Immediately after uttering these words, “and to the ends of the earth” Jesus ascended and was hidden by clouds.
Jesus not reigns with the Father in heaven – but He is coming again.
Let’s continue our study of Acts by reading together Acts 1:9-11 in the Complete Jewish Bible.
After saying this, he was taken up before their eyes; and a cloud hid him from their sight. As they were staring into the sky after him, suddenly they saw two men dressed in white standing next to them. The men said, “You Galileans! Why are you standing, staring into space? This Yeshua, who has been taken away from you into heaven, will come back to you in just the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
This first verse alone could be the subject of an entire sermon. But let’s put this all in context to begin. The 11 remaining and original disciples (Judas was dead) personally witnessed Yeshua ascend.
And how did He ascend?
Up and into the clouds. The passage states that they were all staring into the sky, no doubt slack jawed, when suddenly two men were standing there with them. I think if I had been there, I too would have been so astonished and fixated on what was happening…watching Yeshua visibly and tangibly float up into the clouds…that a hundred people could have showed up to watch and I wouldn’t have been aware of their presence.
So sudden appearance out of nowhere of these 2 men (angels, actually) wouldn’t have been noticed until those men spoke and said, “You Galileans!” I’ll bet they jumped a little bit when those angels spoke. Let’s dissect this passage.
First is the issue of going up into the clouds, which are actually two issues.
- Did Yeshua go up bodily, or was it only His spirit or if neither then in what form, exactly, did He ascend?
- And why into the clouds? Was this simply a colloquial way of saying he went up into the sky or is there a spiritual or prophetic meaning behind the word “cloud” in this?
This first issue of how did He go up of course is nothing we’ll ever prove. However I believe the evidence says it was bodily: I do not think the disciples’ saw an apparition nor was it Jesus in spirit. I believe that Yeshua was in the body; the SAME body that hung on that cross.
What is the evidence for this?
It is from the same author as the writer of the Book of Acts. In Luke’s first volume, the Gospel of Luke is the proof.
They got up that very hour and went back to Jerusalem, and found the eleven [apostles] gathered together and those who were with them, saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon [Peter]!” They began describing in detail what had happened on the road, and how Jesus was recognized by them when He broke the bread.
Luke 24:33-35 (AMP)
They were still talking about it when — there he was, standing among them! Startled and terrified, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said to them, “Why are you so upset? Why are these doubts welling up inside you? Look at my hands and my feet — it is I, myself! Touch me and see — a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you can see I do.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. While they were still unable to believe it for joy and stood there dumbfounded, he said to them, “Have you something here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, which he took and ate in their presence.
Luke 24:33-44 (CJB)
Then He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you, everything which has been written about Me in the Law of Moses and the [writings of the] Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Luke 24:44 (AMP)
Yeshua goes to great lengths to prove that it is He, in the flesh that stands before His disciples. He says He’s not a ghost. In fact, while some say He was in a glorified body, then if so His glorified body still bore the scars of His horrible trial on the cross. For he gladly showed the disciples His disfigured hands and feet, torn apart by the spikes driven through them by the Roman soldiers.
But Jesus also ate with them as proof He wasn’t a spirit or an apparition. He was still human and still desired food for His body.
The early Church Father Augustine from around 400 A.D. (he lived at the same time as John Chrysostom lived) expressed his viewpoint on this subject in a commentary he wrote on the Gospel of John.
And before we read it, it is interesting to note that Augustine’s home, and where he wrote and officiated as the Church Bishop, was a place called Hippo. The modern name for that place is Annaba, Algiers (Algeria) in northern Africa. He was a theologian and a philosopher, a native of Algiers, who came to believe in Christ in his mid-30’s. He says this:
“How did they see him go? In the flesh they touched, which they felt, the scars of which they even probed by touching; in that body in which he went in and out with them for 40 days, manifesting himself to them in truth, not in any falsity. Not as an apparition, not as a shadow not as a spirit, but as he himself said, not deceiving ‘handle and see for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see me to have”.
This is the true definition of bodily resurrection and since Yeshua is said to be the firstfruits of the resurrection, and in time we shall follow in like kind, then this seems to indicate that we should expect to be resurrected in like manner. Not necessary still harboring the scars of life or the conditions of old age or disease, but certainly as real, fleshly bodies and not as disembodied spirits.
The next issue concerns His ascending into the clouds. Without doubt the most important Biblical association that connects Christ with clouds comes in Daniel chapter 7. And Yeshua in Matthew 24 connected Himself with coming back in the clouds.
There! I have told you in advance! So if people say to you, ‘Listen! He’s out in the desert!’ don’t go; or, ‘Look! He’s hidden away in a secret room!’ don’t believe it. For when the Son of Man does come, it will be like lightning that flashes out of the east and fills the sky to the western horizon. Wherever there’s a dead body, that’s where you find the vultures. “But immediately following the trouble of those times, the sun will grow dark, the moon will stop shining, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in heaven will be shaken. “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, all the tribes of the Land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with tremendous power and glory.
Matthew 24:25-30 CJB
So while Matthew deals with his return to earth in the clouds, the Book of Daniel deals with Him arriving in Heaven in the clouds.
“As I watched, thrones were set in place; and the Ancient One took his seat. His clothing was white as snow, the hair on his head was like pure wool. His throne was fiery flames, with wheels of burning fire.
A stream of fire flowed from his presence; thousands and thousands ministered to him, millions and millions stood before him. Then the court was convened, and the books were opened.
“I kept watching. Then, because of the arrogant words which the horn was speaking, I watched as the animal was killed; its body was destroyed; and it was given over to be burned up completely.
As for the other animals, their rulership was taken away; but their lives were prolonged for a time and a season.
“I kept watching the night visions, when I saw, coming with the clouds of heaven, someone like a son of man. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence.
To him was given rulership, glory and a kingdom, so that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. His rulership is an eternal rulership that will not pass away; and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Daniel 7:9-14 CJB
So essentially what we read in Acts about Him ascending into the clouds fulfills what Daniel prophesied. But then we have the two angels that appeared to the disciples to inform them that as He left them so He would return. He left in clouds, He will return in clouds, just as Messiah said Himself in Matthew 24. Obviously this is still future to us.
But there is more to be learned. Because if we take the angels’ statement literally, upon His return He should set His foot upon exactly the same place from where He left.
So where did He ascend from?
We will read about that in my next blog post.