The Ascension

GLEN ROSE, TEXAS
Sunday, April 29, 2001

Bible Reading: Acts 1:1-11

Acts 1:1 The former treatise have 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 that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom also he shewed 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: 4 And, being assembled together with [them], commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, [saith he], ye have heard of me. {being...: or, eating together} 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 

6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. {power...: or, the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you} 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 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. 

 

Introduction

In the 1950's, Hollywood discovered that certain themes out of the Bible not only made good movies, but were also very popular among the audiences across America. So there were a number of films made during this time, that had as their theme, something out of the Bible or a story based on some biblical event. Some of these were movies like, The Robe and The Big Fisherman. But there was another movie that did very well at the time that had a name that was in Latin. The name of the movie was Quo Vadis, which translated means "Where are you going?"

That was the question that the disciples asked Jesus as He described the fact that He was about to go away.

John 14:1-5, 

14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 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. 3 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. 4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. 5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

John 14:28 

Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come [again] unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

 

John 16:1-7

16:1 These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. {offended: scandalized or, made to stumble} 2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. 3 And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? 6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. 7 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.

The fashion of His going is described in our Bible Reading in Acts 1 and also in Luke 24:50-51, which see.

Notice the difference in how they felt after the crucifixion event as compared to the Ascension event.

Compare:   Luke 24:13-17 with Luke 24:52-53

 

13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem [about] threescore furlongs. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed [together] and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. 16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. 17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications [are] these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?

 

51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. 

The reaction to the Ascencion was very different from their response to the crucifixion.

When they saw Jesus ascend up they were standing there gazing toward heaven when two angels appeared and asked them why they were standing there gazing up to heaven.

Really!

I mean, who wouldn't be standing there watching until He was completely out of sight?

Then they told how this same Jesus would come in the same manner that went up into heaven.

Did you notice where he was when he ascended?

The Mount of Olives.

Do you know which coming they were making reference to?

Was it the Rapture or the 2nd Advent?

Does the Mount of Olives ring a bell?

I. What happened at the Ascension of Christ?

For that let's turn to the book of Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 8-10.

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. {captivity...: or, a multitude of captives} 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) {fill: or, fulfil}

When He ascended, He led captivity captive.

Now what does this mean?

Those that were "captive" are those who had died and were waiting before they could go to heaven.

Remember, the Bible says that Christ was the first fruits of them that slept. No one who died would go to heaven before Him.

This raises the question, "Where did the souls of the dead go, and where is it they go since His ascension?"

The place of the dead for the saved and the lost, was called by the Jews "sheol".

The corresponding word in the Greek New Testament is "hades".

When a patriarch died, it was said that he was "gathered unto his people". 

Gen. 25:8;

8 Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full [of years]; and was gathered to his people.

Gen. 25:17;

17 And these [are] the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people. 

Gen. 35:29; 

29 And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, [being] old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him. 

Gen. 49:33;

33 And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people. 

 

Samuel, called back, said to Saul, "Tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me - I Sam. 28:19.

 19 Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow [shalt] thou and thy sons [be] with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines

The place of the dead, in the OT, is considered to be a place of rest for the believer. - Job 3:13-19.

13 For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest, 14 With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves; 15 Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver: 16 Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants [which] never saw light. 17 There the wicked cease [from] troubling; and there the weary be at rest. {weary: Heb. wearied in strength} 18 [There] the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. 19 The small and great are there; and the servant [is] free from his master. 

In that place, the dead are separated from all earthly activity.

Souls continue to exist in the place of the dead.

Samuel, came back and spoke with Saul - I Sam. 28.

7 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, [there is] a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. 8 And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me [him] up, whom I shall name unto thee. 9 And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die? 10 And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, [As] the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing. 11 Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. 12 And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou [art] Saul. 13 And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods (fallen angels) ascending out of the earth.  14 And he said unto her, What form [is] he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he [is] covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it [was] Samuel, and he stooped with [his] face to the ground, and bowed himself. {What...: Heb. What is his form?} 15 And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. {by prophets: Heb. by the hand of prophets}16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? 17 And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, [even] to David: {to him: or, for himself} {me: Heb. mine hand} 18 Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. 19 Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow [shalt] thou and thy sons [be] with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines

Moses and Elijah, long absent from this world, appear with Jesus on Mt. Of Transfiguration - Matt. 17.

17:1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

Notice Luke 20:38.

38 For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him. 

God would have said, "I was" if the patriarchs had ceased to exist. Then is added that God is the God of the living, not the dead.

In Luke 16, we have that those who are dead, keep their personality as well as their memory and consciousness.

Luke16:19

19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that [would come] from thence. 27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. 

Before the coming of Christ, the Jews came to distinguish 2 separate parts in the place of the dead.

One was reserved for the wicked, tormented from the moment of their departure from the world of the living and the other prepared for the blessed dead.

This latter is called paradise, or Abraham's Bosom.

Jesus used both of these expressions and confirmed this teaching.

He spoke the Luke 16 passage describing the great gulf, and promised the thief on the cross a meeting with Him that very day in paradise.

II. After the descent of Christ into the place of the dead

Christ did not descend into the part of "sheol" where the wicked are in torment.

