The text for this lesson is Acts 1:9–11
- After Jesus descended into hell and rose again from the dead, He ascended into heaven to prepare a place for me and all believers.
- Law: My sinful flesh sees our Lord’s ascension as abandonment.
- Gospel: The glory and wonder of the ascension is that now that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, He is truly with me to the very end of the age. When He comes again, He will bring me to the place He has prepared for me through His death and resurrection.
- Our Lord’s ascension took place forty days after Easter and ten days before Pentecost, on a Thursday. Before Jesus ascends, He promises the Eleven that they will be His “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The word for “witness” is similar to the English eyewitness. Jesus means that these men will talk about what they have seen with their eyes and have heard with their ears. After the ascension, Matthias (another eyewitness) is chosen by lot to replace Judas.
- Luke records the ascension in both of his books. Both accounts have the same audience, Theophilus (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1), but slightly different details. Each account should be understood in light of the other. One reason for this comes with the words of the angels in Acts 1:11: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” Here it seems like the angels are talking merely about the way our Lord’s reappearing would look. But when we read the account in Luke, we see that Jesus went into heaven “lifting up His hands” and blessing them (24:50). Taking the two together, we see that at Jesus’ reappearing, He will come with eternal blessings for all who believe in Him.
Another nuance that is presented differently in Luke and Acts is what Jesus is doing at the ascension. Luke 24:51 tells us, “He parted from them,” while Acts 1:9 says, “a cloud took Him out of their sight.” In his Gospel, Luke emphasizes what the disciples would have perceived, namely, that Jesus had gone up into heaven. But in Acts we get a description that fits with what the rest of the New Testament teaches about Jesus’ ascension. In Acts, Jesus’ visible appearance departs. It’s not so much that He leaves, but rather that we can no longer see Him with our eyes.
But Jesus has not left His Church. He is present, just as He said He would be: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). In fact, it is by our Lord’s ascension that He now fills and governs all of creation for our benefit.
Jesus, as true man, is present with us everywhere. His ongoing presence is especially clear in the Supper, where He gives His body and blood for the forgiveness, comfort, and strengthening of His people. Our ascended Lord also exercises His divine power over the whole universe. He sends out workers to proclaim the saving Gospel. He prays for us before the Father. He rules and protects His Church and governs over all the world, especially for the benefit of the Church.
And so the words of the angel in Acts 1 point forward to the day when our Lord’s appearance will be visible to our eyes. We will see Him, be blessed by Him, and live in His presence forever and ever.