Jesus Christ Our Firstfruits




Jesus Christ remained on the earth for forty days in his resurrected body. His appearances to people on the first day that he showed himself alive were set forth in the previous chapter. In this chapter we will study God's Word for knowledge concerning the other thirty-nine days until Christ's ascension.

Thomas had been absent when Jesus Christ appeared to the disciples on Sunday evening. Sometime after Jesus left the supper on that evening ending the eighteenth of Nisan, the eleven disciples went to Galilee as Jesus Christ had instructed.

Matthew 28: 16 -- Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

Evidently, Thomas had returned to his native Galilee. There the eleven reunited with him and told him of Christ’s appearance.

John 20: 25 – The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he [Thomas] said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

This was the reason Thomas got his reputation as "doubting Thomas." But when compared to the earlier scepticism of the others, Thomas was no more doubtful than the rest of them had been before they saw and touched Jesus. When Thomas finally did see Jesus, he believed also.

John 20: 26 to 29 -- And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then  came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be  unto you.

Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it  into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are  they that have not seen, and yet  have believed.

The above passage is full of meaning. Eight days after his first appearance, Jesus came to his disciples once again. They were again behind closed doors.

This appearance of Jesus was surely for the benefit of Thomas who had not yet seen him. In reference to Thomas' argument of disbelief, Jesus invited Thomas to scrutinize him and to touch his wounded hands and side.

Thomas exclaimed in great reverence, "My Lord and my God!" This exclamation was not a statement saying that he believed Jesus to be God. Rather it was a declaration of awe and reverence, characteristic of the Eastern culture when speaking of one who represented God. There are many Biblical examples where a person is called "god" because he represents God to the people. A man who had servants would be called "lord," meaning "master." In the East a woman would at times call her husband "lord" or "god" because he represented God to her. Thomas was by no means trying to document a triune God. He knew Jesus was the Son of God, not God Himself. His exclamation was a reverential expression characteristic of his Semitic culture.

Linguistically, the phrase "My Lord and my God" is a figure of speech in which two nouns are used to describe one thing. It is the figure hendiadys.  In this figure one of the nouns increases in intensity the other noun to the superlative degree. When you apply this to Thomas' declaration, the essence of it was, "My godly lord!" Thomas most emphatically declared his submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Thomas believed because of what he had seen. After the ascension, it was no longer possible for anyone to see Jesus Christ and touch his side and hands. Since then men have had to believe in Jesus Christ's resurrection without physically beholding him. That is the great accuracy of God's Word in this section.

John 20: 30 and 31 -- And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Verse 31 clearly states God's purpose in recording the previous scriptures. They were written so that people would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. That is why Thomas' statement "My Lord and my God!" was recorded by God in His Word. It was not written with the intent that people would believe that Jesus is God, but the Son of God.

Verse 30 of John 20 makes us aware of another great truth. There were many events during these forty days which are not recorded. We can only know of the ones God has revealed to us in His Word.

The first time Jesus Christ appeared to his gathered disciples was on the eighteenth of Nisan and the second recorded time was after eight more days had passed, on the twenty-seventh of Nisan. On this latter appearance, Thomas finally saw the risen Christ. This appearance is also recorded in Matthew 28: 17 to 20.

Matthew 28: 17 to 20 -- And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

And Jesus came [having come] and spake unto them, saying, All power [authority] is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

Go ye therefore, and teach [make disciples of] 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.

This is the first record since the resurrection of Jesus Christ where he tells his followers to go out and make disciples of others, even the Gentiles. The phrase "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" has been the source of much confusion. The authenticity of this phrase has been questioned by many because there is no scriptural evidence that this type of baptism was ever carried out. Throughout the Book of Acts people were baptized with the holy spirit in the name of Jesus Christ. Never were they baptized with the trinitarian formula given above.

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.

After giving this exhortation, "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations in my name," Christ assured them that he would ever be present with them. This concludes the record of his appearance to his disciples on the mountain in Galilee.

