Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Ascension

Acts 1

 1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen,

[The "former account" referred to here is the gospel of Luke. Like the Gospel of Luke, Acts is written for Theophilus, who is generally believed to be a gentile of some rank within Roman society, also a believer. These two books together present a comprehensive study of the redemption of mankind. First through the incarnation to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, then through the Holy Spirit, working in the apostles, to establish the church.]


3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

[Jesus appeared to his disciples over a 40 day span after his resurrection, and continued to teach them about the kingdom of God. It took all these appearances to convince his disciples that his resurrection was not just a dream. This assurance that the resurrection was real was essential to their ability to lead the church.]

The Holy Spirit Promised

4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

[Remember Acts is just book 2 of Luke. So Jesus is reminding them of what he told them before.

Luke 24:
44 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

46 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things. 49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high."


So Jesus tells them, somebody needs to preach to all nations, and because you have witnessed all these things, you are elected. To empower them for this mission they were to wait for the baptism or washing of the Holy Spirit. Then they would be equipped to preach about Jesus and the Kingdom of God.]


6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"

[So right in the middle of Jesus showing them how they would preach about the kingdom of God, they ask "What about Israel, aren't you going restore the kingdom here". So instead of them teaching all nations about God's kingdom, they were more interested in Jesus being King of Israel. Their focus was inward not outward. They were worried about the political future of Israel. Again this was the common misconception that Messiah would appear as a military ruler.


This represents one of the two bad attitudes that churches sometimes fall into, where believers try to hurry things along and establish God's kingdom here on earth, right now. We get wrapped up in politics, and who is in charge here. And forget that Jesus cared more about who was going to make it to God's kingdom, not how soon it would get here.


The other end of the spectrum, are those who completely ignore the earth. As long as they personally lead pious holy lives, and surround themselves with people who do the same, then the rest of the world can take care of themselves.


Both attitudes are wrong. We are to lead lives filled with worshiping God, while teaching the world to do the same. This is the way that God has chosen, to redeem mankind. Through the atonement of Christ, and the Spirit led preaching of his witnesses.]


7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

[Jesus has to tell them, not yet. There will be a reign of Christ on earth, but first there is work to be done. Jesus told them not to worry about when, God knows and will make it happen. He said, "you shall receive power" when the Holy Spirit comes, then you "shall be witnesses". Starting from Jerusalem, then spreading throughout Judea, to Samaria, all the way to the end of the earth.

Revelation 7:
9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"


People from all nations will be in God's kingdom. If you read the rest of the book of Acts you find the gospel spreads out from Jerusalem throughout the Roman Empire just like Jesus said it would.]

Jesus Ascends to Heaven (Acts 1)

9 Now 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."

[Back in September we studied John 14-16 where Jesus was teaching on the Holy Spirit, and he foretold all that was going to happen to him.

John 16:
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

Here we have one of those theological mysteries. Why did Jesus have to leave, in order for his disciples to receive the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit? I have thought about this and I have a few ideas, but I haven't found the Biblical answer, so I really don't want to speculate a lot on the subject. But I do know what Jesus has been doing since the ascension.

John 14:2 says "I go to prepare a place for you". So we know at least part of the time since Jesus ascension has been dedicated to preparing a place in the heavenly kingdom for those who trust in Christ.

Romans 8:27 and Hebrews 7:25 both say Jesus lives to make intercession for us. The meaning of that word refers to making a plea or a deal on your behalf, like an attorney or an agent. Speaking for you, working for you.

We talked about Jesus role as our advocate, as part of the resurrection lesson:

Acts 17:
31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."

Since our advocate and intercessor is also the judge, I think we have the best deal possible.

Finally as Christ ascended two angels appears and gave them this promise: "This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven", will come again the same way you saw in leave. Jesus coming in the clouds is the hope of every believer.]

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