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francisco_camilo_-_ascension_-_-672x1024-1Ascension Day, which is remembered 40 days after Easter, therefore, always on a Thursday, is May 26, 2022.

The Spanish artist Francisco Camilo painted Ascension in 1651. It can be seen at the Museu Nacional d´Art de Catalunya in Barcelona. (Image credit: canadiancatechist.com)

Readings for this important feast day can be found here.

My exegesis for the first reading, Acts 1:1-11, is here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 24:44-53

24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,

24:46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,

24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

24:48 You are witnesses of these things.

24:49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

24:50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.

24:51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.

24:52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;

24:53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Unlike the other three Gospel accounts from the Resurrection to the Ascension, Luke’s is quite short, although it contains some of the same events, including our Lord’s giving the Apostles the Great Commission.

That said, it is worth keeping in mind that Luke also wrote the Book of Acts, which recounts the Ascension in the first chapter: the first reading for this feast day.

John MacArthur explains the various Gospel accounts:

When you come to chapter 24 … indeed, Jesus Christ came; the Son of God suffered, died, rose again the third day; and provided forgiveness of sins in His name. So the Book ends having proven what it promised at the beginning.

Since He died and rose again, He is the Son of God, He is the Lord, He is the Redeemer, salvation is accomplished, forgiveness of sin is available; and now you go tell the world. And by the way, Luke moves quickly to his conclusion. Verse 43 ended the night Jesus arose when He met with His disciples. On that first day of the week, the third day after He was crucified, you remember He appeared to the disciples that night. And to prove that He was literally physically alive, He took a fish and ate it.

And then Luke moves in verse 44 to the final commission and the ascension. Luke tells us nothing about the forty days, nothing at all. Jesus made many appearances to His own during the forty days; at least ten of them are indicated in the New Testament. Luke doesn’t tell us anything about them in his history.

However, in the book of Acts, which is Luke’s second volume of history, which tells the story of how the apostles and the disciples obeyed the Great Commission, he opens the book of Acts in chapter 1 by telling us about the Lord’s appearances during those forty days, and thus he overlaps and interlocks these two histories. So he comes all the way to the ascension here; and then when he starts Acts, he backs up, describes what happened in the forty days, and retells the ascension in detail, so that this is one history overlapping and interlocking. It’s one story, and it’s a story you will notice from verse 44 that goes clear back to Genesis, this one great, vast, unfolding mural of redemptive history. So the words of our Lord here in verse 44, very likely spoken at the end of forty days. Luke 1 tells us it was forty days that Jesus appeared to His disciples before He ascended.

It’s not unusual for Bible writers to vary their approaches. John gives us details about our Lord’s appearance in Galilee during those forty days. If you want to know about the Lord appearing to the disciples, the most interesting description of it is in John 21. But John tells us nothing about the ascension.

Matthew tells us nothing about the ascension either; doesn’t even mention it. But he tells us more about the Great Commission. And this is the beauty of Scripture. You put it all together and you get the whole picture.

So these final words are designed to launch the history of the proclamation of the gospel. You say, “Well how does it relate to us?” Well, the baton just keeps passing generation, to generation, to generation, to generation. This is our time to be obedient to this commission.

Jesus told His disciples that He had told them while He was with them — during His ministry — that everything written about Him in Scripture, in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, must be fulfilled (verse 44).

Then Jesus opened the disciples’ minds to understand the Scriptures (verse 45).

Matthew Henry’s commentary elaborates on the importance of those two verses:

(1.) He refers them to the word which they had heard from him when he was with them, and puts them in mind of that as the angel had done (Luke 24:44; Luke 24:44): These are the words which I said unto you in private, many a time, while I was yet with you. We should better understand what Christ does, if we did but better remember what he hath said, and had but the art of comparing them together. (2.) He refers them to the word they had read in the Old Testament, to which the word they had heard from him directed them: All things must be fulfilled which were written. Christ had given them this general hint for the regulating of their expectations–that whatever they found written concerning the Messiah, in the Old Testament, must be fulfilled in him, what was written concerning his sufferings as well as what was written concerning his kingdom; these God had joined together in the prediction, and it could not be thought that they should be put asunder in the event. All things must be fulfilled, even the hardest, even the heaviest, even the vinegar; he could not die till he had that, because he could not till then say, It is finished. The several parts of the Old Testament are here mentioned, as containing each of them things concerning Christ: The law of Moses, that is, the Pentateuch, or the five books written by Moses,–the prophets, containing not only the books that are purely prophetical, but those historical books that were written by prophetical men,–the Psalms, containing the other writings, which they called the Hagiographa. See in what various ways of writing God did of old reveal his will; but all proceeded from one and the self-same Spirit, who by them gave notice of the coming and kingdom of the Messiah; for to him bore all the prophets witness. (3.) By an immediate present work upon their minds, of which they themselves could not but be sensible, he gave them to apprehend the true intent and meaning of the Old-Testament prophecies of Christ, and to see them all fulfilled in him: Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,Luke 24:45; Luke 24:45. In his discourse with the two disciples he took the veil from off the text, by opening the scriptures; here he took the veil from off the heart, by opening the mind.

