Dr. Luke was a careful
historian who verified his evidence. He and the
other writers recorded for us the bodily appearances
of the risen Lord to men for 40 days between His
resurrection and His ascension. These are based on
solid historical evidence. These bodily appearances
of Jesus came to an end when Christ ascended into
heaven and resumed His position He had before His
becoming incarnate man.
The Ascension of Christ
is the consummation and the culminating point of
Christ's redemptive work (Hebrews 8:1). It took
place after 40 days of resurrection appearances when
Jesus ascended from the Bethany side of the ridge of
Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12).
CHRISTIANITY IS CHRIST
The Ascension is Christ's
exaltation and glory after His saving work on earth
had been accomplished (Philippians 2:9). He is the
exalted Son of God at the right hand of the Father
(Luke 24:26; 1 Peter 1:21). It is the proof of His
victory (Ephesians 4:8). He is now in the position
of honor in heaven at the right hand of His Father
(Psalm 110:1). It is the permanent place of power
(Acts 2:33), happiness (Psalm 26:11), and rest.
All that Jesus began
to do and teach.
Luke tells us about "all
that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when
He was taken up . . ." (Acts 1:1-2). What did Jesus
do? He tells us when He read Himself into His
messianic office at the Nazareth synagogue (Luke
These same things Christ
continues to do through His new Body—the church. The
book of Acts tells what He continues to do and teach
through His body of believers.
Jesus died and rose
again from the dead.
Christianity is based on
historical facts. It is impossible to separate the
Christ of faith from the historical Jesus. He is one
and the same. The Christ of faith is the Jesus of
history. He lived a perfect life on this earth in
Jerusalem and was crucified on a Roman cross, and
rose from the dead. These are historical facts.
From a secular
historian's point of view, Luke is an accurate,
credible historian. He has been proven over and over
again by scholars to be an extraordinary historian.
Luke 1:1-4 tells us how he went about his gathering
evidence and evaluating it.
Jesus rose from the dead.
"He also presented Himself alive, after His
suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to
them over a period of forty days, and speaking of
the things concerning the kingdom of God" (Acts
The resurrection of Jesus
is based on historical facts. There were
eyewitnesses that Jesus was alive and appeared and
disappeared before people over a period of 40 days.
He "showed Himself to
these men and gave many convincing proofs that He
was alive" (v. 3). He appeared to them as one who
had risen from the dead. They knew He had died, saw
Him dead with their own eyes on the cross and in the
grave, but then Jesus rose from the dead and
appeared to them.
Luke says he had
"convincing proofs" or demonstrative proofs of the
resurrection of Christ. The resurrection has been
demonstrated by ten convincing proofs to the five
senses. It was a real documented historical event.
Essentials of the
kingdom of God
The resurrected Christ
taught the disciples essential things about the
kingdom of God (v. 3).
The Trinity is emphasized
in vv. 4, 5, 6. Each person of the Godhead is
referred to in these verses. Jesus told the
believers to "wait for what the Father had promised
. . ." (v. 4). The promise of the Father will be
fulfilled in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus
said, "for John baptized with water, but you shall
be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from
now" (v. 5).
The disciples kept asking
Jesus about the restoration of the kingdom of Israel
(vv. 6-7). Jesus did not deny the restoration of the
kingdom of Israel, but He refused to give them a
time when it would happen. The heavenly Father, as
sovereign God, reserves that for Himself.
Jesus gave His commission
to go and make disciples in all the earth (v. 8).
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has
come upon you . . ." The word dunamis
literally means, "to enable them," from "to be
able." The special enabling by the Holy Spirit is to
make them, "My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in
all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part
of the earth" (v. 8).
The word "witness" means
to affirm that one has seen, or heard, or
experienced something, to tell what one has learned
first hand personally. A "witness" is one who bears
testimony by his death; he is not a spectator. Our
English word "martyr" is a transliteration of the
Greek word for "witness." These witnesses died
because they were already martyrs. The fires of
persecution revealed them. The function of an
apostle was to give witness to the resurrection.
Jesus ascended into
There were eyewitnesses
to the ascension of Jesus Christ. Their eyes were
fixed on Him as He ascended, so there could be no
mistake about an event so supernatural. As the
disciples were standing on the Mount of Olives they
saw Jesus suddenly ascend into a cloud, and they
never saw Him again. He didn't go beyond the cloud,
either; He just disappeared.
The Gospel of Luke
teaches us "about all that Jesus began to do and
teach, until the day when He was taken up . . ."
