The Person of Christ - 27 - Ascension

 

Chapter 27 - The Ascension of Christ

In Mark, Luke, John and The Acts

Sydney Maxwell

 

The ascension of our glorious Lord to the throne of God marked an epoch in the relationship of the Saviour with His own. Their despondency had been dispelled when He had appeared in their midst and said, ?Peace be unto you?(John 20:19). They were glad when they saw the Lord. The forty days from that moment when He had stepped Out of the realm of death, in glorious resurrection power, was a period of manifold appearances recorded for us in the Gospels. The record of Luke, the beloved physician, and accredited historian, is replete with details of such events (Luke 24). John also adds his testimony (John 20 and 21) and Mark, the writer of the servant Gospel, also adds his quota of detail to these glorious manifestations.

 

The Lord in grace was now confirming the souls of His own prior to that final parting, when He would ascend from their midst. We use the words of Luke to describe the reality of those forty days, ?To whom also He showed Himself alive, after His passion, by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God? (Acts 1:3).

 

We will look at the Ascension of the Lord under some headings that will convey its truth to our minds and, we trust, to our hearts as well.

 

THE PICTURES AND PROPHECIES REGARDING THE ASCENSION.

 

It gives great confidence to turn to the inspired writings of the Old Testament and see both typical and prophetical illustrations of a real Man in the Glory, Who bears the marks of Calvary in His glorified body. Let us look at these with wonder, and may it cause worship to ascend from our hearts.

Isaac was laid on the altar (Gen. 22) and yet he lived. No mention is made of Isaac coming down from the mountain of sacrifice. He is not seen again in the record until we find him in the field at eventide, meditating, and then going to meet the object of his love, the bride who has come through the wilderness (Gen. 24:62).

 

The typical import of the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16) is that Israel?s high priest entered into the holiest of all, with the blood, which was the evidence of a life given. We use the language of Peter, ?Who is gone into Heaven and is on the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him? (I Pet. 3:22).

 

Finally we may look at the Psalms and the Prophets, to see that He is enthroned (Psalm 2:6) and comes forth, not to die, but to destroy His enemies (v.9). The ascended Lord is invited, on His arrival in the Glory, to take ?His seat at the right hand of God? (Psalm 110:1). Isaiah 40:3 describes the Lord?s forerunner, but verses 9 to 11 see Him coming, not from Bethlehem, but from Heaven and the presence of the Father, in power and glory. In Isaiah 63:1 we see Him again, glorious in His apparel, not as the child but as the conqueror, not from the manger but from the place to which He ascended, the majesty of the throne. Can we doubt then, that this finds its fulfillment in the historical records of our New Testament?

 

PRONOUNCEMENTS OF THE LORD IN RELATION TO HIS ASCENSION

 

The Gospel of John gives us our Lord?s statements regarding the truth of His ascension. These are the words of the One Who came from the Father, to do His will (John 6:57). The hearers thought it was a hard saying regarding the bread which came down from Heaven (v.41). It was then He asked the question, ?What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?? (John 6:62). To the officers sent to take Him, He said, ?Yet a little while am I with you and then I go unto Him Who sent Me? (John 7:33). Even in the well known words of John 14:1-3 the truth is found, ?I go?, and ?I will come again.? Again in chapter 16:28 He said, ?I came forth from the Father I leave the world and go to the Father.?

 

             Finally, in John 20:17, are words that are often  misinterpreted and applied to a secret ascension, that Scripture knows nothing about. The context of the Lord?s words to Mary indicate that His ascension would take place shortly and this would change her relationship to Him. It would no longer be a physical nearness but a spiritual presence as the Lord?s words indicate to her, ?I ascend unto My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.?  To insist that this was a presentation of the value of His work before the Throne of God, prior to His official ascension forty days later (to fulfill the type of the Day of Atonement) is not in keeping with the rest of the New Testament. The entering in ?once? into the Holy Place (Heb. 9:12) and the appearing the ?second time? (v.28) is sufficient proof that the ascension was a unique event.

