A Study of Theology III – Part 11
Ascension of Christ
A Study of Theology III – Part 11 (Dr. Thomas Figart)
Jesus told His disciples that He would go to His father’s house. Was this just one single event? When did He ascend into heaven? Why isn’t Jesus mentioned more often in historical documents of His time?
A Study of Theology III – Part 11
Dr. Thomas Figart
- The Saviour (con’t)
- The Ascension of Christ.
- Did He ascend on the day of His resurrection? The general belief is that Christ remained on earth after His resurrection for 40 days and then ascended, Acts 1:9-11. However, it can be shown from Scripture that the more probable course of events was that He became resident in heaven on the day of resurrection, and then visited the earth many times during the 40 days, at the end of which, in Acts 1:5, He gave the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Order of events:
1). His appearance to Mary, Jn. 20:13-17. Jesus said, “Touch me not; I am not yet ascended… go…say to my brethren….I ascend to my Father…” The usual interpretation, because of the present imperative, it is “Stop touching me” as a command to stop something in progress.. Aorist subjunctive would have been used for “Do not begin touching me.” However, present imperative is used as prohibition, as in James 3:1 “Be not many teachers…” and in Lk. 10:7, before the 70 went forth, Jesus said “Go not from house to house…”
2). His appearance that same morning to the women, Matt. 28:9, “They held Him by the feet.” Why did He allow this, and yet forbade Mary from touching Him shortly before?
3). His appearance that same evening, Lk. 24:38-40, “Handle me and see…” Why allow this the same day, and yet forbid Mary?
4). Question: When was the ascension of Lk. 24:50-53? There are no thought changes or time breaks or lapses in the section, 24:36-53, so this may be another ascension on the day of resurrection, not the ascension after 40 days.
5). Conclusion: He “must ascend” on the morning of His resurrection to present the blood on the mercy-seat in heaven, Heb. 9:23-24. This would fulfill the types of the offering on the Day of Atonement, Lev, 16:33, and of the wave sheaf in Lev. 23:9-14 at the Feast of Firstfruits..
- The Ascension after the 40 days, Acts 1:9-11.
1). The Scriptural basis for the ascension.
a). In the Gospels, only Mark and Luke mention an ascension, and the one in Luke may be earlier.
b). In Acts 1:9-11 these words are used:, v.9 “taken up” eperethe (the exaltation: “lift up”)v. 9 “received Him” hupelaben (the method: “bore Him up from underneath”) v.10 “went up” poreumenou (the visibility: “to proceed”) the verse also says, “they saw”, v. 11 “taken up” analemphtheis (the finality: “received up”) also, “He sat down…”
c). Other Scriptures: Ps. 68:18 cf. Eph. 4:8, He ascended and led captivity captive; and Prov. 30:4, cf. Jn. 3:13, He descended and ascended.
2). The meaning of the ascension to the Christian is that Christ has become the ascended Head of the Body, Eph. 1:20-23.
3). The meaning of the ascension to Christ was that He has returned to the glory He had with the Father, John. 17:5; Phil. 2:9-11.
- The Historicity of Jesus Christ. Apart from the Gospels there are few contemporaneous references to Jesus Christ.
- Josephus, a Jewish Historian, in Antiquities, Book 17, chapter 3:3, “Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was (the) Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” (94 A.D.)
- Tacitus, a Roman Historian, in Annals, 15:44, in a passage relating to Nero’s persecutions, tells how the Christians already “a great multitude” derived their name “from one Christus, who was executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate.” (written about 64 A.D.)
- Suetonius, (around 100 A.D.) a Roman Historian, in his account of Claudius Caesar speaks of the Jews being expelled from Rome for the raising of tumults at the instigation of “one Chrestus,” see Acts 18:12.
- Lucian, a Roman Historian, 165-170 A.D. speaks of the founder of Christianity as a man who had been fixed to a stake in Palestine and who was still worshiped.
- Why were there no more such references?
1). Lack of interest in a man who was then unknown.
2). Lack of information. There were few historians, and those who wrote would have recorded things which were farther-reaching than the life and death and resurrection of Christ. Some may have known about Christ, but chose to ignore the information.
3). Lack of time. Christianity was a very small sect until after the truth of the resurrection of Christ. But when this truth began to spread, the whole Roman Empire was “christianized,” specifically by Constantine, in 312 A.D.