EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 4)

The Bible records many miraculous historical events. One of the most miraculous, or downright mind-bending if you were there, was the Ascension of the Lord. Some say it defies belief. Believers say He defied gravity.

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INTRODUCTION   LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3

LESSON 4

ACTS 1:9-12

9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. [1]

Luke reports the event in an understated matter-of-fact manner. The likelihood is strong that he wasn’t there so he must have received the information from those who were. Since he wrote The Acts of the Apostles about thirty years after the Ascension, it is most probable that many of the firsthand witnesses had already passed on. Nevertheless, I don’t believe Luke would have relied on secondhand information, no matter how credible. Who might have provided their testimony? There was a large group there, not only the eleven apostles. Some of them probably later traveled into the far reaches of the Greco-Roman world. The apostle Paul, whom Luke spent much time with, would certainly have known many who were there that day.

Regarding the Lord’s departure, it must have been hard on everybody. Maybe the thoroughly unique and otherworldly method He chose took some of the edge off. He knew He would still be with them, though in spiritual form. But His disciples likely felt that an unseen floor had dropped away. They spent almost every day of the last few years with Him. He taught them everything they knew. They would miss Him terribly. We have all had such heartfelt goodbye moments, sometimes involving those we would never see again.

As they stood there on the Mount of Olives between Bethany and Jerusalem peering up into the sky at the Lord’s strange private rapture, the disciples were enthralled with an event never possibly experienced before, lost in their goodbyes, and momentarily overcome with loss. How would they manage without Him?

Then the two angels suddenly showed up with more of the matter-of-fact narrative as if the Ascension were a mere ho hum event. “Why are you guys still standing there looking into the sky?” With that statement they announced yet another event, one stranger than the first.

He’s coming back.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Posted on April 4, 2020, in Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I’ve often tried to visualize this event, especially when preparing to teach it in a class. Did He raise His eyes and His hands to heaven? Or did He gaze steadfastly at His disciples, knowing He would miss them just as they would miss Him? Did they watch Him, with tearful eyes and broken hearts, until He faded into a distance they could not see? How long did they stand there, not sure what to do next?

    Was there the mother of all parties in heaven that day? Thirty-three years earlier (time doesn’t matter there!) the angels had watched Him leave. They had watched Him grow, minister, perform miracles, suffer, die, and rise again! Now, here He was, coming home to the greatest homecoming reception ever! Father and Son reunited, how the heavens must have rung with hosannas!

    Mission accomplished! Now, for the next scene!

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    • Yes. Mission accomplished indeed! The greatest mission! Ownership of the entire Universe rested upon His success.

      You have described the possibilities like I don’t ever remember hearing in a million sermons. This is a topic not extrapolated upon often. All the so-so halfway “Christians” rarely miss church on Easter or Christmas but Ascension Thursday? Not so much. If we will honor His Birth and His Resurrection, we should also honor His entire earthly ministry, His spiritual ministry (which is still going on), His physical Death, and His physical Ascension into heaven. Each is vital to our salvation and eternal life.

      On a related note, the Son, the Living Word, did not actually exist until the Incarnation, which is in part why the Lord Jesus was called “God with us.” His Word did not return void! (Isaiah 55:11)

      Many Blessings to you Linda. So thankful for your contributions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You, know, I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re right. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon just on His ascending back to the Father. Huh.
        Blessed Palm Sunday to you, RJ!

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        • Thank you Linda! A day for Hosannas to the King! By the way, as you have been reading my series on the Hebrew month of Nisan (See Part 2), today was Nisan 10 on the official Hebrew calendar. According to the moon, however, it was actually yesterday (Friday). Nisan 10 was the day the Lord rode into Jerusalem and received the high praise of the people as THE prophesied Son of David, the Messiah. It happened to fall on a Sunday that year, the first day of the week. So Palm Sunday is close.

          Hosanna means “save, we pray,” “be propitious,” or benevolent, advantageous, or favorably disposed, and “grant salvation.” Of course, the chief priests and scribes looking on were indignant. The Lord Jesus certainly correctly accepted praise.

          This will be a great week of remembrance for all the Lord did to purchase our salvation. The people shouting Hosannas had no idea how the Lord would have to answer their prayer and “grant salvation.”

          Blessings to you!

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          • Do you remember the chorus, “Let’s talk about Jesus”? That’s what we do together, isn’t it. And such a blessing 🙂

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            • Always a blessing! I remember so many old hymns but that one must have slipped by:

              Let’s talk about Jesus,
              The King of kings is He,
              The Lord of lords supreme,
              Through all eternity.
              The Great I AM, the Way,
              The Truth, the Life, the Door,
              Let’s talk about Jesus more and more.

              I know this one:

              Liked by 1 person

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