After seeing Jesus Christ, a few of the disciples went down to the Sea of Galilee to do some fishing. This was a natural thing to do, as they would need to eat something, and many of them were fishermen by trade.

John 21: 1 -- After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.

This verse introduces and summarizes the resurrection appearance recorded here in the twenty-first chapter of John. The Sea of Tiberias is the Sea of Galilee. ** This was the first appearance of Jesus to his disciples while they were in Galilee.

[** It was called the Sea of Tiberias by those who lived in the vicinity of Tiberias, a city built by the Romans on the west side of the lake.]

John 21: 2 -- There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons  of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

Only seven disciples witnessed this appearance, five of whom we know were apostles. The rest may have remained at the mountain designated by Jesus.

John 21: 3 -- Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

Peter was a leader, that is why others followed him. However, on this particular fishing expedition they caught nothing.

John 21: 4 to 7 -- But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.

And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his  fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

With a few words from the disciple whom Jesus loved, Peter was quickly convinced that the person calling to them from the shore was the Master. He put on his fisherman's coat and jumped into the water.

John 21: 8 to 11 -- And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

The disciples were only about one hundred yards from the shore. As they brought in their spectacular catch, they found Jesus calmly on the shore with a fire and fish already prepared.

John 21: 12 to 17 -- Jesus saith unto them, Come and  dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing it was the Lord.

Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.

This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son  of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these [referring to the fish]? He [Peter] saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He [Jesus] saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son  of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son  of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Three times Jesus Christ asked Peter a challenging question: "Peter, do you love me more than these fish?" Each time Peter responded, "Lord, you know I love you." Jesus Christ was constraining Peter to walk with greater and greater love and dedication to his master.

Three times Jesus responded to Peter's replies by challenging him with responsibility. Most Western readers gloss over this section and conclude that Jesus repeated the same challenge each time: "Feed my sheep." However, according to the texts and custom, each challenge concerned a distinct category of sheep. Jesus told Peter to feed his male lambs, his female lambs, and all of his adult sheep.

The instructions were complete: "If you really love me, Peter, feed my male lambs, my female lambs, and my adult sheep." This was the responsibility with which Jesus was charging Peter. Peter would have to see that young men and women were nourished on God's Word. He was also to see that adults of both sexes were given a quality diet of God's Word and pastored faithfully. After Pentecost, Peter began to fulfill this responsibility.

John 21: 18 -- Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee  whither thou wouldest not.

Jesus Christ was illustrating a great truth in teaching Peter the responsibility he soon would have. The reference to the young man who girded himself refers to a person who does not accept responsibility, but does whatever he wants. The reference to the old man who would be girded by someone other than himself refers to a person who has taken on responsibility given him by another. He is responsible to do what another says to do. He is clothed as another desires for him to be clothed. He is under the care and guidance of another and is to obey him. This was to be Peter's calling as a bondslave to Jesus Christ, responsible for leading God's people.

John 21: 19 -- This spake he, signifying by what [by what means] death [omit "death"] he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

Evidence from old Greek cursive manuscripts indicates the word "death" was not in the original. In context the reading makes much more sense without the interpolated word "death." The context is that of service, not of death. Death is never a glory. Jesus Christ said that Peter would glorify God by serving responsibly under the care and guidance of Jesus Christ, not by dying. That is why Jesus then gave Peter the same command as he had when he first called Peter, "Follow me." This was his call to service. By Pentecost, Peter would have to be a strong, unwavering leader of God's people. That is what Jesus Christ was building into Peter's life in this record.

John 21: 20 -- Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

The disciple whom Jesus loved had leaned on Jesus Christ's breast at Jesus' last supper before the crucifixion. Upon Peter's request, this disciple had asked Jesus who the betrayer was. In verse 20, there is a parenthetic digression starting with "which" and going to the end of the verse. These words explain and further identify the disciple whom Jesus loved. He was the same disciple read about in John 13: 21 to 25. Peter looked at this disciple and became curious as to what that disciple would do.

