“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) The Ascension of Jesus and Its Prophecy (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
The Ascension of Jesus and Its Prophecy
God used Luke the beloved physician (and sometimes traveling companion of the apostle Paul) to write two books of the Bible. He begins his second by saying, “The first account I composed Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3).
On one occasion, during that 40-day period, the Lord had also “appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time” (1 Cor. 15:6). And some of those were still living when Luke wrote the book of Acts about 27 to 28 years after the Lord’s resurrection.
Luke then goes on to write, “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven'” (Acts 1:9-11). What an awesome and marvelous sight that must have been to behold!
The Prophecy of the Lord’s Ascension
The ascension of Jesus that we just read about was actually foretold by the prophet Daniel several centuries prior. He declares:
“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
God the Father, of course, is the “Ancient of Days” whom Jesus “came up to” (v. 13).
And notice what the Lord received at that time: “dominion, Glory, and a kingdom” (v. 14).
We also see a purpose for the giving of that: It was so “all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him” (v. 14).
Unlike the Law of Moses, which was only for the Jewish people (though some Gentiles became proselytes to it), the New Covenant of the Gospel Age is for all people — and all are to be taught it and live by it (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16).
So if God’s kingdom has not yet come, as some would say and are still awaiting it, then how could any of us serve Him acceptably? Can we have His approval of serving Him without being a part of His kingdom?
Many folks today make a distinction between the kingdom and the church, and say that the church is a “substitute” for the kingdom. That, to them, though God had initially planned to set up His kingdom, He was not able to follow through with His intent because of the Jews’ rejection of His Son Jesus. So He set up the church as a “substitute,” or that which was an “afterthought” in the mind of God.
But how can anyone believe that? God knew what they were going to do to His Son — even before He sent Him. So the Father was not only aware in advance of their rejection, but also of the torment they would bring upon Jesus. God’s omniscience concerning this is also seen in the Messianic passages in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 that foretell of Christ’s suffering at Calvary, centuries before the actual event. Yes, God very well knew what man would do.
The church is the kingdom. Though Thayer shows “kingdom” to primarily mean “1) royal power, kingship, dominion, rule 1a) not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom 1b) of the royal power of Jesus as the triumphant Messiah,” he also shows the secondary meaning to be “2) a kingdom, the territory subject to the rule of a king.” What kind of king would not have a kingdom to rule over? That sounds rather sad. Is Jesus a king without a kingdom? All those who submit to God’s kingdom (His rule) become a part of His kingdom (the church that He rules over).
Also, the church was not “an afterthought” in the mind of God. Rather, it was part of His eternal plan. For, as Paul speaks of that mystery that was now being revealed, it was the Lord’s design that “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him” (Eph. 3:10-12).
So God’s kingdom has come. And hear what Paul says of those who have submitted to God’s plan of salvation: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). The apostle John, when exiled to the island of Patmos, acknowledged that he was a “fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus” (Rev. 1:9). To be in Jesus, therefore, is to be in the kingdom (the church). So it is essential to be in Jesus to serve God acceptably. For Jesus says, when showing the need to abide in Him (as the vine of which Christians are the branches), “…he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:6).
While on earth, Jesus, as well as John the Baptist, preached the need for repentance and gave the reason: “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17; cf. Matt. 3:2). Its coming was so near that Jesus was able to say, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (Mark 9:1).
These passages clearly show that God’s kingdom has come, and the Christian is already in it.
Furthermore, when Jesus comes again, though He won’t be setting foot on earth, He will then be delivering the kingdom up to His Father in heaven on that day that the saved of all time will be meeting Him in the air (1 Cor. 15:22-28; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).
Right now Jesus is the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16). He has been exalted to God’s right hand “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:20-23).
In Old Testament times, God promised to send the Savior, the Messiah — and God kept His word. He sent Jesus “when the fullness of the time came” (Gal. 4:4), which means “the proper or destined time” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary). And just as God kept His word in sending Jesus the first time, He will also keep His word in sending Him again in that great final day when “the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we [Christians] who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). And that day, which is referred to as the “last day,” will also be the time of the universal resurrection for all people of all time. For it will include not only the saved, but also all the lost souls. For “an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (Jn. 5:28-29, cf. Acts 24:15).
As we have seen in this lesson, Jesus not only ascended to the right hand of God in heaven, but also fulfilled prophecy in doing so. Because of all that the Lord accomplished while on earth, and now reigning in glory, we who are Christians will also ascend one of these days, when we will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air! Let us each strive to be ready for that great day! And if you happen to be a non-Christian, read below to see how you can become one and make yourself ready, too!
— All Scripture from the New American Standard Bible
News & Notes
Folks to be praying for:
We extend our condolences to all the loved ones of Andy Berendt who passed away peacefully Friday evening while surrounded by his wife Kathy, his son Adam, his daughter Heather, and his grandchild Noelani. Andy had served the Lord for many years as a gospel preacher; and when a Christian passes away, though there is sorrow in that loss, yet, as the apostle Paul shows, we do not have to “grieve as do the rest who have no hope”; and can, therefore, “comfort one another with these words” that “the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Let us be keeping all of his family and friends in prayer.
Elaine Abbott, who has been undergoing chemo treatments once a week and hemodialysis three times a week, is now in the hospital for diverticulitis. She should be home in a couple days.
Joyce Rittenhouse’s brother will be having heart surgery this Tuesday. His blood pressure has been very low.
Joyce has been having a few kidney stones over the last several months at different times. Her latest one was eliminated the Sunday before last.
Jim Lively had a bad fall recently that put a small tear through the top of his ear, cutting completely through. It was the first he had fallen in a few months, so he has improved on that.
Doyle Rittenhouse will be having a procedure this Wednesday to remove more tissue from an area where he had an irregular mole removed. It was not melanoma, but precancerous. This week or the week after, he will also have an epidural for the back pain that he has continually been having for a while. Eventually, “spacers” will be put into his spine to solve the problem.
Michael Rittenhouse’s CT scan showed no cancer, no pneumonia, and no nodules. Though he is not 100% improved, yet he is breathing better now. However, he still has some kind of health issue that he will find out about June 9 when his doctor will discuss that with him.
James Medlock is doing somewhat better.
Emily Abbott Cox is now in about her 36th week of pregnancy.
Bud Montero will be having a follow-up on June 11 for the procedure he had a couple weeks ago.
Let us also continue to remember the following in prayer: Ray Daugherty, Rick Cuthbertson, Ann Vandevander, Rex & Frankie Hadley, A.J. & Pat Joyner, Shirley Davis, John Bladen, the Medlock family, and Kerry Williams.
No additional illnesses or physical problems have been reported among us, but let us still continue to keep each other in prayer.
On May 24, 2020, we resumed having our worship service in the building. It had been 70 days since we had last done so. It was so good to be able to worship God together again! Though many were not able to be with us, the 23 who were practiced social distancing, which was easy to do in an auditorium that would probably accommodate more than 200 people (when social distancing would not be required). For a while, we will just be having the Sunday 10 a.m. worship service for our only service in the building for the week. We do not yet know when we will also begin our Bible classes for Sunday and Wednesday, but it will be posted when we do.
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30-31).
2) Believe in the deity of Jesus Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27; Col. 2:12; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Matt. 24:13; Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday Worship Service: 10 a.m. (This will temporarily be our only service for the week, due to the coronavirus caution.)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
http://thomastedwards.com/go (older version of the Gospel Observer website, but with bulletins going back to March 4, 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)