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1 Corinthians 12 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 1 mins 19 secs

Ascension and Spiritual Gifts; 1 Cor 12 Introduction


There are two other passages in Scripture that address spiritual gifts: Ephesians 4 and Romans 12. Ephesians 4 is important because it connects the ascension of Christ to the giving of spiritual gifts. What this begins to open our eyes to id that the ascension of Christ is necessary for the church age to take place and is foundational to the uniqueness of the spiritual life of this church age. So we have to gain the big picture of what God's plan for history is and God's plan in this age is and how that relates to the ascension. Paul starts Ephesians 4 with a very practical issue: there is a problem of unity in the local congregation in Ephesus. So he is emphasizing the fact that we have one Lord, one faith and one baptism. The problem of dissention in a local congregation and in interpersonal problems, doctrinal problems, or whatever, is something that has come into every congregation and every church. What Paul does, though, is he starts to address this problem and a lack of unity in the congregation and he goes to the ascension. The way that most of us think is that if we have a problem we investigate: What is the problem? Why can't you people get along? Let's just get together and talk these things out. That is the modern psychobabble heresy approach to problems. But that is not how Paul or the Bible addresses a problem. With the problem of a lack of unity, what does Paul do? He goes to the ascension of Christ. Every practical issue in life is grounded in what we want to say as "advanced moderns" is abstract theology. But if we understand the Bible there is no such thing as abstract theology. Every doctrine has practical ramifications, so Paul goes right back to the ascension and session of Christ as the grounds for understanding why their should be unity in a local church and what the basis for that is. So by way of introduction that gives an overview as to why we are studying the ascension and session of Christ is relationship to spiritual gifts.

In the last two lessons we addressed the question: Why was the ascension necessary? We showed that in the Old Testament there was the perception that there was a single advent of the Messiah, and when the Messiah came, although the Old Testament talked about the suffering of the Messiah it talked even more about the glories that the Messiah would bring with Him, and His kingdom that He would establish through Israel on the earth. When the scribes and Pharisees and religious teachers of Jesus' day looked at the Old Testament they did not discern that there was a difference between the first advent and the second advent. The reason was that Jesus would come and offer the kingdom. If they had accepted the kingdom offer then the kingdom would have been established at that point, but because Israel rejected the offer of the kingdom and rejected the King the kingdom is postponed. When see this thematic structure in all of the Gospels. At the beginning of the Gospels we have the presentation of the King and the kingdom. This is when Jesus is addressing the nation Israel primarily. There was an ultimate conflict in Matthew 12 when the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons in the power of Beelzebub. That is the picture of the rejection of the King and the kingdom. They accused Him of not being the Messiah but of being an agent of Satan. Then there is a shift that takes place in Jesus' ministry, and rather than teaching to the house of Israel and the house of Judah, which is what the mission had been before, He now begins to go to Gentiles and he changes the message. There now is a postponement of King and kingdom and he introduces the mystery form of the kingdom in Matthew 13.

Matthew 13:10 NASB "And the disciples came and said to Him, 'Why do You speak to them in parables?' [11] Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted." Jesus is making a decision to exclude those who are negative. The Bible is exclusive. The offer is for all but when that offer is rejected there is exclusion. [12] "For whoever has, to him {more} shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him." The more you are positive, the more you study the Word, the more you will learn from the Word. This is the principle. When you are negative, the more you reject the Word, the more it will be difficult to understand the Word. [13] "Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand." They have the truth before them but they can't understand, they can't perceive it mentally, the don't see its application to them, their thinking has been clouded by their own arrogance. Therefore Jesus says: [14] "In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, 'YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE." This is a quote from Isaiah chapter six, a prophetic warning to the Jews that there would be a time of discipline that would be brought on by their own rejection of the truth. 

In Isaiah 6:9-13 NASB "He [Yahweh] said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.' [10] Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.' [11] Then I said, "Lord, how long?" And He answered, 'Until cities are devastated {and} without inhabitant, Houses are without people And the land is utterly desolate," – the period of the Tribulation, following the Rapture of the church.  [12] "The LORD has removed men far away, And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. [13] Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, And it will again be {subject} to burning, Like a terebinth or an oak Whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump'"— there will be a remnant that trusts in Christ during the Tribulation, and it is that remnant that will become heirs to all of the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament.

"Render the hearts of this people insensitive," is that in rejection of the preaching of the truth will bring about judgment on Israel. So God is basically telling Isaiah to teach them the truth and that will cause the people's hearts to be insensitive. Because they are negative they will become spiritually dull and reject the truth.

