Acts 1:1-11; Eph. 1:17-23; Mt. 28:16-20
According to the Bible, Enoch and Elijah are the only two people God took to heaven without them dying. Genesis 5:24 says, "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away." Second Kings 2:11 relates the translation of Elijah, "Suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind." Enoch is described as a man who "walked with God for 300 years" (Genesis 5:22-23). Elijah was perhaps the most powerful of God’s prophets in the Old Testament. There are also prophecies of Elijah’s return (Malachi 4:5-6).
The most popular Ascension story is the Ascension of Jesus. When the Apostles spoke about the ascension of Jesus their audience did not find any problem in accepting it as they were very familiar with the Ascension of Enoch and Elijah.
In the early churches, some very interesting customs took place to mark this feast. Often the paschal candle would beextinguished. It was a way to symbolize that ascension was the end of Christ’s work of reconciling us to God and one another. His life, death, resurrection, and ascension completed the task. Blessing of the first fruits often was a part of an Ascension Day celebration. People would bring the first harvest of their grapes and beans for the priests to bless. Sometimes Ascension Day included a procession into the sanctuary like a parade with torches and banners as a way to commemorate Christ’s ascension.
Today, for the last time, the resurrection body of our Lord Jesus Christ appears to the disciples again and a cloud takes him from their sight. Before he leaves them, he assures them that they will receive strength from on high, enabling them to fulfil their commitment to him, giving them confidence and courage to proclaim his message for all to hear. ‘You will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’
As he’s lifted up like Enoch and Elijah – the apostles have to have another message to get them to stop just standing around looking up at the skies. They’re assured he’s coming back in the very same way.
The theological study, “The Ascension of Christ,” shows us why the ascension is an important and necessary mystery of Christianity: It is the link between Christ’s resurrection and his second coming. It marked a new beginning, opened a new era, and drove the future course of history.
The first message of the Ascension is that it marks the end of Easter Season. Ever since his resurrection Jesus appeared a number of times to his disciples. Today, for the last time, the disciples saw the resurrected body of Jesus.
Secondly, by entering into heaven Jesus completed His redemption work. It reminds us that heaven is our ultimate hope, and therefore, all of our activities should be directed toward this end. Paul says that focusing on righteous matters and performing them bring the God of peace, the very presence of God, Philippians (4:9). And if we "set our hearts and minds on things above we shall also appear with Christ who is seated at the right hand of God", Colossians (3:1-4).
Thirdly, Just as Jesus went into heaven, so too will all Christians. Accordingly, let us develop a heavenly mind-set that is consumed with the things of God. Let us think of the glories of heaven. Even the thought of heaven can illuminate our whole Christian life. It can inspire and encourage us to be more heavenly-minded.
We have traced Jesus' birth, infancy, preaching, miracles, suffering, death and resurrection from the beginning to the conclusion, that is, from the Advent Season to Jesus' Ascension. God was born in the person of Jesus to liberate us from sin and death. He taught and preached the love of God. He healed the sick and fed the hungry. He forgave sins and reconciled people. He suffered and died. He resurrected on the third day. He appeared to his followers for forty days and finally ascended on high and is now seated in glory at the right hand of the Father. The Ascension of Christ is the culmination of the Resurrection experience.
The story of the ascension is the story of how He assumed His role as Intercessor. We know that we have a representative in Heaven. He speaks to the Father in our defence and the Father hears Him because of His righteousness. (I John 2:1) He intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father. (Rom. 8:34) He entered Heaven itself to appear for us in God’s Presence. (Heb. 9:24) He is preparing a place for us and will return to take us there to be with Him (John 14:3).
In His descent, God brought divinity to earth. In His ascent, He brought humanity to heaven. Nothing compares to our Lord’s ascension. The airplane needs a run-way. The bird needs wings. The helicopter needs propellers. But Jesus ascended under His own power. The bible says, He was taken up. Nothing on earth lifted Him; He went up solely by the power of God. It took a storm to lift Elijah. Unlike Elijah, Jesus needed no storm to elevate Him; He ascended amid the calm. Jesus does not die away from mortal view; He soars away from their view. He ascended beyond the eye of sense, where only the eye of faith could see Him. In His resurrection He conquered death. In His ascension He conquered life.
In our darkest moments, let us remember that there is still hope that He who was received by the clouds will one day burst forth from them. The ascending Savior leaves hope for the descending sinner. The lifting of Jesus has drawing efficacy upon sinful men. He said, "If I be lifted up from the earth, I’ll draw all men unto me." (Jn 12:32) Jesus left to go home and make home ready for us. But He left us to make men ready for home. This is the duty Jesus has given to his followers. To make men ready to receive him.