Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Ascension of Jesus

"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. Acts 1:8-9 NKJV


Most scholars agree the Ascension of Jesus occurs on the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem, the highest point in the area. Other references to the Mt. of Olives draw our attention to this place of importance. In Zechariah 14, the prophet pictures a restored Jerusalem and a Divine Warrior who will rescue Israel. Shadows of Christ's earthly ministry and the Messiah's Second Coming point to certain victory with, "The the LORD will go out and fight against those nations... On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem..." (14:3-4) Since ancient times, many Jews have wanted to be buried here. Jewish tradition believes "that when the Messiah comes, the resurrection of the dead will begin on the Mount of Olives. There are more than 150,000 graves currently there, including some notable rabbis, and the Tomb of the Prophets which is said to contain the remains of Zechariah, Haggai, and Malachi.

Scripture records Jesus at the Mount of Olives on various occasions during His earthly ministry. In Mark 13 and Matthew 24, sitting on the Mount of Olives Jesus delivers what Biblical historians call the "Olivet Discourse" as He explains the "Signs of the End of the Age" to the disciples. On Palm Sunday as Jesus leaves Bethany and enters Jerusalem descending from the Mt. of Olives, He weeps for Jerusalem. The Garden of Gethsemane is at the foot of the Mount of Olives, and Jesus prays there prior to the crucifixion. It is here He is betrayed by Judas. In prophecy and prophecy fulfilled, the Mount of Olives becomes a place of importance.

Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus is taken up to Heaven in the presence of His apostles. The Ascension of Jesus, Ascensio Iesu, is one of the 5 major events in the earthly ministry of Jesus that define Him as the Son of God, His baptism, transfiguration, crucifixion, and resurrection being the others. During the last evening the disciples and Jesus spend together before the crucifixion, at least three times He speaks about the coming of the Holy Spirit. (see John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7) In John 16:7 Jesus says, "...Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." Much has happened since that night. On the Mount of Olives, Christ gives authority and assigns the mission to His apostles, telling them to be His witnesses and take the Gospel message to all people, to all nations. In Luke 24:50-53 we read that Jesus blesses them and then is taken up into heaven; "Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." Scripture describes the fellowship and assurance the apostles carry back to the other believers as they prayerfully wait in community for the coming of the Holy Spirit. ~dho