“THE BLESSED HOPE—THIS SAME JESUS”
ACTS 1:9 – 11
SEASONS: ASCENSION DAY
The disciples gazed on the clouds where Jesus had vanished from their sight. Moments earlier, the resurrected Lord gave final instructions with His promise that the Holy Spirit would baptize and empower them in a few days; they were instructed to wait (Acts 1:4).
The apostle Luke gives a personal account:
ACTS 1:9 – 11
“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Unfortunately, Ascension Day is mostly a neglected celebration today in much of Christendom. A significant number of Christians, however, are quick to recognize the relevance to 21st century living.
ASCENSION DAY EMBODIES “THE BLESSED HOPE”
Forty days after His resurrection, the disciples watched as Jesus ascended bodily into the sky staring with eyes straining until a cloud eventually enveloped him.
He hadn’t suddenly vanished or de-materialized before them. Jesus Christ ascended into heaven with His resurrected physical body intact. His disciples watched Him ascend until He was out of sight.
A Personal Return
The angels who appeared on the scene following His ascension assured the gathered disciples:
“This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
The angels’ message reassured His faithful followers that Jesus’ absence would not be permanent. He was coming again!
The very same Jesus they watched ascend into heaven would personally return to the earth in His glorified body as promised—not someone claiming to be a reincarnation of the “Christ spirit,” but Jesus Himself (v. 11).
Rather than sending a figurehead or an emissary, Jesus will personally return to establish His Kingdom on earth as promised and predicted in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The prophet Zechariah foretold,
“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east” (Zech. 14:4).
The place from which Jesus physically ascended into heaven is the place the angels prophesied where He will personally return.
A Spectacular Return
Two events shape the expectation of Christians worldwide.
The first, commonly called the Rapture (Greek: harpadzo), is the imminent and instantaneous snatching of the church from the earth to meet the Lord in the air. Logic suggests that the split-second timing of the Rapture will leave the earth’s population wondering what happened (1 Cor. 15:52).
On the other hand, the second—appropriately termed the Second Coming—will be spectacularly visible to the entire population of Planet Earth. This is the still future event to which the angels referred as they encouraged the disciples following Christ’s ascension.
Matthew describes the return of Christ saying,
“For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Mt. 24:27).
This is not, however, an event relegated to New Testament teaching alone. Describing the coming of Messiah to establish His earthly Kingdom, the prophet Daniel foresees the event saying,
“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!”(Dan. 7:13).
In the final book of the New Testament, the apostle John recorded his vision depicting the revelation of Jesus Christ (Hebrew: Moshiach). John described the Second Coming saying,
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him . . .” (Rev. 1:7).
The heavenly processional with Jesus at the head followed by the angelic host and the redeemed saints of every age wearing brilliant garments and riding dazzling white horses will approach the earth through the heavens (Rev. 19:11-16).
As the procession nears the planet, every living human being will witness the event (Mt. 24:29-30).
SHOULD YOU CELEBRATE ASCENSION DAY?
Ascension Day is more than a date on the calendar. Ascension Day is an annual reminder to live with expectancy! And with that knowledge, it seems more than appropriate to mark Ascension Day with Bible-based festivities.
Authentic Believers can look forward to the imminent moment when we will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Th. 4:16-18).
Titus, a Greek pastor and recipient of the New Testament letter that bears his name, indirectly provides perspective:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you (Tit. 2:11-15; emphasis added).
Use Ascension Day to focus on Scripture. And then, be expectant because the day Jesus Christ ascended into heaven is not the end of the story!
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. With 40 plus years of ministry experience, Rev. McCracken is known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth that makes his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author via Contact Form under ABOUT. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1) The Ascension of Jesus the Christ, (1897). By Fritz von Uhde (1848 – 1911), [PD-US, PD-Art], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios