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An Extraordinary Ascension Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
May 17, 2021 1:00 am

An Extraordinary Ascension Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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May 17, 2021 1:00 am

Christians know that Jesus is sitting at God’s right hand. His ascension into heaven opened the gates of heaven for us. And the ascension is also important because it was key to the founding of the Church.

 Click here to listen (Duration 25:02)

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. We who run the race of the Christian life know that Jesus is sitting even now at God's right hand. His ascension into heaven opened its gates for us. Why is the ascension important? Surprisingly, it was the key to founding the church, the body of Christ.

Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, we've stood together on the Mount of Olives and looked into the sky. Well Dave, I remember as we stood together there on the Mount of Olives and looked toward heaven reminding ourselves that Jesus Christ was coming back to the Mount of Olives.

What an opportunity to relive that event as best we can, knowing that his return is absolutely certain. And you know, in this world we should be encouraged by the ascension of Jesus because we're reminded of the fact that when he returns we shall be like him. We'd like to make a resource available to you. It's entitled Finding Purpose in Grief and Loneliness.

Now I have to tell you that this is a very special resource for a couple of reasons. First, because it is almost a message that needs to be universally heard. Look everywhere and you'll find people who are in grief and loneliness. But there's another reason and that is it is a message of hope. On this DVD or CD, whichever you wish, you'll hear me talk about a man who is still experiencing grief and loneliness and what God has taught him and through him teaches all of us.

For a gift of any amount it can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com. Ask for the DVD or the CD Finding Purpose in Grief and Loneliness.

That's rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And now let's go to the Mount of Olives. Let's contemplate what happened there with the assurance that God is going to return there again someday in the future.

During the past several weeks I have been speaking on the topic Christ among other gods and he indeed should be the king of who we are. Science as we know has made many strides in the last decades. We have explored outer space.

We have even explored inner space. We know lots about the human body but there is one area in which science of course by definition cannot do much research and that is on the topic of what happens after death. Oh, I know that there is such a thing as near-death experiences but being near Chicago might not be the same as being in Chicago. Near-death experiences are subject to different kinds of interpretation and we should not build a theory of life after death upon those fleeting moments. Perhaps it is because death closes us off and we walk behind that curtain where no one can peer or look. Perhaps it is because of that that in all the other religions of the world very little if anything is said about where the founders of those religions now are or what they are doing.

I don't think that any Muslim would necessarily claim to know what Muhammad was doing or what Buddha was doing if you're a Buddhist or what Zoroastra was doing or is doing today. And yet in the case of Christianity it is very different because if you were here last week you know we spoke about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and gave strong evidence that indeed he was raised. In previous messages we stress the deity of Jesus Christ and so it should not come as a surprise that the Bible tells us where Jesus Christ went after he was raised from the dead and where he is today.

And we'll see that the implications of the ascension for you and for me are absolutely awesome. Well take your Bibles and turn to Acts chapter 1. Acts chapter 1 where we have an account of the ascension. We have several of those in the New Testament, but we look at Acts chapter 1 where Jesus Christ led the disciples to the Mount of Olives and there he was taken up into heaven in their presence.

Chapter 1 verse 9. And after he had said these things he was lifted up and while they were looking on a cloud received him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while he was departing the whole two men in white clothing stood beside them and 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. And that, by the way, is going to be the topic for next week's message, the return of Jesus Christ.

But I want you to notice that there are two things that happened. First of all, there was physical movement on the part of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ's body was being lifted into the sky and the Bible says that he was received by the clouds and he disappeared. Scientists have sometimes objected to this account saying that it was based on a pre-Copernican understanding of the universe where you have heaven above and then you have the earth and then you have the hell beneath. And they've pointed out that if you're in Australia, going up might mean to someone in the Middle East going down. And that when Jesus was raised into heaven, that is an entirely different direction that heaven would be if you were on the other side of the earth.

But of course, that's not really the point, is it? Heaven is a place. It is the place where God dwells, where he is localized, even though we know that God fills the whole universe. Still, there is a place where his glory resides in a particular way. But it is not only a place, it is also a state.

It is a different kind of relationship, a different kind of reality. We don't know where it is. Who knows, maybe after Jesus Christ left the Mount of Olives, he may not have continued on on that same path. He may have gone off in a different direction.

We do not know. But the bottom line is that Jesus Christ was changing the nature of reality for himself. He was moving from the visible to the invisible, from the material to the immaterial, and from the finite to the eternal. Now, I want you to know today that the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven permanently changed the character of heaven forever.