Also:

The design of opening the understanding is that we may understand the scriptures; not that we may be wise above what is written, but that we may be wiser in what is written, and may be made wise to salvation by it. The Spirit in the word and the Spirit in the heart say the same thing. Christ’s scholars never learn above their bibles in this world; but they need to be learning still more and more out of their bibles, and to grow more ready and mighty in the scriptures. That we may have right thoughts of Christ, and have our mistakes concerning him rectified, there needs no more than to be made to understand the scriptures.

Jesus then said, ‘It is written’ — meaning that this was foretold in the Old Testament — that the Messiah would suffer then rise from the dead on the third day (verse 46), emphasising the truth of Scripture.

He instructed the disciples to preach the repentance and forgiveness of sin to all nations, i.e. including Gentiles, beginning at Jerusalem (verse 47).

MacArthur explains why Jerusalem was going to be a problematic starting point:

this was very, very difficult, because the Jews didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah. The Jews had seen Jesus as utterly disqualified to be the Messiah, because He was the enemy of their religious system, their false religious system, which they thought was the true. Jesus was killed, rejected by the leaders, died, disqualified, had no army, triumphed over nothing. They had a theology of Messiah that only included the triumph and the glory; they didn’t have a theology that included the suffering, and dying, and rising again. They had totally missed that part.

So now the disciples and the apostles are going to have the responsibility to start in Jerusalem to overturn everything the people believed, to change everything. And they were going to have to convince the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. How would you do that? You can’t use the New Testament, there isn’t any. And the one thing they did revere was the Old Testament. So what did they have to use? The Old Testament.

But they had shown a lack of understanding of the Old Testament. They had shown a severe lack of understanding of most of what Jesus said, even when He said it to them face-to-face in very simple, clear, straight-forward terms. They had been subject all their life to a rather inadequate, if not downright wrong interpretation of the Old Testament at the hands of their rabbis; and so they were in no position to rightly interpret the Old Testament unless somebody helped them. They needed a total correction of their theology and their hermeneutics.

So what’s so very, very important is this: They needed to understand that Christianity was not a disruption of Judaism, it wasn’t a new religion; it was continuity, it was the same great redemptive plan of God rolling through history; and that Judaism without Christ is a false religion, because Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. And so in order to get the gospel in its right context, in order to understand redemptive continuity and redemptive history, you’ve got to go back. And that’s exactly what He does. He says to them in verse 44, “These are My words, which I spoke to you while I was still with you.”

MacArthur cites a few of the relevant passages from the Old Testament, which has more:

The Old Testament promised the Messiah would come and the Messiah would be from the line of Abraham, the Old Testament, Genesis 12; promised that He would come through the tribe of Judah, Genesis 49; that He would come through the line of David, 2 Samuel chapter 7; that He would be born of a virgin, Isaiah 7:14; born in Bethlehem, Micah 5:2; that He would be betrayed by a familiar friend, as the psalmist puts it; that He would be beaten, spit on, beard pulled, gambling would take place for His clothing. He would be pierced, Zechariah 12, Psalm 22, Psalm 69. His death would be vicarious, Isaiah 53. And He would rise from the dead, Isaiah 53 end of the chapter, Psalm 16:8 to 11; many other details.

The Christ of gospel history did not invent Himself, nor is He the invention of a little group of people in the first century. He is the unmistakable fulfillment of divine prophecy. That’s at the heart, that’s at the foundation of the gospel. So we say that if you’re going to carry out the mandate of the gospel and fulfill your mission – and it is your mission – you must understand that as to its foundation, the gospel is Old Testament, biblical.

MacArthur addresses the importance of repentance and forgiveness of sins:

What is the provision that transforms? It is the forgiveness of sins. The gospel message to be proclaimed across the world, folks, is just one simple message: repent and ask for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ. That’s it.

