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The Ascension

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A. Goodbyes aren’t easy. Especially if we or they will be gone for a long time.
1. There are some very memorable goodbyes in history.
6. It is also especially hard to say goodbye to an elderly friend or loved because we know that it might be the last time we will see them.

B. Today we are going to talk about Jesus’ goodbye to His disciples – we know it as the Ascension.
1. The most important events in Jesus’ life certainly include His birth, baptism, temptation, transfiguration, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
2. It is interesting to me that not all of the Gospels record this event.
3. John says nothing about the ascension of Jesus. He ended his Gospel, saying, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (Jn. 21:25)
4. Matthew ended his Gospel with Jesus gathering with His disciples on a mountain in Galilee. He issued the Great Commission and then promised, “And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20)
5. Mark ended his Gospel with a speech similar to the Great Commission in Matthew, and then he wrote, “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” (Mk. 16:19)

C. It is Luke the careful historian who gives the most ink to the ascension of Jesus.
1. Luke ended his Gospel, written especially for the most excellent Theophilus, (Lk. 24:50-52)
2. Then Luke opened volume two, saying, (Acts 1:1-3)
3. Luke recorded Jesus’ instructions that they should not leave Jerusalem, but should wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, and then they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
4. Luke then wrote, (Acts 1:9-11)

5. The birth of Jesus is a truly important event.
6. Certainly His crucifixion and resurrection are the most critical for our salvation.
7. But the ascension is also an important event.

I. Why the Ascension was an Absolute Necessity
A. There are several reasons that the ascension was an absolute necessity.
1. First of all, there had to be a final moment when Jesus returned to heaven.
2. Imagine if the resurrection appearances of Jesus had just simply petered out.
3. There would be something wrong and indefinite about that.
4. There had to be a day dividing when the Jesus of earth would become the Christ of heaven.
5. The ascension marked the transition from His earthly ministry to His heavenly one.
6. Behind Him was the persecution of men; before Him was the applause of angels.
7. Behind Him was the cruel cross; before Him was the glorious crown.
8. So the ascension was an absolute necessity because there had to be a final moment when Jesus left the earth.

B. A second reason the ascension was an absolute necessity, is the fact that Jesus’ going allowed for the Spirit’s coming.
1. Jesus told them in John 16, (Jn. 16:5-7)
2. Jesus continued in verse 12, (Jn. 16:12-14)
3. So the going of Jesus allowed for the coming of the Sprit, and the coming of the Spirit ushered in the beginning of the church.
4. It is hard to imagine life in the church without the Spirit. It is an impossibility.
5. It is hard to imagine our lives today in the church without the work of the Holy Spirit.
6. The Holy Spirit brings me such hope, peace and power, while at the same time convicting me of my sin when I get off course.

C. Another reason the ascension was an absolute necessity, is the fact that it allowed Him to begin His permanent, heavenly ministry.
1. It has been well said that: “At the ascension Jesus left the here for the everywhere. He left the now for the eternal. He left the First Century to fill all the centuries.”
2. Just as the grave could not hold Him when His Father raised Him from the dead, so the earth could not hold Him when the time came for Him to return to His Father.
3. And as Mark says, “he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” (Mk. 16:19)
4. Similarly, Peter wrote, (1 Pt. 3:18,21,22)
5. In heaven, at God’s right hand, Jesus is our interceding High Priest, giving us the grace we need for life and service (Heb. 4:14-16).
6. He is also our Advocate before the Father, forgiving us when we confess our sins (1 Jn. 1:9-2:2)
7. The exalted and glorified Head of the church is now working with His people on earth and helping them accomplish His purposes. (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:20)

D.. We have proof that Jesus ascended and is now ministering at the right hand of God.
1. In Acts 7, we read about Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
a. As he was on trial before the Sanhedrin, the Bible says, (Acts 7:55-58)
2. That same Saul had his own encounter with the risen and ascended Christ.
a. The Bible says, (Acts 9:3-6)
3. About seventy years later, the apostle John was on the island of Patmos, exiled by the Roman authorities, when Jesus the resurrected and ascended Christ appeared to him.
a. The Bible says, (Rev. 1:10, 12-18)
4. So we see from these verses that the ascended Christ is very much alive and active.
5. He is busy standing beside his followers as they face trouble and persecution.
6. He is busy calling people into ministry, and He is busy inspecting His churches.

