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Acts 1:6-11

The story of redemption continues in the book of Acts with the Spirit of Jesus working through the Body of
Christ - His members, who remain on the earth in order to carry out the ministry of reconciling men to God.

That ministry could only be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit, which would come upon
the believers collectively once Jesus ascended back to heaven. It was concerning this - the baptism in the
Holy Spirit, promised by the Father - that Jesus shared His final words with His disciples, before He finally
departed from them bodily to return to His heavenly home.

Jesus likened the baptism in the Holy Spirit to John=s water baptism. As the physical body of Jesus had
been baptized by John in a physical element - water - so the spiritual body of Jesus - the Body of Christ -
would be baptized - by Jesus - in a spiritual element - the Holy Spirit.

Both the baptism of Jesus and the baptism of the Body of Christ were anointings - in fact, the anointing of
Jesus and later, of the Body of Christ, were really one in the same anointing; a continuation of the same
ministry, to be accomplished by the same power - the power of the Holy Spirit. The singular aspect of this
anointing followed the pattern of the anointing of the High Priest, Aaron, and his sons.

The LORD God had told Moses that the priests were to be anointed as Aaron was anointed, but Scripture
only records the anointing of Aaron, with the holy oil poured upon his head. It would seem the anointing
on the head of the High Priest was the anointing for the priests, as well; it was the same anointing (Ex 29:1-
9).

The LORD told Moses that for both Aaron and for his sons, they were to be anointed so that they might
minister to the LORD in the priest=s office, and that their anointing would be an everlasting priesthood
throughout their generations (Ex 40:13, 15). The anointing of Aaron extended to all of his sons, throughout
their generations.

Likewise, the anointing of the Head, Jesus, extends to every believer of every generation. When a person
believes into Christ, he is born again, a child of God, receiving the Life of Christ - eternal life. He also
receives the Holy Spirit, to dwell in his body with him, personally.

At the same time, the believer is added to the Body of Christ, united to the collective of all believers,
through the Holy Spirit. And, as a member of Christs Body, the believer in addition receives the anointing
of the Holy Spirit, including the spiritual graces, the charismata, to empower him for his particular part in
Christ=s ministry - mediating reconciliation for men with God - which is the office of a priest.

So the one-time, historic baptism of the Body of Christ would be the anointing of all believers, the Spirit
being poured out upon them from heaven, clothing them with power from on high (Lk 24:49), just as the
priests were consecrated to be clothed with priestly garments (Lev 21:10).

This anointing was both a dedication - for service - and a mark - as servants. This was a divine
appointment to ministry. The Holy Spirit consecrated the Body of Christ as the servants of the Lord, as
Jesus had been consecrated as the Servant of Jehovah. They were set apart from the world, set apart unto
God; separated for their service.

So it is only in retaining that separation that the ministry of the Body of Christ can be fulfilled - which is
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why we see so little of that ministry today, of reconciling men to God - because there is so little separation
from the world, unto God. The hearts of believers are not set upon holiness, but upon living for
themselves, according to their own selfish desires.

We are a kingdom of priests (Rev 1:6); we represent our Lord Jesus to the world, to those who are so in
need of Him. How will men ever come to know the true and living God, unless His priests represent Him in
what we say, in what we think, in what we do - in the living of our lives?

The Body of Christ collectively is consecrated, is holy - but if we as individual believers do not walk in
sanctification personally, we cannot be effectual members of that Body - we=re a dysfunctional part.

For the Body to operate as Christ intended, all the members must be yielded to Him. And the Lord is
always ready to reveal to each member what that means, in his life.

Let=s continue in Acts chapter 1. Jesus had been speaking to His disciples in Jerusalem about the baptism
in the Holy Spirit. At some point in time later, they had regathered just outside of Jerusalem at the mount
of Olives. In his gospel, Luke says that Jesus led them out as far as to Bethany, meaning until they were
opposite Bethany (Lk 24:50). There He had a final conversation with them.

v. 6-8 Is this a reasonable question on the part of the disciples? Yes. The disciples had been raised in the
thinking of Judaism. In that day, Judaism emphasized that when Messiah came, He would set up a
kingdom on earth, freeing Israel from the yoke of foreign domination, and then Messiah would reign
through Israel over all the earth in peace and glory.

Is that wrong? No; but it is only part of the picture, for those things pertain to when Christ returns to the
earth at His Second Coming, as the King, to set up His kingdom.

