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THE ASCENSION AND SECOND COMING OF CHRIST

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, April 7, 2002


"And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:10-11).

Last week I spoke about the agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, His crucifixion, and His resurrection from the dead. This morning I will speak on His ascension into Heaven, and His Second Coming. I am giving you a simplified version of great Spurgeon's message, titled "The Ascension and Second Advent Practically Considered," originally preached by Spurgeon on December 28, 1884 (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 31, pp. 13-24). No one has ever spoken on the ministry and life of our Lord Jesus Christ more eloquently than C. H. Spurgeon. How I wish that a whole new generation of young preachers would look again to Spurgeon's sermons for encouragement and inspiration. Our generation needs to hear the Prince of Preachers again. His sermons, particularly the ones on the life and ministry of Jesus, need to be simplified and re-preached in the 21st century. Young people today need to hear his messages. They must be simplified and given in less eloquent English, for our less literate minds to grasp. So, I am giving you this message of his in a simple form this morning.

Five great events in the history of Jesus' life stand out very brightly. All true Christians love to think about Jesus' birth, His death, His resurrection, and His ascension. We also love to hear about His Second Coming. These five events in the life and ministry of Christ are very important, and we should think of them often.

Each one of these events leads to the next and form a golden chain leading to His Second Coming. His birth leads to His death. His resurrection leads to His ascension, back up into Heaven. His ascension leads to His Second Coming in amazing glory.

This morning we will start with Christ's ascension. Christ walked up the side of the Mount of Olives with the eleven Disciples. He had risen from the dead a few days earlier. He had spoken often with them, and had said,

"Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet" (Luke 24:39-40).

He had eaten with them after He rose from the dead. He had talked with them, and had given them the Great Commission,

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:19-20).

"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25).

But now Jesus walks up the side of the Mount of Olives with the eleven Disciples. Each of those Disciples was glad to see the resurrected Saviour, who had been crucified, but was now alive and speaking with them.

Now they reach the top of the Mount of Olives, and Jesus stops. The Saviour stands in the middle of the Disciples and blesses them in prayer. He lifts His pierced hands, and while He is lifting them, He begins to rise up from the earth. They were astonished to see Him rising above them. In a moment He rises up past the top of the olive trees. Then He ascends up into mid-air, and then goes up to where the clouds are located. The Disciples stand spell-bound with astonishment, and suddenly He is gone, into a cloud, "And a cloud received him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9). The Disciples stand there looking up into the clouds. They remain standing there, with tears streaming down their cheeks, still looking upward.

They might have stood there looking up until their amazement turned into fear, but they were interrupted. Two angels spoke to them and said, "Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" (Acts 1:11). These angels appear to them in human form so they will not be frightened. Then the angels in white clothing begin to speak. The angels showed that they knew them by calling them "men of Galilee." Brought back to their senses, the Apostles get ready to go back to Jerusalem. They realize that the taking up of the Saviour is not something they are to be sorry about. He has gone up to His throne in the glory of Heaven.

You see, I have not used much imagination. I have barely mentioned what happened in the simplest language. But I want you to imagine the scene in your mind while I speak to you about three things from our text,

"And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:10-11).

I. First, there is the gentle rebuke of the angels.

"Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" It is not a sharp rebuke given by men dressed in black. There is nothing sharp or hard, just a gentle reproof, a slight rebuke. After all, what the Disciples were doing was only a mistake, not a great sin.

Notice, first of all, that what they were doing seems at first sight to be correct. I think that if Jesus were here with us now we would look toward Him. When He ascended up into Heaven, it was the duty of His friends to look upon Him. It can never be wrong to look up. We are often told to do this in the Bible. The Psalmist said, "I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up" (cf. Psalm 5:3). The Apostle Paul tells us, "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:2). "Look" is always the right word. The pre-incarnate Saviour says, "Look unto me, and be ye saved" (Isaiah 45:22). Throughout our lives, we should be "looking unto Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2).

But there is a "gazing" which is not right, when that "gazing" is not a look of worship, but a gaze of curiosity. It is not right to desire to know what God has not revealed. My friends, there is no use looking up into an empty sky. If Christ Himself is not visible in the air above us, there is nothing for our eyes to see. A steadfast look into Heaven may be real worship, but if it takes the place of working for Christ, it is idle foolishness. There are people today who throw their heads back, their arms extended, looking up into Heaven, who do very little work for Christ on this earth. This becomes idle folly.

