By Peter Amsterdam
September 27, 2022
In this article we’ll look at the last few verses of the last chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Earlier in this chapter, Jesus appeared to His disciples. They were frightened, and thought they were seeing a spirit. Jesus showed them the wounds in His hands and feet so that they would know it was Him, and then He ate some food to show that He was not a spirit. We’re told that He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.1 He went on to say, “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”2
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.3
The Gospel of Luke ends with Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Jesus left Jerusalem and led His disciples to Bethany, which is on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives, less than 2 miles (3.2 km) from Jerusalem. It was from there that He was taken up into heaven.
The book of Acts tells us the same thing.
He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me.”4
And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.5
The Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts both attest to Jesus’ ascension into heaven.
Some Bible commentators state that within the Gospels, only the Gospel of Luke describes Jesus’ ascension. While the Gospel of Mark includes the ascension (Mark 16:19), some commentators feel that the account in Mark is not an authentic part of Mark’s Gospel, but rather is a later addition. But even if Jesus’ ascension were only addressed in the Gospel of Luke, it doesn’t mean that it was unknown to the other New Testament writers. For example, in the Gospel of John, Jesus said to Mary, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”6 In the book of Acts, the apostle Peter speaks of Jesus being exalted at the right hand of God.7 In 1 Peter we read about Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.8 The apostle Paul wrote:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.9
Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.10
Jesus’ ascension into heaven explains why there were no further post-resurrection appearances after 40 days. This 40-day period began with the resurrection of Jesus and ended with His ascension into heaven. One author explains:
In the transition from His earthly to His heavenly state, Jesus could perfectly well have vanished, as on other occasions, and “gone to the Father” secretly and invisibly. The reason for a public and visible ascension is surely that He wanted them to know that He had gone for good. During the forty days He had kept appearing, disappearing and reappearing. But now this interim period was over. This time His departure was final. So they were not to wait around for His next resurrection appearance. Instead, they were to wait for somebody else, the Holy Spirit [Acts 1:4]. For He would come only after Jesus had gone, and they could get on with their mission in the power He would give them.11
Jesus’ ascension was also His vindication. It was the fulfillment of the prediction He made at His trial: From now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.12 He was condemned to death for making this claim; however, the ascension shows that His claim was true and His crucifixion was unjust. The Father didn’t reject Jesus’ claim; rather, the Son was received at the Father’s side. Jesus’ ascension was not just a departure from this world, it was also an arrival in heaven.
And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.13
After receiving Jesus’ blessing as He was carried up into heaven, the disciples worshipped Him. It’s no wonder that they did so, as they had seen Him be crucified and laid in a tomb, and a few days later saw Him alive again. He was with them for 40 days, teaching and instructing them, and then they watched as He ascended into heaven. Their response was to return to Jerusalem and to worship God in the temple, and in time, on the day of Pentecost, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to preach the message of Jesus in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.14
This brings us to the end of this series, Jesus—His Life and Message. I pray that this series has been a blessing to you.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 Luke 24:45.
2 Luke 24:49.
3 Luke 24:50–53.
4 Acts 1:3–4.
5 Acts 1:9.
6 John 20:17.
7 Acts 2:33.
8 1 Peter 3:21–22.
9 Colossians 3:1.
10 Hebrews 9:24.
11 John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 49.
12 Luke 22:69.
13 Luke 24:52–53.
14 Acts 1:8.