Over the last 40 days, Jesus had been instructing His disciples about things pertaining to the kingdom of
God (Acts 1:3). He had opened up their understanding of the Scriptures, so that they could see the
fulfillment of the prophecies and pictures concerning Messiah in Jesus. But what had been fulfilled was to
do with Messiah in His first coming - as the Suffering Servant - the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin
of the world.

Then in Jerusalem, Jesus had spoken of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Now, the disciples knew from the
OT Scriptures that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit was spoken of in the context of Israel=s restoration (Is
44:1-8, Ez 39:23-29). So the disciples wondered if the time had come for Jesus to set up His kingdom on
earth, with Israel as the head nation.

We see from verse 7 that the short answer to this was Ano@ - the time had not come for the kingdom to be
restored to Israel. But to His disciples, Jesus said, significantly, it was not for them to know.

The restoration of Israel would have nothing to do with the disciples. They mustnt have their thinking
taken up with that future hope, which would far exceed their lifetimes for its realization. Still, by indicating
that it was the Father who would determine the time of Israels restoration, Jesus was indirectly affirming
that the nation would indeed be restored one day.

In His foreknowledge, God knew that His first called-out assembly - the nation Israel - was not yet ready to
receive her King, so Gods kingdom of sons on earth could not yet be established. There would be a time
and a season for that - still in the future of our day.
Instead, Jesus would show His disciples that Gods kingdom of sons would begin in the heavenly realm,
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through God=s second called-out assembly - the church - which includes these disciples. To that end, the
disciples would be witnesses to Jesus, throughout the world.

The Spirit would empower Christ=s Body to be His witnesses. The Greek word for witness is martus -
does that sound like a word you know? Martyr. Martus technically means one who dies for his faith -
which would become more and more common, as the persecution of the church intensified.

The disciples would be witnesses to Jesus first in Jerusalem, then spreading ever outward, through Judea
and Samaria, and eventually, to the most remote parts of the earth. This last expanse points beyond the
lifetime of these immediate disciples, but not beyond the lifetime of Christ=s Body, to whom the words of
Jesus extend.

Such a great scope of ministry could only be fulfilled through the enablement and unity of the Holy Spirit
among believers, with Jesus as the Head in heaven directing the many members of His Body in the work.

In this way, Jesus would fulfill His own words at the feast of Tabernacles: AOut of His heart [the heart of
Jesus] would flow rivers of living water@ (Jn 7:38). The Holy Spirit would flow out of Jesus to the
members of His Body, and from them to the outermost parts of the earth.

The book of Acts shows that this is exactly how the gospel spread. We will see, in the first seven chapters,
the gospel going out to the Jews in Jerusalem; then in chapters 8-12, the word is spread throughout Judea
and Samaria, as persecution drove many believers out of Jerusalem; and finally, in chapters 13-28, the
gospel is seen to spread to the Gentiles - into Asia, crossing to Europe, and finally, to Rome - the imperial
capital of the empire. That was considered the end of the civilized world, at the time.

But what would cause those stony hearts of every kind to be penetrated with the gospel of Christ?
Certainly, the Word itself, for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rm 10:17); but first
men must be draw close enough to hear it.

Well, clearly, the charismata would draw them - the spiritual graces that Jesus would give to the members
of His Body, when He poured out His Spirit upon them - such as speaking in tongues, and healings. And
righteous living is also drawing, to men. Then, as men drew near to God, God would draw near to them.
How would God do that? Through the members of Christs Body, who would speak Gods words to men -
the good news of Jesus Christ.

Then men would hear - but what would cause them to listen to what they heard? What would cause them
to desire the Life that those words proclaimed? The love that they saw. Believers love for Christ; love for
one another, and for their fellow man.

Its the love that Jesus had for them - to lay down His life, for them (Jn 15:13); the love that He shared,
with the members of His Body. Its the kind of love that serves others, for their good. The love of Jesus
draws men near, and makes the heart receptive to receive the good seed of the Word of God.

And so the disciples would provide their witness to Jesus - manifesting the very love which caused Him to
come and to die, for the sake of mankind. And this same witness is the calling of every member of Christs
Body - relayed in the final words that Jesus spoke, before He departed from the earth. Luke tells of that
departure, in verse 9.

v. 9 In one factual little sentence, Luke describes the final exaltation of Jesus from the earth - as He
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ascended back into heaven. That=s what the word translated Ataken up@ means - it means exalted or lifted
up.

