The Ascension of Christ
An Examination of the Letter to the Hebrews vv. 1:5-2:1-4
The form of the passage from the author of the Letter to the Hebrews is an explication that begins with the glorification of Christ. The author is seeking to make a Christological argument using the Old Testament as evidence but primarily uses the Psalms for his source material. He compares Christ to the angels to frame Him as Cardinal Vanhoye explains “the perfect mediator is Christ, more united to God than the angels and more united to humanity.” (Albert Cardinal Vanhoye, Letter to the Hebrews, p. 59)
First Contrast (1:5-6)
The author in his First Contrast (1:5-6) uses the well-known ‘Royal Psalm’ 2. What is striking to pious Christian ears is the use of Psalm 2 in Hebrews. The author’s understanding, as explained by Cardinal Vanhoye, of Jesus and the priesthood rests on the idea that it isn’t in the Incarnation to which His priesthood is tied, as many theologians think, but rather Jesus was imperfect and made perfect by His sacrifice “at the end of which God could say to him ‘You are my son, today I have begotten you.’ (Heb. 1:5; 5:5; Ps. 2:7) and then add, ‘You are a priest’ (Heb. 5:6; Ps. 109 :4). (Vanhoye, p.62)
The second text quoted in the Hebrews is related to King David, which was initially understood as an oracle of royal succession later takes on messianic one. (2 Sam 7:5-16)
There is a reference in the Davidic oracle that Hebrews examines in relation to comparison of Jesus and the Angels, “I shall be for him a father and he will be for me a son.” (2 Sam. 7:14). The author examines whether there is any reference of sonship in the singular sense to a particular angel. “Never, in the Bible, does God say to an angel in particular, “You are my son; I, today, have begotten you.” (Vanhoye, 63.) Therefore, all Angels must fall prostrate before the Son of God.
There is a particular point here that based on a work from Baptist biblical exegete Patrick Schreiner titled The Ascension of Christ: Recovering A Neglected Doctrine where Cardinal Vanhoye, SJ doesn’t fully develop in relation to Christ being made perfect through glorification by the passion. The Ascension of Christ, which lies connected but separated from the Passion, is the ascending moment of Christ to His throne in Heaven. Schreiner’s book points out that the Ascension is so neglected that when dealing with these topics its usually not on any scholar’s radar. Schreiner writes, “Jesus is designated as the king and Lord from the beginning of the Gospels. God declared him to be David’s son…Jesus’ mission on the earth was to defeat the powers of darkness, pay for sin, and restore the right rule of his kingdom. However, if readers stop after his victory, the story is left incomplete.
“Jesus had to be installed as king; he had to be enthroned; he had to be recognized as King; he had to ascend to the right hand of the father, sit on the throne, and receive from him all dominion and authority.” (Patrick Schreiner, The Ascension of Christ: Recovering a Neglected Doctrine, (Bellingham: Lexham Press, 2020), 75.
So, keeping the image of the ascension of kings to their thrones, and more importantly the ascension of Christ take a moment to read Hebrew’s prose, it is strikingly clear that the ascension of Christ is vital to both the interpretation of Christ both as King and Priest:
3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?
“I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son”? 
Schreiner goes on to explain, “As Torrance asserts, ‘The priesthood of Christ is a Royal Priesthood and the proclamation of Christ is a Royal Proclaimation.’ Thus, kingship is the root metaphor and proves the most momentous implications for Christ’s ascension. (Schreiner, 76.) In fact, this echoes back Vanhoye’s point “the interpretation of this first oracle is important for the idea one has of the priesthood of Christ.” (Vanhoye, 62) It’s important to point out that Vanhoye does mention, “the author places this adoration by the angels at the moment of the heavenly enthronement of Christ,” but then goes onto say the author states a little further on, in 2:5, that he wishes to speak of the civilized world “to come,” that is to say the eschatological world, inaugurated by the resurrection of Christ, the real civilized world.” (p.63) And thus, all significance of the enthronement of Christ by the Ascension of Christ is glossed over as important, not to mention the word ascension in reference to Christ is missing.
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.” 
Cardinal Vanhoye explains the reference to David in Ps. 88 from Nathan, but goes on to explain “It is thanks to his paschal mystery that Christ was established “the Most High above the kings of the earth” and even has the right to the adoration of angels.” (Vanhoye, 63) It also refers to the Canticle of Moses in which all the angels bow down before God. The Firstborn being a synonym of the Son of God, which shows Jesus as superior to the Angels
Naturally, there is a relationship to the paschal mystery and the Ascension, but also a distinction, so the claim by Cardinal Vanhoye is incomplete. The establishment of Kings happens when they ascend to their thrones. The author of Hebrews is concerned as well with what Christ is currently doing now in Heaven—and that is tied to catalyst of Ascension that takes place after the resurrection.
