The Ascension of Christ and the Apostles’ Commission

Introduction

We come to the final study of Mark’s Gospel. Here we find what is usually called ‘The Great Commission’ that Lord gave to His apostles, which in turn must be applied to all true followers of Jesus Christ. Also, in this passage we have a brief account of Christ’s ascension into Heaven.

The Great Activity

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

“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. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20). The whole world needs to hear the good news about Jesus Christ, for in every part of the globe man is the same, that is, he is a sinner, corrupt and alienated from God, who needs salvation through the blood. Wherever the children of Adam live, be they pagan, Muslim, Catholic, atheist, white, black, red or yellow, they are without knowledge, holiness, faith and salvation. God “commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30) … “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The message of salvation must be offered freely to all mankind, otherwise the great evangelical text becomes meaningless, “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). Those who presume that they are of the elect often limit the scope of the saving blood of Christ to a few, but the Scriptures know nothing about such a despicable doctrine. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17) … God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). John Wesley wrote in his Notes on the New Testament, “Our Lord speaks without any limitation or restriction. If therefore every creature in every age hath not heard it, either those who should have preached, or those who should have heard it, or both, made void the counsel of God herein.”

The Grand Acceptance

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

Those who put their faith in Christ ought to go on the baptism by full immersion. Those who believe and are baptised are saved, but those who disbelieve are lost. Most people think that their baptism as infants makes them members of Christ’s church, but we see that it is impossible for infants to understand the preaching of the Gospel and their need of the Saviour. The nation is filled with people who have been baptised but have never been saved. Their lack of saving faith damns their souls. Only the right order of things brings the blessing of salvation. Those who teach and practice infant baptism are in reality guilty of putting souls on the pathway to perdition. Nevertheless, every person must consider their standing before God before it is too late. “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” (Deuteronomy 32:29). The message of salvation must include the mention of Heaven and Hell.

The Gifts Allocated

“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17-18).

These verses do not appear or are relegated to footnotes in corrupt versions of the Bible. Surely only Satan does not want the church to know about the power and authority Christ has dispensed to those who follow Him. Notice the word ‘and’ at the beginning of the verse; it is there to join it with the previous statements. If they no longer apply to today’s church then the gift of salvation is unavailable too. If believers believe then the signs must follow. J. C. Ryle makes the sweeping comment, one which has no Scriptural warrant, “The age of miracles no doubt is long passed. They were never meant to continue beyond the first establishment of the church” (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels). These signs are contained in the ‘Gifts of the Spirit’ (see 1 Corinthians 12). The people Paul wrote to were Gentile believers and obviously not part of the “first establishment of the church”, yet Paul teaches and directs them concerning spiritual gifts.

The Glorious Ascension

“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19).

The ascension of Christ finds mention in Mark, Luke, and Acts. Luke writes, “And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:50-52). Luke gives us further insight into this event in Acts 1:1-11, “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 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: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 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.”

The Geographical Application

“And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” (Mark 16:20).

Once again we see the extent to which the Gospel needs to be preached. It is “the whole world”, “every creature” and “everywhere.” Anything less than this is disobedience. Jesus promised confirmation when the word was faithfully preached by His followers. This verse connects the two pertinent statements of Christ in this passage. Therefore the text is not simply historical but also futuristic, because while there remains one sinner on earth, the message of salvation must be taken to him, and the God-given signs ought to follow. The moment Christianity stops being missionary and evangelical, that is the time Christ is no longer working in His church.

Conclusion

We have reached the end of Mark’s account of the life of Christ. While much more could be written about this gospel, I pray that what is presented here would encourage seekers of truth to delve even deeper into God’s holy and inspired word.

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