The Ascension Revisited


So it has been quite a while since i originally did my questionnaire regarding the ascension.  As promised, i wanted to follow up and offer my own take on the ascension. 

Yes Jesus did have ascend into heaven after the resurrection.  Many have rightly pointed out that this was necessary for the sending of the Holy Spirit (cf Jn 14:25-26, 16:5-16).

However, there is more than just this.  Jesus’ ascension was so necessary due to the fact of Jesus’ position at the right hand of the Father.  Here, according to Hebrews, Jesus intercedes on our behalf with prayers, which as a perfect, holy and blameless high priest is able to save us completely (7:24-26).

So here we see that it is not only Christ’s atoning death, but continual intercession on our behalf which makes our salvation sure.  However, the significance of Jesus’ position at the right hand of the Father cannot be understood apart from an understanding of the Holy Spirit’s role. 

According to the Torrance brothers, the Holy Spirit takes our prayers, muddied as they often are with self-advancement, vengance, and even sometimes with simply “groaning words cannot express,” the Spirit takes them back to the Son, where He is able to purify them via His intercession on our behalf, and presents them to the Father as “perfect prayers,” for lack of a better term.  So to answer my 3rd question in my original post, the ascension matters a great deal today in this paradigm, because it makes prayer possible.

While i think there is some merit to this view, i have some problems with it. Here is one initial struggle for me:  It seems like the integrity of “our” prayers are lost when Jesus cleans them up.  Can God not handle our struggles? 

However, i think the Torrance’s striving for a way to understand prayer as more Trinitarian in nature is to be commended.  Any thoughts on this?


3 responses to “The Ascension Revisited

  1. I don’t know about the other brother, but it doesn’t seem to me like TF’s notion is one where Jesus ‘cleans…up’ our prayers. The emphasis is on the fact that we have no access to God except through Jesus – period. It isn’t that God can’t handle the messy realities of our lives – becoming incarnate made the point that God can and did deal with this stuff.

  2. wtm,

    Thanks for the comment. I agree with you regarding T.F Torrance’s emphasis on Christ’s mediatorial role, but nonetheless what are the implications on our prayer life if they have to pass through the “perfect intercession” of Christ? So while with you i would strongly agree that the incarnation without a doubt demonstrates that God is willing to get his hands dirty, i wonder if Torrance’s view of prayer here actually undermines that.

  3. Think of this in terms of Calvin’s material on how good works performed by Christians, though they always remain sinful in and of themselves, are justified by Christ and therefor given a certain positive status. TF is applying the same logic to prayer. Nothing we do is ever righteous – even our praying! Thus, we need the intercession of Christ.

    This does not, however, mean that our prayers get to God in some sort of purified form. Indeed, as soon as they reach Christ they have reached God. The point is that – as I said and you seem to agree with – we have no access to the Father except through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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