Dear radio friends,
Forty days after Jesus cast off death and arose from the grave, He was lifted up from the earth into heaven. We call it the Ascension. Jesus Christ, in His glorified body, is now in heaven.
What does the ascension of Jesus into heaven mean?
The Scriptures are full of its significance. Colossians 3:1, 2, “Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Or, I Peter 3:22, “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God.” That is, because He ascended into heaven, Jesus is our King, who rules the world.
But the main, central, blessing of the ascension is the certainty of the believers’ salvation, the absolute surety of the hope that is to be found in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ entrance into heaven means that all who, by the grace of God, belong to Him are secure in Him and have the absolute certainty of being fully glorified. All who are in Christ are now in heaven. Our soul is anchored in heaven. Jesus Christ cast an anchor into heaven when He ascended. And He will draw us there to be with Him. And now, as we are in the tides of this life with so many things pulling us away and working against our faith, or as we endure stormy waves of this life that would dash us and to destroy our faith, we, through the ascension of Jesus Christ, are anchored in heaven.
There are the tides of grief that pull, and despair, and depression, and loss, and loneliness, and rejection of friends. And, like a boat, we can be pulled away from Christ. There are the stormy winds of evil lusts and temptations and greed as great waves seeking to cast us upon the rocks of wickedness. What will hold us?
Jesus Christ is ascended into heaven. The anchor of our faith and hope is secure in Him.
I call your attention today to a very beautiful passage concerning the ascension of Jesus. It is Hebrews 6:19 and 20. There we read: “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”
The apostle is encouraging us in this epistle not to let go of our hope in Jesus Christ. In verse 18, he has just said that we are to “lay hold upon the hope set before us.” Paul, in writing Hebrews, is writing to Jewish Christians who were being tempted under persecution to go back to their former religion of Judaism. Instead of doing that, he says, “Let us hold on”— Hebrews 6:1, “Let us go on unto perfection [unto completion].” He says, concerning those who fall away (6:8), that they are thorns and briars and that their end is that they will be burned. He says in verse 9, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you.” And then in verse 11 he says that we desire that you “show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.” The apostle is seeking to encourage us not to become slothful and lackadaisical and seduced by this world. He says to us in verse 12,follow them “who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” He says to us in this chapter that God has given us the promises in Christ. And, so to speak, God has gone the extra mile, in that He has attached an oath to these promises. He has sworn, and He has sworn by Himself, the most precious reality in the universe. So the apostle says, “By two immutable things, two unchangeable things, God’s promise and God’s oath, He has given us strong encouragement. We must lay hold upon the hope that is set before us.”
And then the apostle says “This hope is sure. It’s like an anchor of the soul—because Jesus our High Priest hath entered into heaven for us.” When Jesus ascended into heaven forty days after the resurrection, He cast the anchor of our salvation into heaven. Our hope is secure. We have our soul anchored in heaven.
The Holy Spirit is giving to us here a figure of speech, a picture, which is very striking. When we think of the ascension of Jesus Christ, says the apostle, we must think of an anchor that is sure, and steadfast. We must think of massive hooks and weights, like the anchor pulled up on the aircraft-carrier Abraham Lincoln. Only this anchor is not cast down into the depths of the water to hold a ship. It is cast up into heaven to hold our souls. This anchor, says the apostle, has been cast into that which is within the veil. Therefore, we have a hope in us that is as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. Our hope is the future glory, the complete blessings in Jesus Christ, the inheritance and the promises of eternal life and salvation when we shall be with Him. That is our hope. He says, this hope is an anchor of our soul. It keeps our soul from drifting off into unbelief or wickedness. Our hope of heaven anchors us in this present world.
And he says that this anchor is sure and steadfast, for it has entered into that within the veil. The idea, as I said, is not a chain, an anchor on the end of a chain, going clang, clang, clang down into the bottom of the harbor or lake, into its mud. But the idea is of a grappling hook being thrown up. This hook (anchor) goes beyond the veil and catches fast hold of what is within the veil. It is not an anchor down in the rocks of the sea or on the sandy bottom. But it is an anchor that is cast into that which is in heaven, the very throne of God.
The Holy Spirit is referring to the Old Testament tabernacle in the time of Moses, which had its veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. That Most Holy Place, and in it the ark of the covenant, was the symbol of the presence of God. You will remember that the veil in the Old Testament temple was torn in half when Jesus Christ died upon the cross, thereby signifying that our entrance into heaven has been secured through His blood-letting upon the cross.