We say, “You know, we want people to be saved.” And the obvious question is, “Saved from what?” From their sins, and the punishment of those sins that is everlasting in hell. This is our only message. We don’t have a social message. There are social implications in the gospel, because godly people behave differently. We don’t have an economic message. We don’t have an educational message. We have one message: forgiveness of sins. That’s it. And that’s what was laid out at the beginning.

Let me show you something … Back in chapter 1, verse 77 … in the prophecy of Zechariah, which sets the course of the Book. “He is coming” – this Son of God, the Messiah – “to give to His people the knowledge of salvation.” Okay? How they going to get that? How are they going to be saved? “By the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God.”

Another point to bear in mind that the Apostles, being Jewish, did not associate with Gentiles. Therefore, preaching to all nations was going to be another stumbling block.

MacArthur explains how this unfolds in Acts:

… the gospel now, while starting there and capturing the remnant, is to go to the world. It’s a very new idea to even Jewish believers. Gentile salvation was never popular with them. Testimony to that comes from Jonah, who chose to take a short ride on a big fish rather than go and preach to Ninevites, because he didn’t want them to repent and get in on the blessings that God provided Israel.

Even the early apostles seemed reluctant to buy into this global extent. Do you know there’s not really any evangelism of Gentiles. They started where they were supposed to. Matthew says, “Go into all the world.” And in Luke’s account, he says, “You are to be witnesses of Me in Jerusalem, Samaria, and the whole world.” But this was a hard pill for them to swallow, because they were basically anti-Gentile. And I think they were reluctant to think about this until Acts 10.

You see, the problem they had with going to the Gentiles was they were convinced that their religion, if they were faithful to it, isolated them from Gentiles. They couldn’t go to a Gentile house. They couldn’t eat with a Gentile utensil. They couldn’t consume non-kosher food. They couldn’t go into a Gentile country without being impure. So they had created this idea of holiness that isolated them.

So how were they going to do this and get across what they believed to be things that honored God? I mean it was God, wasn’t it, who gave them all the dietary laws. It was God who gave them all the restrictions that isolated them from the nations around them for their own preservation and protection. But God never intended it to cause them to be so isolated they wouldn’t take the truth of Him as the true and living trinitarian God to those nations. But they didn’t do that.

And they’re still confused, I think, because God has to come to Peter. God says to Peter – shows him a sheet full of all kinds of animals clean and unclean, and says, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” By the way, that is a meat-eater’s dream, that passage. For you vegetarians, you’ve got a problem there in Acts 10. “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” So Peter says, “No, can’t do it. I’ve never touched anything unclean.” And this whole thing is a metaphor for how are you going to evangelize the Gentiles. You’ve got to get past this.

So they’re very reluctant. And God has to go into very dramatic means to get Peter to do what He wants him to do, and that is, “Go, give the gospel to a Gentile centurion named Cornelius.” That’s a big hurdle, huge.

Peter does it. Turn to Acts 10; and this is the first occasion, really, where they get past Samaria. They go to Samaria, remember, with Philip in chapter 8. The gospel is moving through Jerusalem in the early chapters, and it gets scattered belong Jerusalem. And how does God do that? Did they do it on their own? No, they don’t do it on their own. Chapter 8 begins with a great persecution brought against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered into Judea and Samaria.

You know, God had to scatter them, because it was so hard for them to go. Even Samaritans they despised. They despised them for what they thought was abandoning the truth of God and coming up with a false religious system, which they carried out on Mount Gerizim; and they were the half-breeds who betrayed their people, and their nation, and their heritage, et cetera, et cetera. And they had a hard time going there; that’s why no Jew ever walked through Samaria …

And the apostles finally got it, as we showed in chapter 10. In chapter 9, Paul is converted, and he becomes God’s very special tool to begin this massive enterprise of taking the glorious gospel to the Gentile world; and he launches his ministry in the thirteenth chapter of Acts. Paul understood Gentile salvation. It was explained to him at his conversion, right? Just read it in chapter 9: “You’re going to be a light to the nations.” He understood the responsibility that he had to go to the world.

Jesus told the Apostles that they were witnesses to these things (verse 48).