Now, Matthew and John do not record the ascension at all; and Mark just says that Jesus was received up
into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God (Mk 16:19). Luke gives a few more scant details, in his
gospel. Lets look at that in Luke chapter 24.

[Luke 24:50-51] So while Jesus was in the act of blessing His disciples, with His hands uplifted, He began
to ascend into heaven, parting from them on the earth. Luke says here that Jesus was carried up - borne up
- into heaven. Just what was it that carried Jesus up? Lets go back to the account in Acts.

[Return to Acts 1]

In verse 9, it says a cloud received Him out of their sight. The word for Areceived@ in the Greek means to
take from below; to carry upward. The word contains the idea of raising a thing by getting under it, and
then catching or raising it suddenly, as wind or storm might. The cloud did this - it caught up Jesus, and
carried Him away.

The disciples witnessed the entire thing, for Jesus had been speaking with them, and He had their undivided
attention as He blessed them. Their eyes remained fastened upon Him until the boundary of their vision
was exceeded.

Did you ever think about that cloud, which received Jesus? Was it just an ordinary cloud? Or might it have
been a cloud of glory; a glorious transport?

The OT record tells us that in the wilderness, a cloud covered the tabernacle, as the glory of the LORD filled
it (Ex 40:35); and also that the LORD appeared in the cloud, above the mercy seat (Lev 16:2). The LORD was
not the cloud itself, but His presence was within the cloud; the cloud surrounded His glory.

That glory is known as the shekinah, a visible, bright outshining, as of radiant light. This brightness would
have illuminated the cloud, as well.

In John chapter 17, Jesus spoke of His glory as He was praying to His Father in the presence of His
disciples. Having indicated that He finished the work that the Father had given Him to do, Jesus then said,
AAnd now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the
world was@ (Jn 17:5).

First of all, what work was Jesus referring to finishing? Redemption - which Jesus was foreseeing as
accomplished, as the hour of His death had now come. When that work was complete, Jesus was asking
His Father to glorify Him - with Himself, the Father - that they might once again share the glory that they
had together from eternity past.

Jesus had set aside His outward glory, His divine attributes, when He took the form of a bondservant - the
Servant of Jehovah - and came to the earth in the likeness of men (Phil 2:7). Jesus was now anticipating
the resumption of His glory in His heavenly home - to which He would arise in a body of glory. Could it
have been that a cloud of glory bore Him there?

Scripture gives us another hint concerning this cloud. Turn to Ephesians chapter 4. Paul was writing to the
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Asian assemblies concerning the unity of the Body of Christ - yet the diversity of graces given to the
individual members, which is in accordance with the spiritual graces that the Holy Spirit gives to each one -
the gift of Christ, to the members of His Body.

[Ephesians 4:4-10]

v. 4-6 So Paul is first emphasizing the unity of the Body of Christ, but will now go on to speak of the
diversity of its members, based on the spiritual grace given them.

v. 7 Paul is bringing out that, even though there is perfect unity in Christ, it does not mean that there is
conformity - that each member of the Body is the same; that they all have the same ministry. The Holy
Spirit graces each one as He wills (1 Cor 12:11), for the profit of God - to obtain sons, for His kingdom.

As Paul continues, he supports his thought about this grace-giving, or gift-giving, with a quote from one of
the psalms. This psalm prophesied of the time when Christ would ascend back to heaven and pour out
these graces of the Spirit upon the members of His Body on earth.

v. 8 This portion of the psalm portrays Christ as a conqueror, who is returning after winning a great
victory. He ascends on high - back to His heavenly home - and He is leading captivity captive. For a
conqueror, this indicates that he has defeated his enemy in battle, and has taken the enemys people to be
his own.

Where did the victory of Christ take place? At the cross. There, the Lord Jesus Christ defeated Satan,
freeing those whom Satan held captive by sin and death - the sons of Adam - they are now captives of the
love of Christ, being led by Him to their new home, in heaven - the sons of God.

Conquerors would on occasion share the spoils of their victory with their people. Paul is seeing in this the
spiritual graces that Christ was given by the Father, to bestow through the Holy Spirit on the members of
His Body, for their ministry of reconciliation.

Paul then speaks further of the ascension of Jesus.

v. 9-10 Here Paul is qualifying the One who ascended as the victor. Its Jesus - the same One who
descended into the lower parts of the earth - referring to the grave. It was through Jesus obedience to death
that God then highly exalted Him (Phil 2:8-9), first resurrecting Him from the grave, then exalting Him
back into the heavens - on a cloud, in glory.

