- The Ascension
(MARK 16:19 LUKE 24:50-51)
The record of the ascension gives us strong evidence for what has been put forth thus far, that Matthew wrote first and sometime afterwards John wrote his Gospel. Then many years later, perhaps even decades, Luke wrote his Gospel gathering information as he journeyed with Paul throughout the Christian fellowships. Lastly, Mark wrote with Peter's input, probably with MATTHEW and LUKE spread out before them.
We thus find it curious that after the resurrection, only Luke records the actual ascension of Yeshua into heaven. There has to be a powerful reason why the other evangelists were silent as to this important event.
At the close of his Gospel, Matthew simply gave Yeshua's final instructions to the believers, that they were to go and make disciples of the nations.
- MATTHEW 28:19-20 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 [age]. Amen.
Nearly all of our current versions render Yeshua's final instructions here that His disciples were to go and baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost (Spirit), yet when we read through the rest of the Christian scriptures, throughout ACTS and all of the epistles of James and John and Peter and Jude and Paul, not once do we find anyone at all baptizing in this fashion, with these words. If this was indeed Yeshua's final command, to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, why then did no one do it? The obvious answer is that it was not His command. The text must be corrupt. The passage must have been tampered with by a later hand.
On pages 355-356 in his book, Jesus Christ our Passover, Victor Paul Wierwille has an enlightening comment on this passage.
- There is evidence from the early writings of the Church fathers who quoted this verse that the phrase "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" was not in the original text. Instead, it simply read, ". . . make disciples of all nations in my name, teaching them. . . ." Aphraates of Nisibis (around 340 A.D.) quoted the verse without the words "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Eusebius (who died around 340 A.D.) quoted this verse eighteen times without using those words. There is evidence that Justin Martyr, who lived in the mid-second century, did not have these words in his manuscripts. These men were quoting from manuscripts that were older than any that we now have. This clearly indicates that the original of Matthew 28:19 read, "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations in my name." The rest was added later.
Thus, in the closing words of his Gospel, Matthew simply stated the Lord's final command that they were to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe that which He had commanded them.
Then Matthew reassured his readers by noting Yeshua's promise that He would be with them till the end of that age. The word with in this passage is translated from the Greek word meta, which doesn't require a personal presence. It is the same word as in Paul's letter to the Thessalonians where he wrote, "And to you who are troubled rest with [meta] us . . . " (2 THESSALONIANS 1:7). Obviously they weren't with them in presence, but in association. Mentally or spiritually they were at rest together, not physically.
As such, Yeshua had promised that He would be with them spiritually, as joint workers, as fellow workmen, but not with them physically wherever they went. Even so, when Matthew wrote he made no mention of where Yeshua had gone, or where He was at present. Evidently no one at that time was overly troubled by His absence probably because He had only recently departed from them.
We must remember that none of the apostles knew just how long it would be before all the events of which Yeshua had warned them of would come to pass. Would it be only a brief period before He would return with the angels to pronounce His just judgment? Would the consumation of the ages be years away or delayed even longer? All they knew was that the end of that age would come to pass before that generation died out (MATTHEW 16:28).
Yeshua had startled them by declaring that the day was coming when all of the buildings of the temple would be destroyed (MATTHEW 24: 2), and nation would rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom, and there would be famines, pestilences and earthquakes (24:6-7). He further warned that some of them would be afflicted, some even killed, and that they would be hated of all nations, but whosoever endured till the end would be saved (24:9, 13).
He warned them that the tribulation upon their nation would be greater than at any other time, before or after. So much so that unless those days would be shortened, no one in their country would survive (24:21-22).
He cautioned them that there would appear false Christs and false prophets who would deceive many. He warned that if it was rumored that Christ was in the desert or in a secret place, not to believe it, for His return would be as quick as lightening flashing across the sky (24:23-27). At that time He would send His angels to gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to another (24:31).
Yeshua taught them that all these things would be fulfilled before that generation passed away, howbeit no one except GOD knew the exact day and hour, not even the angels (24:34-36). As such they were to watch, for as stealthily as a thief in the night, so would be His return. "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh", because if His disciples were not ready and prepared for His return, instead of rejoicing and celebration there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth (24:42-51).