John 21: 21 -- Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall  this man do?

Jesus had just charged Peter with great responsibility when he said, "Follow me." But instead of focusing on his own responsibility, Peter began questioning Jesus on the responsibility of this other disciple.

John 21: 22 -- Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that  to thee? follow thou me.

Jesus, in essence, said: "Peter, quit worrying about everybody else. You carry out your own responsibility. If I want this other disciple to remain until I come back, what business is it of yours? Stop getting into other people's business and follow me!"

John 21: 23 -- Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that  to thee?

Isn't it incredible that they so misinterpreted Jesus' words? But they did.

Nowhere in this chapter has God's Word identified and named the disciple "whom Jesus loved." It had to be one of the seven disciples who went fishing. All but two of those disciples were named. If one were Lazarus and he is referred to in verse 23, then Peter's question, Jesus' reply, and their misunderstanding of his reply are easily explained.

Lazarus had been raised from the dead by Jesus and become one of his most dearly loved disciples. In being raised from the dead, he had that in common with Jesus. This might explain why Peter would be wondering about him. It would also explain why the disciples thought that he too, like Jesus, would not again die. Since he had been raised from the dead, perhaps he too would live forever. They misunderstood Jesus' words because of their own reasoning.

John 21: 24 and 25 -- This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

This verse cannot be used to prove that John was "the disciple whom Jesus loved." The disciple" of verse 24 does not necessarily refer to "the disciple whom Jesus loved." That is an unwarranted assumption. Verses 24 and 25 form a unit as a closing to the Gospel. As verse 25 so clearly states, Jesus Christ did so many, many more things than are written in the Gospel of John.

I Corinthians 15 lists several of Jesus Christ's resurrection appearances.

I Corinthians 15: 4 to 8 -- And that he was buried, and that he rose [has been raised] again the third day according to the scriptures:

And that he was seen of Cephas [Peter], then of the twelve:

And that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

After that, he was seen of James; then of all of the apostles.

And last of all he was seen of me [Paul] also, as of one born out of due time.

This passage of scripture records in chronological order six of Jesus Christ's appearances; not all of these are found in the Gospels. Note the accuracy of this record in I Corinthians 15. The appearance to Peter occurred between the time Peter went to the tomb a second time and the time the two disciples came back from the road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 12, 33, 34). The appearance to the twelve apostles refers to his appearance eight days later when Thomas was present (John 20: 26 to 29). Judas was not yet replaced, so he must have been there. The appearance to over five hundred brethren is not directly stated in the Gospels. Neither is Jesus' appearance to James. We only know that these two appearances occurred some time after he appeared in John 21. The appearance to "all the apostles" of I Corinthians 15: 7 may refer to his appearance to them on the day of the ascension. Judas again must have been present. Finally, Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus several years after the ascension, as recorded in Acts 9. How accurately I Corinthians 15 corroborates and fits with the Gospel records and with the Book of Acts. The days of his appearances were among the most exciting in history. By the time he ascended, Jesus Christ had left no reason for doubt that indeed he was risen.

To see what God's Word reveals about Jesus Christ's ascension, we must study the first chapter of the Book of Acts.

Acts 1: 1 and 2 -- The former treatise have I made, 0 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.

The former treatise refers to the Gospel of Luke, both Acts and Luke having been written by the same person. The word Theophilus  is not necessarily a proper name. It can correctly be translated, "beloved of God." Luke and Acts were written for those that are beloved of God. The Gospel of Luke covered many things Jesus Christ did and taught until the day of the ascension, "the day in which he was taken up." The Book of Acts continues the record beginning from the day of the ascension. On that day he gave some specific, important commandments to the apostles "whom he had chosen." This tells us those twelve must have been there, including Judas, for he had chosen all twelve. We have further substantiated this by indicating that Judas was present for at least two of the previous appearances. Judas had not yet committed suicide, and he was still fellowshipping with Jesus Christ and with the other disciples. That certainly demonstrates the grace of God, manifested in the actions of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Realizing that all twelve apostles were present at Jesus Christ's ascension, we must follow with precision the pronouns referring to them throughout these verses in Acts.

