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Taken Up Into Heaven

by David Johnson

DavidJohnson(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

 

Good morning. It is good to be with you again, listeners. The lesson is entitled, “Taken Up into Heaven.” And part of our study text this morning is found in the gospel of Luke chapter 24 beginning in verse 50.

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple praising God.”

Perhaps you have at some time or other gone up into a very tall skyscraper, taken an elevator whereby you went up and up and up really fast. That is about the closest thing that you can experience on earth now. But 40 days after the resurrection we have this description of this ascension of Jesus Christ.

From where did Christ ascend? Well, it tells us in Luke chapter 24 and verse 50 it was in the vicinity of Bethany. Evidently outside the village which was located about two miles east of the temple at Jerusalem on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. Bethany means house of unripe figs and it was the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, dear friends of Christ.

What was the last thing that Jesus did before he ascended? According to verse 50 of Luke 24 he lifted up his hands and blessed them. Jesus uplifted his nail scarred hands, the only thing in heaven from man, and blessed them here, probably meaning that he asked the Father for divine favor upon them in their service to God. And what was their service and our service to come? Well, this is found in the preceding section in Luke chapter 24, verse 47 and following: “And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised. But stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Repentance and forgiveness preached in Christ’s name, because it is Christ’s atoning work on the cross and the sinner’s obedient faith in him. As we have repented God has forgiven us and we are to share this good news, this glad tidings, this marvelous gospel with others. It is to all the nations, but beginning where? Jerusalem, locally first. The application for us is that our first obligation is here with our families, with our friends, with our community.

In verse 49 it says: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised.” What? Who? The Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is our helper, counselor, comforter, convictor, teacher and many other roles. Note in the gospel of John chapter 14 and verse 26 where it says: “But the counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything that I have said to you.”

Today as born again baptized believers we have this same Holy Spirit indwelling us to help, to counsel, to comfort, to convict, to teach, to guide us, to help us, including to help us share the gospel, to be bold. And we need the Spirit’s fillings, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be able to share the truth of the gospel boldly and truthfully and accurately.

In Luke chapter 24 and verse 51, it says there that he left them and was taken up into heaven. Jesus Christ defied gravity. And this was different from all of his other previous disappearances.

I remember many years ago going to a passion play that included the ascension of Christ at the end and the actor was taken up by a cable and it just sent chills up my spine. Just imagine the real thing, no cables, but tangibly, bodily, visibly taken up, all the way up, into the clouds. What a sight for these men of Galilee. No human literally at that instant saw Jesus Christ’s resurrection, his being raised from the dead. But they literally saw Jesus Christ ascending into heaven.

In Acts chapter one and verse nine it says that he was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid him from their sight. It is interesting that in Scripture there is reference to a cloud at the transfiguration of Christ. There is a cloud at his ascension and there will be a cloud at his second coming. And where exactly did Christ go? In the gospel of Mark chapter 16 and verse 19 it says, in part, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God, meaning a place of prominence and power.
In Acts chapter two and verse 33 it tells us that he has been exalted to the right hand of God. And what did the disciples do? Well, the same writer Luke the physician, the evangelist also wrote the book of Acts. And in Acts chapter one beginning in verse 10 we find these words: “They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

They were spellbound. Their eyes fixed on the sky, looking intently up into the sky. The Son of God had left planet earth. It has been now some 2000 years ago. Today we must live by faith. It is hard to let go of sight. The disciples stood staring into the sky and it took two angels, two men dressed in white beside them, to get their eyes off the empty sky and get moving, get to work, to serve, to witness, to worship. But the angels were also comforting. They also comforted and encouraged them. How did they do this?
In Acts chapter one verse 11 it say that this same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come back in the same way that you have seen him go into heaven. This is still a comfort and an encouragement to us today because he still hasn’t returned. And this is still, today, part of our blessed hope. This same exact Jesus is coming back in the same way, literally. It tells us in the Old Testament book of Zechariah chapter 14 and verse four that on that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem. Jesus Christ will touch down on this earth at his second coming in the vicinity of Bethany again. And this time we won’t be looking up. We who are his church will be with him, returning to earth ourselves in immortal, imperishable, incorruptible, glorified bodies to reign with him.

Now isn’t that encouraging? Isn’t that comforting even today? If that doesn’t light our fire, nothing will. But then what else did they do? It tells us in Luke chapter 24 and verse 52 that they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem. Well, how did they worship him? Surely they poured out their hearts in homage and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ. They just couldn’t stop worshipping him after they had seen this tremendous, miraculous defying of gravity when he was caught up into the clouds, this ascension of Jesus Christ. They worshipped, an example for us.

In Luke chapter 24 and verse 53 it says that they stayed continually at the temple praising God. They didn’t stay on the mountain. They went to a place set aside for worship, praising, probably with prayers and psalms and praises all fully acknowledging the deity, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the unique, only begotten Son of God. God in bodily form, because only God can appropriately be worshipped, not any other human being, but only the God man Jesus Christ. Not angels, not anything or anyone else, only God, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, one God in three persons, the godhead, the blessed trinity, an example for each one of us.

Worship is paramount. It needs to be prominent in our lives whether in assembly or as we daily live for him, by our thoughts and by our words, by our deeds, by our lifestyle, by the pattern of our life. And when we mess up, we fess up and ask God to forgive us and continually worship him as we work, as we witness, as we go through this life.

The temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem became the first meeting place of the early church. There were rooms around the porch of the outer court available for assembling and these Jewish Christians worshipped without ceasing. And, in fact, evidently, according to the Scriptures in the book of Acts they met every day. Such was their devotion and dedication to the Lord.

In Luke chapter 24 and verse 52 we are told that they not only worshipped and witnessed and worked, it says here they did it with great joy. You would think that with the ascension, out of sight out of mind, of their Lord Jesus Christ that they would have been saddened to the point that the sadness might have lingered. But these disciples were learning and growing and maturing. And this is even before the giving of the Holy Spirit. Now we in the Church today as born again believers have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is joy, according to Galatians 5:22. We can have joy in spite of unhappy circumstances, because of the precious promises and principles of the Word of God. We can still have an inner, deeper joy based on these unchanging, divine promises. For example, this same Jesus is coming back in the same way for us. And this should give us great joy no matter what we are dealing with today. And we, too, who are in Christ will ascend one day. Yes, we will defy gravity, without a cable, but by the power of almighty God.

Really? We are going to have an ascension? Well, we don’t usually think of it that way, but consider 1 Thessalonians chapter four and verse 16 and following: “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” That is, we are taken up into heaven, caught up. Literally, in the Greek, snatched away.

So this morning what is your situation regarding Jesus Christ? Are you going up or are you staying? Only in Christ through obedient faith can we experience this ‘out of this world’ trip. It can be experienced on no elevator, no space craft and no cable. We need only Christ as our personal Savior and Lord. Are you going up?

 

David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN

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