God's End Game - Part 35
Series: God's End Game
August 18, 2019
We are trucking along in our study of God’s End Game, where we’re discovering what he’s up to with us and the world. The Bible certainly doesn’t tell us everything we’d want to know about the end of it all, but at the same time it certainly does tell us more than we realize. Maybe it’s better to say it tells us what we need to know.
We’ve come a long way from the beginning of God’s End Game in Genesis to the major play in his End Game strategy chronicled in the gospels. Jesus is the major play in his plan to fix his good world gone bad. Or more specifically, Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.
Of those three events in Jesus’ life, which is the most important considering the bigger picture of what God’s up to? The Resurrection. Everything, and I do mean everything, God has planned for the end flows out of that. So we’ve camped out there for a while.
For old time’s sake, let’s take one last look at our theological statement on the resurrection…
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is that central moment in human history that serves as the foundational doctrine of Christianity. After having truly assumed human nature and submitted to an agonizing and shameful public death, the eternal Son of God was truly raised from the dead in his glorified physical body, no longer subject to decay and death. His resurrection validates his identity as the divine Son of God, demonstrates his irrevocable victory over death and the grave, and secures both the present salvation and future physical resurrection of believers.
That last part is special to us because it connects Jesus’ resurrection to ours. The firstfruits principle means whatever is true of his resurrection is true of ours, and we’ve learned a lot just by examining all the post resurrection appearances.
Jesus’ resurrection secures, makes sure, our coming future resurrection when God’s end game finally plays out.
Before we can move on to the events surrounding the end of it all, where we’ll cover what the new heavens and earth will be like, there’s one more post-resurrection appearance we must explore.
Go back with me to Luke’s account of what happened that first Easter Day and afterwards in the twenty fourth chapter of his gospel.
Jesus had appeared to the disciples and shared a meal…
Luke 24:44–53 (ESV) — 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” 50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
In Luke’s second volume on Jesus (the book of Acts), he gives more detail on Christ’s final moments with his disciples…
Acts 1:1–11 (ESV) — 1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 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. 4 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; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Stop there a second. I find it fascinating that even the apostles had an obsession with the end times. They knew that part of God’s end game plan was to literally set up his kingdom on earth, and they thought Jesus — the Messiah — had come to do just that. Right then. At that moment. Was this it? Was Jesus going to crush Rome and take his seat on the throne in Jerusalem as ruler of the world, restoring God’s people back to their glory and setting the world back to rights?
I find it equally interesting how Jesus responded…
7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
The timing of God’s endgame plans are on a need-to-know basis. If you need to know it, he’ll tell you. Otherwise, focus on this…
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 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. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
So there we have it. The ascension of Jesus, when he went back to where he came from. Guess what we’re going to do? We’re going to let another theological explanation help us understand it’s importance…
Christ’s ascension was an event at which the incarnate Son returned to heaven as the last Adam and took his place at the Father’s right hand…
That sounds all smartical and fancy and high falootin’ don’t it? Don’t let that throw you. We are figuring out that taking the time to work out this theology stuff pays off big time.
Some of us, when it comes to theology and doctrine, use a tactic my mom uses in life to keep things simple and easy. This is her approach: The less I learn the less I have to do. I’m not slamming her. There’s some wisdom in that. I’m not going to learn how to use the sound system back there. Keeps me safe from having to take on another job!
But some of us don’t want to work hard at figuring out theology and doctrine partly because we’re lazy but partly because it means we have to do something: tithe, share our faith, read the Bible, or not be in certain relationships and the like. And we don’t want that. So if we skim the surface of the Christian life we can by pretty well.
Back to our theological statement. It answers the who, the what, and the where of the ascension.
The who is Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son, the last Adam.
The Christ is another way of saying the Messiah or Anointed One, a king in the line of David who would rule over Israel in justice and righteousness forever. The Messiah’s coming had been foretold in the OT prophecies. Jesus was and is the Messiah.
The incarnate Son. Incarnate means in the flesh. Jesus was and is the Son of God, second person of the Trinity and thus God himself, come in the flesh. He was resurrected in the flesh, in a glorified body by the way.
The last Adam. The first Adam failed to obey God and plunged us all into to sin. The second Adam, Jesus, obeyed God in every respect, fulfilling all the law and prophets.