(vv. 1-2a). Verses 9-11 reads, "And after He had
said these things, He was lifted up while they were
looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their
sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky
while He was going, behold, two men in white
clothing stood beside them. They also said, 'Men of
Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This
Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven,
will come in just the same way as you have watched
Him go into heaven'" (Acts 1:9-11, NASB 1995). Jesus
"was lifted up while they were looking on, and a
cloud received Him out of their sight." Jesus
was "taken up" (v. 9), "went" (v. 10), "received up"
(v. 11). A cloud "took under Him." He seems to be
supported by the cloud, disappeared, but the people
who were watching Him had their eyes fixed on, or
gazing upon Him. It was a "strained intent, denoting
a continuous steadfast attention." They were
stretching to look "intently into the sky while He
Luke used the word
"looking" (blepo) meaning to see, to look, to
direct the eyes and the attention upon an object. It
is not as though Jesus was suddenly snatched away
out of their sight. He did not vanish as He had done
when leaving His disciples during the forty days
after His resurrection.
The onlookers "were
gazing intently" meaning "looked intently at someone
"Two men in white
clothing stood beside them, and they also said, 'Men
of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?'"
(v. 11) It does not read angels, but "men." Who were
these "two men in white clothing" standing there
speaking to the disciples? D. L. Moody suggested
they were Moses and Elijah (cf. the transfiguration
of Jesus, Matt. 17:2-3). Most Bible scholars
say these men were angelic messengers since we
encounter them frequently in Acts (5:19-20; 8:26;
10:3-7, 30-32; 11:13-14; 12:7-10, 23; 27:23).
The two men told the
disciples, "this Jesus, who has been taken up from
you into heaven, will come in just the same way as
you have watched Him go into heaven" (v. 11).
Observe how closely the resurrection, ascension and
second coming of Christ are related. The heavenly
messenger says, "This same Jesus" would indeed come
back in the way in which He went, however the
implication is that He would not immediately appear
The ascension is the
abiding proof that the resurrection of Jesus was
more than a temporary resuscitation. It conveyed to
His followers that the appearances that had occurred
over the 40-day period had come to an end. Their
teaching period was over and there was now an
awareness that He was with them all the time. In
reality there truly was no disappearance of Christ.
They just couldn't see His presence with physical
sight. He was no longer perceived by physical sight
or sensation, but by spiritual insight.
Jesus Christ ascended
into heaven. He bade His followers good-by, ascended
visibly into heaven and disappeared from their
The "royal chariot" was
the cloud closely associated with the divine
presence in other parts of the Scriptures. Christ
will come again on clouds of glory (Matt. 24:30;
26:64; Rev. 1:7). The "cloud" that received Jesus
from their sight was no doubt the Shekinah cloud of
glory. It was the visible symbol of God's glory that
received Him and hid Him from their eyes. The cloud
served only to hide Jesus.
Phillips translates: "He
was lifted up before their eyes till a cloud hid Him
from their sight."
"This same Jesus" is
coming back. One day this same Jesus will return in
glory and every eye shall see Him.
The essential fact of the
Ascension of Christ is that He departed and
disappeared from view. The distance and
direction is really of no importance. Our Lord
withdrew from a world of limitations to where God
is. Heaven is at once a place and a state and
personality necessarily implies locality.
Whatever, therefore, may
be said of the Resurrection in regard to the laws of
nature applies equally to the Ascension. Our Lord's
resurrection and body of ascension was different
from the body laid in the tomb, yet it was
essentially the same. It could be seen, touched,
handled, recognized; He could eat and drink, appear
and disappear, etc. It was just like He just stepped
off into a place where they could no longer see Him,
yet He was there all the time.
THE FACT OF THE
ASCENSION IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The Ascension of Christ
was anticipated in both the Old Testament and the
teachings of Jesus.
Anticipated in the
The Ascension of Christ
is anticipated in the Royal Psalms in the Old
Testament (2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 61, 72, 89, 110, 132).
They looked forward to the exaltation of David's
greater Son. The apostle Peter quotes Ps. 110:1 in
Acts 2:34 as part of his great Pentecost sermon.
Compare also Ps. 110:1 with Hebrews 1:13; 10:12, 13;
Ps. 16:8-11 with Acts 2:25-33; and Ps. 68:18 with
Anticipated in the
The Ascension of Christ
was anticipated by Christ (Lk. 9:31, 51; John 6:62;
7:33; 12:32; 14:12, 28; 16:5, 10, 17, 28; 10:17).