It's absolutely unbelievable. You see, Jesus Christ, so far as we know, is the first man who ever entered into heaven with a resurrected human body. The first man. Oh, you say, well, what about the saints in the Old Testament? Well, when they died, their body was taken and put into the grave. And then their spirit went to Sheol, possibly their spirit went to heaven as well. But their bodies are still in the grave. They have not yet been resurrected. The resurrection is still future. I know that there's the story of Enoch and also Elijah, and we don't know what happened to their body.

Those could be exceptions. But one thing we do know is that the arrival of Jesus Christ in heaven certainly is the first time that Jesus arrived in heaven as the God-man. That we know. He was in heaven before as God because he was indeed filling the universe with his glory. But this is the first time that the angels observed directly in heaven deity and humanity joined together in one person forever. They must have been absolutely astounded when they saw Christ arrive. And to think that he is going to be a man forever, having assumed a human nature in Bethlehem, which continues throughout all the generations, surely must have evoked their wonder and their worship. Well, what I'd like to do today is to give you three different rights that the ascension of Jesus Christ proved for the Lord.

What are those? First of all, the ascension proved his right of ownership, his right of ownership. Actually, I need to tell you he owns heaven. When Christ ascended into heaven, there was no mediator there to open the door for him.

When Christ ascended into heaven, it was not because he was granted special mercy that he might be able to enter. When Jesus ascended into heaven, he was coming home because he had come from heaven. And he said, Oh, Father, glorify thou me with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. This was the entrance of a man who came to the heaven that he had created, of all things. It says in the book of Colossians, for by him were all things created, both which are in heaven and which are on earth. The mediator was coming back to a place which he had created. Scientists tell us that the universe is infinite.

I can't argue with them. I don't know whether it is or not, but this much I do know is that Jesus is more infinite than the universe, if you can think of it that way, because I don't believe that God would have ever created a universe that was as great as he himself is. And here he is now localized in a body coming back to his creation to that special place where the glory of God shines more brightly. He was coming back as creator, but he was also coming back now as savior. You see, he had finished the work which the Father had given him to do. And it says in the book of Hebrews, having purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high. His work on earth was done. And the scripture tells us that we should look to Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now set down on the right hand of the throne of the majesty on high. He had a right to enter into heaven as creator, as God. Now he enters into heaven also as savior.

He had a natural right because of his deity, but now he has an earned right because of his humanity and the fulfillment of the will of God for his life. No wonder, no wonder the angels must have been astounded as they saw him come in. And they must have fallen on their face and said, holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, for the whole earth is filled with his glory. He ascended into heaven because he owns heaven and owns the universe.

It was a mark of ownership. Secondly, the ascension also was a mark of headship, a mark of headship. You see, when Jesus ascended into heaven, he became the head of his church. Turn to the book of Ephesians chapter 1, where we can see this most clearly. Ephesians chapter 1, where Paul is speaking about Christ at the right hand of God the Father, and he says in verse 20, talking about the strength which we have, he says, which he brought about in Christ when he raised him from the dead and deceded him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 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. Paul did not want to leave any stone unturned. He didn't want to leave out any possibility that this could be misinterpreted, that he has dominion over every name, and not only in this world, but also in the one to come, and he has put all things in subjection under his feet and gave them as head over all things to the church.

Isn't this exciting? When Jesus Christ came to redeem us and became one with us, he had to become related to us before he could redeem us. When that happened, the Bible says that God wanted to bring many sons into glory, many sons and daughters, and so Jesus Christ, you see, became one of us so that he could redeem us, so that he could take us to heaven with him eventually, and that he could form a new thing on the earth that we call the church, and that this new thing that is called the church was formed by Christ, and he remains its head, and therefore as its head, he gives us strength. We derive our strength from him. The Bible says that without him we can do nothing, but we are joined to him, inseparably united to him. We are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones, and he directs us through his word as he is the head of the church, so he strengthens us. He unites us. The fact that you are united to Jesus Christ and I'm united to Christ means that we are related to one another and that we are actually joined as one in that body.

He represents us. It says in the book of Hebrews that he is our high priest, which stands in the presence of God, and Paul says that the reason that Satan can have no sense of condemnation over us, the reason that we need not be dragged back into those former sins that condemn us is because, he says, it is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again and is now on the right hand of the throne of God who also maketh intercession for us. That's why Charles Wesley wrote, five bleeding wounds he bears received on Calvary. They pour effectual prayers.

They strongly plead for me. Forgive him, oh forgive they cry, nor let that ransomed sinner die. The presence of Jesus Christ in heaven today as your representative, as your attorney, we have an advocate the Bible says, Jesus Christ the righteous, means that God the Father indeed will accomplish the redemption which God the Son purchased and that Jesus is a constant reminder that his people are already there in heaven with him because he is our representative head. He represents us.