The original psalm sheds further light on the nature of this cloud. Turn to Psalm 68.

This is a psalm of David, which shows God=s victory over His enemies - with past, present, and future
fulfillments. The psalm was written on the past occasion of the ark of the testimony being brought to
Jerusalem, to the tabernacle erected for it there.

Remember that the ark itself is a figure of Gods judgment. And what covered the ark? The mercy seat.
This showed that Gods judgment would always be overlaid by His mercy, in Christ.

The OT indicates that the LORD of hosts dwelt between the cherubim on the mercy seat (2 Sam 6:2). These
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cherubim - two angels - were fashioned out of the same gold that formed the mercy seat. As the ark was
being brought up to Jerusalem, David envisioned this as if it was the LORD Himself, making His glorious
ascent.

[Psalm 68:17-18a] We stopped there because Paul quoted just the first part of verse 18 back in Ephesians
4. The Septuagint says that the victor received gifts for men, not gave gifts to men; but the Holy Spirit
inspired Paul to see that in the fulfillment, Christ received of His Father, and then gave to the members of
His Body on earth.

The verse that precedes this one is also notable. It speaks of an essentially innumerable quantity -
thousands of thousands - of what are being called chariots of God here. The Lord is among these chariots
of God - and David adds, as in Sinai, in the Holy Place - the Tabernacle.

This imagery therefore goes back to the ark, with LORD of hosts dwelling between the cherubim on the
mercy seat. David is referring to angels as the chariots of God. A chariot is a carriage used for battle and
for transport - such as a conqueror would ride.

In that Paul has applied this passage of the glorious conqueror to the ascension of Jesus back into heaven,
we can see that this prophecy suggests that Jesus ascended as victor upon these chariots of God - the
myriad of angels was His chariot.

It is likely that this myriad of angels was the Acloud@ which received Jesus, catching Him up from beneath,
carrying Him upward, bearing Jesus back to His heavenly home, to the glory that He had with the Father
before the world was. The Lord was among this host of angels, even as the presence of God was in the
Holy Place, dwelling above the mercy seat - between the cherubim.

Another psalm refers to angels as ministers who are a flaming fire - they reflect the glory of God (Ps
104:4). We could say then that these chariots of God are chariots of fire - which is the very term used when
Elijah was caught up into glory.

Turn to Second Kings 2:11. Elijah had been given to see that he would be making his departure from the
earth. The prophet Elisha, whom Elijah had taught, accompanied him till the end.

[2 Kings 2:11] So a chariot of fire caught Elijah up into heaven, escorting him to glory - from what we
have learned, this was likely a host of angelic attendants.

We can also see in the NT that angels escort those who have died, believing into the Lord. Jesus told the
story of Lazarus, who, when he died, was carried by the angels to Abraham=s bosom - the realm of the
righteous dead; paradise (Lk 16:22). We can surmise that this would be the escort of any believer, into
glory.

Paul wrote in his second letter to the Thessalonians that, at His Second Coming to the earth, Jesus will be
revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire (2 Thes 1:7-8). We know from the description
that Jesus gave of His Second Coming that He will come on the clouds of heaven, with power and great
glory (Mt 24:30). The Son of Man, in His glory, will be surrounded by a cloud of angels when He returns
to the earth.

The cloud then, that carried Jesus up into heaven, was very likely to have been a glorious chariot of God - a
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myriad of angels, as we saw in Psalm 68 - perhaps not embodied angels, as the description is merely of a
cloud, but with a fiery radiance that reflected the glory of God - in whose presence the angels dwell. Does
this give you a sense of the majesty with which the Son of God depart this earth, to return to His home in
heaven?

For a brief moment, the disciples could see Jesus, suspended between heaven and earth. This was a perfect
picture of Jesus as the mediator between God and men. Paul wrote, AFor there is one God, and one
mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in
due time@ (1 Tim 2:5-6).

Here was the One - the only One - who could mediate peace for men with God, on the basis of the blood of
His cross (Col 1:20). And as the disciples watched Jesus ascend, they were completing their eyewitness
account, which would be the foundation of their testimony to Him before all the world.

So Jesus arose back to heaven - to the right hand of the Majesty on high, the position of power and honor
and authority. He rose as the High Priest, who would intercede with the Father for His own - His believers,
who remain on the earth.

Turn to Hebrews chapter 7. The author wrote of the ongoing ministry of Jesus in heaven on behalf of
believers.

