Why it is Important to Celebrate Ascension Day PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 26 May 2012 14:59


The Importance of Ascension Day

The very name holiday means “holy day.” All holidays have religious significance. The events that a society choose to centre its holidays around speak volumes about the religious worldview and value systems of that society.

Ascension Day used to be a holiday in South Africa. Yet, few of us ever appreciated its significance until the government abolished it as a public holiday.

By abandoning the Ascension of Christ, and replacing it with Freedom Day, Workers Day, Human Rights Day, Youth Day and Women’s Day, our government shows that it has rejected Christianity and embraced Humanism. This is far more serious than we may at first suspect. Along with these new secular holy days has come the abolition of prayer in Parliament and the legalisation of homosexuality, gambling, pornography, prostitution and abortion.

It is appropriate that the biggest and most important holiday event of our calendar year commemorates the incarnation of Christ – when God took on human form and was born in Bethlehem. Christmas celebrates the greatest gift of all – the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The second most important holiday is Good Friday – when we solemnly remember the atonement of Christ Jesus, His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. He died for our sins. He endured the punishment we deserved – so that we could enjoy the reward that only He deserves.

The third great Christian holiday event is Easter Sunday. Resurrection Sunday is a joyous celebration of the victory of Christ over death, hell and the grave. Jesus is risen from the dead. He is alive forever more. Death is defeated. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

The fourth most important event in the Christian calendar is Ascension Day. Forty days after Resurrection Sunday we celebrate the Ascension of Christ. He is exalted and enthroned at the right hand of God the Father, Almighty. He is above every other name and authority. Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

The Ascension is about Authority

I t is very significant that our government saw fit to abolish the long established Ascension Day as a public holiday, because Ascension Day deals with authority. Christ “has gone into Heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him” 1 Peter 3:22. “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you . . .” Matthew 28:18-20.

The Ascension proclaims the Lordship of Christ in all areas of life. Jesus has all authority. Jesus is Lord over the world of business, sports, entertainment, and government. Jesus Christ is Lord over the schools, the shops, the cinemas, the factories, the hospitals, the law courts and parliament. There is no area of life that is outside of the authority of Christ. Every doctor, teacher, policeman, parliamentarian, businessman, factory worker, mother, father, magistrate and Supreme Court justice will have to individually stand before Almighty God on the Day of Judgement and give an account of our lives.

“When You ascended on high, You led captives in Your train . . .” Psalm 68:18

The Ascension celebrates the vindication and victory of Christ. No doubt, Caiaphas, the high priest, king Herod and the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, thought that they were very important and powerful people. Yet these religious and political leaders are only remembered today because they arrogantly dismissed Christ Jesus. They didn’t recognise that they were condemning to death the Creator, the Giver of life, the eternal Judge before whom each one of us must stand. The Emperor Augustus who issued the decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world, requiring everyone to return to their town of birth, could not have realised at the time that the baby born to third class subjects in far away Judea would one day judge him.

“The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’” Psalm 110:1

The Ascension proclaims the ultimate victory of Christ. Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Those that refuse to bow to Christ as Saviour and Lord, today, in the day of grace when forgiveness is freely available, will one day be forced to bow to Christ as the eternal Judge – when they will be condemned to Hell forever.

“He will crush kings on the Day of His wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.” Psalm 110:5-6.

The Ascension is a great comfort to believers who suffer persecution. “Therefore, since we have a great High Priest Who has gone through the Heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the Faith we profess.” Hebrews 4:14. We have an Advocate in Heaven. He hears our prayers. He ever lives to make intercession for us. He will come again. He will crush all His enemies. Therefore we should not fear governments, popes or councils. We should not bow before idols, nor should we compromise the essential principles of our Faith.

Though Christ is physically absent from the earth, yet, through His Holy Spirit, He is spiritually present. He is all knowing, everywhere present and all powerful. “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” 1 Corinthians 15:25.

The Ascension is a wonderful reminder and assurance to us that “. . . the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14

“Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Philippians 2:9-11.

The Ascension proclaims Christ’s glorious triumph and His future return and Day of Judgement. It is essential that we as Christians return to observing Ascension Day as a holy day to our Faith. If something is important then we need to work it into our calendar.

Practical Daily Discipleship

Habits and routine are a vital part of discipleship. Every day we should begin the day with Bible reading and prayer. The Bible before breakfast is a good principle. Giving thanks before eating any meal is another good habit to remind us constantly of our dependence upon God and to give expression to our gratitude.

Some Christians maintain the practice of praying for protection before starting to drive their vehicles. Many have the principle of reading at least one chapter of the Bible each night. If you read just one chapter of the Bible each day (that’s about 4 minutes) then you will read the Bible through in four years. A commitment to reading 4 chapters of the Bible each day (about 15 minutes) will enable you to complete the Bible in one year.

Sundays Are Special

God has decreed that we work 6 days and give the seventh to rest and worship. As Christians we should repent for allowing the Lord’s Day to become so encroached upon and desecrated by shopping and sports and worldly entertainment.

The French revolutionary and atheist Voltaire declared: “If you want to kill Christianity, you must abolish Sunday.”

Winston Churchill described Sunday as “a divine and priceless institution.”

