YESHUA THE MESSIAH ASCENDED TO HEAVEN
The ascension of Yeshua the Messiah into heaven is one of the most important events recorded in the New Testament. But though it occupies a vital place in Scripture, it doesn’t get a lot of attention today, even among believers in Yeshua. My guess is that you probably haven’t read any books about it or heard many sermons on it. Usually we focus on the crucifixion and the resurrection.
The ascension doesn’t diminish the cross and resurrection in the accomplishment of our redemption. Rather, it’s a necessary extension of them for the application of our redemption. The reason Messiah can “save [us] to the uttermost” is not only because he died on earth, but because “he always lives to make intercession for us” in heaven (Hebrews 7:23–24). Indeed, the fact that Yeshua has ascended into heaven and sat down on the right hand of the power of God is seen as proof that his cross-work was successful.
The ascension is pivotal, especially in the writings of Luke. Luke wrote a two-part history of the origin of Christianity. Volume one is the gospel that bears his name. Volume two is the book of Acts. And the ascension was so important for Luke, that he ended volume one with it (Luke 24:50-51), begins volume two by reporting it again (Acts 1:9-11), and then refers back to it several times in the book of Acts.
In God’s plan of salvation, Yeshua the Messiah was crucified for the sins of mankind, died, and rose from the dead. Following his resurrection, he appeared many times to his disciples. All of the events in Yeshua’s life occurred in specific locations in the Holy Land. For many of the events we know exactly where they occurred, while for others we only have local oral traditions. In the case of Yeshua’s ascension into Heaven, the Bible mentions the name of the mountain where the apostles witnessed the miraculous event.
2.0 Pre Ascension Appearance
The disciples were troubled at the Last Supper when Yeshua hinted of his going up to the Father (Matthew 26:29-32, Mark 14:25-28, John 13:33). After Yeshua rose from the dead, He “presented Himself alive” (Acts 1:3) to the women near the tomb (Matthew 28:9-10, John 20:14-18), to His disciples (Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:14-18, Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-31; 21:1-25), and to more than 500 others (1 Corinthians 15:6). In the days following His resurrection, Yeshua taught His disciples about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
Forty days after the resurrection, Yeshua and His disciples went to Mount Olives, near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away” (Acts 1:12). There, Jesus promised His followers that they would soon receive the Holy Spirit, and He instructed them to remain in Jerusalem until the Spirit had come. Then Yeshua blessed them, and as He gave the blessing, He began to ascend into heaven.
The account of Yeshua’s ascension is found in Mark 16:15-19, Luke 24:50-51 and Acts 1:9-11. Then after the Ascension, they were found “standing there looking at the sky” before being reassured by the angels (Acts 1:11). It is plain from Scripture that Yeshua’s ascension was a literal, bodily return to heaven. He rose from the ground gradually and visibly, observed by many intent onlookers. As the disciples strained to catch a last glimpse of Yeshua, a cloud hid Him from their view, and two angels appeared and promised Messiah’s return “in just the same way that you have watched Him go” (Acts 1:11).
We could ask with them: Why did Yeshua have to ascend to heaven only 40 days after the Resurrection? Why could he not have remained walking among his followers for many ages?
Scripture shows us that the Ascension is connected intrinsically with the Paschal Mystery and the coming of the Holy Spirit, and thus was crucial for our salvation and the welfare of the Church (1 Timothy 3:16). The book of John shows us that Yeshua spent a considerable amount of time at the Last Supper tenderly explaining it to his apostles (John 13-17).
Still not completely understanding that Yeshua’s messianic mission had been spiritual and not political, the disciples asked Yeshua if he was going this time to restore again the kingdom to Israel. Jesus answered them:
It is not for you to know the times or seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be my witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:7-8)
The ascension of Yeshua describes Messiah’s transition from earth to heaven after his life, ministry, death, and resurrection. The Bible refers to the ascension as a passive action—Yeshua was “taken up” into heaven. Through the ascension of Yeshua, God the Father exalted the Lord to his right hand in heaven.
3.0 Post Ascension Appearance
At the same time, Yeshua the Messiah appeared to his disciples even after his Ascension into Heaven. Stephen saw “the glory of God, and Yeshua standing on the right hand of God” prior to his martyrdom (Acts 7:55). Saul experienced conversion on the road to Damascus when he was blinded by a bright light and told “I am Yeshua whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:3-5).
The Lord Yeshua appeared in a vision to Ananias in Damascus, instructing him to baptize Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:10-19). The Lord reassured Paul to stay in Corinth after he had baptized Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue (Acts 18:9). Yeshua actually appeared to Paul in the Temple of Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-21)! The Lord stood by Paul in Jerusalem and advised him that he was to “bear witness” to Him in Rome (Acts 23:11). His final appearance in Scripture was to John on the island of Patmos in the Book of Revelation (in almost all chapters, especially in 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,11,14, 19 & 22).
The ascension convinced disciples to align themselves with the objective, true King of the universe. It gave them confidence to be Messiah’s witnesses to the ends of the earth. Even though it would cost them their lives. Clearly, this was no personal preference or private faith for the witnesses of the ascension. The disciples based their entire lives on this fact: the risen Messiah was also the cosmic king who would one day return to reign on earth.
A few days later, we see Peter proclaiming the death, resurrection and ascension of Messiah. For him they had become inseparable chapters in the gospel story (Acts 2:22-36). Listen to Peter’s bold conclusion: “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Yeshua whom you crucified” (Acts 2:34-36).
Actually, without the ascension, we the followers of Yeshua would have no purpose beyond ourselves in this world. We would just be living for our little comforts and plans, gripes and groans, like everyone else. Building our own little ladders to heaven. Securing our paper kingdoms. Dreaming up our own ideas of the afterlife. But because Yeshua descended to earth as our sacrifice and Saviour, and ascended to heaven as our real, objective King, we are part of something much bigger than ourselves (Acts 1:9). His Kingdom, in heaven and on earth.
4.0 What does the Ascension of Yeshua the Messiah into heaven mean?
- Yeshua has gone to the Father. It signalled the end of His earthly ministry. God the Father had lovingly sent His Son into the world at Bethlehem, and now the Son was returning to the Father. The period of human limitation was at an end.
- It signified success in His earthly work. All that He had come to do, He had accomplished. This means, first of all, that Yeshua has won the victory over every enemy. Yeshua has triumphed over sin, death and the devil. He triumphs over every evil foe.
- The ascended Yeshua is not confined to one physical location in heaven. Rather, His ascension means He has authority to be everywhere He has promised to be. Yeshua’s ascension to the Heaven means that Yeshua now wields all power and authority on heaven and on earth. As the Psalm says, “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases” (Psalm 115:3).
- It marked the return of His heavenly glory. Yeshua’s glory had been veiled during His sojourn on earth, with one brief exception at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9).
- 4) It symbolized His exaltation by the Father (Ephesians 1:20-23). The One with whom the Father is well pleased (Matthew 17:5). “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Yeshua the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9).
- Currently, the Lord Jesus is in heaven. The Scriptures frequently picture Him at the right hand of the Father-a position of honor and authority (Psalm 110:1; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 8:1). Messiah is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18), the giver of spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:7-8), and the One who fills all in all (Ephesians 4:9-10). It allowed Him to prepare a place for us (John 14:2).
- It indicated the beginning of His new work as High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16) and Mediator of the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15). It set the pattern for His return. When Yeshua comes to set up the Kingdom, He will return just as He left-literally, bodily, and visibly in the clouds (Acts 1:11; Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7).