Not a Fiery Chariot – Acts 1:9-11

If I asked you to list, in order, the most important events of the earthly life of the Lord Jesus,

I wonder how far up on the list would come His ascension.

This is one of those areas of theology, and Christology, that has become secondary to most of us.

For many people it is nothing more than an addendum to the resurrection.

Whereas we might have to argue Jesus’ resurrection to others and even to ourselves,

Once we have implanted that truth, then the ascension is considered redundant.

But there is nothing redundant about Christ,

And if a subject is taught in the Bible then it needs to be seriously considered, at least once in a while.

And we are going to give the ascension that consideration this morning.

I would like to bring to your attention four things:

The FACT of the ascension, and the FASHION, the FAVOR and the FUTURE aspects of the ascension.

First, the FACTS.

Forty days after His resurrection from the grave and from His emergence from Joseph’s tomb,

Jesus dramatically ascended toward Heaven from the top of the Mount of Olives.

At least we think that it was toward Heaven – the third Heaven.

Where exactly is the Heaven of God?

The body of the Lord Jesus physically rose from the ground and went up higher and higher until His witnesses could no longer see Him.

Matthew doesn’t talk about the ascension and neither does the Gospel of John,

But that doesn’t give us any cause to doubt, nor does it diminish, the importance of His ascension.

Mark describes it and so does Luke.

And then it continually comes up in the preaching and teaching of the Apostles who were witnesses to it.

The ascension of Christ is inextricably linked to His deity and to our salvation.

The first of the facts about Christ’s ascension into Heaven, is that He initially CAME from Heaven.

“When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

Among the many things that scriptures like these teach is the pre-existence of the Lord Jesus.

He didn’t begin His life in a stable in Nazareth, or in the womb of Mary.

He has always been the eternal Son of the eternal Father,

And when the decreed time came, He became incarnate and walked among the children of men.

In fact He came “to give His life a ransom for many” of those children of men.

In that same conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus where we read the words of John 3:16,

Jesus also said, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven,

Even the Son of man which is in heaven.”

This may be a reference to Proverbs 30 which says,

“Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists?

Who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth?

What is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?”

In John 6 the Lord said,

“For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (verse 38).

Now listen to verses 51 and 60-62:

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Many therefore of his disciples, when they heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?

When Jesus knew in himself his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?

What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?”

The ascension of the Lord Jesus was merely His return home after completing the will of the Father.

And that became a part of the theme of the Apostles.

In Acts 1:21, when Peter was talking to the church in the business meeting regarding the election of Mathias, he said:

“Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.”

On the Day of Pentecost, Jesus’ ascension became a part of the message:

“This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.

For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool.

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

Throughout the ministry of Peter the ascension and exaltation of Christ was always there.

For example, after the healing of the man born lame, Peter had an opportunity to preach Christ to another large crowd in Solomon’s Porch.

He said, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out,

When the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:

Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things,

Which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

Not only the resurrection, but also the ascension of the Lord Jesus were both prophesied and then described in enough detail and with enough witnesses to forever remove any doubts about either of them.

And that brings us to our next point: the FASHION of the ascension.

There are a lot of pretended Christian ministries today, in which a great many things are done in secret.

The cults never come to our door prominently boasting of the things that they know are disagreeable to Christians or to logic.

There are hundreds of radio and TV ministries whose leaders live in secret opulence.

And there are thousands of local church pastors and church leaders who do things behind the backs of their members – financial or sinful.

But these people bear no semblance to the Lord Jesus, who did everything as publicly as possible.

In John 18:20 “Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.”

Not only did Jesus teach publically and reveal all the doctrines that were necessary to be heard,

But the things that He did, from healing the sick to the raising of the dead were done in public as well.

His death was open to the eyes of all Jerusalem, the resurrection was proven by over 500 people.

And Jesus ascension was pubic as well.

His ascension into Heaven was directly witnessed by eleven chosen men.

No, it doesn’t appear that the rest of the 120 church members were there, nor were the women or the 500.

But in any court in the world, eleven witnesses are enough to sufficiently prove a case.

And the defense attorney isn’t obligated to find corroborating witnesses when the numbers are this large.

When Jesus returned home it was as physical and visible as your return home will be in just a few minutes.

“And when he had spoken these things, WHILE THEY BEHELD, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”

Luke’s vocabulary seems to go out of its way to say, “as they watched” Jesus was taken up.

While they beheld” the Lord was received into a cloud above their heads.

It occurred just after Jesus had given them a command to become His witnesses.

It occurred as He was blessing and praying for them, the way that a priest would bless his people.

“And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51).

If you stop and think about it Jesus’ ascension was in perfect accord with the rest of His life.

It fit perfectly into a life of miracle working.

It was dignified, dramatic and demonstrative of the deity of the Saviour.

He retired at the top of His game, so to speak.

It was more perfect than hitting a home run during his final All-Star Game.

Jesus’ ascension was not on Jacob’s ladder or a golden staircase.