D. L. Moody observed: “You show me a nation that has given up the Sabbath and I will show you a nation that has the seed of decay.”

J.C. Ryle challenged us: “Common sense, reason, conscience will combine, I think, to say that if we cannot spare God one day in a week, we cannot be living as those ought to live who must die one day.”

Richard Baxter advised: “See that the Lord’s Day be spent in holy preparation for eternity.”

Any relationship needs quality time and we need to devote at least one day a week to developing and deepening our relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on My Holy Day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s Holy Day honourable and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance . . .” Isaiah 58:13-14.

Setting aside the first day of the week as a special day for the family to rest and worship is good for our body, mind and soul. We need time set aside for relaxation, reflection and restoration. It is a matter of rhythm and routine, but also a matter of revelation and remembrance of the Lord’s great work of creation and salvation (Exodus 20:8-11 and Deut 5:12-15).

By ordering our week to set apart the Lord’s Day as a special day for the family to rest and worship the Lord – we proclaim to the world that Jesus has risen from the dead and He is Lord of our lives. Resting one day in seven is also healthy – spiritually, emotionally, physically and economically. It is good for businesses, good for families and good for any country.

These principles of: the Bible before breakfast, thanksgiving before meals, prayer before travelling, a Quiet Time before bed and one day in seven consecrated to rest and worship on the Lord’s Day would establish a solid foundation for discipleship. Then, by adhering to a Christian calendar we can reinforce our commitment to applying the Lordship of Christ to all areas of life.

A Christian Calendar

On Christmas we focus on the incarnation of Christ. Jesus is the reason for the season. Put Christ back into Xmas. Wise men still seek Him. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16. We give gifts on Christmas Day to celebrate the official birthday of the King of kings, and out of gratitude for the great gifts He has given us.

On Good Friday we remember the great sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ as He suffered, bled and died for our sins. We should be sombre, quiet and thoughtful on Good Friday as we meditate upon the love of God, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His justice and His atonement on the cross of Calvary. This should inspire us afresh to repentance, thanksgiving and consecration. “ . . . in view of God’s mercy . . . offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God . . .” Romans 12:1.

On Easter Sunday we celebrate the great victory of Christ over death and hell, “. . . declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 1:4. All the founders of religions are dead. You can visit the graves of Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius and Lenin. But in Jerusalem there is an empty Tomb. “He is not here; He has risen! . . .” Luke 24:6 “. . . raised to life for our justification” Romans 4:25.

And on Ascension Day we should proclaim the great truth that Jesus is Lord. He has died for our sins and is risen from the dead. He is alive forever more and is ascended into Heaven. He has all authority in Heaven and on earth. We have an advocate in Heaven. He hears our prayers. He will crush all His enemies. He will come again. Therefore, we must go and make disciples of all nations.

“But,” you may protest, “how can we observe Ascension Day as a holiday when the official government calendar does not recognise it as a public holiday?”

People of different minority religions often observe their own holidays and maintain their cultural identity in spite of official policies. The Jewish, Muslim and Eastern Orthodox adherents observe feast days and fast days and other holy days different to us. We should have the courage of our convictions and the integrity to organise and structure our lives and work around what is important to our Christian Faith – not secular humanism with its “Workers Day,” “Freedom Day,” “Women’s Day,” “Youth Day” and “Human Rights Day.”

In our mission we go to work on those spurious humanist holidays. And we observe as holidays Ascension Day, Pentecost and other Christian holidays. I would strongly recommend that your church schedule special services for these monumentally important events. If it is not feasible to hold a service on the actual Ascension Day, at least dedicate the nearest Sunday to it to proclaiming the significance of the Ascension.

In addition, we observe the 31st October as Reformation Day – in remembrance of the great re-discovery of Biblical teaching and revival of freedom that followed after Martin Luther published his 95 Theses in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517.

We should also observe International Life Chain Sunday – on the first Sunday of October – and make a public stand for the right to life of pre-born babies. In South Africa, 1st February is the tragic anniversary of the legalisation of abortion upon demand. Africa Christian Action is proposing that the closest Sunday to this anniversary be observed as Sanctity Life Sunday when every pulpit in the land should proclaim the Biblical principles that life begins at conception, all life is sacred and abortion is murder. This Sunday would also be observed as a national day of repentance for the national sin of abortion.

A Persecuted Church Sunday to remember those believers who are persecuted for their Faith; and a Sunday to focus on the unfinished task of missions – the Unreached People particularly of the 10-40 window of North Africa and Asia – would also be appropriate additions to any Christian calendar.

The Christian view of history is linear. Unlike the pagan and Eastern religions which hold to re-incarnation and have a circular view of history or the atheists who believe that “you came from nothing, you’re going nowhere, life is meaningless,” we Christians believe that History is His story.

God is sovereign over time and space. At one point in history, God created the world. At another time He judged the world in the flood. At the appointed time, Christ came and died for our sins. Three days later He rose from the dead. Forty days later He ascended into Heaven. Ten days after that He sent the Holy Spirit upon His disciples at Pentecost. One great day He will return to this earth and judge the nations.

History has a goal. Time has meaning. Our calendars should reflect that.

“Only one life, it will soon be past,

only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Dr Peter Hammond
Frontline Fellowship
PO Box 74
Cape Town
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