E. One final reason the ascension was an absolute necessity was the fact of His return.

The asking by the disciples. "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel" (Acts 1:6).

"Restore again the kingdom to Israel." We note two things about this restoration aspect of the question the disciples asked Christ. They are the country in the restoration and the confidence in the restoration. (1) The country in the restoration was Israel. The nation of Israel will one day be restored to great glory; in fact, the restoration will make Israel a far greater nation in far better circumstances than ever it was in its heyday in the past (Ezekiel 40-48). The Jews will be gathered out of the nations of the world and brought to Israel (Ezekiel 34:11-14) to populate the land. (2) The confidence in the restoration is seen in the fact that the disciples did not ask if the restoration was going to take place but when. This question assumed that the restoration would take place, as we will note more about shortly. The only question with the disciples was when was the restoration going to happen.

Note that the question asked by the disciples also assumes that Jesus Christ will do the restoring ("wilt thou"). It will not be brought about by the United Nations or other world powers, but it will be brought about by Jesus Christ Himself.

Third, reason. "Kingdom." Here we look into the reason why the disciples asked this question. What prompted it? We do not have far to look what prompted their thoughts about the kingdom. Just a few verses before our text which records the disciples’ question, we have the report that Jesus was teaching the disciples about the "Kingdom of God." The text indicates that it was the major theme of His teaching during the forty days from the resurrection to the ascension. So logically, with all the kingdom teaching, the disciples asked their question about the kingdom of Israel—the kingdom of God includes the kingdom for Israel. It is all a part of God’s Sovereign rule.

Fourth, readiness. "At this time." As we have already noted, the question asked by the disciples was not if the kingdom was to be restored but when. Was Christ ready to restore the kingdom now? It is evident that the disciples were hoping for the restoration at that time. they saw the great blessing that would come when Christ restored the kingdom to Israel and ruled over the world.

The answering by the Savior. "And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:7). Two important notations can be made about the answer of Christ to the disciples. They are that there was no denying of the restoration, and there was no declaring of the time.

First, no denying of the restoration. If the restoration was a myth perpetrated by the people or a misunderstanding by the disciples, this was the time for Christ to set the disciples straight once and for all about the kingdom matter. But Christ did not in anyway discredit the idea voiced by the disciples of the restoration of Israel. Those who deny the restoration have no ground here for denying it.

Second, no declaring of the time. Christ’s answer simply said that the disciples could not know the time. It was not revealed by God the Father Who alone knew the time. The word "power" in Acts 1:7 is the word that means "authority" not "might." God the Father has the authority to decide when the kingdom will be restored.

2. Enduement

"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). After answering the disciples question about eschatology, Christ then spoke to them about enduement for service. Christ wanted the disciples to focus on their present service instead of on curiosity about the time of future events. In emphasizing the present, Christ gave a promise of enduement for their present service. It was the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them which would give them power for service. This promise of enduement tells of the Source of the enduement and the strength from the enduement.

The Source of the enduement. "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." The rendering here is misleading in that it appears to say that "after" you have received power, then the Holy Spirit will come upon you. But the message of the text says just the opposite. It is after the Holy Spirit comes upon one that power is given. The Holy Spirit is the source of the power. The meaning of our text is better seen if the word "after" is translated "when" in the text. It would thus read, "Ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you." We cannot do our service well unless we have the power of the Holy Spirit aiding us.

The strength from the enduement. "Power." This word is translated from the Greek word "dunamis" which refers to might and strength. This strength for service gives us the ability to serve Christ, and it means we do not have to wait for ideal conditions in which to serve, but we can serve the Lord even in difficult times. This power will overcome difficulties of circumstances and weaknesses within our own selves. The work of the Lord is not easy work; the obstacles are many; but with the aid of the Holy Spirit giving us power for our work, we can overcome and serve successfully. When God calls, do not look at your inabilities and at your circumstantial difficulties. If He has called you, He will endue you with power to fulfill your calling.

