What Do You Mean “The Ascension”; He isn’t Risen Yet

   Even though it’s still a week to Easter Sunday, and the Lord is technically not yet risen for this year, I feel safe recommending a book by Derek Prime titled The Ascension: The Shout of a King (Day One, 1999). Mr. Prime is the former pastor of Charlotte Baptist Chapel in Edinburgh and is currently an itinerant minister. He is a prolific author, writing in excess of thirty books, including Questions On the Christian Faith (Kingsway, 1989), Living for God’s Pleasure: The Fruit of the Spirit (Evangelical Press, 2004), and a must-read for every Christian believer, On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work (Moody, 2006), co-written with Alistair Begg.

   The Ascension: The Shout of a King is recommended reading because it shows very clearly what Scripture has told us to expect, what Christ is doing to fulfill those expectations, and how believers are to understand and live their lives in light of the ascension.

   Mr. Prime, both in his preaching and his writing is methodical, meticulous, and thorough; Shout of a King is no exception. His introduction defines the shout of a king as the presence of God in (originally) Israel’s midst, and gives his reasons for writing about Christ’s ascension; not the least of which is “if we neglect our Savior’s Ascension and continuing work, we may lose sight of His unique and central place in the life of the Church” (7). Chapters 1 through 4 describe the promises inherent in the ascension and its completion. Chapters 5 through 11 describe the ascended Christ in all His glory as Priest, Intercessor, Advocate, Spirit-giver, Great Shepherd, Captain, Head of the Church, King, and Governor. “He has prepared a place for us” declares chapter 12, and in chapter 13 all creation is waiting for His return. “We are spiritually healthy and equipped to do our Lord’s work in the world as His shout is among us” (132) begins chapter 14 “Cause of our failures and secret of our successes.” Following chapter 14 is a focused and thorough series of questions and answers on the ascension. The book ends with a suggested order of for an Ascension Day service. When was the last time you commemorated or even remembered Ascension Day? (It is celebrated on a Thursday, the 40th day of Easter, or 39 days after Easter; this year it falls on June 2, 2011.)

   While the entire book is edifying, chapter 6 “Priest, Intercessor, and Advocate” is particularly illuminating and helpful. It describes the Lord’s continuing work on our behalf in a manner that raises questions I didn’t think to ask and then answers them such that my knowledge of Christ’s continuing work on our behalf is broadened and my faith in the truth of His atoning sacrifice deepened. Describing the ongoing work as our High Priest, Prime states

   “His Ascension to be our Priest does not mean that He continually offers a sacrifice for our sins. Everywhere in the New Testament the stress is upon the once-and-for-all nature of His atoning sacrifice. … Any suggestion that the Lord Jesus needs to plead continually His death before His Father is out of place. The Father is not to be thought of as in some way reluctant to have mercy upon men and women. Our Lord’s position in heaven, glorified and exalted, is God’s guarantee of the eternal effectiveness of His Son’s finished work” (60).

   Prime continues to describe Christ in his Priestly role by presenting His intercession for us to the Father as real, yet not vocal. Christ has no need to vocally plead our case before the Father; Christ’s presence with the Father is the intercession for us. Prime reiterates that “God is not an unwilling giver of benefits to those He has redeemed by the blood of His Son” (61-2).

   How is Christ’s role as Advocate to be seen? “The office of our Lord Jesus as Advocate has particular reference therefore to our sins after our conversion, for which Satan accuses us in the court of heaven” (66) says Prime. We understand from the Book of Job that Satan is the accuser of the brethren. “We require an Advocate who will answer Satan’s accusations. … As our Substitute, the Lord Jesus has taken our sins as His own. Having acknowledged them to be His, the quarrel is no longer between us and Satan. The Lord Jesus has made it His quarrel” (67).

   The book is Scripturally sound and so well-written that at 150-pages it reads more as a story than a reference work. It is both.

   The strength of the book and its shining light is the affection and respect it reflects for Prime’s Savior and ours, the Lord Jesus Christ. Every page is filled with awe and wonder at the Lord’s goodness, and His Father’s mercy and love for us, the redeemed flock of His Son, the Great Shepherd. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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