What happened to Jesus right after he ascended to go back to his Father? “And when [Jesus] had said these things, as [the disciples] were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). What happened then? As for the disciples, they kept staring (of course!), and two men told them that he’d return in a similar way (Acts 1:10-11). But what about Jesus? What happened to him?
The New Testament writers give us some answers. For example, he returned to his Father (John 14:28), sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3), and began (and is still) interceding for his people (Romans 8:34).
Yet Mark Jones, in his edifying work Knowing Christ, gives us another insight—one which seems to be so obvious, and yet which I’d never heard before.
Before I give the quote, it’s good to remember that Jesus’ favorite title for himself was Son of Man. It was a term that referenced his humanity, but Jesus primarily used it to show he was the famous “son of man” figure from Daniel 7:13-14. In Daniel’s prophetic vision of God’s coming kingdom, “one like a son of man…came to the Ancient of Days” and he is given God’s everlasting, global kingdom.
What does this have to do with the ascension—with that historical moment when Jesus was lifted up in a cloud and disappeared out of sight to the disciples?
Here’s Jones’s connection. I hope you’re as pleasantly surprised as I was.
“In Acts 1, what the disciples saw from below is what Daniel described from above: ‘I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Day and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (Dan. 7:13-14; cf. John 13:31).”
“What the disciples saw from below is what Daniel described from above”!
And it’s not just a creative link. It makes sense: Jesus ascends in a cloud to the Father to receive God’s (and his) everlasting, global kingdom. Ever since that moment he been sitting at the right hand of the Father, ruling until every enemy is put under his feet (Psalm 110:1; 1 Corinthians 15:25). In sum, it was at that ascension, when he went into the cloud, when he returned victorious to his Father, that he—the Son of Man—finally received the kingdom.
Read the narrative now, with the two passages connected:
“As [the disciples] were looking on, [Jesus] was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight…And I saw…with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Acts 1:9; Daniel 7:13-14).
Quote from Mark Jones, Knowing Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2015), 171.
*To be clear, the Son of Man text from Daniel 7 will also be fulfilled at the return of Christ. Mark Jones recognizes this. Jesus himself connected Daniel 7:13-14 to his second coming when he proclaimed, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven" (Mark 16:42). Nevertheless, as with many Old Testament prophesies concerning the coming of the Messiah, Daniel 7:13-14 was initially fulfilled at Jesus’ first coming and receiving of the kingdom, and yet still has to be finally fulfilled at his second coming and culmination of the kingdom. So, it does have a future fulfillment, but since the Son of Man has already come and received the kingdom, we’d be mistaken if we thought that Daniel 7 was only (or mainly) talking about the second coming.