As I sat there furiously taking notes with 1700 other women, Beth Moore’s statement caused me to look up in wonder. Yet another vital force in conservative Christianity had taken note of a strange void in our circles!
Beth had just finished explaining the importance of Jesus coming to earth in human form, of His great sacrifice on the cross, and of His miraculous resurrection that conquered death. She congratulated our churches on having these three down pretty well. We regularly acknowledge Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection, but unless we move in more charismatic circles, we tend to neglect the power of Jesus’ ascension.
“What does that even mean?” you ask. In simple terms, when Jesus went back up to heaven after His resurrection, He promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to fill believers. For some context and background, let’s consider what Jesus promised His disciples in John 14.
“I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. –John 14:12-14 CSB
Despite the disciples’ desire for Jesus to remain on earth in His physical form, God had better plans. Jesus would ascend into heaven after his resurrection, trading His physical presence for the presence of the Holy Spirit.
“If you love Me, you will keep My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you. –John 14:15-17 CSB
No longer would people have to take turns to access Jesus. All believers would have instant, personal access to God Himself! The Spirit would teach believers Himself, giving comfort, counsel, and truth.
“In a little while the world will see Me no longer, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live too. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you…I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. –John 14:19-20, 25-26 CSB
Think about it…the ascension of Jesus provided for the Spirit of God Himself to come live with mankind and inside mankind!! This is a fulfillment of an ancient prophecy–one that you and I get to actively experience! Hundreds of years before Jesus was even born and thousands of years before you and I were born, Joel the Prophet foretold this great miracle:
“After this I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity;
then your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
your old men will have dreams,
and your young men will see visions.
I will even pour out My Spirit
on the male and female slaves in those days.” –Joel 2:28-29 CSB
So why would Beth say that we have largely neglected the power of Jesus’ ascension? Let’s look at the book of Acts, which describes the actions of the early church right after Jesus’ ascension when the Holy Spirit came to live inside believers. Because this subject is highly debated among Christians, I am going to quote the Bible passages with little commentary. They will speak for themselves.
The Holy Spirit enabled the believers to speak in languages they did not know.
“When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.”–Acts 2:1-4 CSB
The Holy Spirit enabled the church to grow exponentially.
“So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers.” –Acts 9:31 CSB
The Holy Spirit enabled believers to speak powerfully in the face of resistance.
“The next day, their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John and Alexander, and all the members of the high-priestly family. After they had Peter and John stand before them, they asked the question: ‘By what power or in what name have you done this?’
Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a disabled man—by what means he was healed—let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing here before you healthy.’” —Acts 4:5-12 CSB
The Holy Spirit enabled the apostles and other disciples to perform miracles.
“But Peter said, ‘I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!’ Then, taking him by the right hand he raised him up, and at once his feet and ankles became strong.” –Acts 3:6-7 CSB
“Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles…In addition, a large group came together from the towns surrounding Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.” –Acts 5:12,16 CSB
Now you might be thinking that only the original apostles performed miracles in Jesus’ name. Nope. Stephen was a Spirit-filled man chosen to help the Jerusalem church take care of the Greek widows, yet he, too, showed the same manifestation of the Holy Spirit that the apostles did. Not only did he perform miracles, but he also went on to boldly proclaim the Gospel to the religious leaders
“Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.” –Acts 6:8 CSB
These are just a few of the ways the Holy Spirit helped early believers. Without Jesus’ ascension into heaven, we would not have received the incredible power of the Spirit. We would still be limited to the physical presence of Jesus and an occasional filling of the Spirit. God performed a wonderful trade-off when Jesus physically returned to heaven and gave us the Holy Spirit!
What about us? Are we taking advantage of the great trade-off? Do we truly live like the Holy Spirit is active and alive? Do we see the Spirit prompting us to perform signs and wonders? To speak boldly in the face of opposition? Are our churches growing by leaps and bounds as we submit to the control of the Holy Spirit?
So what do you think? Was Beth right? Are we neglecting the power of Jesus’ ascension?