THE TIMING OF THE RESURRECTION & CHRIST’S ASCENSION:
Harmonizing Biblical stories of the Resurrection of Christ Jesus and His post-resurrection appearances and all the events that took place that day has proven a challenge for many Bible scholars. So in saying, as a Word Detective, I am going to investigate the Four Gospels and search for the biblical truths of Christ’s Ascension. So grab your Bibles, and let’s get started. And by the way, this isn’t a light read.
Harmonizing the Biblical Stories–
Bible skeptics love to take potshots at the Gospel stories; try to discredit the Scripture as in-breathed of God, therefore ‘one cannot rely upon the Bible.’
An important reminder. God could have all four Gospel writers record all the events exactly the same way, but would that prove anything?
Four Aspects Presented by Four Writers:
All four Gospel writers were under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, depicting the four aspects of the Life of Jesus while here on earth.
Matthew – Writes his gospel with a view of Jesus as King.
Mark – Shows Jesus as a Suffering Servant of God.
Luke – Depicts the Humanity of Christ.
John – Views Jesus’ Divinity.
Putting ALL the events in chronological order: (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1,10; John 20:1)
The Three Women at the Tomb–
Not less than 3 women go to the tomb that early morning, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. There is the possibility they don’t go as a group but as two separate groups, meeting at the tomb at slightly different times. Take note that Mary Magdalene is especially singled out by all the Gospel writers on the resurrection day.
Making their way to the tomb, an angel of God descends from heaven–rolls the stone away–the earth quakes–the guards faint– and the said angel, sits on the stone (Matthew 28:2-4).
Arriving at the Tomb…
1. Mary Magdalene finds it empty and runs to tell the disciples (John 20:1-2). The other women mentioned remain behind.
2. An angel shows them the empty tomb, telling them JESUS CHRIST has risen from the dead! “Go and tell” – (Matt. 28:5-7; Mark 16:2-8; Luke 24:1-8).
Happenstance doesn’t occur in the Bible– Old Testament or New Testament.
There are many points of comparison in Scripture showing the Holy of Holies is prophetic of the EMPTY TOMB.
1. The Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant– the Presence of God, while the empty tomb contained the body of Christ Jesus.
2. The Veil covered the entrance of the Holy of Holies and the Stone covered the opening of the Tomb.
3. Worshipers were not allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, and the tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers.
4. The Veil covered the Holy of Holies–JESUS’ body was covered in a shroud (Matt. 27:59).
5. Blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat and on the worshipers in the temple for forgiveness of sins–the BLOOD poured out of JESUS on the Cross and then in the tomb for the forgiveness of sins once and for all (Past, Present, and Future).
6. Two carved Cherubim (angels) faced the empty space above the Ark of the Covenant, covering it with their wings, while TWO ANGELS greeted the women at the empty tomb.
Left Alone Weeping…
Mary Magdalene returns to the scene and stoops down looking into the tomb. She sees two angels sitting where JESUS had lain, one at the head and the other at the feet.
They question her, she replies and as she turns around, she sees JESUS, thinking that He is the gardener, pleading with Him for the Body of Jesus.
JESUS then calls her by name and suddenly…Mary recognizes Him. She responds and reaches out to touch JESUS, cling to Him, who quickly cautions her saying,
 Mary! Turning around she said to Him in Hebrew, Rabboni!–which means Teacher or Master.
 Jesus said to her, Do not cling to Me [do not hold Me], for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brethren and tell them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.
 Away came Mary Magdalene, bringing the disciples news (word) that she had seen the Lord and that He had said these things to her.
The Bible Verse Most Believers Have Overlooked (John 20:17):
They missed this “ascension” of Christ in which He must first present Himself pleasing before the Father.
Most Christians believe that there is only one ascension of Christ, and that it took place right after He spent 40 days with His disciples following His resurrection (Acts 1:1-5, 9). However, John’s Gospel clearly points out Jesus’ own words–-He must not be touched with human hands until He goes up to see His Father, our Father, His God, our God.
WHY? The Book of Leviticus Chapter 16 gives answer:
On that given day, it was the one day of the year the high priest was allowed to offer a blood sacrifice in the Holy of Holies; sprinkle the sacrificial blood of a lamb before the presence of Yahweh, covering the sin of the people. The high priest was the only one who could do it!
The Day of Atonement–
Yes, alone and unassisted, the ATONEMENT had to be made by the solitary high priest (Lev. 16:17).
As a High Priest, JESUS laid down His life as the represented Passover Lamb. He was the SACRIFICE. He took His own BLOOD and He went up (“ascended”) in to the Holy Presence of God, where He presented it before His Father, after which He came back out to where He first entered in.
HOW LONG DID THIS TAKE?
