He was taken up - He was speaking face to face with them, and while they beheld he was taken up; he began to ascend to heaven, and they continued to look after him till a cloud received him out of their sight - till he had ascended above the region of the clouds, by the density of which all farther distinct vision was prevented. These circumstances are very remarkable, and should be carefully noted. They render insupportable the theory that states, "that our Lord did not ascend to heaven; that his being taken up signifies his going into some mountain, the top of which was covered with clouds, or thick vapours; and that the two men in white garments were two priests, or Levites, who simply informed the disciples of his revisiting them again at some future time." One would suppose that an opinion of this kind could hardly ever obtain credit among people professing Christianity; and yet it is espoused by some men of considerable learning and ingenuity. But the mere letter of the text will be ever sufficient for its total confutation. He that believes the text cannot receive such a miserable comment. Foreign critics and divines take a most sinful latitude on subjects of this kind.
While they beheld - While they saw him. It was of importance to state that circumstance, and to state it distinctly. It is not affirmed in the New Testament that they “saw him rise” from the dead, because the evidence of that fact could be better established by their seeing him after he was risen. But the truth of his “ascension to heaven” could not be confirmed in that manner. Hence, it was so arranged that he should ascend in open day, and in the presence of his apostles; and that not when they were asleep, or were inattentive to what was occurring, but when they were engaged in a conversation that‘ would fix the attention, and even when they were looking upon him. Had Jesus vanished secretly, or had he disappeared in the night, the apostles would have been amazed and confounded; perhaps they would even have doubted whether they had not been deceived. But when they saw him leave them in this manner, they could not doubt that he had ascended to heaven, and that God approved his work, and would carry it forward. This event was exceedingly important:
(1) It was a confirmation of the truth of the Christian religion.
(2) it enabled the apostles to state distinctly where the Lord Jesus was, and at once directed their affections and their thoughts away from the earth, and opened their eyes on the glory of the scheme of religion they were to establish. If their Saviour was in heaven, it settled the question about the nature of his kingdom. It was clear that it was not designed to be a temporal kingdom. The reasons why it was proper that the Lord Jesus should ascend to heaven rather than remain on earth were:
(1) That he had “finished” the work which God gave him to do “on the earth” John 17:4; John 19:30, and it was proper that he should be received back to the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, John 17:4-5; Philemon 2:6, Philemon 2:9-10.
(2) it was proper that he should ascend in order that the Holy Spirit might come down and perform his part of the work of redemption. Jesus, by his personal ministry, as a man, could be but in one place; the Holy Spirit could be in all places, and could apply the work to all people. See note on John 16:7.
(3) apart of the work of Christ was yet to be performed in heaven. That was the work of intercession. The high priest of the Jews not only made an atonement, but also presented the blood of sacrifice before the mercy-seat, as the priest of the people, Leviticus 16:11-14. This was done to typify the entrance of the great high priest of our profession into the heavens, Hebrews 9:7-8, Hebrews 9:11-12. The work which he performs there is the work of intercession, Hebrews 7:25. This is properly the work which an advocate performs in a court for his client. As applicable to Christ, the meaning is, that he, as our great high priest, still manages our cause in heaven; secures our interests; obtains for us grace and mercy. His work, in this respect, consists in his appearing in the presence of God for us Hebrews 9:24; in his presenting the merits of his blood Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:14; and in securing the continuance of the mercy which has been bestowed on us, and which is still needful for our welfare. The Lord Jesus also ascended that he might assume and exercise the office of King in the immediate seat of power. All worlds were made subject to him for the welfare of the church; and it was needful that he should be solemnly invested with that power in the presence of God as the reward of his earthly toils. 1 Corinthians 15:25, “he must reign until he hath put all enemies under his feet.” Compare Ephesians 1:20-22; Philemon 2:6-11.
A cloud received him - He entered into the region of the clouds, and was hid from their view. But two others of our race have been taken bodily from earth to heaven. Enoch was transported (Genesis 5:24; compare Hebrews 11:5); and Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind, 2 Kings 2:11. It is remarkable that when the return of the Saviour is mentioned, it is uniformly said that he will return in the clouds, Acts 1:11; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Mark 13:26; Revelation 1:7; Daniel 7:13. The clouds are an emblem of sublimity and grandeur, and perhaps this is all that is intended by these expressions, Deuteronomy 4:11; 2 Samuel 22:12; Psalm 97:2; Psalm 104:3.
Christ's ascension to heaven, amid the cloud of heavenly angels, glorified Him. His concealed glory shone forth with all the brightness that mortal man could endure and live. He came to our world as a man; He ascended to His heavenly home as God. His human life was full of sorrow and grief, because of His cruel rejection by those He came to save; but men were permitted to see Him strengthened, to behold Him ascending in glory and triumph, surrounded by a convoy of angels. The same holy beings that announced His advent to the world were permitted to attend Him at His ascension, and to demand a triumphal entrance for the royal and glorified Being. “Lift your heads, O ye gates,” they cry as they near the heavenly portals.... “Who is this King of glory?” And from thousands and ten thousands of voices the answer comes: “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle”.... LHU 102.3Read in context »
Such faith may be represented by the eleventh hour laborers who receive as much reward as do those who have labored for many hours. The thief asked in faith, in penitence, in contrition. He asked in earnestness, as if he fully realized that Jesus could save him if He would. And the hope in his voice was mingled with anguish as he realized that if He did not, he would be lost, eternally lost. He cast his helpless, dying soul and body on Jesus Christ (Manuscript 52, 1897). 5BC 1125.1Read in context »
Christ longed to be in a position where He could accomplish the most important work by few and simple means. The plan of redemption is comprehensive; but its parts are few, and each part depends on the others, while all work together with the utmost simplicity and in entire harmony. Christ is represented by the Holy Spirit; and when this Spirit is appreciated, when those controlled by the Spirit communicate to others the energy with which they are imbued, an invisible chord is touched which electrifies the whole. Would that we could all understand how boundless are the divine resources (The Watchman, November 28, 1905). 6BC 1053.1
The Holy Spirit Gives Divine Authority—Jesus says, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me.” It is the union of the Holy Spirit and the testimony of the living witness that is to warn the world. The worker for God is the agent through which the heavenly communication is given, and the Holy Spirit gives divine authority to the word of truth (The Review and Herald, April 4, 1893). 6BC 1053.2Read in context »
The time had come for Christ to ascend to His Father's throne. As a divine conqueror He was about to return with the trophies of victory to the heavenly courts. Before His death He had declared to His Father, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.” John 17:4. After His resurrection He tarried on earth for a season, that His disciples might become familiar with Him in His risen and glorified body. Now He was ready for the leave-taking. He had authenticated the fact that He was a living Saviour. His disciples need no longer associate Him with the tomb. They could think of Him as glorified before the heavenly universe. DA 829.1Read in context »