Jesus' ascension is implied in the allusions to His
coming to earth on clouds of heaven when He returns
(Matt. 24:30; 26:64). To His grumbling disciples
Jesus said, "What if you should behold the Son of
Man ascending where He was before?" (Jn. 6:62).
Jesus said to Mary, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have
not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My
brethren, and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father
and your Father, and My God and your God' " (John
20:17, NASB 1995).
Jesus said, "It is to
your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go
away the Counselor will not come to you; but if I
go, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7). It is by
means of the Holy Spirit's indwelling in us that
Jesus makes His life available to each of us so
intimately and personally.
Basis for New
The New Testament writers
base their teachings on the fact of the Ascension
(Acts 1:6-12). Christ was taken up, and a cloud
received Him out of the sight of the people who
witnessed His ascension (v. 9). At His Ascension His
resurrection body was uplifted till it disappeared.
Christ's session in
heaven as our High Priest is a position of authority
and honor at God's right hand and is based on the
ascension of Christ. Jesus was received up into
heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. In
his Gospel Luke says, "And it came about that while
He was blessing them, He parted from them" (24:51).
The Ascension attempts to put into words what is
beyond words, describes what is beyond description.
In Acts 1:9 he continues with the same thought, "And
after he had said these things, He was lifted up
while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him
out of their sight." Those who had been listening to
the blessing "were gazing intently into the sky
while He was departing . . ." (v. 10).
The ascension is the
culmination of Christ's glorification after His
resurrection, and was necessary for His heavenly
exaltation. The resurrection of Christ demanded the
ascension and is the culmination of the incarnation
of Christ. The ascension was the entrance into a
wider work of Christ as Lord and High Priest (Jn.
The gift of the Holy
Spirit came from the ascended Christ. He and the
Father had promised the coming of the Holy Spirit to
The apostle Peter
The apostle Peter says in
Acts 2:33 Jesus was "exalted to the right hand of
God." The epistles of Paul tell us Christ will be in
heaven until He returns (1 Thess. 4:16; cf. Peter in
Acts 3:21). The glorification of believers is
guaranteed "through the resurrection of Jesus
Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone
into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers
had been made subjected to Him" (1 Pet. 3:21-22).
Stephen who lay dying by
stoning as the first Christian martyr "gazed
intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and
Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he
said, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the
Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts
7:55-56). Saul of Tarsus "was in hearty agreement
with putting him to death" (8:1).
The apostle Paul
Saul of Tarsus was
persecuting Christians on the road to Damascus when
he suddenly saw "a light from heaven" and "heard a
voice." When Saul inquired the origin the voice from
heaven told him, "I am Jesus, whom you are
persecuting" (Acts 9:3-5).
The apostle Paul wrote in
Romans 8:34, "Christ is He who died, yes, rather who
was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who
also intercedes for us."
He places strong emphasis
on the Ascension of Christ in his letters. Ephesians
1:20-21 says God "raised Him from the dead, and
seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
far above all rule and authority and power and
dominion . . ." There Christ is sovereign over all
and "head over all thing to the church" (v. 22). We
believers are raised up with Him and "Seated" with
Him "in the heavenly places" (2:6). "He who
descended is Himself also who ascended far above all
the heavens, that He might fill all things" (Eph.
Christ was exalted after
the extreme humiliation of the crucifixion (Phil.
2:6-11). "God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on
Him the name which is above every name." "Our
citizenship (or commonwealth) is in heaven, from
which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord
Jesus Christ" (3:20). Christ is in heaven and He is
coming for us (1 Thess. 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:16-18).
Christ who was "revealed in the flesh . . . ." was
"taken up in glory," writes the apostle Paul in 1
The writer of Hebrews
tells us more about the ascension than any other
part of the New Testament. "When He had made
purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand
of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3b). Christ enjoys a
position of authority in heaven as the Son of God
(1:4-13). All things are subjected to Him (2:8).
Jesus has been "crowned
with glory and honor" (2:9). Our "great high priest"
has "passed through the heavens" (perfect tense). He
has entered within the veil for us and serves there
on our behalf. "He abides forever, holds His
priesthood permanently" (7:24) "since He always
lives to make intercession for them" (v. 25). He is
"exalted above the heavens" (v. 26) because He is "a
Son, made perfect forever" (v. 28).
What is the central idea
in Hebrews? "Now the main point in what has been
said is this: we have such a high priest, who has
taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of
the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the
sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the
Lord pitched, not man" (8:1-2). He ministers in "the
greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with
hands, that is to say, not of this creation. .
