“18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” NIV
Last Thursday was Ascension Day in the church’s calendar. It’s the day when we remember, and celebrate, the reality described in verse 22. Jesus Christ is Lord!
In some ways, at first glance, this appears to be one of the more complex New Testament passages. But, properly understood, its truth is wonderful. Our task here is not detailed, technical Bible Study, but I do want to highlight one or two of the key ideas.
First of all, let’s note that Jesus not only died, but rose from death, and ascended to the place of supreme authority in the universe. It was this victory which Jesus proclaimed ‘’to the spirits in prison’’. I believe the Greek word used does not imply the preaching of the gospel (as if these long dead people had an opportunity to repent. The Bible does not indicate that there is such a second chance beyond the grave. Besides, the reference may be to fallen angels anyway). Whoever they were, Jesus declared His triumph to them. It is this all-conquering Jesus who is front and centre in the passage. It’s the reality of this total victory we need to grasp, and its wide-ranging implications for all of us in Jesus.
Jesus died. But death did not have the last word with Him. Nor will it have with any true believer.
‘Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Saviour;
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord.’
PRAYER: LORD Jesus, we celebrate your victory. Thank you that by your grace we share in it. The other side of death there was richer, fuller life for Jesus, and so it will be for all of us who believe in you. We cannot thank you enough.