Henry says this means that they were not to be passive but active in their forthcoming ministries:

The instructions he gave them as apostles, who were to be employed in setting up his kingdom in the world. They expected, while their Master was with them, that they should be preferred to posts of honour, of which they thought themselves quite disappointed when he was dead. “No,” saith, he, “you are now to enter upon them; you are to be witnesses of these things (Luke 24:48; Luke 24:48), to carry the notice of them to all the world; not only to report them as matter of news, but to assert them as evidence given upon the trial of the great cause that has been so long depending between God and Satan, the issue of which must be the casting down and casting out of the prince of this world. You are fully assured of these things yourselves, you are eye and ear-witnesses of them; go, and assure the world of them; and the same Spirit that has enlightened you shall go along with you for the enlightening of others.”

MacArthur says that this act of witness also extends to us:

He can’t just be talking about the apostles, because they couldn’t get to the uttermost part of the earth. They would be dead long before the gospel ever got there. So this is to all of us. Sure the apostles are witnesses.

By the way, the word “witness,” martus, is used all through the book of Acts. “You are My witnesses. You are the ones I’m going to depend on to proclaim this. You, the first generation apostles and prophets” – apostles and disciples I should say – “you are the ones who know Me personally.”

The Apostles — and present-day witnesses — received divine help to spread the Gospel:

So the gospel is biblical, historical, transformational, Christological, global, personal, and finally, one more component: the gospel is supernatural as to its power, supernatural as to its power, because “the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly,” 2 Corinthians 10. The gospel of the King and the kingdom does not advance by human power, human creativity, human ingenuity, human cleverness. It doesn’t even advance by human zeal.

Jesus alluded to the divine power behind witnessing for the Gospel. He told the Apostles that He would be sending what God the Father promised, ‘power from on high’; therefore, they were to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit arrived (verse 49). Some translations have ‘Behold’ instead of ‘And see’, indicating that the Apostles should pay special attention to His words.

MacArthur tells us why Jesus said that and how it was prophesied in the Old Testament:

Their responsibility to personal witnesses in the doing of this, they’ve got it all down, and they have the zeal and the passion and drive, and they’re ready to go.

But, verse 49: “And behold,” – it’s a surprise what he says, that’s why “behold” is there, it’s a surprise: there’s something you’re missing – “I’m sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you’re to stay in the city until you’re clothed with power from on high.”

“With all of that you have going for you, correct theology of the Messiah, the correct historical understanding of the Messiah, eyewitnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus, with all that you know about the responsibility you have, proclaim the forgiveness of sin in the name of Christ, don’t go anywhere until you’re powered from on high. Don’t go. Even with all of this, you’re inadequate.”

“I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you,” epangelian. This is the only time this word is used, by the way, in the four Gospels. “I’m sending forth the promise.” It’s all over the book of Acts and the Epistles as the promise begins to unfold.

What is the promise? Promise of the Holy Spirit. Promise of the Holy Spirit. That’s the promise. And by the way, that promise also was given in the Old Testament. Listen to Joel 2:28, “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” And on the Day of Pentecost, you remember when the Spirit was first poured out, Peter stood up and said, “What you’ve just seen is the fulfillment in part, in part.” Maybe a pre-fulfillment of the words of Joel; and he recites the very words that I just read to you.

But it isn’t just that passage. There are other passages that promise the coming of the Holy Spirit connected with salvation. You remember the promise in Ezekiel 36: “I will put My Spirit” – verse 27 – “within you, cause you to talk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. I will put My Spirit within you. That’s a prophecy connected to the New Covenant. Ezekiel 37:14, “I’ll put My Spirit within you and you’ll come to life.” Even in chapter 39, “I will not hide My face from them” – verse 29 – “any longer. I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel.” The Old Testament promises then the coming of the Holy Spirit. And so our Lord says, “Don’t go anywhere until that prophecy is also fulfilled.”

You remember that in the New Testament in that last night in the upper room, John 14, Jesus said, “The Spirit has been with you. He shall be in you. You’ve had power; you’ve been given authority and power. You’ve had power; you will now have full power.”

John 20:22 says that on resurrection Sunday Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” They didn’t have that reception then, this was by way of promise. Forty days later, or during the forty-day gap, He repeats that: “I’m sending forth the promise.” And the Spirit actually came on the Day of Pentecost, ten days after the ascension of Jesus.

Then we come to our Lord’s ascension, His return to Heaven.

Luke tells us that Jesus led the Apostles out of Jerusalem, as far as Bethany, and, lifting up His hands, He blessed them (verse 50).

