Last summer my family and I went to go visit my parents in Portugal. It was a short trip but it was a pleasant trip. My kids and also my niece were able to see and experience my parents home town. Everyone enjoyed the time together until of course it was time to leave. Whether my parents come and visit us here or we go and visit them there the good byes are always very emotional. In fact my mothers neighbor was even in her window watching us leave and she was crying too. Why are good byes so emotional. Well the main reason why is because we never know when we will see them again. We also know even if we see them next year or two years from now we are going to miss them, miss their voice, their smile, their stories. There is rarely any benefit when we depart from someone close to us like that. But there is one departure, one time someone left and it was actually a benefit. In fact the people who watched the departure were overjoyed. Of course I am talking about the departure of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This morning we are going to look at Jesus’ ascension once again but as we look at this glorious departure what we learn this morning is how we have benefited from this departure.
Now Luke is the only one who has written about the ascension of Jesus Christ and we are actually privileged to have to separate accounts of Jesus ascension. The first one we saw at the end of LUke’s Gospel.
Luke ended his gospel the same way he opened the gospel, with praising God. Now in his letter about the Acts of the Holy Spirit we find this account once again. Why would Luke provide this account of Jesus’ departure twice. He has already mentioned the ascension in the opening of Acts we saw it in verses 1-2;
He has already mentioned it here right and this letter is written to Theophilus so Theophilus would have known about the ascension in the end of Luke’s gospel so just move on right. Well I believe Luke mentioned it twice, or actually three times if you count the summary in Acts 1:2, because of the benefits the apostles receive and because of the benefits we receive from His ascension. I also believe Luke mentions it in his gospel and in the book of Acts because of its importance to gospel message. The gospel isn’t complete without the ascension.
The gospel message consists of the facts that first of all mankind is sinful, we all fall short of God’s own standard and there is nothing we can do to earn acceptance by God. Mankind deserves one place and that place is Hell complete separation from God. God, however, being our creator and sustainer desired so much for all of mankind to have a relationship with Him that He sent His Son to earth to go to the Cross and die a death He didn’t deserve in our place so by believing in Jesus and that He is the Son of God, who is God and believing He took our place on the cross we can have eternal life in Him.
Of course the gospel message doesn’t end there. Three days after Jesus died on the cross He was raised to life once again. Never to die again, victorious over sin and death. We have examined His resurrection pretty in-depth and we have looked at the proofs of His resurrection and there are quite a few. These are the elements of the gospel message and these are the elements the apostles are eyewitnesses to. These are elements of the gospel message which are crucial but the last crucial element of the gospel message which was only witnessed by a select few is His ascension. Jesus after coming and going with His apostles and disciples was taken up to heaven. Jesus’ ascension is crucial to the gospel message because of the benefits of Jesus’ ascension which the apostles recieved and so we. We will see what these benefits are as we once again examine His ascension this morning as we look at our message, Jesus Taken Up.
We will see this in Acts 1:9-11
In our study of the letter of Acts as we have seen it is the Acts of the Holy Spirit working in and through the Apostles. We looked last week at the Promise of the Holy Spirit in verses 4-8. Verses 1-5 are a summary of the entirety of Luke’s gospel and then in verses 6-8 Jesus provides His orders to the apostles and these orders include their being His witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the outer most parts of the earth. Now as we look at verses 9-11 we examine Jesus’ ascension once again and we will really focus on the benefits of His ascension.
Verse 9 Luke provides here a bit of a progression. Luke writes, “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud recieved Him out of their sight.” This progression actually provides us with the outline of our text this morning, with verses 10 and 11 fleshing it out a little more. What we will learn this morning which is so crucial to our understanding of the gospel message is that there are the benefits of Jesus’ ascension.
