Blog Archives

REMEMBERING THE LORD’S ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN

The anniversary for this astounding event is Tuesday morning, May 19, 2020. Join me as we discuss this relatively obscure historical milestone.  

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And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. [Luke 24:50-51]    

What a trip it must have been. His overall mission was completed, the last forty days after the resurrection had ended, and the final instructions to His disciples were given. It was time to say goodbye.

I was out working in the yard a couple of weeks ago. A neighbor came by walking his dog. I see him on occasion, but not very often. It had been a while since I saw him last. In the midst of our conversation I happened to mention that real Christians actually believe in the resurrection and ascension of the Lord. He immediately went into controlled defense mode: “Well, that’s a matter of faith.” I was suddenly struck by how weird I must have sounded. I apparently had not broached the subject with a non-believer in quite a while.

Yes. We believe a Man who died rose again from the dead and that He did it by Himself. There was no one calling Him forth from the grave the way the Lord did with Lazarus. None of His disciples were yet filled with the Holy Spirit so they could not have done it. In fact, they were initially incredulous and unbelieving that He had done it. “Say what?!” “You saw what?!” “He did what?!”  

ASCENSION PRETENSION?

Every Resurrection Sunday/Easter multiple millions of Christians worldwide celebrate this event. Do they all really believe it? Do they think about it? Do they talk to non-believers about it? I ask these questions because the subject matter should not be matter-of-fact. It should be met with funny stares. The disciples who raced to the tomb to check it out should have thought it ridiculously quite strange.

Christianity is entirely based on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. If it never happened then Christianity is a total fraud. We know it did happen, of course. Though unbelievers will still think us quite strange for our weird faith, it is impossible that it did not happen for the simple fact that the Gospel spread so far so fast. There were many actual witnesses. There was no way to deceive multiple thousands of people in the first few days after Pentecost, not to mention the soon-to-be hundreds of thousands and more. His resurrection unleashed manifold spiritual and historical events that cannot be denied. Books have been written about this. Apologetics is based primarily upon it. For those who want more information it is there to be had.

But what of his ascension? Quick show of hands: How many of you have ever heard a sermon dedicated to this historical event? Hello? Anybody? Why is that? I have some ideas.

UP, UP, AND AWAY

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. [Acts 1:9][1]

I brought this up in my current teaching series 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.”

“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?”

Um, well, you see, it’s just that, uh… (Did we just see that?)

So my neighbor was being polite but he thought I was a nut.

THE 2020 ASCENSION ANNIVERSARY

It happened on a Thursday. I believe it was a Thursday morning. I believe this because the Lord’s resurrection took place in the early morning on the first day of the week. And Pentecost happened in the early morning, also on the first day of the week, about 9am. The ascension happened forty days after the resurrection. Exactly ten days later Pentecost happened.

On the ancient Hebrew calendar the ascension fell on Iyyar 26. According to the official Hebrew 2020 calendar, Iyyar 26 is this Wednesday, May 20. But this calendar is off by a day if we go by present celestial rendering. I’ve already done the math so you don’t have to. Iyyar 26 is actually Tuesday morning, May 19. Please think about it and how awesome it must have been.

Imagine if you were there.

© 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.

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.

THE END OF THE AGE—IN PROPHECY [Part 3]

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It is called The Olivet Prophecy. In response to the questions of His disciples about the End of the Age, the Lord Jesus clearly revealed the signs to watch for that some of them would live to see.

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DAYS OF VENGEANCE

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.” [Luke 21:20-22]

A likely majority of Christians have been subjected to false interpretations of Bible prophecy. There is much confusion and misunderstanding. Most believers get lost in all the detail. But in reality, it is not the Word of God that is to blame, especially in regard to the Last Days prophecies made by the Lord Jesus. Many of His teachings have been taken out of context. Many have been misapplied. Thus, it is not His prophetic content or manner of teaching that is causing the lack of comprehension. It is dealing with the inaccurate interpretations that conflict with the truth.

Truth and error do not mix. Error does not add up. The light of truth exposes dark things and reveals inaccuracies. When one is able to identify error, as tares in a wheat field or masquerading goats at a sheep party, and thus eliminate it from the equation, the truth stands out. It comes out of hiding, so to speak. The truth suddenly becomes visible right there in front of us. And we think, it was always there but for some reason I couldn’t see it. We don’t know such truth exists. We are thus blinded by error because we do not perceive it as such. Sometimes we think error is truth.