. . in heaven itself, now to appear in the presence
of God for us" (9:12, 24). Jesus, "having offered
one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the
right hand of God" (10:12). In order to win the
Christian race we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus
who "sat down at the right hand of the throne of
The apostle John
Our Advocate in heaven (1
John 2:1) is "coming with the clouds, and every eye
will see Him . . ." (Rev. 1:7). Remember how He went
up? (Acts 1:9-11). He is the "Lamb standing, as if
slain" at the throne in heaven (Rev. 5:5-6) who took
the scroll, and they sang a new song in heaven
saying, "Worthy is the Lamb" (vv. 5-14). "To Him who
sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and
honor and glory and dominion, forever and ever" (v.
13). Such exaltation of our Lord in heaven
necessarily involves His prior Ascension.
OUR LORD'S PRESENT
LIFE IN HEAVEN
Christ is exalted to the
presence of the Father in heaven, but His activity
on earth is evident.
Christ is seated on the right hand of the Father
(Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12).
Christ bestowed the gift of the Holy Spirit on the
day of Pentecost (Acts 4:9, 33).
Christ added disciples to the church (Acts 2:47).
He works with disciples in evangelism (Mk. 16:20).
Christ healed the impotent man (Acts 3:16).
He stood to receive the martyr Stephen (Acts 7:56).
He appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the road to
Damascus (Acts 9:5).
Christ makes intercession for His people (Rom. 8:26;
Christ comes to the aid to those who are tempted
sympathizes with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15).
11. Christ is able
to save to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25).
12. Christ lives
forever (Heb. 7:24; Rev. 1:18).
13. He is our Great
High Priest (Heb. 7:26; 8:1; 10:21).
14. He abides
forever and possesses an eternal, permanent
priesthood (Heb. 7:24).
15. Christ appears
in the presence of God for us (Heb. 9:24).
16. Christ is our
Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1).
17. He is waiting
until all opposition to Him is overcome (Heb.
PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
We are always in the presence of Christ. We are
never out of His sight, and therefore out of His
mind. There are no earthly limitations of space and
time with our ascended Lord and Savior. We can draw
near and dwell in His presence. "Lo, I am with you
always" (Matt. 28:20). Christ is living and in His
life we live and have our being (Gal. 2:20). In His
life we enjoy fellowship with God and victory in the
Christian life. We have free access through grace
into God's presence and we can draw near and keep
near to Him.
The ascension is the demonstration of the
all-sufficiency of the righteousness of Christ on
behalf of the believer. The atoning sacrifice of
Christ has removed our sin and guilt, and His
righteousness has provided our acceptance with the
Father (2 Cor. 5:21). The atonement of Christ was a
"once for all" complete and perfect atonement. Jesus
Christ is a human and divine High Priest who is able
to sympathize, comfort and save the sinner (Heb.
9:12; 4:15; 2:18; 7:25).
Because He ascended to heaven, Christ is the head
and Lord of His church (Eph. 1:22; 4:10, 15; Col.
Our ascended High Priest is the perfect mediator
between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 8:6) and
advocate with the Father (1 Jn. 2:1). The very
presence of Christ at the right hand of the Father
pleads on our behalf. He pleads by His presence on
His Father's throne, and He is able to save to the
uttermost through His intercession, because of His
perpetual life and His inviolable, undelegated,
intramissible priesthood (Heb. 7:24-25).
There is an essential relationship between the
ascension of Christ and the coming of the Holy
Spirit on the day of Pentecost. "Therefore having
been exalted to the right hand of God, and having
received from the Father the promise of the Holy
Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see
and hear" (Acts 2:33, NASB 1995).
Jesus ascended into heaven He did not go to some
distant planet in space. Heaven is not several
billion light-years away. Instead, Jesus simply
stepped into a different dimension of existence.
There is an invisible spiritual kingdom which
surrounds us on every side. Jesus is not far away,
and neither is the throne of God and the greatness
of His power. He is right here with us right now.
The invisible spiritual life is imparted to us by
the Holy Spirit who came as a result of Christ's
leaving this earth. Because Jesus ascended into
heaven you and I can have all of Him right now.
And just think of it—Just as Jesus stepped into
invisibility, He will step back again into
visibility. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye
He will suddenly appear. Even so, come, Lord
Jesus. Will we see Him today?
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Title: Acts 1:9-11
Ascension of Jesus Christ