Now that we have looked at those two passages, what is going on? The people wanted a glorious Messiah. In the Old Testament the prophecies of the glorious Messiah are much greater proportionately than the prophecies related to a suffering Messiah. Why did God structure revelation in that way? Probably because knowing the predilection of the Jewish mind, knowing their arrogance, and that they would focus on the glorious Messiah as opposed top the suffering Messiah, and that they would begin to reject the teaching about a suffering Messiah so that when the Messiah came and presented Himself they would reject Him. This would bring into focus fro themselves and all history the reality of their arrogance and their rejection of God. Negative volition, especially when it is clothed and cloaked in religion, is very hard to ferret out. When we look at the Jews when Jesus came, the Pharisees and their devotion to the law, the synagogue and the temple, and the teaching. One would think that these people loved the Lord. But God is going to show through the rejection of the Messiah that they don't love the Lord at all, they don't love the truth at all; they love religion and tradition, but they don't love the Lord. So in the sovereign wisdom of God the structure of the Old Testament revelation is such that it will be misunderstood by negative volition and it will lead to the rejection of the Messiah. By the time Jesus came the people were not interested in a Messiah that needed to suffer and die for sin, therefore when Jesus began to point out the sin issue and that there needed to be a suffering saviour who would pay the penalty for sin He was rejected. They wanted a glorious Messiah who would free them from bondage to the Roman empire. Their legalism and their religion had blinded their souls with scar tissue. That rejection led to Christ's crucifixion.

That brings in a problem. The Messiah was to bring in the kingdom and to establish the kingdom. So what do you do when the nation who was to accept the King and establish the kingdom rejects the King and rejects the kingdom? This sets up a postponement in God's plan. It is not a postponement from God's eternal perspective. In His omniscience God knew exactly what would happen. But it is a postponement from within a temporal perspective, from a human perspective, because we did not know want would take place. The church age was not foreseen or foreshadowed in the Old Testament, there was this perception that there would be one coming, so it was a legitimate offer of the King and kingdom. But there was contingency built into the plan of God, and that contingency is a problem that Calvinism and Reformed theology has because they want God to be in complete control and to have decreed every detail in history and in life. But God builds contingency plans into history and this is one example.

So the Messiah is rejected, the King is crucified, the kingdom is postponed. So what is going to happen? There is going to be a new age that comes into history and comes in between the crucifixion of the King at His first coming and the return of the King and the establishment of the kingdom yet future. So the ascension of the Lord is necessary in order to establish this new unique people in the church age. So he is going to call out a new people (not that He has forever rejected the old people) that are specifically tied to His title of King of kings and Lord of lords. What is happening in the church age is directly related to understanding what is happening in the current time where Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, which is called the session. So we have to understand the ascension of Christ and the session of Christ if we are really going to understand the uniqueness of the church age and our own spiritual life.

This is why Paul comes to this in Ephesians four. We think globally about Ephesians. The first three chapters deal with doctrine, the last three chapters deal with application. Paul lays down the eternal realities of our position in Christ and what God has done in salvation in chapters 1-3, then in chapters 4-6 the key word is "walk." But to understand the latter we have to understand the doctrinal background of the ascension. This is a radically different way of thinking than what we are taught in our culture.

There are actually two ascensions of Christ. The first is not as theologically significant. When we talk about the ascension we usually think of the event in Acts chapter one, and that is the ascension. However, there is a lesser known ascension that takes place after the cross.

The events after the cross

1)  The events at Jesus' death included His soul and spirit departing from His physical body on the cross. Luke 23:46 NASB "And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, "Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT." Having said this, He breathed His last." It is at that point that Jesus' spirit goes into the presence of God. This is not the ascension, this is only His immaterial spirit going into the presence of God the Father.

2)  His body went into the grave for three days and three nights. Then there is the resurrection before dawn on the morning of the resurrection Sunday. After Jesus was resurrected bodily from the grave He saw Mary Magdalene. John 20:17 NASB "Jesus said to her, 'Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'" Here the word is anabaino [a)nabainw] which means to go up to the Father—present active indicative, which means he is ascending to the Father.

3)  Later that same day in the evening he doesn't have a problem with the disciples touching His physical body. In 20:17 Mary is holding on to Jesus as though she doesn't want to lose Him again. So He says to stop clinging to Him, He has a mission to go to the Father. It is not the fact that she can't touch Him physically. The point of the passage related to ascension is that He has to ascend, and it is present time, that Sunday morning. Then that evening when He appears to the disciples he has no trouble with them touching His physical body, He has apparently completed salvation. Salvation has as part of its primary work the work of paying the penalty for sin. Then there is the resurrection but you can't divorce the resurrection from the whole package. Then there is the final presentation of Himself in heaven, into the heavenly temple and sanctifies that heavenly temple by His presence. That is the completion of the mission. When we look at the whole package of salvation it begins with His work on the cross, His substitutionary atonement where he pays the penalty for sin, then there is His time in the grave, then the resurrection which gives His victory over physical death, and then this ascension is when He presents the whole salvation package as being completed to the Father and this sanctifies the heavenly temple. Once that is done, then He returns to the earth—which would be later that Sunday afternoon—and presents himself to the apostles. Luke 24:38 NASB "And He said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? [39] See My hands and My feet [empirical evidence], that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.'"

