Psalm 24 TALK: The Ascended King

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

PSALM  24 TALK

THE ASCENDED KING

INTRODUCTION

 At the start of Luke’s second book, which we call, “Acts”, we read in  Acts 1 : 9 – 11 :

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Psalm 24 is a Psalm about ascension, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord” (Psalm 24 : 3), the ascension of a great king, “lift up your heads, O you gates, be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24 : 7).

How is the ascension of Christ and the ascension of the great king in Psalm 24 linked? And what is the significance of these two great events for our lives today?

I hope this study will answer these two great questions and help us to worship the great King of glory more truly in our daily lives.

Before we look more closely at the Psalm we need to understand it’s historical context. The context of this Psalm of David is the taking up of the Ark of the Covenant from the house of Obededom to the hill of Zion in Jerusalem, the site of David’s Tabernacle and eventually Solomon’s temple. It was probably a song David composed for this very special occasion (see 2 Samuel 6 : 12 – 23).

The Ark of the Covenant was a special box God told Moses to make to contain the two tablets of stone on which the ten commandments were written, a gold pot filled manna  and Aarons rod that budded. On top was the pure gold “Mercy Seat”, with two angels looking down on the box and in between these angels was sprinkled the sacrificed animals blood on the Day of Atonement. From between these two angels God spoke to Moses. This box was to be carried by the Levites with special poles that were mounted on gold rings on either end of the box and when the people of Israel moved in the desert a cloud descended from heaven and stood over the ark housed in a large tent called the Tabernacle.

Finally it seems that some time during the time Eli and before the reign of King Saul the Philistines captured the Ark. The Philistines gave it back to Israel a couple of times but eventually after the Davids’ capture of Jerusalem David sought to bring it into Jerusalem. The first time it failed when it was being carried on a cart and a man named Uzzah was killed when he tried to stop it falling off the cart. Finally David organized the moving of the Ark as God wanted. This Psalm was probably sung as the Ark of the Covenant ascended up through the ancient gates of Jerusalem and on to the Hill of God, Mount Zion this time with Levite priest carrying it as God had instructed them to. David danced before it in Praise of his God and King.

 This Psalm can be divided into three sections which are the answer to three questions.

1.     Why can this King Ascend into heaven? (1 – 2)

 2.     Who on earth can ascend into heaven?(2 – 6)

 3.     Who is this king who is ascending into heaven? (7 – 10)

 

1.     Who and Why can this King Ascend into heaven? (1 – 2)

 This Psalm starts with the majestic words, The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”. This is a statement about who David is worshipping and why he deserves to be worshipped. Why is the God who the ark represents worthy of ascension into Jerusalem? Simply because he is the Lord of everything, the one who not only made everything but maintains it as well.

God is not this box called “The Ark of the Covenant”, he is not limited to a place of thing like the God’s in the nations around Israel. No God made the design of the Ark specific so it can only be seen as representing his relationship covenant that he had made with his people. God is a Sovereign Lord who in the beginning moved over the waters of his primitive creation and separated the elements to create sky, water and land.

Commentators have pointed out that the Hebrew word for “Upon” in verse 2 could be also translated “by” or “By the side of” (H.C. Leupold), which would have great significants for David and those who lived in Jerusalem as they had the sea on both sides of them. God holds off the water from dry land, he could simply not hold the waters back as he did in the time of the great flood and Jerusalem would be no more.

Finally these words, The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”, echo those of Moses in Exodus 9 : 29,

“Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the Lord’s”.

Here Moses is telling Pharaoh that he is in opposition to the God who made heaven and earth. Pharaoh like most people today have a very small view of God, if they believe in God in some way or another. David like Moses had a big view of God he is the Sovereign Lord of everything and the ark which represents to the people of the old Testament times his agreement with that to love and bless them.

David is saying to the people of his time it is not the box with the golden lid that is ascending into Jerusalem but “The Lord of Everything”. We must worship only him as he is with us just as he was in the days of Moses and has been ever since. The ark was a physical reminder of God’s revelations to Moses and it now was about to complete it’s journey into a more permanent dwelling on earth, Jerusalem and it’s mountain top called, Mount Zion.

