The Promise of the Holy Spirit
1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Over a period of forty days after the resurrection, Jesus taught His disciples and brought them to a new level of understanding. Previously, they had thought of the cross as an unmitigated disaster. Now, they saw that everything had happened exactly as God had planned it.
Christ was not with them constantly throughout these forty days. He appeared to them, He taught them, and then He disappeared. In this way, He began to wean them away from dependence on His physical presence.
For three years they had been used to talking with Jesus directly, face to face. But now things would be different. They would have to learn to follow Jesus by faith and not by sight. Gradually they became used to trusting Jesus without seeing Him.
The Great Commission
At the end of the forty days, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives with His disciples. He commissioned them to “go and make disciples of all nations” and promised them His continuing presence (Matthew 28:18–20). But their immediate instructions were to wait in Jerusalem.
Jesus had taught them about the Holy Spirit. Now He promised that the Spirit would come and give them power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Then Jesus ascended into heaven. On other occasions when Christ had appeared, He had simply vanished. But this time they saw Him go. This was the end of the resurrection appearances to the disciples. The evidence had been given; the training was complete. And now Jesus was returning to the Father.
Into the Cloud
Luke records that Jesus “was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1:9). God made His presence known in a cloud at critical moments in the Bible story. The cloud filled Solomon’s temple, giving the people a visible sign of God’s presence. In the story of the Transfiguration, God spoke from a cloud on the mountain.
Now as Jesus ascended, the disciples saw that He was received into the cloud. Could anything be clearer than this? The same Christ who had come from the Father was now returning to the Father. Having finished His work, He was received by the Father, represented in the cloud.
A Man in Heaven
The disciples were filled with joy when Jesus left them because they knew that He had returned to the Father (Luke 24:52). This meant that for the first time in human history there was a man in heaven.
Adam was expelled from God’s presence, and as a result all his children were alienated from God. Christ was received into the Father’s presence, and as a result all who follow Him will be welcomed by the Father. Adam led us out. Jesus leads us in.
The disciples knew that Jesus would represent them before the Father. The Son of God assumed our humanity on earth, and He has taken it into heaven, where He acts as an advocate for His people.
The Joy of Sitting Down
When Jesus ascended to the Father, “he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3). This phrase is full of significance. The priests in the Old Testament never sat down. The furniture in the temple included a lamp and a table but no chair. The absence of a chair was a visual reminder that the priest’s work was never done. There was always another sacrifice to be made.
But Christ’s work is finished. There is no more sacrifice to be offered, no more atonement to be made, nothing more that needs to be done to placate the wrath of God and release forgiveness to His people. Christ’s redeeming work is complete, and that is why He sat down.
The Blessing That Never Ends
Last impressions usually make a powerful impact on the mind, and the last glimpse the disciples had of Jesus was full of significance. Jesus lifted up His hands and blessed the disciples, and “while he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven” (Luke 24:51, emphasis added).
The disciples watched Jesus ascend into the cloud, still speaking God’s blessing into their lives. He hadn’t finished blessing them! Today the ascended Lord Jesus Christ continues what He was doing when the Father took Him up into the cloud: pouring out His blessing into the lives of His people. Every good gift in your life comes from His hand.
The Promise of His Return
Jesus spoke plainly to His disciples about His return: “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).
As Jesus ascended, two angels confirmed this promise. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go,” they said (Acts 1:11).
Jesus had spoken to Caiaphas about a day when he would “see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64). Caiaphas regarded this as blasphemy. But God the Father vindicated Jesus by raising Him from the dead. One day, every person who has ever lived will see Jesus in His full glory. For His friends it will be the beginning of great joy. For His enemies it will be the beginning of unending sorrow.
What happened to Jesus in His ascension will happen for all His people when He comes in glory. Just as Jesus was snatched up into the cloud, so when He returns all who believe in Him will be caught up to meet Him in the air. Every Christian will participate in that day. Those who have already died will not miss out. They will come with Him, and from that moment all of Christ’s people will be forever with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
A View from the Sixth Mountain
The disciples went back to Jerusalem with joy. They were just a handful of people, and they faced a monumental task. How could they possibly fulfill the commission to make disciples of all nations? The answer lay in the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
- Jesus has ascended to heaven and continues to bless His people. In what ways can you see God’s blessing in your life today?