30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM
Clarksville church of Christ
February 4, 2001
Speaker: Richie Thetford
"The Ascension of Jesus Christ"
Much is said and written about the birth of Jesus Christ. The collective attention of the world focuses on the birth of Jesus on December 25th each year because of the myth that He was born on that day. The Bible mentions the birth of Jesus and tells us why Jesus was born. Nothing in the Bible indicates when that grand event happened, or that the world should celebrate a day in the year to honor His birth.
There is a part of Jesus' life that we want to give attention to this morning. It is not His birth, His life and work, His death, burial and resurrection, but rather another aspect of our Savior and that is His ascension into Heaven.
Jesus not only came to this world as God manifest in the flesh, lived a perfect life, died for the sins of the world, and was raised back to life, He ascended to the right hand of God Almighty. We often overlook this simple fact. Please stay tuned this morning as we study the ascension of Jesus Christ.
Hello, this is Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ welcoming you to another presentation of"What Is Truth?"The Clarksville church of Christ presents this program every Sunday at this same time. Our purpose is to teach the truth and nothing but the truth. We always urge you who listen to let us know if you find us teaching what you think is untrue. We do not want to be wrong. You are very warmly invited to visit our services today. At 9:30 A.M. we have Bible classes for all ages. At 10:30 A.M. and 6 P.M. we worship congregationally, and each Wednesday we meet for Bible classes at 7:30 P.M. Our building is located at the corner of Hale Road and Hwy 131 in Clarksville. We would be delighted to have you come and visit us today.
There is more said in Scripture about the ascension of Christ than about His birth. His ascension is the capstone of all Jesus did while here on this planet. Had the Lord not been carried away from this earth into Heaven to be at the right hand of God, all of the facts about His earthly life would be, for the most part, inconsequential. He would have been a man who died and came back to life. He would not have been unique in this. Jesus Christ is not the only one mentioned in the Bible who returned again to life after death. He, by His divine power, raised Lazarus back to life by simply commanding Him to "come forth"(John 11:43).
It is rare that men come back to live again after they die, but there are several instances of it in the Scriptures. Lazarus is perhaps the most notable one of record but there was also the daughter of Jairus. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to the house of a chief priest named Jairus. The man's daughter was dead. Jesus entered the house of Jairus. Mark tells us, "And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, "Talitha, cumi," which is translated, "Little girl, I say to you, arise." Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement." Several dead people came back to life and walked the streets of Jerusalem when Christ was crucified."And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose" (Matt. 27:52). The unique thing about Christ is the ascension into Heaven to begin His work for God and man.
During His personal life on this earth, Jesus made numerous allusions to the great event. It seems that the return to His father was constantly on his mind. Just a few citations will suffice. He was previously informed of the fate awaiting Him in Jerusalem. On the mountain when Jesus was transfigured Moses and Elijah appeared with him and Luke says, "... spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem" (Luke 9:31). Yet He was intent on going to meet what would befall Him there. "And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). Please notice the words "that he should be received up." That is a reference to the ascension.
John's gospel has perhaps the richest source of information at this point. In John 6:62, Jesus tells people that they should expect to see Him "ascending where he was before." In John 7:33 He affirmed "...I go unto him that sent me." He promised to "draw all men to Himself,"when "I be lifted up" (12:32). Then there was His comforting word, "1 go to prepare a place for you..." (14:3). In the same chapter, verse 12, He plainly said, "I go unto the father." To see this continue to develop, please note and read, John 16:5,10,17,28; 20:17. It is obvious that Jesus knew He would ascend back to Heaven and His father.
One very interesting fact about the Lord's ascension is the use of the word "coming." Jesus used the expression, "coming with the clouds" in the very important discourse He had with His disciples just prior to His betrayal and crucifixion. Especially important is Matthew 24:30. Jesus said, "and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." This is taken by various millennial groups to mean a future event in which Jesus supposedly comes back to this planet. His "coming," they imagine, will be at a time when Jesus will allegedly return to join in the fictional "Battle of Armageddon." However, "coming" does not indicate direction. Christ will be coming but nothing indicates that will be back to this planet.
The "coming" of Christ, in Matthew 24, is the return of Jesus to His original home, Heaven and to His original glory, at the right hand of God. It is certainly in keeping with scriptural truth to affirm that the sign was given when Christ left the apostles on Mount Olivet and came to "the Ancient of Days." This occurred at His ascension. He came to Heaven to sit at the right hand of power and begin His reign in His kingdom. This is the obvious intent He had, for He told Caiaphas,"Henceforth you shall see the Son of man at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matt. 26:64). He did not mean a reign of power in Jerusalem.
The ancient prophet Daniel saw this hundreds of years before it took place. "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came (please note the Son of man came) with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Dan 7:13-14). This passage specifies the direction Jesus came -- to the Ancient of Days.
