. The disciples are saddened that their Lord has left them. They are disappointed that the one who led them, the one who taught them, the one who was dead, but is now risen, is gone, and they are still here. They certainly do rejoice in the good news that Jesus leaves with them, but there is still the reality that He will not be physically with them anymore.
And in many respects that is our feeling as well. We wish that Jesus were here with us; that we could go to Him for wisdom and guidance in these grey and latter days when so much of the world that surrounds us is descending deeper and deeper into the chaos of sin and death.
And yet, there is an often forgotten aspect of the Ascension. For there are in fact two sides of the Ascension: the earthly one where we see the disciples straining their necks to get one last glimpse of Jesus; and the heavenly one, where the saints and angels are straining their necks to get the first glimpse of Jesus as He comes through the clouds and enters into heaven.
Revelation 5 gives us a picture of this most joyous heavenly scene: of the son who was gone now at long last returning; of the mighty warrior who went out to fight a great battle now being received back victorious; of a Savior, returning to His kingdom and His devoted servants.
And perhaps most importantly, it is the coming of the one who is worthy to take the scroll and open its seal.
No one else in all of heaven was found to be worthy to perform such a task; no one in all creation was in fact found to be worthy to open the scroll and look into it.
Except for Jesus.
Jesus, the Lion of Judah, the root of David, is the only one who is able to take the scroll and to open its seals.
What is so special about this scroll?
This seal of the scroll is the first of seven seals that will be opened, thus signaling the last days.
The last days cannot begin, until Christ, the conqueror returns to His place in power and glory, having defeated Satan once and for all.
It is important to note what has happened here. If you recall the book of Job specifically, Satan has access to heaven; not to tempt and lie and deceive the saints and angels, but to come before the throne of God and to bring accusations against God’s people on earth. Satan is an almost regular presence, annoying, pestering, and disturbing the heavenly realm.
So not only do we have suffering on earth, but we have Satan himself accusing us before the very throne of God, in the presence of the saints and angels.
Until Easter Sunday.
With the resurrection of Christ Satan is cast out of heaven forever, no longer is he able to stand before the throne of God and make accusations against God’s people, no longer can he come and stir up chaos in the heavenly realm, for he has been expelled once and for all.
With Satan now cast out, and with Christ ascended back to His heavenly throne, the last days have finally been inaugurated and the eternal kingdom and glory of God are soon to come. The saints and angels know this, and they rejoice accordingly at the ascension of Christ.
This is what everyone has been waiting for. This is what the prophets of old foretold; this is what the people of long ago had been promised; this is the day everyone since Adam and Eve has dreamed of.
Christ has resumed His place in glory and honor and dominion and power forever and ever; the victory over Satan is His; there is no one who can ever conquer again.
This joy is a heavenly joy; but it is also your joy, just as it is the disciple’s joy as they depart from the Mount of Olives.
For the victory that Christ has secured is not just His victory, but it is yours as well. This victory over Satan is passed onto you through baptism, that sin and death no longer have dominion over you, but that you have the promise of eternal life in heaven, a heaven that is that much better today because Satan has been kicked out, and that will be that much better when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead.
The Ascension of Our Lord is a celebration, not just in heaven, but on earth as well. For today we celebrate that Christ sits on His throne, having ushered in the last days, and will come again in power and glory to take us to be with Him forever.