It wasn’t like Elijah’s departure on a fiery chariot.

It was more like an invisible elevator which silently lifted Him from the earth and into a cloud.

And I wonder what that cloud was like?

Was it similar, or the same, as the one that enveloped Him on the Mount of Transfiguration?

Was it merely a cloud to cover him from the eyes of the apostles, or was it bright and glorious cloud of the shekinah glory of God?

Maybe the disciples didn’t have time to figure it out –

Almost immediately a couple of angels interrupted them with the words,

“Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

I know that the Bible doesn’t say that these were angels, but if they weren’t then who were they.

They were not Galileans, or they wouldn’t have addressed the disciples the way that they did.

And where did they come from?

Were they travelers coming to Jerusalem from Jericho for the celebration of the Passover?

And if they were, how did they know the Lord and about His second coming?

If they knew these things then they would have been disciples whom the Apostles would have known.

We have no other option but to conclude that they were angels.

Were they two of the angels of which we have been reading in the Book of Daniel?

Were they Gabriel and Michael?

Maybe we will never be told.

The fashion of Jesus’ ascension was this: literal, physical and visible.

And that brings us to the FAVOR, or the blessings, of the ascension.

First, for the Apostles there was the obvious MIRACLE.

The apostles should have been aware that the Saviour would soon be leaving.

I can’t say for sure that they realized that it would be right then,

But they should have known that it was coming up.

And saying “good-bye” is always difficult, particularly when it is someone that is particularly well-loved.

This special manner of departure would have taken some of the sting from that departure.

Then there was the BLESSING:

“And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven”.

There is special significance in the fact that the Lord blessed His disciples.

It takes us back into the Old Testament to places like Leviticus 9:22:

“And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings.”

What Aaron did was to pray and confer on the people the effect of the offering that he had just made.

With Jesus’ ascension, He was beginning a new phase of His work as our Saviour – High Priest and Mediator.

In the Book of Hebrews, Paul spends a great deal of time, showing how Christ was pictured and prophesied in the Old Testament rites and rituals.

And in Hebrews 9 he said, “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.

Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”

Notice that Paul taught us, Christ is entered into the true heaven to appear in the presence of God for us.

Jesus raised his hands and blessed us through those apostles,

And then He entered into Heaven where He continues to plead His blood on our behalf.

The ascension is a key part to the completion of our salvation from sin.

And then there is the blessing of the HOLY SPIRIT.

I hope that you remember that we read a few minutes ago from John 16:

In verse 5 Christ Jesus said: “But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?

But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”

I cannot explain to you the relationship between Jesus’ ministry and the Spirit’s ministry.

But the Lord distinctly said that it was EXPEDIENT for Him to depart in order for the Holy Spirit to take over the ministry.

The Saviour prayed the Father to give us another Comforter, that he might abide with us forever,

“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

The Lord has not left us comfortlessJohn 14:16-18.

In Acts 1 we see the ascension of the Saviour and then ten days later we see the arrival of the Holy Spirit’s power.

Another of the blessings seen in Jesus ascension relates to LIFE on the other side.

And I’m not talking about the other side of the tracks.

Jesus’ ascension reminds us that there is more to life than the 70+ years that we live here on earth.

Christ went somewhere, and those who are children of God by faith in Christ shall join Him there.

The chapter that I just quoted – John 14 begins with these words:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye 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 unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Somehow a part of the preparation for our eternity is contained in Jesus ascension.

I hope that you can see in these things that the ascension of the Saviour is not just an addendum to His resurrection.

There are specific blessings that are directly attached to this event.

Then lastly we come to the FUTURE ASPECT of the ascension.

“And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, SHALL SO COME IN LIKE MANNER as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

One of the clearest and most distinct declarations and descriptions of the Lord’s second coming are contained in these verses.

First, there is the declaration that Jesus IS coming again.

The vast majority of professing Christendom either do not think, or they have never considered, that Christ will some day return to earth.

They profess to be glad that He died, and they seem to be glad that He’s dead.

But the fact is – He isn’t dead, and most of them are – spiritually dead.

Christ is not only alive, but He is returning to earth soon.

At the mockery that was His trial, Jesus spoke to the high priest:

“I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

In another place He said,

“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” – Lk. 21:25-27.

In II Thessalonians Paul declared:

“The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”

Yes, very clearly Christ Jesus not only alive today, but He is coming to earth again.

And here we read that His coming will be similar to His departure – His ascension.

It will be literal.

It will be visible.

And it will be spectacular.

“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” – Revelation 1:7.

“And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up,

Behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said,

Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus,

Which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

We have much to rejoice about in Jesus’ ascension into Heaven.

But only if we have been born again;

Only if we are children of God;

Only if we are citizens of Kingdom of God.

Have YOU ever knelt in faith and repentance at the foot of Jesus’ throne, the Cross of Calvary?

Has the Lord regenerated that sinful heart of yours?

Have you been born again?

Please ask the Lord to reveal your true condition and come to the living Saviour in faith and repentance.