3. Evangelism

"Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Here Christ describes the work of evangelism in which the disciples are to engage when He is gone.

1.    Jesus could not return if He never left.
2. Before their very eyes that day, Jesus began lifting into heaven in a way that may be described as dignified and majestic. Mientras los bendecía.
3. No whirlwind came along and swept Him away like happened with Elijah.
4. Rather, as He ascended, a cloud appeared and hid Jesus from their gaze.
5. That cloud might well have reminded them of the cloud that enveloped them during the transfiguration, or the cloud that led the nation of Israel in the wilderness in the OT, or the cloud of God’s glory that filled the temple (1 Kgs. 8).
6. But unlike the transformation, where Jesus remained after the cloud disappeared, in the ascension, Jesus did not remain after the cloud hid Him.
7. There they stood intently gazing into the sky, when they were interrupted by two men standing beside them.

The Word for the Disciples

 (Acts 1:10,11).

The moment of the revelation. "While they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up" (Acts 1:10). The revelation came right after the ascension while the disciples were still looking up into the sky where Christ had disappeared into the clouds. The moment of the revelation was very timely, for it came when the disciples needed it.

The messengers of the revelation. "Behold, two men stood by them in white apparel" (Acts 1:10). These two men were obviously angels. Angels are called men in the Bible not that they were men but because they appeared in human form. To examine this point about the messengers, we note the coming of the men, the count of the men and the clothing of the men.

The message of the revelation. "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).

the admonishing of the disciples. "Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" This admonishing of the disciples was not a harsh admonishing, for the messengers then went right into their message of blessed promise which would help the disciples to stop looking heavenward where Christ had gone. But the admonishing is present. The disciples needed to get busy with their earthly duties rather than just gazing upward. "It is our duty not to stand in idleness and gaze even toward heaven. We, as well as the apostles, have a great work to do; and we should actively engage in it without delay" (Barnes). We are to be doers.

Third, the anticipation for the disciples. "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." The disciples were given a promise of the return of Jesus Christ. This return is not to be confused with the rapture of the church, but refers instead to the time when Christ will return to earth to rule over the earth ("the Lord shall be king over all the earth" [Zechariah 14:9]) in which time the kingdom of Israel (which the disciples had inquired about just before the ascension) will indeed be restored in all its glory. The messengers said the return would be in the same manner. Therefore it will be visible, glorious, with clouds, and to the Mount of Olives. That it will involve the Mount of Olives is prophesied in Zechariah. "His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east" (Zechariah 14:4). This promise of Christ’s return would provide great anticipation for the disciples of the future. The anticipation would serve as a great motivator for them to serve the Lord in the present.

A. So here we find ourselves some 2000 years after the promises of Jesus and His ascension to heaven, and we are still waiting for His return.
1. But unlike those early disciples, we are not just standing idly gazing into the sky, we are busy at work for our Lord.
2. Several of the parables of Jesus point out the importance of carrying out the will of our Master in His absence.
3. We must not be caught by surprise when He returns.
4. Matthew 24:46 says, “It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.”
5. Jesus will say, “Well done my good and faithful servant…come and share in your master’s happiness.” (Mt. 25:21)
6. The key here is not perfection, but faithfulness; good stewardship.
7. God is pleased when we are busy employing our gifts and talents in the administration of His grace.
8. God is pleased when we make good choices as we invest our time and our finances for kingdom purposes.
9. And God is pleased when we love one another as He loved us, and as we love our neighbor as ourselves.

D. But a critical question to answer is this: Are you Ready?
1. If the Lord comes today, are you ready to meet Him?
2. The answer to those questions is a matter of spiritual life or spiritual death – it is just that serious!
3. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16)
4. Jesus said, “I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Lk. 13:3)
5. Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk. 16:16)
6. Let me end with the question that Ananias asked Saul of Tarsus, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name. (Acts 22:16)

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