MacArthur tells us more about Bethany, the home of siblings Mary, Martha and Lazarus:

We saw from verse 49 that they were in the city and he told them to stay there. Bethany is a suburb I guess you could say of Jerusalem. If you go out the eastern gate of Jerusalem and you’ll see the Mount of Olives and just a little to the south and over the edge of the Mount of Olives, you will arrive in Bethany. It is a little village on the back slope of the Mount of Olives. Literally, the original text can be translated, “He led them in the vicinity of Bethany.” Acts 1:12 says it was at the Mount of Olives. That is consistent. Just to the east of Jerusalem is the Mount of Olives, and just on the back slope of that hill is the little village of Bethany. I have a lot of memories of Bethany, having visited it a number of times. And what makes it so memorable to me is of course visiting Lazarus’ tomb there …

But that little village to this day is still a very simple and humble little village. It was a very familiar little village to Jesus. He had stayed there often during his ministry because he had a family there that he loved, two ladies, sisters, very famous, Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus whom he had not long before this raised from the dead. And during Passion Week it seems that he would stay there with that family if he wasn’t in the deeps of the Mount of Olives in prayer with his Father. So it was a very familiar place for him, and because of its proximity to Jerusalem, it was a great place to go to get away from everything, because it was the Mount of Olives, which is right there near the village of Bethany where the gardens were. People inside the city wall very often had gardens outside the wall, and of course Jesus went into the garden that we call Gethsemane. Olive press, olive trees covered that area. Still many exist today there. So it was a restful place. It was a park-like environment. It was a place that he had familiarized himself with many times in prayer.

And then of course during Passion Week it was there that he went with his followers after the Last Supper, and it was there that he agonized and sweat as it were great drops of blood in anticipation of his sin-bearing. It was there that they came and arrested him, and it was there that Peter pulled out his sword and there that he healed the servant’s ear. It would be there that the Mount of Olives that he would return. Zechariah 14:4 says, “He will come back in his Second Coming to the Mount of Olives.” So this little hill on the backside of Jerusalem has a very, very important place in God’s plan. And so he leads them out in fulfillment of Zechariah 14:4 because he’s going to leave and an angel’s going to come and say, “He’s going to come back the same way he left.” So it had to happen near Bethany at the Mount of Olives, because that’s where he’s coming back.

There Jesus blessed the Apostles, and while doing so, He withdrew from them and was raised up to Heaven (verse 51).

We can think of it as our Lord blessing the Apostles on Earth then, as He rose, blessing them from Heaven, as it were, although He was on the way there before He vanished from their sight. It was a continuing blessing for them. He would not — and did not — forget them when He returned to His Father.

Henry tells us:

While he was blessing them, he was parted from them; not as if he were taken away before he had said all he had to say, but to intimate that his being parted from them did not put an end to his blessing them, for the intercession which he went to heaven to make for all his is a continuation of the blessing. He began to bless them on earth, but he went to heaven to go on with it.

Of the blessing, MacArthur says:

So he led them out as far as Bethany, and then he lifted up his hands, which would be a common gesture for people to make upon offering blessing. By lifting up your hands, you’re pointing in the direction of the source of all blessing. “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights.” And he lifted up his hands pointing toward heaven to symbolize the place from where all blessing descends, and he blessed them. I don’t want you to short circuit that statement, “He blessed them,” because I think sometimes we might think of that as some kind of a symbolism, some kind of a symbolic gesture. It isn’t that at all. It isn’t some kind of a mystical sign. When he blessed them, it simply means that he pledged to them blessing. Now, according to Ephesians 1:3, “We have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus,” right? According to Ephesians 2:6 and 7, the promise through grace is that God will demonstrate in Christ through all the ages to come his mercy and his kindness toward us. He will lavish us with the riches of his grace forever and ever and ever. And so I think what happened here, I think the last thing Jesus said was blessing. He had given them the commission; that’s responsibility, that’s duty. But the final word is the word of blessing. What would he have said? “Everlasting grace is yours. Everlasting mercy is yours. Everlasting salvation is yours. Comfort is yours. Peace, everlasting peace is yours. I pledge to you my care, my love. I promise you all the things again that I have promised you all along. I am going to heaven to fulfill all my promises to you.”

The Apostles worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy (verse 52).

Henry says the Apostles’ joy was a sign that they were finally beginning to fully understand the prophecies of Holy Scripture:

This was a wonderful change, and an effect of the opening of their understandings. When Christ told them that he must leave them sorrow filled their hearts; yet now that they see him go they are filled with joy, being convinced at length that it was expedient for them and for the church that he should go away, to send the Comforter.

The Apostles were continually in the temple praising God (verse 53).