The first benefit of Jesus’ ascension is when Luke writes ‘after He had said these things,’ this points back to what Jesus has said in verse 6-8. In verse 7 Jesus provides the final instruction to His apostles concerning the Kingdom of God. He refocused them on Spiritual restoration instead of focusing on a physical, national restoration. That time is for God to know and God has already set that day and it will happen. Then Jesus promises the Holy Spirit in verse 8 and tells these men will be His witnesses from, ‘Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth.’ This simple phrase marks the end of Jesus’ training of these men. Now mind you this doesn’t mean Jesus has nothing left to teach. I am sure He has more He can instruct these men but for the time being Jesus’ time has come to stop teaching, finish His instruction. Which means it is now time for Him to return to His Home. This means now that Jesus has finished speaking and teaching He has left His apostles with the last of His teaching and the last words He said pointed to the coming of the Holy Spirit and this means simply if the Holy Spirit is coming then Jesus must first take His throne as King and send His Spirit to man.
Jesus has provided the last of His instructions to these men. This is the last bit of training they will receive from Jesus physically face to face. Jesus has come to fulfill Scripture. He has done this through His teaching and His demonstration of mercy toward the nation of Isreal. This was Jesus’ purpose in coming was to fulfill Scripture now in order for Scripture to continue to be fulfilled Jesus must finish speaking, or teaching. He told them this would happen. This means, however, now that Jesus has trained them and now that all Scripture has been fulfilled Jesus is ready to go back Home. Not only is He ready but He also must return so that they can receive the promise of the Holy Spirit.
The second element to this progression deals with the means to which Jesus went to be home in heaven. “He was lifted up while they were looking on,” now this word for being ‘lifted up’ is a passive which means the action Jesus recieved of going up to heaven was not of His own doing but it was acted on Him, God lifted Him off the ground as the others, ‘witnessed’ His being lifted up from the ground. This is somewhat reminiscent of some Hebrew text pointing to those who didn’t die but were brought before God. Enoch is one of them,
Enoch didn’t taste death but because of his trust in God, God took him from this world and brought Him into His own presence.
Another man who didn’t taste death was God’s servant Elijah.
So Elijah who was a prophet of God was taken up to heaven without tasting death. The difference of course between these two men and Jesus is, well a lot. First Jesus was going home returning to where He had come from. The other two were humans only and they were taken from this place into God’s presence. Not so with Jesus. Jesus had left Heaven to come to Earth, He left His home and condescended Himself, making Himself lower then He should have had to in order to die a death He didn’t deserve for a people who in reality had to reject Him as God in order to hang Him on a cross.
Look at what Paul tells the Philippian church; Philippians 2:5-11
Paul is teaching the Philippians what it means to humble yourself and the example he uses is the example of Jesus giving up His throne and His place in heaven to come to earth and take on the form of His creation just so He can be rejected by them and die for them. He didn’t allow His equality with God the Father to hold Him there but instead submitted Himself and perfectly obeyed the Father to the point of death. This is why Jesus has been exalted because He was submissive. Now He has been exalted and at His ascension He was taken up by the Father to go and to takes His rightful place on the throne. The throne He came off of for our sake now He returns to it. He returns as ruler with out authority and power being placed in His hands once again.
David understood this look at what David writes in Psalm 110
David is pointing to Jesus Christ, Jesus is the Lord of David’s who will sit at God’s right hand. God is now taking Jesus back to where He belongs to sit on His rightful throne and rule from Heaven.
Now Jesus is alive in the flesh and He is being taken up from this earth not just to be in God’s presence but to take His seat as King over all creation. These men are standing there watching Him lift up off the ground and float up into the sky. Luke tells us, ‘while they were looking on.’ These men who have witnessed Jesus teach and perform amazing miracles and watched Him carry a cross and be hung on it, die and then see His empty tomb and then eat with Him after His resurrection now are watching Him be taken away from the earth. He is departing from their sight. These men had to witness Jesus returning to heaven. The return to heaven marks the fact that He is fulfilling what He has said, He goes to prepare a place for them and for us.
