The Ascension of Jesus

Intro: The focus of our study on Jesus, the Lord of Glory, for the month of November is entitled, Jesus – the head of the church. In connection with this we will be considering what the Bible teaches concerning the authority of Jesus, and the subjection of the church, or body of Christ, to that authority. But before we do, I want to connect an event that is sometimes overlooked is the sequence of events.

Read some scripture with me… John 20:13-17 – Mary Magdalene was a person of great privilege. She was the first to see the resurrected Jesus. At first she does not know but how could she not recognize the voice she had so often focused her ears upon, absorbing every word. “Teacher” she cries out, and apparently grabs hold of Jesus. Jesus’ response to Mary’s embrace has been the focus of many differing interpretations: “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’

  • Jesus does not forbid Mary to touch Him. The word he used indicates a “clinging, or” taking hold of”. I think Mary was squeezing Him so tight He could hardly breathe! He tells her to stop “for I have not yet ascended to My Father“. What did that mean, and why was it important here?

1. Jesus was not going to be leaving her right away. She and the other disciples can see Him.

2. His resurrection was but the beginning of a continuing journey and purpose. He did not come back to just pick up where He left off… He will ascend to heaven. He will be exalted. Jesus tells Mary to go tell the other disciples…” I am ascending…” This is news for us as well. Jesus ascended back to the Father.

What does Jesus’ ascension mean to us now? Why is it important?

I. The Ascension in Prophecy: What OT psalm is most frequently quoted in the NT? Ps 110:1 – The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” v. 5-6 – The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. 6 He shall judge among the nations,A thousand years before Jesus was born David spoke of the Messiah as being at the Father’s right hand.

A. In Acts 2 Peter connected David’s words with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus – Acts 2:33-35Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”‘

B. Jesus spoke often to His disciples, and even unbelievers, concerning His ascension back to the Father. In fact Jesus made it a test of faith. If they believed He was from the Father, then they were to also believe He was going back. When they saw Him go back they would know where He came from.

1. John 6:51I am the living bread which came down from heaven. Many refused to believe Jesus’ words. Later He said in v. 57-62As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven — not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. 60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” 61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? Would you believe if you saw Me go back? – Some would see it, wouldn’t they?

2. Jesus plainly spoke of His ascension back to the Father in the upper room discourse as recorded in John 14:12“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. John 16:16-17 6 “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.” 17 Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” The apostles did not put it together. Even though they believed He was from heaven, they did not anticipate His return to heaven. John 16:27-28for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. 28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”

3. One of the most poignant and powerful predictions of Jesus’ ascension is found in Jesus’ reply to Caiaphas, the High Priest, during His trial. Matt 26:63-65And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” 64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! This was not blasphemy, but a prophecy of exaltation to power; the power of absolute judgment! When He ascended, He was going to receive a kingdom.

a. Daniel was privileged to witness the event from heaven’s viewpoint – The Son of Man coming to the Father: Dan 7:13-14“I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.

II. The Ascension in History: Interestingly, the ascension of Jesus is not recorded in all 4 gospels. This may indicate that it was not ever in question among the early disciples. However, the N.T. is filled with references to the fact of Jesus ascension, again, treating it as an assumed historical fact. 3 records:

  • Mark 16:19-209 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
  • Luke 24:50-5350 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.
  • Acts 1:9-11Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

A. There was ample eyewitness evidence to the ascension of Jesus. Luke tells us that those present looked steadfastly on Him… the NIV says looking intently up into the sky as he was going. This was not a hallucination – they based the rest of their lives on what they saw that day. Jesus was in heaven.

B. Stephen witnessed the ascended Jesus: Acts 7:54-56When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

C. Saul, later to be known as Paul, the apostle, saw the ascended Jesus: Acts 26:15-16So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.

1. The Bible is not ambivalent concerning Jesus’ whereabouts after His resurrection. He ascended back from whence He came. He is in heaven.