Now, the apostle says, in the ascension of Jesus Christ, the anchor has been cast beyond that veil and it is hooked into the ark of the covenant of God. It is hooked into the very throne of God. It is sure and steadfast. When Christ ascended into heaven He became the anchor of our soul, so that we are held sure and steadfast to the throne of God. That anchor is not going anywhere. It is sure and steadfast.
And all of this is based on the glorious truth of Christ’s ascension into heaven. The apostle says, “Whither [that is, into heaven behind the veil] the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” Jesus’ ascension is the casting of the anchor of our soul into heaven. As a ship is anchored, our souls are anchored in heaven by His ascension. We are moored there. He is the forerunner, “Whither the forerunner is for us entered,” the One who has gone before us, the One who has come to appear for us in heaven. He is the One who is the forerunner for us. He represents the people of God. He represents God’s children. And He has gone ahead of us now into heaven. And His presence in heaven is as the anchor of our souls.
The point is this. By His infinitely precious blood, Jesus Christ has opened heaven for us, and now, as the ascended Lord Jesus, He has gone before us. His presence in heaven at the throne of God is an anchor for us so that we may say that our hope of going to heaven is sure and steadfast. United to Christ who is in heaven, our soul is anchored. Our hope is sure and steadfast.
We need, desperately, this anchor of the soul.
A ship in the harbor or in the inlet needs anchorage so that it is not pulled out by the tide. And a boat off a rocky shore, off cliffs, needs an anchor so that it is not pushed by the waves upon and up onto the rocks to be destroyed.
So our souls, which belong to Jesus Christ, are now in this world and we need an anchorage. We need something reliable. We need something sure. The tides of grief pull upon our hearts to sweep us into despair and hopelessness. There are the currents of trials and struggles that cause us to say, “What’s the use? It’s no good. I can’t believe anymore. Why should we keep trying? We’re going to quit.”
And then there are waves. The stormy winds of temptations blow. They come upon us. Or those sudden, sinful urgings of the flesh appear within our mind as a storm to cast us upon the rocks of sin and destruction. I need an anchor. My soul otherwise would be swept away into despair or crashed upon the rocks.
Now I have an anchor in Jesus Christ. Christ has ascended. He is the One to whom we belong by the grace of God. He is ascended and is in heaven. He is not going anywhere. That anchor holds. It is sure and steadfast. For a certainty, our hope of life eternal is sure and steadfast. For Jesus has ascended there for us.
But now there is a question. And this question means much to me. Here is the question: Is the anchor of my soul as firmly attached to my soul as it is to the throne of God? Does this question concern you? Is the figure of speech in this passage this: that one end of the chain (attached to the anchor) by the virtue of Christ’s work in ascension is firm and steadfast, wrapped around the ark of the covenant upon the rock of the throne of God; but now the chain or the rope dangles from heaven before my face and I need to grab it and I need to hold on by my own strength? The question is this: Is security only on one end of the rope, one end of the chain? Christ has entered into heaven—He is there. But the other end, whether or not I actually am pulled there—that depends upon me? If we were on a boat, you say to me, “I’ve got the very best anchor. Look at it. See these prongs. It will grab hold of anything. Feel the weight. It will keep us secure. It grabs. Nothing will pull us loose. We’ll be OK.” But it is not attached to the boat! I see the end of the rope floating in the water. I am not encouraged.
My soul is only as secure as both ends of the chain. If Christ ascended and went to heaven and everything is there and everything is secure there, but He left the work for me to take hold of the other end—if the other end is not attached by the same mighty grace of God—then I am not encouraged a bit!
Is the picture here of an anchor bound steadfastly to the throne of God in heaven so that nothing could tear that anchor loose, but the rope is left hanging in the air—is that the point of the text and, therefore, would you say, “Take hold and then you will have assurance”? Does it depend then upon my pitiful strength, my tenacity, to be kept from being blown out to sea or swept unto the rocks of wickedness? The answer is No! The anchor of our soul means not only that the anchor is fixed in heaven by Christ but also that by the same power of Jesus Christ it is firmly attached to my soul. That is the comfort here.
