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Taken Up Into Glory

We are to fulfill the mission God has called each of us to complete.


In this series we have been walking in the footsteps of Jesus during his final days on earth. I have sought to employ the metaphor of being on a tour. For the first part of the tour Matthew was our guide as we went from the upper room to the tomb. Following the resurrection, we watched eyewitnesses tell us their experience of being with Jesus following his resurrection from the dead. This is the final sermon in the series and provides a fitting end to Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Have you ever noticed, when you tour a museum today you always go through a gift shop on your way out of the museum? This is the one last opportunity to get your money. As you walk through the gift shop there are t-shirts, hats, shot glasses, pencils, anything you can think of that commemorates your visit. Well, we may not be in the gift shop today as we finish our tour, but if we were, I think there would be a t-shirt you could buy saying “be my witnesses because I am coming back.”

As we come to the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth, we might ask the following question, “What happens next?” The final stop on this tour answers this question both for the disciples and for us today. Let’s dive into the opening verses of Luke’s second book, Acts. The Book of Acts shows us what happens next after the ministry of Christ. In addition, the first few verses of the book give us details about what we are to take with us into the world. Just like the souvenir we might buy in the gift shop; these verses remind us of where we have been. This text shows us what we must do, with where we have been.

A Final Moment with the Disciples

What Luke records for us in these opening words of Acts contain the final teachable moments Jesus has with his disciples. This engagement begins in the city of Jerusalem and ends on the Mount of Olives. There are several things Jesus says in this final moment on earth that are powerful and worth noting.

Final Instruction

First, Jesus provides some final instruction. Jesus tells the disciples to wait in the city for the promise of the Father (1:4-5). Jesus orders the disciples to wait in Jerusalem till the Holy Spirit (the Father’s promise) baptizes them. This is a dramatic shift from Old Testament to New Testament. In the Old Testament the Spirit was present but did not permanently dwell in people’s lives. Being baptized by the Spirit is the indwelling presence of the Spirit in the lives of people (1 Corinthians 12:13) which occurs at salvation. Jesus instructs his disciples to wait until this moment comes.

Several years ago, I lost my grandmother. She was 98 years old. I remember one day being in the hospital room with her, knowing that her days were numbered and not sure of her salvation. As we were sitting around the room my grandmother had some final instructions for me. Her instructions were simple, as the only pastor in the family she wanted me to officiate her funeral. As she asked me to do that, it was the open-door God presented to me to share the gospel one last time with her. This time she prayed to receive Christ as her Savior. A couple weeks after that visit she went home to be with the Lord, and I was able to share her story at the funeral which resulted in the salvation of another family member. Likewise, Jesus’ final instructions set the stage for the disciples to be the witnesses to the world that Jesus calls them to be after his ascension.

Ministry Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Second, Jesus presents a description of what ministry will look like when they become his witnesses empowered by the Holy Spirit (1:6-8). As they all come together, the disciples want to know if Jesus is going to restore the kingdom to Israel. Meaning, is he going to rule and reign as king? Jesus addresses this question in the following way.

First, he directs their attention away from the promised past of a millennial kingdom where the Messiah rules and reigns. Only the Father knows that information and will execute the kingdom in his time. Then Jesus focuses their attention on what the disciples are to accomplish and the task at hand. Jesus speaks about the indwelling presence of the Spirit and his power working through their lives. However, it’s important to note the future tense of verse 8. Jesus says “when” the Holy Spirit comes upon them, which means in that moment the Spirit is not present in their lives because Jesus is present. The reason Jesus returns to glory is so the Holy Spirit can come and dwell in people’s lives, permanently (John 16:7-15). This ministry description is impossible for anyone to fulfill without the present power of the Holy Spirit indwelling the lives of believers.

When I was younger, school was not really something I enjoyed (honestly, who likes school when you are a teenager). I was not a great reader and I hated it when I was called on to read out loud in a class setting. My hands would get sweaty and I would be stumbling over my words. But when God called me into ministry, that reality began to melt away. I started to enjoy my studies and when I became a full-time youth pastor, my public speaking increased, and I found myself comfortable when I stand in front of large groups of people. Today, each week God gives me the opportunity to preach his Word, it’s a task I take seriously and a task that could never happen without the power of the Holy Spirit working through me. As believers we need to understand this power and use it in life for God’s glory.

The Work of Ministry Continues Until Jesus Returns

Third, Jesus tells the disciples that the work of ministry will continue until Jesus returns to earth (1:9-11). These verses bring the earthly ministry of Jesus to an end. As they have made their way from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives, and as Jesus has instructed them on what their ministry will look like, Jesus ascends from the mountain and disappears in the clouds.

The prophetic scriptures tell us Jesus will one day return to earth on the same spot where he went into heaven (Zechariah 14:4). As Jesus disappears, two angels appear to the disciples while they stand looking at the sky (which is what we all would do had we walked with Jesus for three years). The angels confirm what the scriptures teach that; Jesus will return just as he said he would at the time in which the Father dispatches him back to earth.

Acts 1:12 tells us that the disciples do as Jesus instructed. They return to Jerusalem and there they wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower their lives so they can accomplish the mission God has called them to fulfill.

I don’t know about you, but the word “wait” is not an encouraging word. In our fast-paced society, where anyone can get information at the click of a mouse, hearing that we need to wait is not very popular. When we are told to wait, we try to find other ways to bring a solution to the thing that causes us to wait. Jesus told his disciples that they were to wait for the promise from the Father, the Holy Spirit, thus the cliché is true, good things happen to those who wait.

Promise from the Father Fulfilled

It would not be fitting to end without seeing how the promise from the Father is fulfilled as Jesus said it would be. Therefore, one final event emphasizes the dramatic entrance of the Holy Spirit into the world (2:1-4).

After Jesus is taken into glory the disciples return to Jerusalem where they wait for the promise of the Father. On the day of Pentecost (50 days following Passover) people gathered in Jerusalem (third pilgrim feast to be celebrated in Jerusalem). There were about 120 people present when the promise of the Father arrived.

The Holy Spirit made a grand entrance and indwelt the disciples as Jesus had said. The proof of his indwelling presence was their ability speak in the languages of the people represented in the room at that moment, so that people heard the gospel in their native tongue. The event was so dramatic that some people thought the disciples were drunk. This event marked the spread of the gospel and gave birth to the church.


We find ourselves walking through the gift shop. We look at all the souvenirs and decide which one will help us to remember our visit. If you are into collecting items that remind you of family vacations, you will look for that item. As you get home, you take that item and display it to be reminded of the time you and your family had on that vacation.

We have visited the last days of our Lord this Easter season. We have learned that Jesus’ death conquered our sin and that his resurrection defeats death. Because of Jesus redeeming work on earth we can enjoy a relationship with the Father. As we live our lives, we are empowered with the indwelling presence of the Spirit who enables us to live a life that fully pleases God and to share the gospel with the world. The Christian life was never meant to be lived alone and, as Jesus promised the disciples with the great commission, he would be with them to the end of the age.

Just as the angels proclaimed to the disciples as they stood on the Mount of Olives, we look forward to the Lord Jesus returning once again to earth to establish his kingdom and his reign. We are not to be concerned, today, about when it will happen but just to know that it will happen. In the meantime, we are to fulfill the mission God has called each of us to complete. As Jesus came to redeem the world, the Holy Spirit has come to dwell, empower, and enable us to be all that God has called us to for his honor and glory.

David Karn is the Senior Pastor at Grace Community Church in Goldsboro, NC.

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