As these men are watching Jesus go up they also see Him vanish from sight. He is engulfed in a cloud. Look Jesus didn’t go up on a cloud but a cloud surrounded Him and veiled Him from their sight. This is to say He didn’t just keep going out into space and the cloud is also a representation of the glory of God. they watched as Heaven itself welcomed Jesus into its courts.
We find this cloud in Exodus
This is the same cloud that engulfed the tabernacle when it was consecrated and God came to dwell with His people. The same cloud that engulfed the Temple when it was consecrated. It was the same cloud the nation of Isreal followed in the wilderness which turned into a pillar of fire at night and it is the same cloud that Ezekiel watched depart from the temple in his vision which is when God’ presence left the temple before its destruction by the Babylonians. It is a picture of the glory of God and it is a picture of Jesus being recieved back Home in Heaven and taking His seat as the King of all creation.
This was the physical and the spiritual working together to accomplish God’s goal. Jesus was physically raised in bodily form, with flesh and bone up to heaven. He escaped the view of the Apostels as He transcended in bodily form into the spirit world. This is what these men witnessed this is what they saw. Now as Jesus goes up into heaven we find that the mission isn’t over but the witnesses now will change over, the baton is being passed. So the progression is, He finishes speaking, He is lifted up and He is received by a cloud. His finishes speaking marking the end of the men’s training, He is lifted up marking the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and He is received by a cloud marking His reception back to heaven and taking His seat at God’s right hand victorious over sin.
The apostles were witness to this amazing transfer of the responsibility of what Jesus has said and done and ever amazing miracle and they stood gazing at this incredible departure.
We find next as the apostles stand looking on that Jesus not only is taken up to Reign on High but just because He was taken up doesn’t mean God’s message is over. In fact the second benefit to Jesus being taken up is His Message Continues
In verse 10 it reads, “And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them.” Here are the men watching, as Luke writes, ‘gazing intently.’ Their eyes are fixed on this amazing phenomenon and yeah I guess rightly so. I mean its not every day you watch a man float up into the sky and be engulfed by a cloud and be welcomed back to heaven. I can’t help but think what are they waiting for, it seems as though they are waiting for Jesus to do something else. They are so enamored by what has just happened that they don’t notice the two men in white or they have become so accustomed to miraculous that they don’t notice these two men who seemingly pop up out of nowhere.
Either way these two men are an important detail in what is going on. In the Greek it actually says men it doesn’t call them angels. We know they are heavenly messengers because of their description, “in white clothing.” White is a sign of purity and these men are obviously sent as messengers from on High by the King of Glory to provide a little direction to those whom Jesus has just told to stay and wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit has come upon you.
Now what are they doing, they are standing and watching the sky. The angels in verse 12 even call this fact to attention. They say in the beginning of verse 12, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?” This is not what you are to do, this should have been a sign for them to go back to Jerusalem and stay and wait.
I guess we would say it was the shock that keep them there. These men stood watching and waiting to see what Jesus would do next, and Jesus had already done so. By going up to heaven and taking His seat on the throne Jesus is now able to set in motion the Transfer of Power so His message can continue. The two men in white clothing are an example of this because they were sent by Jesus. How do I know? All authority has been given to Jesus, He rules in heaven and He sent the messengers. The angels speaking to these men reminds me of Jesus when He would say to them, oh you of little faith. Jesus was very blunt with His corrections and so are these angels. It is time for them to go and wait on the transfer of power so they can continue Jesus message, stop staring into space and follow and obey the One who has just taken the throne. He is there so He can rule and now He can send the Promised One to you. “Why do you stand looking into the sky?”
These men are standing with their eyes firmly fixed on the sky and the clouds because of this powerfully awesome sight and perhaps I mean just maybe it is possible these men are fixated on the sky to see what Jesus is gong to do next. The funny thing is Jesus has just told them what He is going to next and in order for Him to be able to accomplish this He had to be taken up from this world. Only by being taken up from this world and taking His rightful place at the right Hand of God and being given the authority which is rightfully His the transfer of power couldn’t be completed. This had to happen. The men in white have come to let them know it is time for them to move not just stare aimlessly at the sky. So in actuality Jesus has sent these messengers as a means to keep the men on track until the transfer of power is complete and they can continue His message.
