The Ascension and Predicted Return Part 1

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

 He was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

He was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.



May 13, 2013
Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles


Topic #I: Introduction to the Beginning of the Church, Acts 1.1-1.26
Subtopic A: The Lord Prepares the Disciples (1.1-11)


Lesson I.A.3: The Ascension and Predicted Return
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1.9-11


Acts 1.9-11 (KJV)
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.


Commentary
9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

And when he had spoken these things,
“When he had spoken these things,” and had said all that he had to say, and having left instructions with them with regard to the proclamation of the Gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then to the entire world; and after He had promised them the full power of the Holy Spirit, with whom he would govern his church (even though he would be absent in body), he blessed them, according to Luke 24:50—“And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them”—and then He left them.

while they beheld,
It is specifically stated that “while they were looking He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” Luke describes the episode just as it was told to him: “And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen” (Luke 24:50-53; KJV). It is critical that he added “while they beheld” when he retold the story in this letter written to Theophilus. If this detail were omitted, it could be concluded that He disappeared while His disciples were looking in another direction. But now we know they saw Him ascend and disappear with their own eyes. Elijah, who rode to heaven, in a fiery chariot, told his followers, “…If thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so” (2 Kings 2:10; KJV). SEEING IS BELIEVING!

he was taken up;
He was gradually taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. We have here the report of Christ's ascending on high, not extracted or withdrawn, as Elijah was, with a chariot of fire and horses of fire, but Christ ascended to heaven, just as he rose from the grave, purely by his own power; his body is now, as the bodies of the saints will be at the resurrection, a spiritual body, and raised in power and incorruption. He began his ascension while the disciples watched, and kept Him in sight until He disappeared into the clouds. They could not be deceived because they kept their eyes on Him; it is likely that he did not fly swiftly up, but moved slowly upwards. There are seven observations that should be made about this most remarkable event.

Observe, 1. Who and what it was that ascended. It was the same one that descended; Jesus Christ, in his divine nature as God, and in his human nature as man. Both His body and soul ascended.

Observe, 2. The place He ascended from. It was Mount Olivet, the very place where he began his sad trek to the cross. There is where his heart began to be sad, but here it is made glad.
Perhaps we can learn from this that God can make the very places where we face trouble and torment (such as sick-beds, prisons, strange countries), to become places of comfort and triumphant joy when he pleases.

Observe, 3. The place He ascended to. He ascended into heaven; the third heaven, that is, where the throne of God resides; the place where the blessed live eternally. Consequently, he is said to ascend far above all heavens; that is, above the atmosphere and starry heavens which we see, into the highest heavens; to the place where he was before, which is how he expressed it in John 6:62—“What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?”

Observe, 4. The time when our Lord ascended. It happened forty days after his resurrection. What great love Christ has for His church, for Him to not go immediately to possess the unspeakable glory that awaited him; but he would wait until he had settled all things for the good of His church. Here is a good pattern to imitate; to put God and our religion ahead of our own desires.

Observe, 5. The manner of Christ’s ascension up into heaven. He ascended by His own divine power, “Whilst they looked stedfastly, he went up.” It is true, the angels were there with Him, but they did not assist Him. Elijah went to heaven in a chariot of fire, but he was taken up, he could not carry himself up: but Christ did not need a chariot because He is the author of life and motion.
1. He ascended magnificently; a cloud was prepared as a royal chariot, to carry up this King of glory to his royal throne: “A cloud received him out of their sight.”
2. He ascended generously, showering gifts upon his church; “When he ascended up on high, he gave gifts to men, prophets, apostles, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.”

Observe, 6. The witnesses of our Lord's Ascension. Elijah had only one witness of his rapture into heaven, but Christ had the exclusive company of his disciples. The number of witnesses was about a hundred and twenty. Those who had been witnesses of his humiliation are now witnesses of his glorious ascension.

Observe, 7. The cause and reasons why he ascended. Primarily, because, if He had he not ascended, he could not have been inaugurated and installed in the glory he now enjoys above. If He had ascended, he could not intercede on our behalf, as He does now. If He had not ascended into heaven, we could never have entered heaven. Moreover, if He had not ascended the Comforter would not have come.

and a cloud received him out of their sight.
Not a cloud like we see in the sky above, but something having the appearance of a cloud, and accompanied by angels. It was not placed there out of necessity but as a symbol of His majesty. Our Lord ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives, at or near the place where he had been apprehended and bound, and from there he had been led away like a felon to be put on trial for his life. He was insulted, scourged, and condemned to crucifixion. Now He ascends in triumph from the same mountain into a place and a state worthy of his innocence and infinite dignity.
He vanished out of their sight, in a cloud, either a thick cloud, because God said that he would dwell in the thick darkness or a bright cloud, to signify the splendor of his glorious body. It was a bright cloud that overshadowed him in his transfiguration—“While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matt 17:5; KJV)—and that is probably what His disciples saw. This cloud received him, and it was probably when He had gone about as far from the earth as the clouds generally are, yet it was not a billowing wide-spreading cloud such as we commonly see, but one designed just to enclose him. Now he made the clouds his chariot—“Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind” (Psalms 104:3; KJV). The Old Testament reveals that God often came down in a cloud, and went up in one.

This was the last time Jesus was seen. The eyes of a great many witnesses followed him into the cloud and, if we want to know what became of Him after that, all we have to do is read Daniel 7:13, which describes a vision the Prophet had—“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.” Daniel saw the Son of Man come “among the clouds of heaven” to the Ancient One. Daniel watched as God the Son drew near to God the Father. “Then I looked, and there was a white cloud, and on the cloud sat someone who was like the Son of Man. He had a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand” (Revelation 14:14). “A white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man” is evidently the Lord Jesus Christ.

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