Jesus' coming of Matthew 24 has already occurred. When He comes again, it will not be to establish a kingdom, but to take His own back with Him into glory. "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; 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" (John 14:1-3).
Consider the ways His ascension is presented in the Bible. All of the gospel records, except John, refer directly to the actual ascension. The closing verses of Mark 16 refer to it. Some affirm that Mark's gospel ends with chapter 16, verse 8. If so, it stops short of reporting His ascension, which one finds in Mark 16:19. The ascension of Christ belongs properly at the start of Acts of the Apostles. The well respected scholar, D.E. Holwerda said, "The ascension story of Acts 1 is told with greater detail and remains a sober account told with great reserve. It does not directly describe Jesus' entrance into heaven, but rather a farewell scene described from the perspective of the spectators." (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, page 311).
There are a number of ways the great event is described. Luke uses the expression "carried up into Heaven" (Luke 24:51). In Acts of the Apostles, he says Christ was "taken up" (Acts 1:22). Later Luke says Christ must "remain" in Heaven until His return (Acts 3:21). John's gospel uses the term "ascend" to describe His return to Heaven (John 3:13). Sometimes Jesus simply said, "I go unto the Father" (John 14:12).
There are many fascinating facts about the ascension, but the significance of it is overwhelming. Why do we say that the ascension is of such great consequence? Simply because when He ascended, all of those things that He was destined to accomplish in God's scheme of redemption were finished. Paul makes this crystal clear. He wrote the Ephesian church, "Now this, He ascended, what is it but that he alsodescended into the lower parts of this earth? He that descended is thesame also that ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things" (Eph. 4:9-10). Paul affirms by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ is qualified fully because He has covered all that man is or can be. Whatever is possible for mankind, Christ has experienced it and wherever man can go, Christ has been there before him. From the depths of the Hadean world to the elegance and glory of Heaven, Christ has covered it all.
Paul says Christ "ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things" (verse 10). His ascension was designed to bring everything into one focal point, the eternal fulfillment of God's great plan. Read the beautiful words B. F. Westcott. "That He might by His presence bring all things to their completeness, give reality to all that the universe of created things presented in sign and promise. Christ first 'fulfills' all things and then receives them to himself when brought to their true end." (Commentary on Ephesians, pages 61-62).
On the meaning of the expression, "all things," Westcott adds, Ta Panta (Greek for all things), signifying all things in their unity, the sum of all things, seen and unseen, in the heavens and upon the earth, whatever their sphere of being, their mode of existence, or their relation of dependence upon God, may be contrasted with Panta, which denotes all things regarded severally." (Ibid. p. 187). Fritz Rienecker makes an enlightening remark. He says, "The reformers were correct when they translated the sentence, 'Christ filled the entire world.' And Luther said, 'He traversed all, upon which he captured all things. He will and must be in every place (Der Brief des Paulus an die Epheser, page 144).
The ascension is the climax of all the great work Christ did in filling all things. This is expressed so often in the New Testament. He"subdued all things unto himself" - brought "all things under His power" - "led captivity captive" - and "the mighty working whereby He is able" are among many other such expressions all of which emphasize what Christ accomplished as He ascended back to the Father's right hand.
A long, long time ago, on the Mount of Olives, in a land very far from us, a small group of men witnessed the startling sight of Christ being lifted from the earth, taken by clouds beyond their vision. They heard sweet angelic words burning in their hearts, "This Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going in to heaven" (Acts 1:11). They were never the same again.
We have noted thus far that His ascension was designed to fill all things. Paul wrote, "He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things" (Eph. 4:10). He brought everything into proper focus and perspective when He reunited with that heavenly clime. He regained those riches He had forsaken. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9).
In this part of our study this morning, some of the purposes and results of His ascension will be noted. They mean so much to each of us.
1. He ascended to finalize revelation. This is expressed in Hebrews 1:1-3. "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." Sitting on the right hand of Majesty is consequent to the ascension. The tense "spoken" conveys the thought of an accomplished fact, not a progressive action. Jesus came to reveal God to man and He did it completely. "No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:18). Christ finished the revelation by commissioning His apostles and inspired men to reveal the mind of God. Paul says they did it (1 Cor. 2:9-13). No more can be revealed after Christ "spoke" it all. Anything presuming to be a revelation from Christ would allege He is still speaking. That presumption is not only false, it puts the assumer in condemnation. (Gal. 1: 8-9).
2. Christ ascended to receive His power and Kingdom. Daniel wrote, "I saw in the night visions and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him" (Dan. 7:13). Through prophetic power Daniel saw Jesus ascend. He described what took place. "And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (vs. 14). We learn from this that "coming" does not mean coming back to earth. We also learn that after Christ ascended, He received an everlasting and indestructible kingdom. Christ will not be king until He comes again, He is already king. Christ received a kingdom that never needs re-establishment. Some millenniaists affirm that He received the kingdom and rule only by regal right and not in reality.