[Hebrews 7:25-27] Jesus offered Himself once for sin, for all time, and that offering was accepted by the
Father. On the basis of His sinless perfection and shed blood, Jesus is able to always intercede for
believers, should they sin; it is an ongoing salvation.

John wrote, Aif any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the
propitiation for our sins [He satisfies God concerning sin], and not for ours only, but also for the whole
world@ (1 Jn 2:1-2).

Jesus is our heavenly advocate, who pleads our case in the court of heaven, advocating our cause before the
Father. Because we have Jesus as our heavenly intercessor, we can come boldly to the throne of grace, that
we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:16).

[Return to Acts 1]

So as Jesus ascended to heaven, to assume His role as our Intercessor, His disciples remained on the earth,
watching as He departed from them for the last time - in bodily form.

v. 10-11 Imagine the wonder, the marvel, of the disciples in seeing Jesus ascend before their very eyes -
while He was still blessing them, in fact. And that bright cloud rapidly caught Him up and away.

The disciples looked steadfastly - they gazed, a word that denotes the tension or straining of the eyes. Why
were they straining their eyes? They were trying to catch that last glimpse of their beloved Master - as if to
hold onto Him for as long as possible.

There was no profit in that - and so God brought it to a quick end by causing them to direct their attention
elsewhere - to two men in shining white apparel - the standard description of angels.

In Scripture, two is the number of witness. At the tomb of Jesus, there had been two angels who bore
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witness to His resurrection out from among the dead; now, there were two angels bearing witness to His
ascension back into heaven.

The angels reassured the disciples that Jesus would come again. How? In like manner as they had seen
Him go into heaven.

How had they seen Him go into heaven? They had seen Him depart on a cloud. It had happened suddenly,
and it was over quickly - but it was still very orderly. And the departure had been private; just Jesus, and
His disciples were there - no unbelievers were permitted to see Jesus in His glory.

And that=s how Jesus will return - in like manner. The angels were speaking of the return of Jesus, for His
body of believers - the true church. Jesus will come suddenly - but privately, to His body of believers. It
will be orderly - but it will all be over quickly.

This is commonly called the Rapture of the church. Paul described it in some detail to the church in
Thessalonica. Turn to First Thessalonians chapter 4. Paul wanted to reassure this new assembly that those
who died believing in Jesus would be raised in glory.

[1 Thessalonians 4:13-18]

v. 13 Paul is using sleep here is a metaphor of death.

v. 14 Paul is saying that Jesus will bring those who died believing in Him back to heaven.

v. 15-18 The Greek word for caught up in verse 17 means to seize upon or snatch away. It conveys the
idea of force suddenly exercised. As suddenly as Jesus departed from the earth, He will return and catch up
His own to Himself - a rapid departure.

Nonetheless, it will be orderly. There will be a sound - described as a shout, a voice a trumpet. The
Bridegroom has come for His Bride, and His arrival is announced to them - and only them. This is a
private reunion, between Christ and His church.

Those who died believing in Jesus will first be raised from the dead, their bodies now glorified. The bodies
of those believers who are still alive when Jesus returns will then be changed into glorified bodies, and
together, the members of His Body - His Bride - are caught up together.

Where? In the clouds. Do you now think this is probably an angelic escort? Very likely. They will bring
us to meet our Lord, who is in the air - the atmosphere of earth - waiting for us.

And then Jesus will take us to our heavenly home, that He has been preparing for 2000 years. What is that
home? The New Jerusalem.

Thats our certain future hope, which is a comfort to us, in the here and now - as it would have been to the
disciples back then, to know that they would be with Jesus again - and be with Him forever.

[Return to Acts 1]

He will come again, for those who are His, in the same manner as He departed - coming in the clouds, for
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an orderly, private reunion. With that reassurance, the disciples could let go of Jesus in His bodily form,
and now set their minds on the instructions of their Master.

Luke says in his gospel that they worshiped Jesus - presumably as He was ascending; and that they returned
to Jerusalem with great joy (Lk 24:52). There was no more grief, because they carried with them that
vision of Jesus as the glorious victor.

They knew that, in just a little while, Jesus would come to them in the person of the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:18),
and that He would abide with them forever (Jn 14:16).

And they also knew that one day, Jesus would come again and receive them to Himself, that where He is,
there they may be also (Jn 14:3) - and that, for eternity.

Reading: Rest of Acts chapter 1; John 13:1-30, Matt 27:1-10.