What I Learned About Ascension Theology

In the last several years, I have become part of a group I never wanted to join: allergy sufferers. Despite a regimen of medicine, each day during the peak of tree pollen season (the months of January and February where I live), I wake with my eyes nearly swollen shut. Throughout the day, the discomfort continues, as I try to remain indoors, refrain from rubbing my itching eyes, and repeatedly rinse my red eyes with drops. While fighting allergies sounds trivial, the daily struggle impacts my mood and frays my stamina, making showing patience more difficult as I am often more focused on the frustration of the moment than on showing compassion to my family.

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“Although it may not be immediately clear what my allergy-swollen eyes have to do with the Chinese house church, this month I have been encouraged by reading how Chinese Christians are focusing on the reality that they are seated with Christ in the heavens.

Although it may not be immediately clear what my allergy-swollen eyes have to do with the Chinese house church, this month I have been encouraged by reading how Chinese Christians are focusing on the reality that they are seated with Christ in the heavens. My minor daily struggle reminds me that the sometimes difficult realities of daily life are not eternal, and are not the most true thing about my circumstances. Although we still live on a fallen earth and our bodies and character still bear the marks of sin, we have already been resurrected. In Christ, we are a new creation. Jesus has defeated death and is currently seated at God’s right hand, ruling over a real kingdom. Someday, heaven will descend to earth and we will live in the reality of his reign. In the meantime, fixing our eyes on Jesus helps us live in the reality that our present struggles will not last forever.

For Chinese Christians, the reality is that their public space for worship has shrunk. Their ability to worship in private is also contracting. In some places, church leaders have been imprisoned. General harassment seems to have increased. Many Christians had begun church schools, but over the last years, most of those have closed. Families are worried about how they will raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord when it seems everything is against them. In spite of all this, the truest thing about Chinese Christians is that they are citizens of a heavenly kingdom. They have been seated with Christ in the heavens, and even their current difficulties are only a mark of their union with Christ. 

Here are a few points that have encouraged me this month:

When Chinese Christians Suffer, They Rejoice

Although this has been a difficult season for many Chinese believers, they are responding to persecution with worship. Ministry leader Muxi Zhang shared several articles this month about this ascension theology. He said, “Under all this persecution, the mentality of the Chinese church is that they are not here to survive, they are here to thrive. For the sake of the kingdom, they want to flourish.”


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Chinese Christians have not adopted a victim identity. Instead, they understand that their identity is servants of the king. Any opposition that flows from their faith is actually opposition to the kingship of Christ. Any suffering they endure because of their faith is a chance to identify more closely with their Master, who himself suffered. They do not seek suffering or difficulty, but when it comes, they rejoice in an opportunity to walk the road of the cross, just as Jesus did.

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“We hope that 2022 will be a year of growing closer to our King Jesus, and understanding how the reality of his reign can change and empower us through whatever life brings our way.

They Are Joyfully Pressing Forward With Sharing the Gospel

I have been struck again and again with the response of the Chinese house church to view COVID as a chance to call the world around them to the hope of the gospel. They have done this by proclaiming the gospel through both word and deed. Brother Luo wrote of his church’s response to the initial outbreak. Believers were able to obtain masks and “pandemic prevention supplies” and how, as they generously shared those things, many hearts were opened to the truth of the gospel. “For the first time in ten years of preaching the gospel, we saw a change in the attitude of citizens toward our evangelistic efforts,” he said.

Brother Luo writes passionately of how each and every believer is called to witness to the hope and life found in Christ. Leaders alone cannot bring the truth to a nation of more than a billion people. He believes that every Christian has an obligation to share the truth. For him and brothers and sisters in his church, the pandemic was an opportunity to go out on mission.

 

There is much more to share. As we look to February, we at China Partnership invite you to join us in praying the Psalms alongside the Chinese house church. We hope that 2022 will be a year of growing closer to our King Jesus, and understanding how the reality of his reign can change and empower us through whatever life brings our way.


E.F. Gregory is a mom of three young children. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband is a P.C.A. church planter. 

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray for Christians everywhere to live in the reality of the resurrection and the ascension, not daily circumstances or struggles.

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Further Reading

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Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
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Nanjing: A Welcoming City of Newcomers
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Nanjing: A Relational Gospel
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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