We do not have a box with a golden lid to remind us of God’s special relationship with us but we have something better.

As the writer to the Hebrews puts it in Hebrews 2 : 9,

“But we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.

Our faith is not based in objects made by man, like icons and statues made popular during the middle ages. No our faith is founded and grounded in Jesus and his word to us found in the pages of The New Testament. The tables of stone that had the ten commandments where in the Ark of the Covenant and represented the revelations of God of the Old Testament. The body and blood of Christ freely given for us are the basis of the new covenant. This is why Christ instructed us to eat and drink his blood with the symbols of bread and wine to remember his new covenant to us Paul instructed us to do in :

1 Cor. 11 : 24 – 26, “and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

2.     Who on earth can ascend into heaven?(2 – 6)

 With the first question answered, Why can this King Ascend into heaven ? David now possess answers a second question,

Who on earth can ascend into heaven?

David is fresh with the memory of his first failed attempt to move the ark into Jerusalem. In 2 Samuel 6 : 6 – 8 :

“When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God. Then David was angry because the LORD’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah”

It seems David and his men went about moving the Ark in a irreverent way, God had laid down very clearly in Exodus 25 : 13 – 16,

“Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. 13 Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry it. 15 The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed”.

So where were the poles that were in the rings for carrying?

And why is the ark on a cart being pulled by Oxen?

When God had made it clear that only Levi priests should carry the Ark of the Lord Deut. 31 : 9.

David, using a colloquial expression, “really stuffed it up” and he was not to happy as the 2 Samuel text reveals.

He in fact seems to over react the death of Uzzah by dropping the whole idea of moving the ark into Jerusalem and parks it instead in the back yard of a foreigner named Obed – Edom.

When this foreigner is blessed by God David has a change of heart and this time goes about the task in a much more reverent way, following God’s laid down instructions for the transport of the Ark of the Covenant.

So, in David’s song for this occasion he asks the question in verse 3,

“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?”

First we must answer the question what is the significance of “The hill of the Lord” and “His holy place” to the Israelites of David’s day and to us today as Christians.

To the Jew of David’s day the there was a physical hill of the Lord, also called Mount Zion it stood as the highest point in the ancient city of Jerusalem. Here David would have erected the Tabernacle a kind of holy tent and in King Solomon’s day here was erected the Temple.

Was David and indeed the Jew of his day only thinking of the physical place in Jerusalem when they spoke of the hill of the Lord?

No, certainly not David at least as we read in Psalm 33 : 12 – 14,

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. 
13 From heaven the LORD looks down 
   and sees all mankind; 
14 from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth”.

To David and indeed the right thinking Jew the physical “Hill of the Lord” only was a symbol of the real dwelling place of God, which of course is in heaven. So David’s question is not just about who can carry the ark up to Mount Zion but who can go into God’s presence in heaven. Both of course have the same requirements.

For us as Christians both the old and New Testaments Jerusalem and particularly Mount Zion (the hill of God in Psalm 24) is a symbol for the Church of God, the people of God (Heb. 12.22 – 24) or the heavenly city (Rev. 14.1) wherein God’s people will be assembled. We need to keep this in mind to truly understand what this Psalm is teaching us today.

The question of who can enter into the presence of the Lord is possessed and answered in a much fuller way in Psalm 15 but here in Psalm 24 verses 4 to 6 give a more concise answer to this question. Verse 3 reads,

“He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false”.

What we do with our hands is controlled by our mind which is directed by our hearts, the seat of who we really are. Jesus taught,

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”(Matthew 15 : 18 – 19).

This problem of the heart is made clearer by David’s second statement in verse 3,

“who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false”.

What causes us to have spiritual heart problems?

Not honoring God or turning to other God’s and particularly in our times living our lives for ourselves and not having God as number one. This is what Paul teaches us clearly in the book of Romans. Verses like Romans 3 : 10 – 12 :

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; 
there is no one who does good, not even one.”

It would seem that no one could have carried the Ark that day and in fact no one in any day will be able to enter into the presence of God in heaven. But the answer to this problem is found in David’s next verse,

“He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his saviour”

David knew that all men, including himself needed to be mad right by God himself, they and he to needed a saviour. Interesting in the account of 2 Samuel 6 of the carrying of the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem we read in verse 13 :

“When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf”.

