The Ascension of Jesus Christ

There is one final and very important question concerning the first coming of the Messiah that must be addressed: Why didn't Jesus set up His Messianic kingdom on earth immediately after His resurrection? I believe there are two main reasons.

A Psalm of David contains a prophetic clue as to one reason why this did not occur:

"You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive: You have received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them." (Psalm 68:18)

According to this verse, the Messiah would ascend on high [i.e., heaven] to where He would lead those who had been held captive by sin and death. The Messiah would receive gifts to give to His followers left on the earth. Then the Lord will set up His Kingdom on earth and dwell among men. 

Jesus Christ did ascend to heaven forty days after His resurrection:

"49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. 50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." (Luke 24:49-50)

During those forty days, He would appear and disappear from the midst of His disciples and then reappear to them. I believe there were two main reasons why Jesus did this.

The first and most important is that He had to show the disciples that He had indeed been resurrected from death, "Until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen: To whom also He showed 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 1:2-3)

The other reason is that the disciples had physically seen Jesus walking and talking with them for three and one-half years. He knew that He would be leaving them shortly. I believe Jesus wanted them to know that even though they could not see Him anymore, He was still present with them: "And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go you 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 always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:18-20)

Even though the disciples didn't understand at the time, Jesus did tell them He would be leaving them one day:

"4 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? 6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. 12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 16 A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father." (John 16:4-16)

Jesus told the disciples the reason He was ascending back to heaven was so that He could send the Holy Spirit to come upon them. As we read earlier in this chapter, the Holy Spirit did come upon them ten days after Jesus' ascension on the Day of Pentecost and the apostle Peter went out and boldly preached his sermon to the multitudes.

The other reason I believe Jesus did not set up His kingdom immediately after His resurrection is because He wanted the whole world to be saved. During the period between Jesus' first and second comings billions of humans will have received salvation and spend eternity with their heavenly Father.

"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (Matthew 24:14) 

God wanted not only the Jews to be reconciled to Him but also the Gentiles. The New Testament states: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) It is God's desire that every person accept the sacrificial death of His Son so that their sins will be removed forever. The following verse shows how much God desires this:

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

Though nearly two millennia have passed since Jesus ascended into heaven, He did make a promise to His followers: 

"I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself; that where I am there you may be also." - John 14:3

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