The resurrection of the Lord Jesus was followed by His presence among His disciples when He "shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1.3). This extended period on earth enabled the Lord to confirm faith, correct understanding, comfort hearts, communicate truth, and prepare the disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost ten days after the ascension (Acts 2.1-4). The resurrection and the ascension are dependent on each other - the former proves the Saviour's victory at the cross, the latter proves His entry into heaven. The resurrection was not seen, but proved by manifestation; the ascension was publicly seen and watched.
The Ascension and Prophecy
In Psalm 16.11 the Messiah (Christ) speaks prophetically of His life and death, closing with the words: "Thou wilt show me the path of life (resurrection): in thy presence is fullness of joy (ascension); at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (exaltation)". Psalm 24.3-4 asks: "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?". Christ alone is evidently in view as we also see in Psalm 68.18: "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive" (see Eph 4.8), and Isaiah 52.13: "Behold, my servant…shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high". In the Gospels the Lord Jesus anticipated and predicted His ascension (Jn 3.13; 6.62; 20.17; Lk 9.51), but His disciples did not understand.
The Ascension and History
Note the brevity of the Scripture narrative for such an unforgettable and unique event! There is no amplification or exaggeration, just a bare factual record, yet it was His final act and final word on earth; surely a hidden hand restrains the inspired writer. The ascension was a public spectacle in broad daylight observed by many witnesses (Acts 1.9). The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable, yet the fool still says, "I know what I know, I believe what I believe - don't confuse me with the facts". Now observe the subtle differences in the gospel records.
Mark 16.19 - the wondrous consummation of a matchless work. The "Servant Son" is abruptly "received up" from the scene of His labours, and the manner of His removal is not mentioned. The lowly One is instantly seen sitting down (resting in a finished work) at the right hand of God, the place of supreme authority, as the Exalted Servant and Enthroned Saviour (Phil 2.9,11). The Servant is now Lord far above all, and all things put under His feet!
Luke 24.50-53 - the glorious conclusion to an impeccable life. Thus, He is "carried up" in triumph, by dint of His own person and power. Having "spoiled principalities and powers" (Col 2.5), the Conqueror passed through the sphere of Satan's domain as the glorified Man and qualified Priest. The good shepherd "led them out as far as to Bethany", away from the social corruption, religious confusion, and political deception of Jerusalem, doubtless to enable the friends at Bethany to witness His departure and receive His farewell benediction. Then "he lifted up his hands (nail pierced), and blessed them. And while he blessed them, he was parted from them". There was to be a new relationship of faith not sight, no longer knowing "Christ after the flesh" (2 Cor 5.16), but after the Spirit. As He rises He continues to bless; "having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end"' (Jn 13.1). What "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Pet 1.8)!
Acts 1.9,11 - the marvellous commencement of a new era. He is "taken up" in glory, as the welcomed Son and coming King; the Father's answer to the Son's prayer (Jn 17.5). The witnesses watched in wonder until "a cloud received him out of their sight". The angelic message of His coming again inspired the disciples and thereafter they "went forth, and preached every where" (Mk 16.20). Here "they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy" (Lk 24.52), and "These all continued with one accord in prayer" (Acts 1.14). Is that our response?
The Ascension and Ministry
Our glorified Lord entered heaven as Head of the Church, Forerunner, Mediator, Advocate, High Priest providing a heavenly ministry of succour, support, and sympathy for His people; out of sight, yet ever within the reach, touch, and speech of faith, so let us "seek those things that are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Col 3.1).
I wake in the morning with thoughts of His love Who is living for me in the glory above, Ev'ry minute expecting He'll call me away, And that keeps me bright all the rest of the day.
And as to my footsteps whatever the scene, The Man in the glory is keeping me clean; And therefore I'm singing from morning till night The Man in the glory is all my delight.