How long did it take for JESUS our Lord to ascend and come back down? It didn’t take very long, not even minutes. When Aaron the high priest took the blood of the sacrificial lamb into the Holy of Holies, he certainly didn’t dilly-dally in that place. He sprinkled the blood on the Mercy Seat and came right back out. That was why small bells were attached to the rim of the high priest’s garment. Outside the Holy of Holies, you could hear the bells as the priest moved about. No bell-ringing? The priest wasn’t found worthy in the sacrifice and was struck dead. The other priest could then drag him out by his feet.
JESUS, as the High Priest:
As a High Priest, JESUS laid down His life as the Passover Lamb. He was the SACRIFICE…He took His own blood and went up in to the Holy Presence of God and presented it before His Father, after which He came back out to where He first entered in.
How long did this take for JESUS our Lord to ascend and come back down? Didn’t take long, not even minutes.
Now, with this revelation in hand, let’s continue to look at the events as follows:
1. Mary Magdalene–goes off to tell the disciples she has seen the Lord (Mark 16:9), and Christ goes up (ascends) to His Father, His God. And then comes right back down again.
2. The Guards–having raised themselves, report the empty tomb scenario to the authorities, who then bribe the guards to say that the disciples have stolen the body of JESUS (Matthew 28:11-15).
3. JESUS meets the women–on their way to tell the disciples the NEWS the angel has given them. JESUS greets them, and they draw near and hold His feet, worshiping Him.
*[Note: JESUS could now be touched].
4. JESUS comforts them, and reaffirms the instructions the angel has given them (Matthew 28:8-10).
It is at this time, the Old Testament saints resurrect and many go into the city of Jerusalem and appear to many (not all) of the disciples (Matthew 27:52-53).
* [A Note about Matthew 27:50-54]:
The word “and” appears often in the New Testament. This conjunction can sometimes confuse readers, because of the way Scriptures were translated; marked off into verses for the ease of locating particular words and phrases.
The original written manuscripts were in Greek, which didn’t separate words, nor used accents and punctuation marks. Even in Luke 23:44-47, appears misleading in comparison to Matthew 27:30-34.
Nevertheless, the proper readings of the two passages are as follows:
1. After JESUS had given up His spirit, an earthquake happens. At the same time, the VEIL in the Temple in Jerusalem was torn into, top to bottom.
2. After the RESURRECTION of Christ Jesus (on the 3rd Day), the graves were opened [Remember, there was also an earthquake as an angel descended and rolled away the stone in front of the grave].
3. THE SAINTS of old resurrected and many of them went into the city of Jerusalem and appeared to many of the Disciples.
1. From about the sixth hour (12:00 PM) until the ninth hour (3:00 PM), there was DARKNESS over the land because the sun was darkened. 2. The VEIL of the Temple was rent (torn) as JESUS gave up His spirit crying, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”.
3. Mary Magdalene and the other women meet the disciples and relate what they have seen and heard (Mark 16:10-11; Luke 24:9-11; John 20:18).
4. Later the same day, JESUS appears to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5).
Cleo and a friend in dismay…”JESUS had been crucified…who would redeem us now?”
In the late afternoon of the same day, JESUS meets up with Cleopas and another disciple on the road to the village of Emmaus, a distance of about 7 1/2 miles (12 kilometers) from Jerusalem.
As the day turns to evening, they all sit down at the dinner table. JESUS breaks the bread, and the disciples suddenly recognize Him. They immediately return to the city (15 miles round-trip… in one day!), and report the event to the Eleven and others (Luke 24:13-35).
Later that night…
JESUS appears to the disciples in a closed room…and Thomas the disciple is found missing (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25).
And again, after 8 days…
JESUS appears again to His disciples in a closed room, but this time, Thomas is present (John 20:26-31).
Following that, and over a period of up to 40 days since His resurrection, JESUS appears a few more times–to seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-25), and to about 500 disciples in Galilee and to His half-brother James (1 Corinthians 15:6-7).
The Great Commission…
While JESUS is with the disciples, He commissions His disciples, teaches the Scripture and the PROMISE to send the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:16-20; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:4-5).
After 40 days, JESUS ascends into Heaven (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:6-12).
It becomes quite clear, that as He ascends, He takes the resurrected Old Testament saints up with Him, for they are no longer held in captivity by the Prince of Darkness who has held them in Sheol (not Hell) all that time.
The POWER of the Resurrection…
By the POWER of JESUS’ resurrection from the dead, these saints are now Christ’s captives.
JESUS sets them free into Paradise as He ascends to sit in His Father’s Throne (Ephesians 4:8; Matt. 27:52-53; Rom. 1:4).
There you have it. READING your Bible is more than just scanning the pages. It’s a conscious effort to search for the truth with the help of the Holy Spirit in “connecting the dots”.