Thus, when Matthew wrote, no doubt few if any of them expected Yeshua's return to be delayed for very long. They had been looking forward to a speedy return, expecting that He would soon restore again the kingdom to Israel (ACTS 1:6).
But by the time John wrote his Gospel things were somewhat different. He too looked for Yeshua to swiftly crush His enemies and bring to pass the promised judgment, but when he wrote, some years had probably now passed and what the disciples needed was reassurance of His return.
Thus, even though John mentioned nothing of the actual ascension itself, he did write much to comfort and encourage them concerning Yeshua's absence. He inserted a comment made sometime during the Last Supper, that Yeshua knew "his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father" (JOHN 13:1). Yeshua then told them that where He was going they could not come now, but that they would be able to follow Him afterwards (13:33, 36).
We are told that it was for their comfort that Yeshua told them that He was going away so as to prepare a place for them, that where He was they could be also (JOHN 14:2-3). Later that evening He prayed to the Father that His disciples might be with Him in His glory (17:24). That could only be a comfort to His disciples if His return was to follow His departure in the not too distant future. They were not expecting thousands of years to pass before they were all gathered together again, but rather at some time in their own lifetime.
It was here in John's Gospel where we learn of a Comforter, the spirit of truth, whom Yeshua was going to send to them in His absence (14:16-17). Yeshua added that it was necessary for Him to go away, for unless He left them, the Comforter would not come unto them, and further that this Spirit of truth would guide them into all truth, and show them things to come (16:7, 13).
Yeshua also instructed them that though He was the vine, His Father was the vinedresser (15:1 RSV), and any of them which did not bear fruit the Father would take away. But on the other hand if they bore fruit, then the Father would work within them so that they could bare even more fruit.
Yeshua warned them that if the world hated Him that it would hate them also, and further that if the world persecuted Him then it would persecute them also (15:18-21). Even more so, His disciples would be cast out of the synagogues and some even killed (16:1-2). The closing chapters of JOHN speak of hardships and struggles for His disciples, but also comfort and expectation. True, Yeshua was leaving, but He was going away so as to prepare a place for them so that they could rejoin Him there with the Father. And further, when He left He would send them the spirit of truth to guide them in the way.
Evidently for John's readers, Yeshua's return was going to be a little farther off than what many of them had first expected. Thus he gave them many details of Yeshua's promises of His return and explanations of His whereabouts.
John closed his Gospel with the simple summation that all he had written was for the purpose that they might believe that Yeshua was the Messiah, the Son of GOD, and therefore believing that, that they might obtain life through His name (20:31).
According to MARK 16:19 Yeshua ascended to the right hand of GOD, but there is good reason to believe that verses 9-20 were probably not part of the original Gospel which Mark wrote. This is well presented in Henry Latham's The Risen Master, pages 199-206 and Andrews Norton's The Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels, pages 443-449. For some reason Mark's original Gospel was cut short, perhaps as Mr. Latham suggests, "Either from the loss of the last page in the original papyrus, or from some cause connected with persecution". As such we don't have Mark's record of what happened after the discovery by the women of the empty tomb.
But the same cannot be said for Luke who wrote many years later. When he put pen to paper, perhaps decades had now passed with no hint of the Lord's return. No doubt many were beginning to question where Yeshua was and indeed if He was ever going to return at all? Where had He gone and what was He doing? Why was His return being delayed for so long?
We know that it was an issue because Peter and Paul both addressed it in their epistles. Paul wrote in his epistle to the Thessalonians (around 50 A.D.) for them not to be "shaken in mind, or be troubled" about whether or not Christ's return was at hand (2 THESSALONIANS 2:2-3). He wrote again to Timothy (around 57-58 A.D.) concerning some who were spreading cancerous rumors that the resurrection was past already (2 TIMOTHY 2:18). Peter also addressed the growing concern of Yeshua's delay in his second epistle (perhaps around 65 A.D.) saying that scoffers were flat out asking "Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning. . ." (2 PETER 3:3-4).
Many were starting to wonder and beginning to doubt if He was truly going to return for them or not. Thus, when Luke wrote his Gospel and ACTS, he recognized the necessity of graphically explaining for them how Yeshua had been carried up into heaven and seated at GOD's right hand until the time for His return. When Matthew and John wrote, they were not overly troubled about where He was because He had not long before left, but now that many years had passed with possibly no visit from Him, the issue of His absence needed to be addressed.