David takes care when the ark sets of for is ceremonial installation onto the “Hill of the Lord” to make a sin offering for those who are carrying it.

Romans 3 goes on to say in verses 23 to 26,

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus”.

Verse 5 of Psalm 24 reads,

“Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face”

David is stating here who are the true worshippers of God ,“the generation of those who seek him”. When I taught scripture in schools many years ago I could usually get the answer to the question, of who will be saved after I had explained the Gospel message. The answer would be “those who believe in Jesus”. However the children could mouth these words just as anyone can but were they truly saved by mouthing the words “I believe in Jesus”.

No ,it is only the person who earnestly seeks after God and when they find him in Christ in their hearts say “I believe Jesus died for me on the cross” who are truly saved.

This is made clearer by a understanding of the words, “O God of Jacob”.

Jacob’s story is a very revealing one, Jacob was a man who lived much of his life with deceit and sinful actions but later in his life he had a life changing experience. The story of this life changing experience appears in Genesis 32 after Jacob finally shows repentance in his sinful actions towards his brother Esau when he steals his twin brothers birthright by deception. Jacob has a very mysterious nights sleep in which he wrestles with a God like person. Jacob will not let this man go unto he is blessed by him and he is but suffers a major injury to his hip giving him a permanent limp. Interestingly Jacobs is given a name change, he goes from Jacob which means “sup planter” to Israel, which means “ prince with God, or power with God” and verse 28 goes on to say “because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome”.

Jacob or now Israel becomes the symbol of a man who earnestly seeks after God and finds him after a life of strife and struggle.

In Genesis 32 : 30 we read, “So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying , “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life is spared”.

So if we are true worshipper of God and therefore want to go into his presence both in life and the next we must look to Jesus as our Saviour  and to show we have done this by seeking to live a holy or pure life, earnestly seeking his face and serving him in our daily lives.

3.  Who is this king who is ascending into heaven? (7 – 10)

 So we come to the final section of this Psalm and the final question is answered, who is this King who is ascending into heaven?

David is asking this question when he was at the height of his power, he has taken Israel, it’s land and it’s people to new heights of power and wealth. He has finally beaten the Jebusites who had miss stood many Isaraelite attempts to take it. David was truly in human terms a glorious King but he is not talking about himself when he asks,

“Who is the King of Glory”.

David wants this question asked aloud when the ark of the covenant comes to the gates of Jerusalem. Verse 7 reads”

“Lift up you heards, O you gates; be lifted up you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in”.

Gates don’t have heads but watchmen and sentries do and they are to lift up their heads in praise to the coming in of a great king. Archaeologists have found that the Jebusites the original Canaanite inhabitants had built a great wall around a lot of Jerusalem and these contained great gates. Now as the Ark of the covenant comes to one of these gates the possession stops and the words of this Psalm or at least this section of the Psalm are recited.

What is the significants of the Ark of the Covenant coming to these great ancient gates of Jerusalem?

We need to understand two great things :

  1. Where the Ark of the Covenant has come from.

2.  God’s chosen role and function for Jerusalem.

 

  1. Where the Ark of the Covenant has come from

The ark started its life, so to speak, in the desert at the foot of Mount Sinai after Moses had been given the law by God, the basis of the covenant, which the ark was to symbolise. It then went on a long and difficult journey with the people of Israel over many years and now is about to be brought into Jerusalem where its journey is complete and it will be established at the heart of a great worship centre which will in Solomon’s time be the Temple of Jerusalem.

  2.  Gods’ chosen role and function for Jerusalem

Jerusalem was not just David’s new capitol of his country, Israel it was the place God ordained as a special place where a number of things will be evident. Lets look at two sets of scriptures that explain this.

Psalm 132 : 13 – 14 :

For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, “This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it”.

Isaiah 26 : 1 – 4 :

“In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts. Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal”.

So God ordained Jerusalem to be his special holy city a place that would symbolise his dwelling with his people on earth.

