Exaltation of Jesus Christ: Before His exaltation, Jesus humbled himself by being obedient unto death, even death on a cruel, shameful cross that was designed for a common criminal (Philippians 2:8). His crucifixion became a demonstration of the depth of His love for His Father and for you and me.
In the following verses, Paul emphatically noted our Savior's exaltation. Verses 9-11 of Philippians 2 read, "Wherefore God hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Paul emphatically placed our Savior's exaltation right after the words, "he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8). Just as the self-humbling of Christ was a process involving seven steps so, too, the exaltation was a process involving His resurrection, ascension and enthronement. The exaltation of Jesus is not yet complete. The full realization of His exaltation for every creature and all creation will come when they bow before Him and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.
The first step in Jesus' exaltation was His resurrection, a fundamental, essential tenet of Christianity. If Christ did not rise from the dead, "then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (1 Corinthians 15:14).
Christ's death had made His self-humbling complete. Then the Father exalted His Son by raising Him from the dead.
According to Romans 1:4, the resurrection was the Father's declaration of the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ. It was the Father's "Amen" to the Son's "It is finished!" God the Father accepted the sacrifice of the Son for the sins of the world. Jesus spoke with authority while he was here on earth, and the resurrection emphasizes the authority (Matthew 12:38-42; 28:6; John 2:13-22).
What can the Resurrection do for us today? It can assure us believers of:
1. our acceptance with God (Romans 4:25);
2. an interceding High Priest in the heavens (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25);
3. the forgiveness of sins committed after our conversion, for as our high priest Jesus is always heard (John 11:42) and prays constantly that we not fail (Luke 22:32);
4. all the power we need for life and service (Ephesians 1:19-22); and
5. our own resurrection and immortality.
The second step in Christ's exaltation was His ascension. Forty days following the resurrection, Jesus stood with His disciples on the Mount of Olives. As He finished His instructions to them, He was taken up and a cloud received Him out of sight (Acts 1:9-12).
Jesus had spent forty days Jesus preparing His disciples for that moment. Luke tells us that Jesus used the forty days to demonstrate His victory over death. He provided them with many infallible proofs in an attempt to remove their fear and strengthen their faith. He also spent time preparing them for their future ministry, sharing also with them the ministry of the Holy Spirit, during the Church Age.
Jesus ascension was followed by His enthronement, the third step in His exaltation. He was given His place of power and authority at the right hand of God (Philippians 2:9; Ephesians 1:20,21).
These events were neither figments of the disciples' imaginations nor their wishful thinking, for both the ascension and the enthronement of Jesus Christ were subjects of prophetic discourse. David spoke of them in Psalm 68:18 and Psalm 110:1. Ephesians 4:8 and Hebrews 1:13 confirm that David had prophesied the exaltation of Christ. Furthermore, Jesus Himself spoke of His ascension and enthronement (see Luke 9:51; John 6:62; 20:17). And, finally, the apostles emphasized the ascension and enthronement in their preaching and teaching (Acts 2:33, 34: 5:31; Ephesians 4:8-10; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:14).
Benefits of Christ's Ascension and Enthronement
Were the ascension and enthronement of Jesus Christ necessary? Yes they were. Jesus' resurrected body was no longer subject to ordinary laws; therefore, it could not permanently abide here on earth. As Jesus entrance into the world was unique so was His exit. There is no reason to search the world over for Jesus. We know where He is. He is in heaven. He is there so the Holy Spirit can be here (John 16:7). The ascension released the disciples from the constraints of a specific geographic location. Jesus had chosen the disciples to be with Him during His earthly ministry. He had taught them, and they had observed Him. Now a new age was beginning. No longer would they be limited to a specific location of ministry.
They did not need to be reluctant to leave the physical presence of the risen Lord. He would be with them (and us) wherever they went. They are free from all constraints; they could go into all the world with the gospel message. Mark tells us that, after the Ascension, the disciples did exactly that (Mark 16:20).
By taking His place in heaven, Jesus is the ideal object of worship. He is no longer limited to one earthly location for a few to worship but now in heaven for all peoples of the earth to worship by faith and not by sight, which is the essence of true worship (John 4:24; Hebrews 11:6).
Jesus' entrance into heaven as our forerunner (Hebrews 6:20) brought an end to His earthly ministry and the beginning of a new ministry on our behalf. He went to prepare a place for us (John 14:12; Hebrews 9:21-24). He now appears before God for us interceding on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25; 9:24), while he awaits His day to reign in the coming millennial Kingdom (Ephesians 4:10; Hebrews10:12, 13).
The visible manifestation of Jesus Christ's enthronement is yet to be seen. It will happen in fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. God promised David a posterity, a throne and a kingdom in perpetuity (2 Sam. 7:8-17). Jesus, the virgin-born son of Mary, is the rightful heir to the throne. One day He will come in all His glory and bring an end to the Tribulation. Also, the day is coming when every creature and all creation will come and bow before Christ and confess that He is Lord, to the glory of the Father (Philippians 2:9, 10).
The Apostle John saw "heaven open, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon it was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war...and he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God...and he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Revelation 19:11,13,16). After the Battle of Armageddon, the Beast and False Prophet will be cast into the bottomless pit along with Satan for a thousand years.
We wait for that great moment when all prophecy concerning the exaltation of Jesus is fulfilled. The disciples sought to know when these will come to pass, for they asked, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). In response to their question, Jesus gave them and us an answer, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (v. 7). He also gave a command, "Ye shall receive power, after that the holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (v. 8).
They also received a promise, "This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (v. 11). If we believe this promise, we must obey His command and take the gospel to men, women, boys and girls everywhere, anywhere.