This transfer of power could only come from Jesus taken His seat in heaven and the beauty of it is we benefit from this transfer of power as well. The apostles were special eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ, we saw that last week. Still we benefit from their eyewitness and we benefit because we are also recipients of this transfer of power so we can continue His message. Without Jesus taking His seat next to the Father we couldn’t receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who is the One who leads us and guides us and teaches us about God the Father and God the Son and about Himself. He as we have looked at in the gospel of Luke is the One who opens our eyes, minds, hearts to Himself and His word. And it is also by Him that we can be called ambassadors of Christ.
Paul tells the Corinthian church this in 2 Corinthians 5:20-21;
With the transfer of Power which comes from Jesus taking His seat in heaven and reigning on high we can now receive the Holy Spirit and we hare now the ones who are responsible to provide for people God’s message. It is not our own, it is not a message that melds the secular with Christianity, it is not a message that is seasoned with do whatever it takes to get people saved, ends justify the means, that is pragmatism. No, the messages is God’s message and the message is the same message Jesus provided which is one of reconciliation to God. It is only through the true gospel message that people can be reconciled to God and that message involves, words like sin, depravity, hell, deserving hell, separation from God even mortifying sin, which means giving up those things the world says is good but God says has no place in the kingdom. It is not our message it is His but now because He has been taken up into glory, first we can truly understand this, second we have been given the power to share this and third we are tasked with the responsibility to share this message with others.
Let’s look at what Ed Stetzer says about being ambassadors;
We are ambassadors of Jesus Christ we are to go out and share His message we are to continue to share a message about the kingdom of God to those around us. It is not our message but His message and if you are providing His message to others you are doing so for the purpose of building up the Kingdom.
So you see Jesus went to heaven took His seat to reign on high and from this He can send His Holy Spirit and those who trust in Him now receive power and can now ambassadors for Him. The third benefit we receive from His ascension is the Hope of His Return.
This really has to be one of my favorite themes of Scripture. God’s glory, grace, mercy, compassion, His faithfulness all culminates in this incredible truth, this incredible reality. The reality that Jesus will return. The messengers tell the apostles this they say this at the end of verse 11, “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.” Here is my favorite benefit to Jesus’ ascension, His return. This is a promise He will come back and when He comes back He will establish His literal 1000 year reign on earth seated on an earthly throne and when the 1000 years are over He will completely purge the entire world of sin. We will no longer have to worry about pride, disease, gossip, drunkeness, murder, terrorism, selfishness, whining, liers, all of those things that are contrary to God and contrary to Holiness will be done away with entirely.
This was foretold by Daniel who had a vision of the future coming of Jesus.
We have a hope in His return and when He returns His kingdom will be established for all eternity.
Paul tells the Thessalonians this as well;
The message these men are bringing to the apostles is don’t worry He will return. They are to place their hope in His return and so can we. Look when you look at this world and you think oh how is there so much evil in the world and why the shame of it all. Listen we have hope, we have hope in a King who reigns on High. We have a hope in a perfect judge who will judge all the wicked people of the world. So pray for those wicked people because after their death their is no more salvation. We have a hope in a High Priest who is our mediator between us and God and who will also be our advocate, plead our case before God if we have placed our trust in Him. This gives us hope. We should be living each day as though He is coming back. This hope should be driving us to pray for this wicked world instead of complaining about it. This hope should motivate us to continue sharing the message of reconciliation, because this hope is only hope for those who know Him as Lord and Savior. If you don’t then He will sit as judge over the sinful. People are so offended when you call them out on sin, don’t judge me, well you want to know something it is better I judge you in this life then you stand before the throne and are judged by the Perfect Judge.
Look at what Paul tells the young pastor Titus;
We are to Hope in His return. We have these benefits in His ascension, the benefit of His Reign on High, the benefit of Continuing His Message and the benefit of Hope in His return.