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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 1 - Verse 9
Verse 9. 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 as that he should ascend in open day; in the presence of his apostles; and that not when they were asleep, or indifferent, but when they were engaged in a conversation that should fix the attention, and when they were looking upon him. Had Jesus vanished secretly, or 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 risen; and when they saw him ascend to heaven, they could not doubt that his work was approved, and that God would carry it onward. 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, Joh 17:24; 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, Joh 17:4,15; Php 2:6,9,10.
(2.) It was proper that he should ascend, 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 be present at all times, and could apply the work to all men. See Barnes "Joh 16:7".
(3.) A part 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, Le 16:11-14. This was done to typify the entrance of the great High Priest of our profession into the heavens, Heb 9:7,8,11,12.
The work which he performs there is the work of intercession, Heb 7:25. This is properly the work which an advocate performs in a court of justice for his client. It means that Christ, our great High Priest, still pleads and manages our cause in heaven; secures our interests; obtains for us grace and mercy. It consists in his appearing in the presence of God for us, Heb 9:24; in his presenting the merits of his blood, Heb 9:12,14 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 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 Co 15:25, "He must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet." Eph 1:20-22; Php 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 translated, (Ge 5:24; comp. Heb 11:5) and Elijah was taken by a whirlwind to heaven, 2 Ki 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, Ac 1:11; Mt 24:30; 26:64; Mr 13:26; Re 1:7; Da 7:13.
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