Acts 1: 3 -- To whom [to the twelve apostles] also he shewed himself alive after his passion [his death] by many infallible proofs, being seen of them [during] forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

This documents Jesus Christ's presence on the earth for forty days after his resurrection. During this period, beginning with the eighteenth of Nisan, he appeared to the twelve as well as other disciples several times. He showed himself alive by "many infallible proofs." Over five hundred people saw him during this time, some saw him more than once. There is not one historical record of any of the witnesses claiming the resurrection to be a "hoax." Nor do any of the witnesses contradict each other's testimony. These men and women were not insane or emotionally disturbed. They were not hallucinating. By the record of God's Word itself, they themselves had a difficult time believing what they saw. Yet over five hundred saw him at once. And by the end of the forty days, all were convinced that Jesus Christ was risen from the dead.

All these accounts name primary witnesses of the resurrected Christ because they actually saw him in person. In a court of law the testimony of a primary witness is much more creditable than the testimony of those who were not at the event. If you witnessed a car accident and testified to it, a judge would give weight to your testimony. If someone who had not been at the scene of the accident surfaced two years later and claimed the wreck had never occurred, the judge would not accept his testimony. In fact, such a testimony would be thrown out of court as an unfounded hypothesis by a secondary witness.

We must be that honest with Christ's resurrection. Over five hundred people saw the resurrected Christ. Some saw the empty tomb and graveclothes. In the New Testament we have the written records of some of these first-hand witnesses. Historical references from that period speak of it. Despite all of this, many people have chosen to accept the testimony of people who live almost two thousand years later and who claim that Jesus was not resurrected by God. Such is the inconsistency in the human mind.

In addition to there having been hundreds of first hand witnesses of the resurrected Christ, the manifestation of the power of the holy spirit is proof to the born-again Christian today that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. When all is considered, the evidence for the resurrection is indisputable and undeniable. It is so clear and simple that even a fool need not err therein.

Not all the appearances of Jesus Christ were recorded. But we do have a record of his final appearance before his ascension here in Acts 1. Again, Jesus Christ's disciples were with him in the Jerusalem area. On this occasion he gave the apostles his final instructions.

Acts 1: 4 and 5 -- And, being assembled together with them  [the twelve apostles], commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for [until] 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 [in] the Holy Ghost [holy spirit] not many days hence.

Other information about this same occasion is found in Luke 24. Remember, the event at hand is the ascension.

Luke 24: 45 to 49 -- Then opened he [Jesus Christ] their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

And ye are witnesses of these things.

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.

What great promises Jesus Christ was making to the apostles. This record in Luke 24 is placed right after the appearance forty days earlier, it also having occurred in Jerusalem. Luke is simply summarizing events that happened over a long period of time at the same location with basically the same people.

Both Luke 24 and Acts 1 relate that Jesus told his apostles of the promise of the Father. In Acts it was called the baptism of the holy spirit. In Luke it was called being clothed or endued with power from on high. Jesus was again instructing the twelve about the greatness of what they were about to receive in a few days. Despite Jesus' teaching them, the apostles did not yet understand the greatness that was to come. They could not grasp what Jesus was saying.

Acts 1: 6 and 7 -- 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.

The apostles were still wondering about Christ's future kingdom. They did not realize the magnitude of the promise of the holy spirit which had just been made to them, so they sidetracked the topic. But rather than angrily reproving them, Jesus simply said that no one knew when the kingdom would be restored to Israel. The authority for that restoration was God's and God's alone. Only God knows when Jesus Christ will return and reestablish that kingdom. Having said this, Jesus Christ returned to his topic of Acts 1: 4 and 5, namely, the receiving of the holy spirit and its effects.

Acts 1: 8 -- But ye [the twelve apostles] shall receive [lambano, receive into manifestation] power [dunamis, inherent power], after [when] that the Holy Ghost [holy spirit] 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.

