In their worship the followers of Jesus experience two contrasting features of Christian faith and worship. First we see the Christ and the faith represented within our culture, as one of us, belonging to our time and culture. From within our life situation we see the gospel meeting our deepest desires and longings as well as challenging some of our assumptions. On the other hand, we see the Christ as calling us beyond our culture into a new universal truth that joins us to all humanity of whatever generation and culture.
Through worship we become very aware of this twofold implication of the doctrine of the Ascension. Christ takes our human experience within the Godhead, and we are taken by the ascended Christ into a new solidarity of being human.
—Peter Atkin, Ascension Now, 90
Alongside the knowledge that our worship lifts us to heaven is our understanding from the Ascension doctrine that God fully understands our human situation. This will save our worship from being otherworldly and a false route to escape facing our problems. Because of the Ascension we can be certain that God in Christ understands the human situation. [Hebrews 4:15-16]
—Peter Atkins, Ascension Now, 86
The Ascension doctrine helps us to keep a balance between seeing God in Christ as “one of us” and Christ as “from the heart of God.” Too great an emphasis on the Incarnation can distort this balance, so that worship is centered exclusively on the human aspects of worship – our concerns, our needs, our agenda, and our material world. Worship, unless corrected by the dimension of heaven, can become earthbound. The Ascension doctrine reminds us that there is another dimension to worship. We join Christ—rather than Christ coming down to join us—in the eternal nature of heaven, and there our worship is caught up with that of the angels and archangels and the apostles of every generation.
—Peter Atkins, Ascension Now: Implications of Christ’s Ascension for Today’s Church, 83-84
The Ascension event allowed the disciples and the current worshiper to access the presence of Christ wherever they were located in time and space.
Even the resurrection appearances allowed Christ to be accessed only by those in certain locations. If Thomas was not with the rest of the disciples when the resurrected Christ appeared, the Thomas had no access to Jesus (John 20:24-29). Thomas had to be in the right location to confront the Christ with his challenge and to respond in faith. After the Ascension, access to Christ was open to any worshiper who drew near in heart and soul. In Christ there was full assurance of access to the Godhead wherever the worshiper might be located.
The expansion of the Church has been built on the principle that Christ and the Godhead can be accessed from any point on the globe and at any time in history. The worshiper is no nearer to Christ in the places of the historical setting of the Jesus of Nazareth. Pilgrimage can enliven faith by making real the geography of the Gospels and assuring the disciple that the gospel is not a fable. We know that the life of Jesus is rooted in geography and in history. Yet the access to the exalted Lord is readily available at whatever time and place suit the worshiper. Christians live by this assumption, but it is important to realize that the assumption rests on the doctrine of the Ascension.
—Peter Atkins, Ascension Now: Implications of Christ’s Ascension for Today’s Church, 93-94
The ascended Christ is pictured in the epistles of the New Testament as constantly praying for the world. Christ by his ascension has not withdrawn from involvement in our experiences, but he has discarded the limitations of human existence. “In heaven” Christ can be everywhere at once, available to all who seek him in prayer. Christ should be seen as carrying us in his prayerful heart, and not only us but all the world.
—Peter Atkins, Ascension Now, 113