Online Worship for Trinity Eighteen, Sunday October 11, 2020
Sermon for Trinity Eighteen – Sunday October 11, 2020
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
Acts 1:9-11 (NKJV)
9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
In the Name of Jesus the Christ,
Who having completed the work of our salvation,
Rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven,
Dear Fellow Redeemed awaiting His Coming again in Glory –
He left…there is something abrupt, final about those two words. They are hardly a complete explanation. They offer no promise of a return. They only reveal what sounds like a sudden departure. I’m thankful that the ascension of our Lord is not stated in so few words.
The Evangelist Luke doesn’t just tell us, then “Jesus left.” Rather, for our comfort, the Spirit not only reveals that Jesus ascended into heaven, but also the circumstances of His departure.
Why are the circumstances of His departure important? Because His departure is, in a manner of speaking, a glimpse of His Coming again. When considering His departure, we can’t help but look forward to His glorious return. May God the Holy Spirit lead us to hopefully look forward to the Coming Again of our Lord Jesus through these words. Amen.
If you think about it, Jesus’ Ascension into heaven was hardly a sudden or abrupt event. Even though Jesus spoke of His ascending to Mary Magdalene as early as Easter Sunday, it was more than a month later, 40 days to be precise, before Jesus ascended.
Why didn’t Jesus ascend into heaven immediately after His Resurrection? It was necessary for the Lord to prepare His disciples to proclaim the meaning and necessity of His life, death and resurrection.
Thus, during that 40-day period, the Lord Jesus presented Himself alive to His disciples by means of many infallible proofs (Acts 1:3). As that period of time drew to a close, Jesus instructed His disciples to remain in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit equipped them to be His witnesses to the world. The same Jesus equips us to be His witnesses through their word, found in the Bible.
After had spoken to them He took them out and the next event of His glorious exaltation took place, as follows:
9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up,
Do you remember the last time you saw your grandma or grandpa before they died? I can remember the last time I saw my Grandpa Leland Grams before he died. I can still see his face in my mind’s eye. I hope I never forget.
Do you think that the Disciples ever forgot the last time they saw Jesus before His Ascension? What did they see? Well, at the end of his Gospel, Luke tells us that Jesus, having led them as far as Bethany, lifted up his hands and blessed them (Luke 24:50).
One of the last things they saw was His outstretched hands, bearing the print of the nails. They were reminded once more of the price of their redemption and the substance of their message to the world. They saw in His outstretched hands the reason they could go forth with boldness, because their Lord was and is the Risen and now Ascended Christ.
Then, as they watched, He was taken UP before them. We think of heaven as above us, don’t we? Even though we don’t know where the eternal abode of God and the Church Triumphant, yet we think of it as above.
Why do we think of it as above us? Well, the Psalmist says of the Lord (Psalm 14:2):
2 The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
When Elijah was taken to heaven we are told (2 Kings 2:11):
“…suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”
When Jesus returned to His heavenly home, our future place of residence, He was taken UP, until —
…a cloud received Him out of their sight.
When we were children, we thought of Heaven as in the clouds…perhaps in part because of these words. The cloud is said to have received Him out of their sight, to have hidden Him while transferred to heaven. They saw the first part of His ascension, but not His glorious return to the Father.
It was as if they didn’t know what to do next. They stood there watching Him go up. It’s clear that Jesus’ departure was not has it had been. He did not suddenly vanish, but for their sakes and ours ascended. They stood there looking up.
We are also urged to look upward, in two senses.
First we are to look toward heaven, to see it, not this world, as our home. In the letter to the Colossians, the Spirit urges us to (3:2):
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
Second, when the Last Day arrives, while many will look down in fear…we are urged to look up at the glorious reappearing of our Lord. The Lord Himself said of that Day (Luke 21:28):
Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”
We won’t be the only ones looking up. No and neither were the disciples on that day —
10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,
Behold – reminds us that there is something here of note…and it isn’t the men standing there staring into the sky. While Jesus ascended into heaven, two angels were dispatched from heaven with Word from the Lord of Hosts.
Angels…appeared at significant events in Jesus’ life on earth. They were dispatched at His Annunciation (Luke 1:26-27), at His Birth (Luke 2:8-14), at His Temptation (Mark 1:13), in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43), to announce His Resurrection (Matthew 28:2-7) and finally at His Ascension. (Was this the first time the Disciples saw angels?)
These angels were dispatched from the heavens with an important message for them and for us. This message does not merely concern His departure, but also His Coming again:
11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
They didn’t need to wistfully look heavenward as if this were the last time they would ever see Jesus. The Angels assured them the same Jesus would return. They would never again need to look for another Savior, another Christ.
They didn’t need to wonder where He had gone. The angels revealed that He was taken up into heaven. It is as we still confess today, “He Ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father, Almighty.”
They didn’t reveal when He would return (that day and hour is known only to the Father – Matthew 24:36), but they did reveal that He would come again. Their message is simple, yet profound: “..the same Jesus will so come from heaven in the same way that He went into Heaven.”
They didn’t say that He’d come back to the same place on earth. They didn’t say He’d come back secretly or more than once. He will return once, to this earth, to judge the living and the dead.
They did say that He’d come again in the same manner as they saw Him go. How was that?
VISIBLY — They saw Him go visibly…and all will see him come visibly (not invisibly). The Apostle John confirms this truth in the Revelation when He says (Revelation 1:7):
7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
BODILY — They saw Him go bodily…and will see Him come bodily. He will not return as a spirit being, but the same Jesus will return bodily.
IN CONNECTION WITH CLOUDS AND ANGELS – The Exalted Lord ascended in connection with the clouds and his departure was witnessed by Angels…so His return will be in connection with the clouds and accompanied by Angels. It will be as Jesus said (Matthew 26:64, 25:31):
“…Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man … coming on the clouds of heaven…When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.”
The Ascension of our Lord Jesus should give us great comfort. It reminds us that Jesus completed the work of our salvation, and through faith in His living and dying we have peace with God through the forgiveness of sins. It reminds us that Jesus is gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us. Therefore, when we depart this life it will be to the mansions of heaven, a place without sin sorrow or death.
The Ascension of Jesus reminds us also of His Second Coming. He will not leave us as orphans, but will come again to us. It is a comfort to know that He will appear a second time for us, for salvation, as it is written (Hebrews 9:27-28):
27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
He’s coming back…like He went.
Thanks be to God.