So putting these two things together the Ark of the Covenant Symbolises God’s special agreement with his people, Israel which is about to enter Jerusalem God’s ordained holy city that would symbolise his dwelling with his people on earth.

Indeed this is truly a historical moment a high point in Old Testament history, a kind of the end of a story that started with a promise to Abraham, that he would be the father of a great nation and continued with the promise of a land God that would give this Nation of God. Now the ark of the covenant is entering in triumph the capital of that land, that God has given them.

Note how David describes his God and King, he is, “The Lord strong and mighty”, he is The Lord Mighty in Battle” and he is “The King of glory”

All these titles make sense when we realise that God all the way since Abraham fought and won many battles for this tiny Nation he created in the desert. David is giving God the glory for his victories and particularly for his most recent victory over the Jebusites the stubborn and cocky Canaanites who had held Jerusalem for so long.

Now David sees his God as his great and glorious King who has and will lead them into not only Jerusalem but heaven itself which Jerusalem represents on earth.

If this is the high point of the Old Testament story what is the high point of the New Testament or new covenant story?

Is it not the ascension of Jesus into heaven?

Jesus embodies the New Covenant, that is he used his body given freely on the cross for our sins to make a way for us back to God. As the writer to the Hebrews so beautifully put it in Hebrews 12 : 22 – 24 :

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

Indeed when Jesus ascended back into heaven the story is complete, this greater descendant of David for filled all the old Testament promises of the messiah, he died for our sins on the cross, rose from the dead and is now, in triumph going back to heaven to make the way fro us to go there too.

Conclusion

However there is one more event to come that will prove to be the highlight of all history, the return of the King of Glory to both Judge this world and take to heaven all who have trusted and believed in him.

Let me read one final passage of scripture that describes this great climax of history,

Revelation 21 : 1 – 8 :

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

FOUR NEW TESTAMENT INSIGHTS

 1. THE HEAVENLY KING BECOMES A MAN   (John 1: 1 – 5 and verse 14)

 In he opening verses of Psalm 24 we read of how God made the world and therefore is King or

Lord of the earth. Lets read the first two verses again :

 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;

 for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.

David believed he was following the great king of heaven who is the creator of everything. His God was not some tin pot puny local deity but the one and only true God of Heaven and earth. This is the God who, through the symbol of the Ark of the Covenant is ascending up into the holy city of Jerusalem. This means that Jerusalem and particularly the larges hill in it, Zion would represent forever the fact that God dwells on earth through his people.

Some 700 years after David composed this Psalm a even greater even took place when God’s only Son, the great King of heaven ascended from heaven and took flesh so that he could dwell amongst us and make a way back to God by dieing for our sins on the cross.

The opening words of Johns Gospel describe Jesus as “The Word” and in verse 14, “The word become flesh”. Johns description of Jesus in verses 1 to 5 tell us so much about who Jesus really is and why he is truly the king of everything.

John 1: 1 – 5 :

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it”.

These opening verses echo the opening verses of the bible, Genesis 1: 1 :

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Yes right back at the beginning of creation Jesus was their with God the Father creating all things. The second verse of the bible speaks of the third person of the trinities role in the creation when we read”

Genesis 1: 2 :

“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters”.

So this three person in one God is the maker and Lord of everything he has made.

Finally the wonderful fact is that this heavenly King did not stay comfortably safe in heaven while people on earth rebelled against him and because of this rebellion faced his judgment without any hope. No Jesus came down from lofty heaven, as the old testament foretold and entered into this hostile world as a man named Jesus Christ.

The Ark of the Covenant represented the God of heaven being amongst his people as the revealed word of God. More perfectly, Jesus John 1: 14:

“Became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

Once Jesus died on the cross for our sins, establishing God’s new covenant with men, he rose from the dead and then ascended into heaven, the true and greater Jerusalem to come.

2.  THE HEAVENLY KING PROVIDES A WAY INTO HEAVEN  (John 14: 6 and Hebrews 12: 1– 3)

Psalm 24 verses 3 – 6 sets an unreachable standard for anyone to obtain to be able to ascend

into heaven. Lets read again the words of Psalm 24 verses 3 – 4 :

 “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false”.