2. 1 Tim 3:16And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory. The Scriptures depict the ascension of Jesus as a divine act. Five times New Testament writers employ the Greek term analambano (to take up, received up) of the Lord’s ascension (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:2, 11, 22; 1 Timothy 3:16). Each time the verb is in the passive voice, he “was taken up.”The passive voice represents the subject of the verb as being acted upon, thus, in this instance, indicating that the “taking up” was empowered from above, namely by God.

III. The Ascension in the Gospel Message: How important is the ascension of Jesus to the subsequent apostolic message of the Gospel? Is it an essential element of our faith today?

A. It was essential to the preaching of the apostles, beginning in Acts 2. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, and the appearance of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost authenticated the message of that day, and all that happened on that day. Jesus’ position at the right hand of God was the basis on Peter’s call for the people to call upon His Name and be saved.

  • Acts 2:33-41Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”‘ 36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

1. Jesus’ ascension is an essential part of the miraculous empowerment of the apostles (as HE promised), the inspiration of their message, and empowerment of the church. Hopefully we will be able to look more closely at Ephesians 4:7-16, as Paul places the ascension of Jesus at the center of the Lord’s promise to empower His church to do its work. Eph 4:8 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”

2. The ascension of Christ into heaven clearly reveals the nature of His kingdom. Contrary to Jewish expectations (and even that of the misguided disciples), the Lord’s mission was not to overthrow Rome, or establish an earthly kingdom. His kingdom always to be a heavenly kingdom.

a. Heb. 6:20 indicates that Jesus entered heaven as a “forerunner” (one who goes in advance of others) for us. By his return to heaven, Christ “dedicated for us” a new and living way.

3. The ascension of Christ demonstrated the manner of Christ’s final return (visibly in the clouds), and was at the heart of the disciples’ hope. The disciples “beheld” Jesus vanishing into the clouds (Acts 1:11b).The verb theaomai is employed 24 times in the New Testament, and never is it used in a figurative sense. They literally saw Christ ascend. Additionally, Luke emphasizes that “in like manner,” i.e., in a visible fashion, the Lord will return.

a. The combination of these terms clearly indicates that the Savior’s second coming will be a literal coming. This eliminates a representative “coming” in the destruction of Jerusalem as taught by the advocates of “realized eschatology”. It also eliminates the notion that Jesus’ next coming will be an invisible rapture of the saints as proposed by the dispensationalists.

4. The ascension of Jesus is behind our confidence in our heavenly High Priest, who – sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… (Hebrews 1:3) was “crowned with glory and honor” (Hebrews 1:13; 2:7, 9), and ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25)

5. The ascension of Jesus is an integral part of the proposition that Christ is the “Lord”.

            • Phil 2:9-11 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
            • Heb 1:3-4 “…when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

a. When God “highly exalted Him, He gave Him a name that is above every name” Since Paul used the definite article before name, it may be that he had in mind a particular name. What would that be? Heb. 1:4 says that this name is more excellent than the angels’ names. Contextually there is only one name mentioned – KuriosLord. Every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

b. Jesus is Lord; The word “kurios” primarily refers to the “right to rule“, and corresponds to the title of King. (Jesus is “”Lord of Lords and King of Kings”) It implies and demands the subjection of men under Christ’s rule. Christ is the head of His body, the church. It is defined in the context of His Lordship.

c. How do you know Dave Schmidt? Some know me as a brother, a father, a grandfather, an uncle, a father-in-law, a brother-in-law, a preacher, a guy who once worked on their car, a fellow umpire, a blind man who once called him out on an outside pitch…. There are many ways to know me. Jesus is many things to us, our friend, Our savior, Our counselor, but the Christian cannot know Jesus except as his Lord. 2 Cor. 4:5 We preach not ourselves, but Jesus as Lord”.

d. “Every knee shall bow… Every tongue will confess…” some out of love and devotion; others out of compulsion and fear; But no one will deny Him His honor.

Conclusion: It must have been a marvelous experience to witness Jesus ascend in the clouds. How did the disciples react to such a sight? 52 And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.

  • How do you react to the ascension of Jesus? Does it fill you with joy to know that Jesus is alive in heaven, interceding for you? Does it motivate you to worship Him as the King? Will you acknowledge His Lordship in your life? Be baptized in His name?