“Then after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and sat down
at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord
working with them and confirming the word by the accompanying signs” (Mark 16:19-20).
Each of the four Gospels contain an account of Jesus Christ’s resurrection since it is arguably the most important event affirming the truth of his claim to be God’s Son. But what often gets lost is that two of them, Mark and Luke, also contain brief descriptions of the final stage of salvation history—the glorification of Jesus. Mark and Luke end their accounts with a brief statement that after speaking and commissioning the eleven, He ascended to heaven on a cloud and sat down at the right hand of God.
This is the capstone of salvation history and often is minimized, the focus being primarily on the death and resurrection. But there is no way to make sense of the rapid expansion of the Gospel throughout the earth as recorded in Acts without first understanding that after Jesus accomplished eternal redemption by his death and resurrection, He ascended back to the Father and sat down at the right hand of God. And because He was ascended, He sent the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church so that the apostles could powerfully preach the Gospel of the kingdom to the ends the earth (Acts 2:33). And Acts confirms the fact that through the mighty Holy Spirit they accomplished the task in thirty years.
Imagine if there had been a resurrection, yet no glorification. The apostles could have continued to meet with Jesus and have personal fellowship with Him; He could have continued to surprise them at times by revealing Himself to them in unexpected ways as the record shows he did before he ascended. But there would have been no commissioning; a word that means to ‘join with Him in the mission.’ Because Jesus ascended to the place of highest authority, the apostles were commissioned to preach. Look carefully at how Mark ties his ascension with their own commissioning: “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs” (Mark 16:19-20). Because Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, they went out and preached everywhere, God confirming their word with signs following.
Why could they preach boldly and perform miracles after the ascension? Because Jesus took the seat of highest authority and honor in the universe, all principalities and powers being now made subject to him. It meant that God was in absolute control of all things no matter what happened (including the martyrdom of all the original witnesses, except one). The early church had a simple statement that summarized all that this meant: Jesus is Lord. They didn’t mean by that only that Jesus was Lord of their hearts, though that certainly was an important part. If that is all they meant by this phrase the Roman authorities wouldn’t have batted an eye. Rather, they meant that Jesus now holds the highest place of authority in the universe—even Caesar is now subject to Him. The Roman authorities understood what they meant and sought to extinguish them.