 

POSITION OF THE SAVIOUR REVEALED IN HIS ASCENSION

 

The Gospel by Mark sums up the ascension of the Lord Jesus in a brief statement. ?He was received up into Heaven and sat down at the right hand of God?? (Mark 16:19). The first part of this statement was open to the visual observation of His own. The second was received by faith and confirmed by Psalm 110:1, ?The Lord said unto my Lord, sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.?

 

Here was the One Who came as the Servant of Jehovah (Isa. 42:1-3) Who became obedient unto death (Phil. 2:8-9) and Who is now exalted as the associate of the throne of the universe. It is significant to note in Mark, that in keeping with the character of this Gospel, ?They went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them? (Mark 16:20). How encouraging that from the place of Divine power, He is still the toiling Servant.

 

The record of Luke, as he closes his wonderful Gospel, is full of spiritual suggestion. As the Shepherd, ?He led them out as far as to Bethany? (Luke 24:50). The memories of this spot were fragrant to the Lord. It was here He was loved and worshipped in contrast to His rejection in the city. His last act was to indicate that His own would no longer be associated with a system that had sent Him to Calvary. As the Priest ?He blessed them? suggesting to their hearts that wonderful service He was so soon to resume from His place on High. As the Heir, He ?was parted from them and carried up into Heaven? where He was to take up a divine glory in new conditions - the answer to the prayer ?Glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory I had with Thee before the world was? (John 17:5).

 

The ascension of the Lord Jesus produced worship, and so it should with us. It also produced joy, and a right appreciation of it will have the same effect on us. ?And they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy? (Luke 24:52).

 

In Acts 1:6-8 Luke tells us that the thought of an immediate manifest kingdom to be set up was eclipsed with the promise of present power and the plan outlined for their service, and the prospect of His return in glory. He will do at that time what they thought He should do when He was with them during His first advent. He was taken up enshrined in the shekinah cloud - glorious exit indeed for the One Who had veiled His glory to accomplish the Father?s will (Acts

1:9).

 

THE PREACHING RECORDED ABOUT THE ASCENSION

 

The Acts of the Apostles, or as it has been well called, the Acts of the Holy Spirit, is stirring in its historical record of New Testament preaching. Its divine principles have never been outdated and still work for those who follow its spiritual simplicity, stripped of all human embellishments so common to evangelical effort in our day. We have the preaching of three men in this book to confirm the great event of the resurrection.

 

Peter preaches that the Lord Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of God and the promise of the Spirit is fulfilled as the result (Acts 2:33). Again, before the rulers of Israel, Peter declares, ?The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree? (Acts 5:30).

The final message of Stephen (Acts 7) is highlighted with the intelligent setting forth of God?s dealings with Israel and is climaxed with the great truth of a Man in the Glory. The confident language of the first martyr is stirring, ?I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God? (7:56).

 

Finally we listen to the preaching of Paul and at its centre is the blessed fact of an ascended Man. Paul like Stephen, saw Him glorified (Acts 18:9, 26:15,1 Cor. 9:1). In lIKings 2, Elisha went forth to his work in the power of an ascended man (Elijah). Surely the record of the Acts is similar but more glorious.

 

THE PROSPECT OF SAINTS REASSURED BY THE ASCENSION

 

This surely is a happy note with which to conclude our meditation on this wonderful event. The beloved John assures us, ?As He is so are we in this world? (I John 4:17). He is in the Glory in all the acceptability of His Person and work, and so are we in Him. Wonderful security, indeed! Acts 1:11 guarantees the promise bf His return; I John 3:1-2 assures us of being like Him when He does come. This great truth results in practical sanctification in the believer (v.3).

 

Peter, who saw Him go into Heaven and teaches us that He will come back, exhorts us to pilgrimage and strangership down here as we await His return from the Father?s house (I Pet. 1:13). He urges us to be willing to suffer and share His reproach until we rejoice with Him when His glory shall be revealed (I Pet. 4:13). May we then, as we wait, be fully occupied with the Man in the Glory, being assured that He has gone in on our behalf.

 

?O Lord ?tis joy to look above

And see Thee un the Throne;

To search the heights and depths of love

Which Thou to us hast shown.

Joy to confess Thy blessed Name,

The virtues of Thy blood,

And to the wearied heart proclaim

Behold the Lamb of God.?