The where is heaven. Jesus returned to his hometown, heaven, the actual dwelling place of God. It is not a place “up there” or “out there” as much as it is another dimension, though, a dimension that somehow intersects with our own. One theologian defines heaven as "a spiritual realm that coexists with the material world of space and time.”
We’ll cover that more later. Be prepared to have your ideas about heaven shattered.
The what is taking his place at the right hand of God, signifying his co-reign with him over all things.
There is an OT text that ties directly into the ascension account both in description and meaning. I cannot imagine it wasn’t on Luke’s mind when he wrote it. It certainly was on the minds of early Christians.
Daniel 7:13–14 (ESV) — 13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Like most prophecies there’s an air of mystery here. But let’s look at it closely and see if we can make the connection.
“the Ancient of Days.” That’s easy. It’s a title for God. The one who exists outside time in eternity.
“With the clouds of heaven” — God was regularly associated with the clouds in the OT. They were a sign of his presence. Hmmm… In Acts 1:9 Jesus was lifted up and the clouds took him out of their sight (note it doesn’t say he just kept going higher and higher until they couldn’t see him).
“There came one like the son of man” — Who is the son of man? There’s been debate over the years about that. This son of man can’t be just a regular man. What regular man could be presented before God without dying (Moses). What regular man could sit on a throne forever. What regular man could be capable of ruling over all nations, over all things? Some think it’s the archangel, Michael. Others think it’s the personification of the people of God (so it’s not a person but symbolic of a people).
But look at…
Matthew 8:20 (ESV) — 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
This is the first instance in the Gospels where Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man. It’s actually a title and he uses it of himself over 80 times in all four gospels. It’s his favorite way to refer to himself.
Now look at Jesus’ interaction with the high priest in Mark 14. Jesus had been betrayed by Judas and arrested…
Mark 14:61–63 (ESV) — 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need?
There’s no mistaking the reference here. It’s Daniel 7. And there’s no mistaking what Jesus implied based on the high priests’s reaction. Jesus identified himself as the son of man in Daniel 7, who would be seated at the right hand of God and thus equal with God. That’s why the high priest went postal.
Jesus is the only person the “son of man” in Daniel 7 could refer to.
Keep all that in mind and go to Acts 7, where one of the first deacons, Stephen, was martyred for preaching Jesus…
Acts 7:54–58a (ESV) — 54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him…
The reason why the high priest accused Jesus of blasphemy — so much so they crucified him — and why the people were enraged at Stephen’s vision — so much so that they stoned him — is that it went against everything Jews believed to put a man on equal standing with God.
And added to that, if Jesus was the Messiah then they were done for. They’d have to admit they were wrong, that they crucified the very one sent to save them from their sins. That he really was God come in the flesh.
People are still getting bent out of shape about it today. Lots of really “smart” people go around saying that Jesus never considered himself equal with God, that this whole idea of Jesus being anything more than just a gifted teacher or sage was injected into the Bible after the fact. Later disciples made him into God so they could fashion their own religion.
When you do your homework, when you come to the Bible without foolish presuppositions such as there are no such things as miracles and no one comes back from the dead, when you honestly and fairly examine the evidence, you realize there is something to all this.
Look back at our theological statement on the resurrection:
His resurrection validates his identity as the divine Son of God, demonstrates his irrevocable victory over death and the grave…
Just like the Jews of Jesus’ day, the deity deniers of our day have much to lose if Jesus really is God come in the flesh, if Jesus really did come back from the dead. They’d have to admit not just that they were wrong historically but morally. That Jesus is divine. That he is the authority over all things. That they need to be saved and Jesus is the only one who can save them.
By the way, if you’re here today and you’re struggling with this, please don’t hear what I’m saying as throwing shade at you. If you’re struggling that’s great! It means God is drawing you.
Let’s get back on track and wrap this up. The meaning of the ascension is proclaimed beautifully and forcefully by Paul when he wrote to the Christians at Philippi…
Philippians 2:9–11 (ESV) — 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Conclusion: Let’s end on something really cool here. Remember that firstfruits principle? How Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection so whatever is true of his resurrection is true of ours.
It’s the same for his ascension. If Jesus was raised up to sit at the Father’s right hand, so are we!
Ephesians 2:1–10 (ESV) — 1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Jesus is seated at the Father’s right hand waiting. Waiting for the words, “It’s time.” At that time he’ll come back and the final stages of God’s end game plans begins.
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