MacArthur explains the significance of the Ascension:

It marked the completion of his salvation work. It marked the completion of his salvation work. After the cross and the resurrection, there was nothing more to do to provide any aspect of salvation. That was summed up in the words on the cross, “It is finished.” “I glorified you on earth,” he said to the Father in John 17, “how having finished the work you gave me to do.” The work of redemption is done.

Secondly, it is the end of his limitation. He says in John 17:5, “Take me back to the glory I had with you before the world began.” He set aside the independent use of his divine authority and power to become a slave to the Father. When that was over, he came back to his preincarnate glory. He came back in once sense more than when he left. He left as Spirit; he came back as Theanthropos, the God man, whom he remains forever. And even when you go to heaven to worship him, according to Revelation 5, you’re going to see a Lamb who has been wounded.

Thirdly, the ascension marked his exaltation and his coronation. It was then that God gave him the name above every name, the name Lord and called on all to bow. Fourthly, it signaled his sending of the Holy Spirit. John 16:7: “If I don’t go, I can’t send the Holy Spirit.” “It’s better for you,” he said, “that I go so that I can send the Helper, the Holy Spirit who will be with you all the time. He has been with you. He shall be in you.”

Number five, his ascension marked the start of his preparation for our heavenly home. In John 14, when they were all moaning and sorrowing over his leaving, he saw it so very differently. “Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am there you may be also.” He is there preparing our heavenly home.

Number six, the ascension marked the passing of the work of evangelism to his followers. That’s why the Book of Acts begins with Luke saying, “The former treatise, namely the Gospel of Luke, I wrote O Theophilus of all that Jesus began.” Yes, there is the finished work of Christ; that’s the redemptive work. The work of evangelism only began, and he passed the baton to his followers.

Number seven, the ascension signaled our Lord’s headship over the church. He, who is named Lord, he according to Ephesians 1 who is far above all rule, power, dominion, and authority is given as head over the church, which is his body in in which all the fulness dwells. He is exalted then to be Lord and ruler of his church, which embodies his person. That all is launched at the ascension.

Number eight, it marked his triumph over Satan. First John 3:8 says, “He came to destroy the works of the devil.” And in his triumphant coronation, the Father was affirming that he had done that destruction in full. The serpent’s head was crushed, and Christ is supreme. Hebrews 2 puts it this way: “He took away from Satan the power of death, by which he held men in bondage all their lives.”

Number nine, it signaled our Lord’s giving the work of ministry to gifted men. He was the gifted man with his disciples. He never seemed to pass the teacher’s mantle to any of them, but according to Ephesians 4:8, “When he ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives and gave gifts to men.” Because of his work, when he ascended into heaven, he had provided a salvation that would capture souls who would be given back as gifts to men, some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastor-teachers for the equipping of the Saints for the work of the ministry. So in his earthly provision of salvation, he secured the salvation of all future leaders of the church who would be given to the church for its own edification to make it strong for the work of evangelism.

And then as we’ve indicated, number ten, the ascension marked the start of his high priestly work. He now ever-lives to intercede for us. He is our advocate before the Father no matter what accusations are brought against us by Satan and his emissaries. “Who is going to lay any successful charge against God’s elect? Not Christ who justified us. He has been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” So he’s a “sympathetic and merciful High Priest,” the writer of Hebrews says, “who can come to us and nurture us in all our struggles.”

And finally, the ascension guarantees and secures his Second Coming. “He has been taken from you but he will come in like manner as you have seen him go,” Acts 1:11. What an amazing event. Talk about something worth celebrating. If we can go all the way from the birth of Christ to the ascension of Christ, from his arrival to his departure, we’ll get a picture of the whole thing. He is exalted by his ascension, crowned as Lord. He sends the Holy Spirit. He begins to prepare our eternal home. He takes the headship of the church. He defeats Satan. He passes evangelism and ministry to his followers. He begins the blessed work of intercession on behalf of his people and stands ready to return in God’s perfect time. Yes, in the words of Paul to the Corinthians, “He who was rich became poor, divesting himself of all heaven’s riches, that we through his poverty might be made rich.”

Some of us will be going to church, where possible, on Ascension Day. Others are likely to have the Ascension Day readings this coming Sunday.

Ascension Day has never really been given the universal glory in worship that it deserves. It is to be hoped that more churches will offer services on this important feast day, withouth which we would not been able to have the first Pentecost and the Holy Spirit resting upon all believers from that point forward.

May all reading this have a blessed Ascension Day.

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