Summary: We are ascended with Christ!
Some of the hottest books on the market right now in the Christian and even secular market are books about the rapture. The rapture is the biblical teaching taken from I Thessalonians 4 that Christ will return at the sound of the trumpet, the dead will be raised and those of us who are “in Christ” will meet the Lord in the air with all the saints who have died. It’s an incredible event that we wait for and you can understand why these books dramatizing the event are selling like hotcakes.
The doctrine of the rapture wasn’t given to us to instill drama or fear, but it was meant to comfort a discouraged and persecuted church. Although personally, I can’t say this passage has always brought me a sense of comfort. You see, one of my phobias is high places. I don’t like to get any higher off the ground than what I can safely fall from. But I do take comfort in the fact that I will be meeting Christ up in the air, so if I keep my eyes on Him and not below, I should be o.k.
This morning I want to talk about an important Christian doctrine very similar to the rapture, but one that doesn’t get much ink these days, even though the Bible talks about it much more than it does the rapture. It’s about the spiritual rapture that has already taken place in the soul of believers, actually long before we were born. It’s a doctrine that, if we really grasp and accept by faith, can lift us up and change the way we think and live even more than the promised rapture.
Last week we talked about the power of Jesus love in that he died for us while we were still sinners. Rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, but it is unheard of to lay down your life for a wicked person or enemy. You could picture General Marshall in WWII laying down his life for an American or British soldier. But would he lay down his life for a Japanese or German soldier? Of course not. But Jesus demonstrated his love for us by dying while we were enemies of God.
As a comfort, that passage is impossible to top. What greater metaphor of love can you find in Scripture? The passage we study today includes that same metaphor as we studied last week. Verse 5 says that God, because of his great love and mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions. We were saved totally by grace. There was nothing good in us that earned that mercy. It was all God.
But in Paul’s letter here to the Ephesians, he takes that same metaphor that he gave to the Romans, and takes it a step further. Verse 6 is our focus for this morning. Not only did God show his love by the death of His Son, but God showed his love by raising us up with Christ and taking us with Him when He ascended to heaven.
Jesus experienced the original rapture when he ascended into heaven 40 days after his resurrection. In church history the two most important church services have been Good Friday and Easter, but according to the Bible and the Apostles Creed, Ascension Day is just as important. Jesus’ ascension is a symbol of triumph and victory, and it assurance that He now reigns and rules in heaven. He has taken his seat on the throne next to His father, where they both now rule and govern this world.
We are now Christ’s soldiers waging war here on earth against the powers of darkness by the power of the Holy Spirit. We know we have the ultimate weapon and that final victory is assured, but in the mean time there are many clean up battles going on, and all too often we feel like we’re losing those battles.
The Ephesian believers received this letter from Paul to be encouraged in the many spiritual battles they were fighting. They were fighting old temptations and ways of living. They were fighting persecution from outside the church and conflict from within the church. Paul wanted to assure them they had all the resources they needed to win. They had the assurance of God’s love and that their God ruled over all other gods.
But the one piece of assurance that is often overlooked is this promise found in verse 6. Not only were our sins forgiven when Christ died, but we also died with Christ. Not only that, but we were raised with him and when he was raptured into heaven we were right there with him.
One of the most common questions I’ve heard over the years from young people who struggle with believing what the Bible teaches is this: is it fair that we should have to pay for the sin of Adam and Eve committed so long ago and so far away? Why should we be held accountable and face the consequences of a choice that someone else made?