Jesus Christ was preparing all twelve apostles, including Judas, for what was to come about in a few days. If Judas had obeyed these instructions, he too would have been filled with the power of the holy spirit. That is the great forgiveness and grace of our lord! But Judas committed suicide before Pentecost arrived. Perhaps it was at this time of the final instruction, just before ascending into heaven, that Jesus Christ gave the following exhortation found in Mark 16.

Mark 16: 15 to 18 -- And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

He that believeth and is baptized [baptized with the holy spirit] shall be saved [made whole]; but he that believeth not shall be damned [judged].

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

They [in context it means "If 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.

An example of accidentally taking up a serpent is found in Acts 28: 3 to 6. Nowhere  does God's Word teach us to intentionally handle snakes as "a test of faith."

By their believing, the apostles would be able to stop the ill effects of any poisonous liquid they might accidentally drink. By believing, they would be able to cast out devils and speak in tongues. By believing, they would be able to receive revelation to lay hands on people and heal them. These are some of the great ways by which God would confirm His Word as they preached it to every creature. These powers would be available to those who would be filled with the power of the holy spirit and believe. Aren't those tremendous promises?

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

Luke 24: 50 and 51 -- 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 [was blessing] them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

Acts 1: 9 -- And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

Jesus Christ led the apostles from Jerusalem to the other side of the Mount of Olives, as far as Bethany. On the eastern side of the Mount of Olives, there is a secluded area overlooking the village of Bethany. They were not in sight of Jerusalem. They were not at the traditional site of the ascension over which a shrine is now located. That traditional site today sits on top of the Mount of Olives, completely out of sight of Bethany but in full view of Jerusalem. Once again we see the great error introduced which has been perpetrated by tradition. People have consistently failed to adhere to the accuracy and integrity of God's Word.

Jesus Christ raised his hands and blessed the disciples. While he was yet blessing them, he was taken up into heaven and a cloud received him out of their sight. The apostles beheld him as he went up.

Acts 1: 10 -- And while they [the twelve apostles] looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel.

The pronoun "them" again refers to the apostles whom Jesus had chosen, mentioned in verse 2. All twelve, including Judas, witnessed the ascension. It was a singular, unparalleled, dramatic event. After he was out of sight, they were still gazing upwards in enraptured awe. Two angels, coming into visible form as men, stood next to them. The angels' words reveal some interesting truths.

Acts 1: 11 -- Which [the angels] also said, Ye men of Galilee. . .

These words should have caught our attention long ago. So far, God's Word has clearly set forth that all twelve apostles witnessed the ascension. Yet, just after it happened, the angels spoke only to the "men of Galilee." Judas Iscariot, the only non-Galilean, a Judean, was gone. This pinpoints the time at which Judas left the other eleven. After seeing Jesus at least three times in the past forty days, after being forgiven by him and accepted in the fellowship with the apostles, after being promised the power of the holy spirit, and finally, after witnessing the ascension, Judas Iscariot could no longer cope with life. After witnessing the ascension of the one he had betrayed, Judas Iscariot left to commit suicide.

Meanwhile, the angels had an important message for these Galileans.

Acts 1: 11 -- 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.

God's very first declaration after Jesus Christ ascended was the truth that he would come back - the hope of his return. He will return. The skeptics did not deter his coming the first time, nor will they the second time. With this hope of the return in mind, the disciples returned to Jerusalem to wait until they received the promise of the Father.

Thus conclude the events from the resurrection through the ascension. During these forty days many disciples repeatedly doubted what they had heard and even what they had seen, even though Jesus Christ had gone to great lengths to convince them. After he had proved himself alive beyond a shadow of a doubt, with "many infallible proofs," this great period culminated with his ascension. From this time on it became the disciples' responsibility to declare his resurrection, his ascension, and his eventual return. But first the apostles must obey the instructions Jesus had given. For there in Jerusalem in a few days they would receive the greatest gift God has ever given: the power of the holy spirit.