The ascension is one of those doctrines I’ve had a hard time understanding just how important it is. Obviously, it is important. Jesus shows his disciples he’s going up to the Father, and he ascends there. But then why is it found in so many creeds (as Patrick Schreiner points out)? It’s found in the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the First Council of Constantinople, the Athanasian Creed, the Augsburg Confession, the First Helvetic Confession, and the Scots Confession. Each creed mentions that Jesus ascended to heaven and either sits at the right hand of God or will that he will return to judge the living and the dead.
Why is it so hard to know what to do with the ascension? Of the Gospels, only Luke writes about it (if you don’t include Mark’s long ending, Mark 16:9-20). Luke writes about it in Acts 1 as well. That’s it. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t referred to in other NT books. The ascension leads to a new stage in Jesus’ “exaltation, where he exercises his threefold office (prophet, priest, king) in a climactic way” (7).
In his new book in Lexham Press’ Snapshots series, Patrick Schreiner, Associate Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes, “When the New Testament writers refer to the exaltation, they think of the completed act of resurrection-ascension as a whole” (6). It lead to his heavenly session, sitting at the right hand of the Father, speaking through his word as Prophet, interceding as our heavenly High Priest, and ruling and reigning as King.
Schreiner orients his book around Jesus’ threefold office as Prophet, Priest, and King. Chapter One looks at why the ascension is neglected and why it shouldn’t be neglected. Chapters Two, Three, and Four examine how Jesus fulfills his role as the Prophet, Priest, and King more fully in heaven than he could have on earth. Each of these chapters gives a portrait as to what a prophet, priest, or king did. We are given “shadow stories,” stories where an Old Testament prophet (like Elijah), priest (like the high priest), or king (see Psalm 2 and 110) ascend in some way to God. We then read how Jesus fulfills his role more fully in heaven.
Finally, Schreiner shows how the church now takes on the role of prophets, priests, and kings under Jesus’ authority. Just as our King has broken down the walls of hostility between Jews and gentiles, creating one new humanity in himself (Eph 2:14-16), so should we aim for harmony and unity. We can go out confidently in battle because our king triumphed over the spiritual forces of darkness. Now “the church puts on God’s armor and goes forth into battle” against evil (97).
In Chapter Five, Schreiner situates the ascension with the doctrines of the Trinity, the incarnation, the cross, the resurrection, and eschatology. Besides one mistake on page 49, which seems to be two sentences put together, I didn’t find any other typos.
This is a great book for preachers, teachers, students, and laypeople who want to wrap their head around the ascension and why it is important. Our king has ascended and assumed the throne alongside the Father. Jesus was installed as the King over the chaos of the world. I appreciate that Schreiner chose to shape his book according to Christ’s threefold office (more systematic theology) instead of a more natural biblical theological path. Doing it this way brings together a lot of the threads in a simple way. His book is like a good three-point sermon. It has good illustrations, three points that are easy to remember, and a lot of Bible backing it up. Highly recommended.
- Series: Snapshots
- Author: Patrick Schreiner
- Publisher: Lexham Press (July 29, 2020)
- Paperback: 120 pages
Buy this from Amazon or Lexham Press!
Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.