How can this happen to Christians who otherwise dwell in the light of the Lord? Where does the obfuscation come from? Many Christians spend their lives in states of cognitive dissonance trying to make sense of the competing doctrinal factoids in their heads in an impossible effort at connecting dots and joining contrary puzzle pieces together. We take it for granted that we have the truth on any given subject but rarely or never subject it to the proper testing as the Lord said we must. Much of this arises from whatever Christian cultural arrangement we belong to. The following is an example:

When I wrote my series on Mary Highly Favored this past December, I included her genealogy from the Gospel of Luke. I noted that her father’s name was Eli or Heli, depending on the translation (See Luke 3:23). In talking to someone about this I was taken somewhat to task over it because the person insisted that Mary’s parents were Joachim and Anna. 

I said that was only tradition. And the New Testament does not actually mention Mary’s mother.

It did not matter what I said from that point forward because this person would not consider the truth. The scary thing about it was that the truth in the Word of God was rejected and a mere apocryphal traditional error which is strongly ensconced in that Christian denomination was accepted. If this attitude is applied to the entire Word of God such people could be hopelessly indoctrinated against various truths in favor of the erroneous teachings of their denominational beliefs regarding anything the Scriptures teach.

It is the same with Bible prophecy. Once a person has chosen to believe a particular interpretation and puts stock in it the odds of seeing it differently greatly diminish. But becoming convinced of something we believe to be true does not make it so. It is in part why the Lord has blessed us with His Word. There must be a final appeal to authority and that authority is the Lord Jesus and the written record we have of His teachings. His Word must be the final arbiter.

And His Word always dovetails together. The same way it works with Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah, all the prophetic content in the New Testament about the Last Days comes together into a single comprehensible whole. Of course, since we are dealing with several different books of the Bible which were originally not written by their respective authors as chapters in a single publication (though the Lord meant it exactly that way through His inspiration), it is up to us to do the research and also receive His revelation.

THE OLIVET PROPHECY

In this light, therefore, for those who want the truth of the matter, the Lord’s Olivet Prophecy exists in all three synoptic gospels. These accounts are easily accessible, relatively short, and quite clear. What the Lord prophesies is not all that difficult to understand especially in light of later history, which records exactly what happened up to the final conflagration in 70 AD. You can find the Lord’s prophecies of The End of the Age in the following passages:

         The Gospel of Matthew: Chapters 24 and Chapter 25

         The Gospel of Mark: Chapter 13

         The Gospel of Luke: Chapter 21

Keep in mind that there are no New Testament accounts of what eventually happened regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. But there certainly are NT accounts written in the 60s AD immediately prior to that time. There are other accounts also, such as those in Paul’s letters written within one to two decades of the end that also clearly point to it as a fast approaching future of prophetic fulfillment.

The Lord left no one unaware. He warned His disciples of what was coming and also gave the specific time frame. He said it would come to pass in their generation and some of them would live to see it. Why would He otherwise warn them? Why did He tell them the specific signs to look for unless He knew some of them would be there and must know when to head for the hills? They were also responsible for telling their children and relations so they too would be prepared. Also, they must not only prepare at the time of the end but gear up for it over the duration of the final forty years from the Lord’s time until it happened. They would have to persevere.

It was not an easy thing to know your entire nation, capital city, and beloved temple would one day soon cease to exist through a horrendous conflagration in which millions of one’s fellow citizens would perish. This is how they did it:

“By your endurance you will gain your lives.” [Luke 21:19] [1]   

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[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.

Two Days Before the Cross

         “I’m concerned about Him. It seems He has a death wish.”

         The noise of the city had died down considerably as evening descended. There was a slight cool in the air as the two men sat discussing the events of the day.

         “I’ve never heard Him say anything against Moses. He honors Abraham. He speaks well of our prophets. Someone did a good job of raising Him in the beliefs of our fathers.”

         “Yes, but He has also said some things that seem to oppose those beliefs. I was listening to Him one day several months ago and He seemed to discount our law. He was teaching against the concept of an eye for an eye. It seems He was saying there is a better way to go about things.”

         “But how can anything be better than what Moses has given us?”