Yet I must say that it was very natural for them to look up. I am not surprised that the eleven Disciples stood there looking up. If I had been there, I am sure I would have done the same thing. Wouldn't you have stood there looking up? Christ allows us to do things which are innocently natural, but He doesn't want us to carry it too far. So He sends someone to tell us, "Why do you stand here gazing?" And true Christians will answer, "We must not stand here looking up forever." We must go back to our Jerusalem to live and work for Christ. It is right to look up to Christ in worship, but we must then go back to work. We must be soul-winners and witnesses in a darkened world.

Here is a practical point: we may imitate what they did. "Oh," you say, "I will never stand gazing up into heaven." But I am not sure you are right. Some people are very curious, but not very obedient. They may be very curious to learn the details of Bible prophecy, while neglecting more important matters. I remember one person who was very interested in the details of prophecy, but who had no family prayer with his seven children. I have known people who could tell you all about Bible prophecy, but who knew very little about conversion, church attendance, witnessing, or living the Christian life. I admit that there is value in studying the feet of the image in Nebuchadnezzar's vision, and the importance of understanding the kingdoms which make up the ten toes, but I do not think such studies should take the place of living a Christian life. If the time spent on studying prophecy were spent in soul winning and prayer, more benefit would come to man and more glory to God. I want you to understand prophecy, but do not forget that our main business is to cry, "Behold the Lamb of God!" By all means learn all you can about prophecy, but first do all you can to teach your children, and in family devotions, and first make sure that you are working hard in your local church, to bring in lost people and build up the church of God! The dense mass of misery, ignorance, and sin which is around us on every side demands all our powers for the work of God! And if you will not listen, although I am not an angel in white clothing, I say to you, "Why stand ye gazing up into the mysteries of prophecy when there is so much work to be done for Jesus, and you are not doing it?" O you who are curious but not obedient, I am afraid you will not listen to me, but I have spoken, and I pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to your hearts about this.

Others talk of "worship," but are not active - very interested in "worship" songs and "worship" times, but not zealous for good works. True worship is scarce, and I wish there were more of it. But I am talking about "worship" in which religion becomes the subject of selfishness. I fear that some treat "worship" as if its main purpose was enjoyment and self-gratification. When a person's religion all lies in enjoying himself, there is a disease in him. When a person judges a sermon by one question, "Did it feed me?" it is a swinish judgment. There is such a thing as a pig's religion, in which a person thinks only of how much he enjoyed the music, how much he enjoyed the "worship," how much he enjoyed the sermon. It is a swine's religion. Worship of Christ Himself can be carried on in a fashion that takes you away from Christ! The "worshipper" is totally unlike the busy, self-denying Jesus. Worship which is not followed by active service in the local church, well deserves the rebuke of the angels, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?"

Those who are interested mainly in enjoying themselves in "worship," or who are interested mainly in the latest thoughts on Bible prophecy, need to be rebuked by these angels, "Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?"

II. Second, there is the joyful description of Christ.

I want you to notice the joyful description of Christ. They described Him as,

"This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven"

(Acts 1:11).

I appreciate the description, "This same Jesus," because it came from those who knew Him best. He was "seen of angels" (I Timothy 3:16). They had watched Him all of His life on earth. They knew Him. And when they saw Him rise to the Father, they said of Him, "This same Jesus." I know by their infallible testimony that He was the same Jesus, and is the same Jesus, who once walked the earth. He is the same.

Jesus is gone, but He still exists. He has left us, but He is not dead. He has not turned into a spirit or dissolved into nothing. "This same Jesus" is gone up to His Father's throne, and is there today as certainly as He once stood in Pilate's court. As surely as He did hang on the Cross, so surely does this self-same Jesus sit upon the right side of the throne of God. The Christ they spat upon is now the Christ the angels worship endlessly. The Christ they scourged with a whip is now Him who is worshipped by the angels and the saints in Heaven. Think of it and be glad this morning. Jesus lives! Be careful that you live also. Do not fool around as though you had no work to do. Do not stand still waiting for the rapture. Do not loiter with your hands in the air like a television "Christian." Christ is alive, and He has work for you to do until He comes. Therefore, go and do it!

"This same Jesus" - I love that word, for "Jesus" means "a Saviour." If you are a lost sinner, the very name of Him who has gone up to Heaven is an invitation to you! Will you come to "this same Jesus"? This is He who opened the eyes of the blind and released the prisoners from jail. He is doing the same thing to-day. Oh, that your eyes may see His light! He that touched the lepers, and raised the dead, is still the same Jesus. He is able to save to the uttermost. He is able to save you forever! Oh, I pray that you will look to this same Jesus and be saved by Him! Look to Him and live! All you need to do is come to Jesus by faith in Him, as the woman who touched His clothing and was restored, because He is the same Jesus. He has the same love for guilty sinners now that He had when He lived on this earth. He will save and cleanse from sin now, just as He did when He was here.