Paul makes it clear in Romans 3: 10 – 12 :

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

 This could be called, “The bad news” but the good news is that Jesus became a man and through his perfect life he was able to sacrifice his life as the payment for our sins making a way back to God.

This is what Jesus is telling us in John 14: 6 :

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

Jesus is the only way back to God and this should inspire us to live with great hope and purpose just as the writer to the Hebrews expressed in Hebrews 12 : 1 – 3 :

“Therefore, since such a great cloud of witnesses surrounds us, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfected of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

 3.  THE HEAVENLY KING BRINGS US TO THE GATES OF HEAVEN

 In Psalm 24: 7 – 10 we read,

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory?
    The Lord Almighty—
he is the King of glory”.

 He David speaks of the King of Glory entering the gates of Jerusalem. God entering the gates of Jerusalem is symbolised by the entering of the Ark of the Covenant, carried by sanctified priests. As we read in the last section, Jesus has entered into heaven for us after he died on the cross and rose from the dead. He is, what we can call the forerunner or trailblazer as he has gone first into heaven and we who trust and believe in him will follow after him.

This is what the writer to the Hebrews has in mind in the passage, Hebrews 12: 22 – 24 :

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

 The writer to the Hebrews is giving us a vision of our ascension into heaven. It would have been a wonderful day back in David’s time when the people of Jerusalem witnessed the ascension of the Ark of the Covenant into and through the great gates of that city. But, all of us who truly believe in and follow the Lord Jesus Christ will witness a greater day of ascension into the heavenly Jerusalem.

This is the day when Jesus will return and lead us all into and through the gates of heaven.

4.  THE HEAVENLY KING RETURNS TO TAKE US INTO HEAVEN

As I have referred to before the Ark of the Covenant is but the first of three great ascension events the bible speaks of. The Ark of the Covenant ascending into Jerusalem is the highlight of the Old Testament story. The ark was the symbol of God’s first agreement with his people Israel and now it was being carried into the city of God after its long journey through the wilderness and into God’s promised land.

The second great ascension is that of Jesus going back into heaven after he had died for our sins on the cross and rose from the dead. We read of this in the book of acts, acts 1 : 9 :

“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight”.

 So the second great ascension occurs after the new Covenant or agreement is made between God and man. A covenant based on the shed blood of The Lord Jesus Christ.

So what is the third great ascension that the bible speaks of?

As the disciples looked up intently to the sky at this great sight we read in Acts that two angels dressed in white told the disciples,

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”  Acts 1 : 10 – 11

The words of these angels are a prophecy of a great event still to come, namely the return of Jesus Christ to this world. In a number of places this return of Christ is spoken of. He will return to bring about a great Day of Judgment where those not in Christ will face eternal destruction. He will also return to raise all who truly believe in him to heaven above. The great a final ascension, the ascension of Jesus and all his followers of all the ages into the glories of Heaven forever.

Paul describes this ascension in 1 Thessalonians 4 : 13 – 17 :

 “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever”.

APPLICATIONS

 My applications for this Psalm centre around the following question :

 HOW  SHOULDS OUR COMING ASCENSION INFLUENCE OUR LIVES TODAY?

 We have learnt that the ascension of the Ark into Jerusalem was the climax of the Old Testament story of God’s people for filling the promise of God for them. The ascension of Christ is the climax of the New Testament and the salvation Jesus won for us. Finally the climax of all history on this earth is our ascension into heaven when Jesus returns to Judge the world.

The bible’s teaching and the experience of Christians throughout the ages is that the great day of judgment and glorious ascension has had three impacts on our daily lives, which are :

1. HOPE

2. MISSION

3. HOLINESS

 

1. HOPE

After Paul tells the Thessalonians of the great day of ascension to come in 1 Thessalonians 4: 13 – 17,which we have just read, Paul goes on to say in verse 18 :

“Therefore encourage each other with these words”

The certain coming of Christ and the hope it brings all true believers has been a great encouragement throughout the history of the church. Particularly in times of great persecutions Christians have found great comfort and hope in the fact that one day the wicked will be judged and all true believers will be taken up into the air and joined forever with Christ in heaven.