         “Well, sometimes it seems we have to honor aspects of our law that go against a better outcome. I mean, if a man loses an eye through the accident of another, through the actions of a man who had no intent to do such a thing, such a man must be forced to pay with an eye anyway. Shouldn’t he be allowed to plead his case?

         “But that would violate the law, would it not?”

         “And why should a man of God ride a donkey into the great city in the manner He did? What was that?”

         “It was another one of those coincidences that point toward prophecy. You know the scripture.”

         “Yes, I know, I know. But then right after that His actions were completely unfounded. What man can come into our holy temple area and do what He did? Where is the justification for all the mayhem He caused? People were shocked at His behavior, many of them the same people who had been praising His arrival just before that. And you know He will never get away with it. It’s been two days now, and I fear for His safety. The men, the men He is dealing with will never stand for such actions.”

         “Do you know of something stirring?”

         “I feel it stirring in my heart. This man Yehoshua has not only attacked our traditions, He has attacked a cabal of powerful people, men whom even I fear.”

         “But we both know there is graft and usury, and these men have become rich in the process. Between you and me, in these moments of hidden conversation, can we not at least mention the violations before us? This prophet, or whatever He may be, He saw as we see. Yet we would never make any attempt to correct the wrongs as He did. He has displayed a power of character and a courage we do not have.”

         “And unless He has left the area, I fear He will pay for His courage. This whole thing against our religious traditions has continued building over time. He seems like a man who is starting a war. I had kept hearing reports of him, and also heard with my own ears on occasion, that He is constantly opposing some aspect of our religion, and has even railed against our holy men.”

         “Yes, He has. But no holy man of ours ever had a viable retort. His teachings keep trumping our traditions…”

         “But some of the things He’s done make a mockery of justice. I heard that He refused to press charges against a lowlife woman who was clearly caught and exposed in the very act of adultery. She should have been stoned according to our law. Moses gave no exceptions.”

         “But I remember His answer. Its profoundness and simplicity still amaze me. Very clear…”

         “That only one who has no sin can apply the sentence? How many times have such sentences been carried out in our long history? Were those who threw the stones always without sin? This idea makes a mockery of justice. Who is without sin?”

         “Those who make the proper sacrifices, that’s who. Those who live a pure and clean life. Those who keep the Torah. It is the burden of the righteous.”

         “I don’t know about that anymore. I have always believed in those things and supported our way of life and laws, but He has showed me that our application and interpretation of the law is not so pure. He keeps showing us holes and inconsistencies and misapplications within our traditions. He is showing that while the law may be perfect, we often do not do a very good job in its application.”

         “You think she should not have been stoned? Isn’t it clear the law says she should be?”

         “Yes. It says that. But they all dropped their rocks and walked away. They decided they could not be the ones who carried out the sentence.”

         “But how did that happen? They had all been so sure.”

         “It’s the same reason I’m wondering about all these things just now…”

         By then the night had fallen. The streets outside had grown quiet and a cool breeze touched their faces. It was one of those moments when one respected the silence and comfort of the evening, when work was done, and when one thought of things usually not possible during the busy day.

         The two men sat motionless, somewhat deep in thought. They happened to be looking east out a large window from a second story room, toward the Mount of Olives. Occasionally, one of them would take sip of tea. As they pondered the subject before them, not wanting to disrespect what seemed to be a holy time and a moment of reflection, they beheld an astounding sight.

         There before them, peeking up from the high eastern ridge, was a bright orange waxing moon, almost full. In a few seconds they were bathed in light. The darkness of the room and city streets vanished but their eyes remained fixed on the natural wonder before them. Brighter and bigger it became until it lifted off completely from the earth, as in a slow ascent toward heaven. In that moment their thoughts also shoved off into the air, and they saw things a little clearer.

         They could not express it, though. Both of these men knew there was something different about the Man of their discussion. They did not understand, what with all the competing thoughts and different doctrines and contrary applications of the great law. But each of them knew on a deeper level that this former carpenter from Nazareth, of all places, had captured their hearts.

         And in the deep darkness of ancient Jerusalem, on an early spring night long ago, the Light had come.

         © 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

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         [Thanks to all for visiting. Stay tuned. The third part and conclusion of this series, The Hebrew Month of Nisan: Atonement and Resurrection, will be posted tomorrow.]