"This same Jesus." Those words not only show us that He is the same Christ who lived on earth. Those words also show us that this same Jesus is coming again. The same Jesus who went up at the ascension will come down at the Second Advent. At His Second Coming, He will be the same Jesus who lived on earth - and the same Jesus who now lives in Heaven - at the right hand of God.

It is important to realize that He will be the same person in nature - but not the same person in condition. He is now the Saviour. But when He comes in the clouds, He will be the judge. Our eyes will see Him in that day. We will recognize Him not only by the nail prints in His hands, but by His very appearance. We will say, "It's Him! It's Him!"

When the Disciples were asked, "Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" they might have said, "We stay here because we don't know where to go. Our Master is gone." But since it is the same Jesus, and He is coming again, go down to Jerusalem and get to work for Him right away. Those who reject the Bible say, "Christianity is finished. Your divine Christ is gone." Here is our answer: We are not standing gazing up into Heaven. We are not discouraged because Jesus is away from us. He lives! The great Redeemer lives! It is our delight to lift up our eyes because we expect Him to come again. It is our equal delight to turn our eyes toward the earth, and go down into the city, to tell the people that Jesus is risen, and that He can save them and give them everlasting life, if they will believe in Him. We are not defeated. Far from it! His ascension is not a defeat, but an advance. He delays returning only because He is longsuffering toward sinners. The victory is not questionable. All the armies of God are preparing for the final charge. This same Jesus is getting ready to mount His white horse to lead the armies of Heaven, conquering and to conquer!

III. Third, there are great practical applications.

These truths are practical. They are not given to keep us gazing into Heaven, but to motivate us to serve God on earth. What are they?

1. Why, first, that Jesus is gone into Heaven. Jesus is gone! Jesus is gone! Jesus has been taken up from you into Heaven, up to God's throne, from which He can help us and pray for us. I see every reason for going down into the world and going to work, because He has gone up to Heaven, and all power is given unto Him in heaven and earth. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19).

2. The second application is that Jesus is coming again. He has not deserted us. Our leader has gone to another part of the battle field, but He will return, perhaps in the next twinkling of your eye. There remains a great unity between Christ the King, and the lowest soldier on the battle field. He cares for us. His heart is with us, and He is praying for us. He says, "Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Revelation 22:12).

3. The third application is that He is coming in the same way He left. The text says that He "shall so come in like manner [in the same way] as ye have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). Certain commentators don't seem to be able to understand English. They say that this means His "spiritual" coming on the Day of Pentecost. But anyone with any sense can see that a "spiritual coming" is not coming in the same way in which He went up to Heaven! Our Lord was taken up. They could see Him rise through the air. He will come again as He went up. "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him" (Revelation 1:7). "This same Jesus" literally went up. "This same Jesus" will literally come again. He will descend through the clouds even as He went up through the clouds. And "he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth" (Job 19:25). "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives…and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee" (Zechariah 14:4-5). When He comes again, He will break rebellious nations with a rod of iron, for His power will be irresistible in that day.

Do not let anyone spiritualize away this great literal truth - this same Jesus is coming again just as they saw Him go up. Jesus is coming. That's a fact. Therefore get saved and go to work for Him through the local church as a matter of fact. As a matter of fact, live for your Redeemer. Jesus is coming literally, not symbolically. Therefore, you should be inspired to literally go and witness and literally win souls for Him.

4. The fourth application is that you need to be ready to meet the Lord when He returns. The Christian should be serving Him through the local church. But what if you are not converted yet? You will not be prepared when Jesus comes unless you get converted. Break away from your sins and turn fully to Jesus Christ. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31). Believe and live! Jesus died to pay for your sins. Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus is alive in Heaven. Jesus is coming again. Believe in Jesus now, fully and wholeheartedly. He will save you from sin, Hell, and the grave.


 (END OF SERMON)


Scripture Read by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan Before the Sermon: Acts 1:1-12.
Solo Sung by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith Before the Sermon:

"Look, Ye Saints!" (by Thomas Kelly, 1769-1855).

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."




THE OUTLINE OF

THE ASCENSION AND SECOND COMING OF CHRIST

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:10-11).

(Luke 24:39-40; Matthew 28:19-20; John 21:25)

I.   The gentle rebuke of the angels, Psalm 5:3;
Colossians 3:2; Isaiah 45:22; Hebrews 12:2.

II.  The joyful description of Christ, Acts 1:11; I Timothy 3:16.

III. The great practical applications, Matthew 28:19;
Revelation 22:12; Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7;
Job 19:25; Zechariah 14:4-5; Acts 16:31.