The Hebrew writer says Almighty God in heaven said to the Son,"Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of
uprightness is the scepter of thy kingdom" (1:8). A scepter is a symbol of ruling power, legal executive right, and Christ has
it in reality and fact, not by some mere hopeful right.
3. The ascension of Christ marked the beginning of His priesthood. Again, from Hebrews, we read: "But he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God, henceforth expecting till his enemies be made the footstool of his feet" (Heb. 10:12-13). He sat down at the right hand of God as our great high priest. Earlier the author of Hebrews said, "Having then a great high priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God..." (4:14). As our high priest, He offers to God the one sufficient sacrifice for our sins. He is our advocate, intercessor, and mediator with God (Heb. 7:25; 1 Tim. 2:5; Rom. 8:34). Unlike other priests, Christ offers Himself as the sacrifice, the propitiatory offering to God (I John 2:1).
4. The ascension of Christ brought Him His full glory. Jesus once said to a crowd of people in Jerusalem, "He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38). John explains this to mean, "He spake of the Spirit, which they that believed on him were to receive: for the Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not glorified" (John 7:39). His full glory came when the was received up into glory. Paul wrote to Timothy, "He was taken up in glory" (1 Tim. 3:16). The glory Christ received on earth reached the climax with His ascent to the heaven of God.
5. The ascension of Christ made Him our forerunner. The author of Hebrews wrote of Jesus' ascension to heaven saying, "where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" Heb 6:20). A forerunner is one who runs ahead to mark out the way, to insure a safe passage, and to encourage followers to continue the journey. Christ brings us into the very presence of God. Passages come to mind such as, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6).
Christ Jesus is our hope and encouragement. He urges all to remain true to Him in these persuasive words. Christ leads; He offers His hand to those who become weary along the way. The sureness of our hope is proportionate to the strength of our faith. Christ is more than our hope; He is our anchor to which we attach our faith. No matter what dangers threaten, if our faith is strong, our anchor will hold. Hope has been opened to all who are weary and heavy laden by the fountain filled with Immanuel's blood.
6. Christ ascended to become head of His church. Paul prayed for his Ephesian brethren that they might really understand and appreciate the greatness of God's power. He prayed for them to know,"what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church" (Eph 1:19-22). When Christ was made king over His Kingdom, He became head over His church. There may be a slight difference between the kingdom of Christ and the church of Christ. However, both expressions refer to the same people over whom Christ rules. The church exists as an entity; it is a body of people who are all members of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15). The kingdom is made up of the same people. The resurrection serves as the foundation of the church, but at the ascension, Christ became its head.
The ascension of Christ is more than just a very meaningful and lovely topic for study. It is the confirmation of all God is and has revealed to mankind. Sinners can be saved. Why and how? Christ is at the right hand of God. Mortal men may live fearlessly and faithfully, for Christ is at God's throne to assist. Mere men may pray confidently, in his name, to the Almighty God who rules the universe. Why? He is there to intercede on our behalf. Serve loyally, because Christ is now king of kings. Study diligently, because Christ has fulfilled all that God intends to reveal to mankind. Looking to the heavens, and remember His ascension, let us heed the inspired injunction, "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1).
May we never forget where a Christian's real citizenship is. "Our citizenship is in heaven, whence also we wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20). But, my friend, if you wait until Christ comes back for His saints to also enjoy an exalted position, you will be too late. You must now be exalted in Christ by being added to His church. Paul reminded the Ephesians of their former sinful state and added, "even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace have been saved, and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:5-6). In Christ is a "heavenly place," and the only way one can be thus exalted is to be forgiven of all sin that resulted in spiritual death. There is only one way to come into Christ. Faith that is expressed in full obedience to the Lord's gospel plan of salvation is what the Lord requires. Thus Paul wrote to those who were justified "by faith" (Rom 5:1-2) and reminded them that they had been "buried with Christ through baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the father, so we also might walk in newness of life" Rom. 6:4). A penitent believer, who obeys a form of the resurrection of Christ, is exalted by being added to the church over which Christ is head. Paul says that is being seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:5-6).
A long, long time ago, on the Mount of Olives, in a land very far from us, a small group of men witnessed the startling sight of Christ being lifted from the earth, taken by clouds beyond their vision. As they strained their eyes to retain the last sight of Him, they heard sweet angelic words burning in their hearts, "This Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you beheld him going in to heaven" (Acts 1:11). Our faith in that sublime fact should cause those very words to echo daily in our minds, for just as surely as He ascended, he will come again. Will you, dear listening friend, be ready and waiting for that glorious moment?
This is Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"