Study 4 “THIS SAME JESUS”: ASCENDING AND DESCENDING
STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 1 – 3)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 1:9-11
It is important for us to remember that the Christian faith rests upon certain great historical facts. Christianity is different from other religions which are concerned with moral systems, philosophies and religious observances. The gospel is God’s good news of what He has done in history in the person of His Son and for the salvation of men. What are the great acts of God which the Christian faith rests on, and which are declared in the gospel? They concern the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice in the opening verses of Acts five great facts: (1) His incarnation (inferred in verse 1); (2) His crucifixion (verse 3); (3) His resurrection (verse 3); (4) His ascension (verse 9); and the next great historical event – (5) His second coming (verses 10-11). We will consider and compare the fact and purpose of His ascension and the promise and purpose of His coming. We will link together His going up and His coming down, because both are brought before us in this section of scripture. Notice that three times we are told that Jesus was “taken up” – Acts 1:2, 9 and 22; but we are also told that the Lord is coming down again, for while in verses 9 and 10 we have the record of Jesus ascending, in verses 10 and 11 we have the promise of Jesus descending. Three truths are emphasised here about His ascension and His second coming.
- 1. He ascended personally: He will come again personally – “This same Jesus” (Acts 1:11). It is the same Lord Jesus who was born in Bethlehem, lived 33 years on the earth, was filled with compassion for all who were in trouble, died for our sins, rose for our justification and ascended – and who will come again!
- 2. He ascended bodily: He will come again bodily. His was a physical resurrection and a bodily ascension. He came from the grave a resurrected Man, with a ‘glorious body’ – compare Acts 1:3-4 and Philippians 3:21; and after forty days He ascended in the same body. His return will be a bodily return.
- 3. He ascended visibly: He will come again visibly. It was while they were looking that He was taken up (verse 9), and they saw Him return to heaven (verse 11). When He comes again He will be seen first by all His own people and then by everybody (1 John 3:2; Revelation 1:7; Zechariah 14:4).
These references assure us that, as the Lord ascended, so He will descend – personally, bodily and visibly.
1. “THIS SAME JESUS”: ASCENDING
Where is Jesus now? – look up Hebrews 1:1-3 and compare Ephesians 1:19-23. Why did He ascend and why is He in heaven now?
- 1. Because His earthly mission was completed and He must now begin His heavenly ministry from heaven. His earthly mission culminated in His death on the cross, where He made atonement for our sins. Having finished this work He “sat down” – look up Psalm 40:8; John 1:29; John 17:4; John 19:30; Hebrews 1:3. From 1 Timothy 2:5 we learn that He is in heaven as our Mediator – compare John 14:6; as our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 8:1); as our Advocate (1 John 2:1-2); our Intercessor (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25), and compare Luke 22:31-32. He is building and working through His Church (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 12:13); and compare Acts 1:1 and Luke 19:12. In heaven He continues the work which He began on earth.
- 2. So that all His people everywhere might enjoy His continual presence. While He was here on earth He could only be in one place at one time, but from heaven now, in the person and through His Holy Spirit, He is with all His people (Matthew 18:20; Matthew 28:20). This could only be possible by His ascension. He is with us now in our joys (John 2:1-11); in our testings (Matthew 14:27); and all the time – look up Hebrews 13:5-6.
- 3. To prepare our heavenly home. This is stated in John 14:2 in the Saviour’s words. At His ascension the Bridegroom went to prepare a place for His Bride. He is our forerunner, we are to follow! – look up Hebrews 6:19-20.
2. “THIS SAME JESUS”: DESCENDING
Why will Jesus come back again? What will He do when He comes?
- 1. He is coming to receive all His people to Himself so that they may be with Him for ever. Turn to John 14:2, and compare 1 Corinthians 15:23. When He comes He will rapture all believers into His presence. The dead will be raised and the living will be changed, and we shall have new bodies. This rapture will not be partial but complete in that every redeemed person will go to be with the Lord, for we are saved by grace and not by works (1 Corinthians 15:51-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
- 2. He is coming to establish His earthly and millennial kingdom. This is referred to six times in Revelation 20, and of course the burden of all Old Testament prophecy that still awaits fulfilment refers to the coming kingdom of Christ – look up Matthew 6:10; and will only be initiated at His return – look up Luke 1:31-33 and underline the six ‘wills’.
- 3. He is coming to judge His enemies and to usher in an eternity of blessing for all who love and belong to Him. How solemn this is! – look up 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 10:1-15; Revelation 21:8. But how glorious is the prospect for God’s people! – look up Revelation 22:1-5 and 20. Take note of 2 Peter 3:9-14.