The events of the ascension itself

These are described by two of the Gospel writers, Mark and Luke. Mark 16:19 NASB "So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God." That is a very brief description of the ascension and session. We have a passive verb here, He is received up into heaven. This is expanded in Luke 24:50ff NASB "And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven." So He is on the Mount of Olives. "He parted from them" is the aorist active indicative of the Greek verb diistemi [diisthmi] which means to part or leave or to depart. As an active voice is shows that His will is involved and He is the one who parts from them; "carried up into heaven" is the Greek word anaphero [a)naferw], but here it is an imperfect passive indicative. So He is taken up, something is removing Him from the presence of the earth. He is being raised up or taken up while they watched. What is it that is carrying Him up into heaven? We don't have that in Luke but we do have that in Acts 1:2, "until the day when He was taken up {to heaven.}" Here we have the word analambano [a)nalambanw] which means simply to take up, to raise up, but it is an aorist passive indicative. So here it is just a kind of summary: something is taking Him up. [9] "And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." He was actually lifted up, and here we have the third word for the ascension, epairo [e)pairw], which means to lift something up, and this is an aorist passive indicative. So again the subject, Jesus Christ, receives the action of the verb. A cloud received Him out of their sight, but there is nothing normal about this cloud. In fact, it is thought that this cloud is a manifestation of the Shekinah that was seen back in the Old Testament. The cloud "receives" Him, and there we have the word hupolambano [u(polambanw], aorist active indicative. That means the subject performs the action, and the subject here is the cloud.

      Acts 1:11 NASB "They also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.'"

Four observations

1)  He did He depart? He went physically. That means He will return and come again physically and bodily.

2)  He went up. When he returns He will come down.

3)  He went up bodily; He will come back bodily in the same body in which He left.

4)  He went up from the Mount of Olives, and when He returns He will return to the Mount of Olives.

This excludes certain options. First of all, liberal theology will try to make the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 the return of Christ, but His coming again is not the coming of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, there is a view pf prophecy called Preterism (which means past) which claims that the second coming of Christ is already in the past, and they try to make this an allusion to 70 AD, that Jesus came in judgment on Israel in 70 AD. But notice: In 70 AD there was no literal, physical bodily descent of Jesus Christ to the Mount of Olives. Once again, they have to spiritualise or allegorise the passage. Only a literal bodily return fits, and this is what pre-Millennialism teaches, that Jesus will return physically, bodily to the Mount of Olives at the end of the Tribulation to establish that postponed kingdom on the earth.

One of the implications from this: If Jesus has ascended physically and bodily, if you could watch Him go up to be enveloped by this cloud and then be taken up completely out of sight into the heavens, one of the implications is that Jesus exists right now at some point in His physical body. Now that is a radically different view of the universe than could ever conceive or has been taught. He went through the universe as we'll see, and right now in His humanity in that resurrection body He is still probably a five feet ten inch body that is located somewhere in a physical space. He is seated at the right hand of God the Father in His humanity. Jesus Christ as a true human being is now at the controls of the universe. The universe is not run by an angel, it is not run by God, it is run by a man now.

Jesus Christ ascended so that the Holy Spirit could come. As we will see, it is this ascension that lays the groundwork for the spiritual life of the church age. If we go back into the Old Testament we see that it was the departure of the Shekinah (dwelling) from the temple from the Mount of Olives. There was a gradual departure as seen in three verses in Ezekiel. Ezekiel 9:3 "Then the glory of the God of Israel went up from the cherub on which it had been, to the threshold of the temple…  [10:4] Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub to the threshold of the temple, and the temple was filled with the cloud and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the LORD…. [11:23] The glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood over the mountain which is east of the city [Mount of Olives]." Then it departs to heaven. So just as the Shekinah in the Old Testament ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives so Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives and ascends from there, and He will return there. This is just one of those things that shows the internal consistency of the Scriptures.

How does the Bible conceive of this ascent? 1 Peter 3:22 NASB "who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him." In His deity, as the second person of the Trinity, those angels and authorities and powers, the hierarchy of the angels, He would have been over them. But this is stating that He in His humanity, in hypostatic union, as the God-Man, now has authority over all of the angels. It is a Man, a human being now over the angels. That word translated "gone" is the aorist passive participle (deponent verb) of poreuomai [poreuomai], the word for going on a journey. So it pictures His ascent as a journey from point A to point B. He travelled somewhere.

Hebrews 4:14 NASB "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. [15] For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as {we are, yet} without sin." His high-priestly function today is directly related to His ascension and session. But v. 14 gives us another interesting insight: "[He] passed through the heavens." This is a plural, a different view of the heavens and the universe that we normally get in a science class today. The Bible looks at the universe as having three heavens: a) the earth's atmosphere; b) the starry sky; c) the throne of God.