You know it's possible for you to live in Chicago and to win a court case in Los Angeles because you have an attorney there. The very same way we can live here on the earth and we can win every single court case against us in heaven because we have an advocate who stands in for us and whose sacrifice on the cross is a guarantee of our acceptance in the presence of a holy God. He strengthens us, he unites us, he represents us. May I say also that he accompanies us. As I was preparing this message I said I sure hope that the people don't get the impression that Jesus is somewhere there in heaven detached from what is going on here on earth.

No. By his Spirit you know that he is present with us but even the Jesus who is localized in the body as we think about him as being a man, he is with us as well. For example when Stephen was being stoned outside of the city of Jerusalem you find that the heavens opened and Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father. Now you know that Jesus is always pictured in the New Testament as seated at the right hand of God the Father and only in this one instance does it say he was standing.

It's almost as if he was on tiptoe saying Stephen remain faithful. Don't let those stones cause you discouragement because the moment you die I am here to receive you, I am here to welcome you. And then I think of the apostle Paul on the way to Damascus and Jesus appears to him and says Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? And in effect Christ is saying don't you realize that when you take those Christians and you put them into prison and when you're causing havoc among the church and they are going through pain, I feel the pain of my people. Saul, why are you hurting me?

I want you to know today that Jesus Christ walks with you through that pain. Though he is in heaven, his body is in heaven, he is here by his Spirit and he is watching us every moment and knows all about us and our need. The ascension of Jesus Christ was proof of his headship and as I mentioned a moment ago it was also proof of ownership but thirdly it was proof of kingship, kingship. Look at Ephesians chapter 1 again, the passage that we read and sometimes we read these passages all too quickly because there is so much in them. Notice what the apostle Paul says in verse 21, when Christ ascended it was far above all rule and authority, not just above but far above. It says in the book of Hebrews that he passed through the heavens.

What is it that the writers of the New Testament are trying to convey? Is it a matter of distance? No, it's not the distance that is important, it is the dominion that Jesus Christ has.

It is a matter of triumph, it isn't just a matter of traveling. What he's trying to say to us is that Jesus Christ is thoroughly and completely above everything else that exists. Well my friend take that with you for the rest of the day, the fact that Jesus Christ is above everything including your circumstances, even including your grief, even including your loneliness. He stands above it all. I've recorded a DVD entitled Finding Purpose in Grief and Loneliness and in it I tell the story of a man who is still grieving as a result of the loss of his wife and he has discovered that there is grief, there is loneliness but loneliness has a trap door.

What is that trap door? Well all of these kinds of questions are answered in this DVD or CD whichever you prefer entitled Finding Purpose in Grief and Loneliness. For a gift of any amount it can be yours, here's what you do, go to RTWOffer.com. That's RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. I'm going to be giving you that contact info once again but here's why I believe that you will be blessed. This is a message that can be given to anyone who is struggling with grief and loneliness and it will be a blessing and they will find hope through it. For a gift of any amount and thanks in advance for standing with us as we continue to minister in more than 20 different countries you go to RTWOffer.com, RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

Ask for Finding Purpose in Grief and Loneliness and I believe you will be helped. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Running to Win is proud that our listeners are among the most sharp-eyed readers of the Bible you'll ever find. They come up with really interesting questions like this one from Desmond who asks, After Jesus is resurrected in Matthew, it's recorded that some people who were dead were also resurrected. My question is, what happened to those people?

Well, Desmond, your guess is as good as mine. The Bible doesn't tell us what happened to these people. All that we can do is to assume that which is reasonable, namely that they died again. And if you think that that is very unusual, it is, but it did happen to Lazarus. He was resurrected by Christ and then, of course, I'm sure that he died after that. Now, if you ask the question, why these strange resurrections?

We can't answer that either. It's something that God simply chose to do as kind of further proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But in the end, they also had to die and someday they will be permanently resurrected with their permanent bodies, which they do not yet have.

And they shall be resurrected along with the rest of us to everlasting life. Thank you, Desmond, for that sharp-eyed question. And thank you, Pastor Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, you can by going to our website at rtwoffer.com and clicking on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337.

You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Christ ascended to bring many sons and daughters to glory. His ascension was step one in creating the church, the body of Christ, left on earth to bear witness to Him. Next time on Running to Win, why the ascension of Jesus is critical for a believer's eternal destiny. Thanks for listening. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-18 05:52:44 / 2023-11-18 06:01:04 / 8

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