The Second Contrast (1:7-12)
In this contrast, the focus is centered with the name of the glorified Christ after a brief mention of the Angels. The basic idea to take away here from this verse is that God deals with His creation freely in which the angels play a subordinate role.
It is the next verse which takes up the language of kingship and the “throne.” Vanhoye mentions, “Instead of an unstable position, an eternal throne…the author here proclaims another aspect of the Name of the glorified Christ: Christ is not only the Son of God, he is “God” with God. He has the highest glory.” The language is so tied to coronation and kingship, again, I want to stress look for the doctrine of the Ascension when reading the first part of Hebrews—it’s everywhere!
The next quotation from Ps. 44(45) is a song composed for the wedding of a king in which Jewish tradition applied to the wedding of the King-Messiah. Vanhoye remarks, “this acclamation applied to Christ, became the exact expression of reality because the throne of Christ is no longer on the earthly level, it is the heavenly level.” (Vanhoye, 65.) Yes, Christ ascended into Heaven to sit at His throne at the right hand of His Father.
Ascension, Ascension, Ascension.
The royal power of Christ is divine, as pointed at by Schreiner. Vanhoye explains the next verse in Heb 1:9 recalls the Passion, but the Ascension is the exclamation point to the end of the Paschal Mystery. You need it to get to the throne. Again, Vanhoye admits the point unaware by mentioning “The Psalmist speaks of an ‘oil of gladness’…it is probable that it is about the anointing at a royal consecration.”(p.66)
Vanhoye explains further that v. 1:10 gives the title “Lord” to Christ even though the title appears only appears in several passages of the Greek text of the Psalms. Nonetheless, it should be noted since Vanhoye’s commentary misses any connection to the ascension of Kings in this part of Hebrews engaging in historic critique, the title of Lord was also used in reference to the Emperors of Rome recorded by Suetonius in Lives of Caesars in regards to Domitian, who, depending on the dating of the Letter to the Hebrews, could have been emperor but was certainly alive at its composition. Suetonius writes in reference to how to address Domitian, ““Dominus et deus noster hoc fieri iubet,” which translates “Our Lord and God orders this to take place.” Furthermore, it’s not entirely difficult to argue that the writers of New Testament understood of the cult of the emperors and their role mediator of the people to the Gods, as the emperors as seen as quasi-Divine.
Vanhoye highlights the Divine theme in Hebrews by expressing, “he shows the Son as author of creation. There is no stronger statement in the whole of the New Testament concerning the Son.” (p.67)
The author explains in a concentric manner this fact of Christ:
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.” 
Vanhoye concludes the second contrast by focusing on the fact that it is after the glorification of Christ where Christ becomes what is described in the Letter to the Hebrews—the Glorified Christ is unchanged, eternal, who before He assumed human flesh, laid the foundation of the world.
Third Contrast (1:13-14)
The third contrast noted by Vanhoye does not deal with a name, but rather to occupy a glorious position, “the most glorious one there is, sitting at the right hand of God.” (Vanhoye, 68). Naturally, an effect of the cause of the Ascension.
It is noted that in the Old Testement no angels are invited to sit near God. The section is another strong contrast between Jesus and the Angels.
Exhortation (2: 1-4)
After the explanation from the author of Hebrews, the author engages in an exhortation in his homily. He does this in fraternal way by including himself in his words. Vanhoye notes that the exhortation makes it clear that the literary genre of the Letter is a homily or more specialized an example of Apostolic preaching; an appeal to receive the teaching of the faith.
The exhortation is set up perfectly by the previous explication of the homily. The author contrasts the role of Jesus with the role of Angels to begin to frame the new covenant and the way the Law will be written on hearts as more perfect than the Old Covenant (Mosaic) and the Law written on stone. The New Covenant will be the fulfillment of the general covenant of God with His people Israel (Adam, Noah, Abrahamic, and Davidic). In this way, God does not revoke His gifts and calling with His eternal non-conditional covenants. (Romans 11:29).
The author of the Hebrews expresses a clear understanding of both the fulfillment of God’s irrevocable gifts and “the superiority of the Christian revelation to the Law of the Old Testament…” (Vanhoye, 70.) There is no compatibility between the idea of modern dual covenant theories with the Christological claims made by the Letter to the Hebrews, Vanhoye explains, “The Letter to the Hebrews, as can be seen, is fully grounded in the early preaching (Apostolic). (p.71) Dual Covenant Theory cannot be seen as a development of doctrine because it seeks nullify both tradition and Sacred Scripture expressed clearly by the Letter to the Hebrews—not to bring it a more developed clarity.
 ESV-CE, Heb 1:3–5.
 ESV-CE, Heb 1:6.
 Suetonius, Suetonius: The Lives of Caesars, The Lives of Illustrious Men: Text, ed. T. E. Page, vol. 2, The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA; London; New York: The Macmillan Co.; William Heinemann Ltd; Harvard University Press, 1914), 366.
 ESV-CE, Heb 1:10–12.