We read, “Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” The One who has gone before us is Jesus. He is the One of whom the angels said to Joseph that He shall save His people from their sins. He is the Savior who was attached to us by the eternal grace and love of God, by the strong fasteners of God’s everlasting love. We were united to Him by grace alone. And nothing is stronger than God’s love that holds Christ to us and us to Christ. The boat’s anchor chain cannot be sheared off, because it has been fastened by the wonderful work of this same God—by Him who is the high priest, we read, after the order of Melchisedec. And that is the reference to Jesus Christ, not only in His sacrificial death, but in His mighty power as a king (Melchisedec the king).
Yes, the apostle says, hold fast to the profession of your faith. Show diligence. But that does not attach you to Christ but is the fruit of your having been attached to Christ. If you lay hold, it is because God has laid hold of you.
Jesus Christ died not to secure only one end, but both ends—to secure your heart to Him and to secure us to heaven.
Listen to Hebrews 13:20, 21: “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you [equipping you] that which is well-pleasing in his sight…to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Our being bound to Christ was purchased by Christ. It is His work in us. If we think that of our own will, fallen in sin, we are the ones who grab hold of the rope, and that we are the only ones who can do that, otherwise it will not be done, then that is arrogant. Then we do not know sin. Then we do not know the power of the world. No, we say to Him, to Jesus be the glory.
When I get to heaven, I will not say to God, “Well, it was by my good biceps and the strength of my hands that I laid hold upon an offer of salvation. Other people couldn’t hang on to it, but I did!” No the ascension of Jesus Christ declares that our hope is firm on both ends because it is the work of Christ on both ends. It is the work of Christ to earn for us a place in heaven. And it is the work of Christ to knit our souls to Him so that as He is in heaven we, by His mighty grace, shall also be taken to heaven. We are not left to depend upon our weak hands. But Christ is our anchor who has anchored down one side in heaven and has anchored us to Him by His grace.
That is what the ascension of Jesus Christ says to us. It declares to us a gospel of wonderful comfort! It declares that our salvation depends upon Jesus. And it announces to us that He has done all for us, so that we, by faith, may rest in Him. There are many forces that seem to take us away from Him and would cause us to give up our hope. There are griefs and trials and sicknesses and sins, and all of the time that we are tempted to lose sight of Him. But salvation, by the grace of God, is secure in Christ!
Our security does not, however, lead us to sinful carelessness, to wicked apathy, to God-dishonoring indifference. But this security causes us to lay hold of Christ.
You ask, “Well, if it’s true that the anchor is lodged in the Holy of Holies in the very heart of God, and that the other end is bound to me by the same mighty work of God, then why does God says (as He says in verse 18 of Hebrews 6) that we might lay hold upon the hope that is set before us? Why does He tell us to lay hold?” Here is the answer: The ascended Christ has not purchased for us freedom from holding on, but the power to hold on. He has not said, “Don’t hold.” But He says, “I have enabled you, by My grace, to hold fast.”
The ascension of Jesus Christ has not nullified our need to be diligent and to hold fast to our faith. But the ascension of Jesus Christ is the empowerment of our wills by His divine grace to hold fast. The ascension of Jesus Christ has not canceled the command to hold fast, but it is the fulfillment of that command. It has not canceled the exhortation, but it is the triumph of the exhortation. Philippians 3:12: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend [lay hold on] that for which also I am apprehended of Christ.” I desire to lay hold of that for which Christ has already laid hold of me. I press to lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. My security in Christ leads me to diligence.
Lay hold on the hope that is set before us, the hope that is as an anchor of the soul, says the apostle. To lay hold is heart work. It is not something that you do with your hands but with your heart. It is not something that you do with your arms or legs, but with your heart. You can be paralyzed and on your back in a nursing home. You can be in a waiting room and say, “There’s nothing I can do.” Yes, lay hold, by the grace of God in your heart, upon the promises of Christ. Meditate upon Christ. Think of Him. See Him—born, crucified, risen from the dead, ascending up into heaven. He is your forerunner. He is your King. He is your Head. He is your Lord. He is your Husband. He is your Friend. He is your Savior!
What is your soul anchored to? What holds it in sorrow, in trials, in temptations? Cast your anchor into what? Money? Yourself? Pleasures? Booze? There is only one anchor that pulls you up. There is only one hope and that is Christ. This anchor holds and draws you until at last you, too, enter into glory and possess the things that are to be found within the veil—the glorious things of God.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for this word—such a glorious word of our security and salvation in Jesus Christ, the ascended One. Now give us that grace whereby we lay hold of this hope in the midst of the trials and sorrows of this life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.