However, He did descend into the part of the blessed dead.

It was these people that Ephesians 4:8-10 refers to.

Ephesians 4:8-10

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. {captivity...: or, a multitude of captives} 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) {fill: or, fulfil}

Since the ascension, every person who died in faith, instead of going to the place of the dead, went directly into the presence of the Lord - 

Phil. 1:21-24,  

21 For to me to live [is] Christ, and to die [is] gain. 22 But if I live in the flesh, this [is] the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh [is] more needful for you.

II Cor. 5:6-8.

6 Therefore [we are] always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 We are confident, [I say], and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

III. Where are the Dead?

After dying, the dead are not annihilated.

Unbelievers are in the place of the tormented, awaiting the last judgement and the lake of fire.

Believers are in the Lord's presence, at rest, awaiting the glorious resurrection.

But what about the idea of soul sleep?

Man is body, soul and spirit.

The body is in the grave, but not the spirit and it is far from asleep.

See Luke 16:22,23.

22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

After Christ resurrection, those who were in the heart of the earth, (Matt. 12:40) are now in heaven with Christ, who is at the right hand of the Father.

40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Physical death is not an end, but rather separation.

See Eccl. 12:7 - the body returns to dust, the spirit returns to God.

7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. 

I Kings 17:22 - the soul of the child raised from the dead, returned.

22 And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

Luke 8:55 - Jairus' daughter had her spirit return when Jesus raised her.

54 And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. 55 And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.

Luke 23:46; 

46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

John 19:30 - Jesus committed His spirit into the hands of His Father.

30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. 

Acts 7:59 - Stephen commits his spirit to the Lord Jesus as he as dying.

59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon [God], and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

This is not the picture of sinking into decomposition and unconsciousness until the end of time.

IV. Are the Dead sleeping?

Psalm 13:4, 

Consider [and] hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the [sleep of] death; 4 Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; [and] those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

I Thess. 4:13.

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

These are a reference to the body which sleeps in the tomb, awaiting resurrection.

 

Stephen is said to have "fell asleep" - Acts 7:59,60.

59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon [God], and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. 

Daniel 12:2 speaks of the resurrection of them that sleep in the dust of the earth.

2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame [and] everlasting contempt.

So the body is what returns to dust, but the spirit to God.

The soul, immediately after death, experiences joy or misery.

V. Do the Dead surround us with their presence?

I Sam. 28:15 - Samuel speaking to Saul was disquieted when he was brought up.

15 And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. {by prophets: Heb. by the hand of prophets}

He was not already surrounding anyone with his presence.

Lazarus was comforted in Luke 16, but he was in Abraham's bosom.

Rev. 6:10,11; 14:13 - those who die in the tribulation have a point of rest from their labors.

Rev. 6:10,11

10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they [were], should be fulfilled.

Rev. 14:13 

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed [are] the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them. {from henceforth...: or, from henceforth saith the Spirit, Yea}

The idea of being surrounded by the dead is spiritism.

The OT, gives the death penalty for giving oneself over to spiritism - 

Lev. 19:31; 

31 Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I [am] the LORD your God.

Lev. 20:6,27;

6 And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.

27 A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood [shall be] upon them. 

 

The Bible shows that:

Spiritism is an abomination in the sight of God

Because of their spiritism, the Canaanites were exterminated

The calling up of the dead and spirits were punished by death in Israel

The consulting of mediums was prohibited, as was being a medium oneself

Occultism, divination and astrology are just as bad as spiritism

Take a closer look at the I Samuel 28 passage.

Was it really Samuel who came out to speak to Saul? Yes.

The woman was stupefied when she saw Samuel.

It was unexpected.

She abandoned her role as a medium and Samuel spoke directly to Saul.

This is the only example in the Bible of such an event: a dead man coming back to speak to a living man.

God permitted this single miracle to show the tragic consequences of such an attempt.

Both Saul and the woman knew they were disobeying God.

Why does God punish so severely the calling up of the dead?

When a person calls on the dead, it is an evil spirit that answers, impersonating the dead.

A medium, for all practical purposes, is possessed by a demon.

To call up the dead and the spirits is essentially giving oneself over to Satan.

To go seeking advice or help in such a way, indicates that one must have lost the sense of the perfection and sufficiency of the Biblical revelation. It is to lose confidence in the Holy Spirit.

What about praying for the dead?

I Tim. 2:5,6 says there is one mediator between God and men, that is Jesus Christ.

5 For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. {to...: or, a testimony}

Acts 4:12 - says no other name is given among by whereby we must be saved

12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

In Luke 16, the rich man didn't say, have someone pray for me, but rather go tell by brethren before it is too late for them

This may shed some light on the Ephesians passage.

Jesus ascended up into heaven after he descended into the heart of the earth and led captivity captive.

We celebrate the atonement and the resurrection.

As well we should.

But the ascension is an important event as well.

It was the turning point of where we go when we die.

It was the beginning of the indwelling of the Spirit, for when He left, He sent the Comforter.

It was the ascended Lord that filled their hearts with joy.

And it should our hearts as well.

Send questions or comments to  yoke@granbury.com