One of my past ministers of the church I attend was asked what happens to Christians when they die, particularly those who die before the coming of our Lord. His reply was something like, “I believe the instantaneous first thought we will have after we die will be our ascension with Christ as we rise with him into heaven”. That thought gives me great hope and purpose in this life.

2.  MISSION

The second impact of the coming ascension on Christians throughout the ages is a greater drive of mission to this lost of this world.

Jesus tells us what will happen in this world before he returns in Matthew 24 : 14 :

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come”.

 

 Jesus saw that one of the great events that will take place before he comes is his church proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom to the world.

Many missionary endeavours have started by Christians after taking these words of Jesus seriously.

In fact the last words of Jesus to his disciples before he ascended into heaven are these words in Matthew 28 : 18 – 20 :

 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 So it is clear what Jesus wants us to be doing before he comes back to take us up into heaven it is his great work of mission.

3.  HOLINESS

Both Peter and Paul taught that the unexpected but certain return of Christ should spur us on to live a holy life. Holy meaning blameless or godly, pious or devout a life set apart (another meaning for holy) for goo works and service to our God. When Jesus returns he will conduct a great and terrifying judgment and both Peter and Paul taught that you would not like to be caught doing the wrong thing on that day. Lets read the words of Peter and Paul on this subject.

2 Peter 3: 11 – 14:

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed it’s coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him”.

And Paul in  1 Thes.  5 : 4 – 11:

“But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing”.

CONCLUSION

Psalm 24 is all about ascension, the ascension of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, the climax to the Old Testament story of the people of God being led by God by the carrying of the Ark of the covenant through the desert, into the promised land and finally into Jerusalem, the city on earth that represents God dwelling with his people.

It has led us to see that the ascension of The Lord Jesus Christ is the climax to the New Testament story of the coming of God’s Son to earth (the word becoming flesh) to die for our sins on the cross, rise from the dead and then ascend into heaven making God’s way back to him possible.

Finally we have been led to realize that there is a last great ascension to come when we will see the climax of history. In this ascension we will join all true believers to ascend ourselves into heaven when The Lord Jesus Christ will return to this world to judge it and take his true believers back to heaven with him.

This is our great hope and it should lead us to want to be more involved in his great mission of proclaiming his gospel to the world and help us live a life worthy of our great calling and destiny.

I will give the last words of this study to Paul in Ephesians 4: 1 – 8:

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”

FOLLOWING THE KING

I look all around me,

I see mountains and rivers that are such a delight.

Blue skies and stars that in the heavens shine bright

And I ask, “who made this with such beautiful design?”

“Who owns all this and does it belong to mankind?”

Is the earth just real estate to be sold and used?

Or are we simply rebels who just simply abuse?

And do we not know the creator because we are fools?

 

Following the King who made everything.

Following the King who died for my sin.

Following the king ascended on high

Following the king who will raise me to the sky.

 

Who will go to heaven?

Who will see God in the great temple in the sky?

Only those who are pure in act and thought

Who worship only God and who’s sins are nought.

But who can enter when we have all fallen short

Only those whose sins through Christ death have been bought

By the giving of his life that was perfect and pure

In his death and resurrection our salvation is secure.

 

Following the King who made everything.

Following the King who died for my sin.

Following the king ascended on high

Following the king who will raise me to the sky.

 

Open the gates of heaven,

Open them as the king of Glory comes along.

For Jesus is that King so great and strong

He leads into victory a large and faithful throng.

Open the gates of heaven for the King

Who made the way for us and we can follow him.

The author and perfector of faith who surely does save

For in Jesus we have hope beyond the grave.

 

Following the King who made everything.

Following the King who died for my sin.

Following the king ascended on high

Following the king who will raise me to the sky.

Open the gates of heaven,

Open them as the king of Glory comes along.

 

By : Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Dear father in heaven you have given me so much, in fact we can only call you the giving God. You sent Jesus to this world to be born like us, to live a perfect life and to die for us on the cross so that we can be forgiven and one day go to be with you in heaven. This means this world is not our home and we are only passing through this life with a wonderful inheritance with you in heaven. Help us to show our thanks by the way we live and by helping others to know you and your amazing love for them. I pray this in the great and powerfully name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen