By Joseph Ametepe
When the World Trade Center Towers came crashing to the ground on September 11, 2001, the people of New York experienced what many people in other parts of the world had already known-the fear of terrorism. Subsequent attacks in other countries such as Britain, Spain, Indonesia, India, Russia, have heightened the concern that mankind may be spiraling toward self-destruction. All the unrest, chaos, and confusion in the world today might make us think our future is very bleak. We might even conclude that this is not the kind of world in which to live, learn, work, let alone have children. In fact, I once met a Christian lady from Hong Kong who expressed these fears. She said to me, "The way things are going in the world, I've decided: I won't marry and I won't have children." She was deeply distressed. Nothing I said at that time convinced her of the one shining hope that remains that can brighten her view of the future-the hope that Jesus Christ lives, and we shall also live (John 14:19). Because Jesus lives, believers can live and fulfill their God-given destiny in this life. We can face tomorrow with confident assurance. No matter how chaotic and confusing this world may be, Christians can display unshakable faith in Jesus Christ and live life to the fullest as God intends for them. In other words, we don't have to quit on life.
Bill Gaither captured this reassuring thought in his song titled, "Because He lives." The idea for this song came to Bill in the 1960s, a time of social unrest in the US and conflict in Southeast Asia. Bill's wife Gloria was expecting a child, and they felt it was a poor time to bring a child into the world. But when their son was born, Bill thought of the Risen, Ascended, and Living Savior and these words came to mind: "This child can face uncertain days because He Lives."
Similarly, you and I can face uncertain days in this world because Jesus is alive. He is sitting on His throne. He is in complete control. Nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ rose victoriously from the grave and gave many convincing proofs that He was indeed alive (Acts 1:3). Not only that, He promised that one day He will return. That's why believers in Jesus Christ can keep going even in the face of fear and uncertainty such as we are experiencing in our world today. Because Jesus lives and will certainly return, those who believe in Him can face tomorrow with hope in a world where many are fearful of the future and have little or no hope!
The disciples of Jesus felt that their future was bleak and hopeless when the Lord Jesus was suddenly taken up from them into heaven. For awhile, they were lost. Even though Jesus had carefully instructed them about the future, His sudden disappearance from their sight left them in a state of shock and stupor. Suddenly their future felt so uncertain. But God was gracious to them. He took it upon Himself to brighten their view of the future and put a spring in their step. From then on, the disciples, in the power of the Holy Spirit, took on their world and turned it upside down (Acts 17:6). They lived to fulfill their God-given destiny. They reached their fullest potential in God. I believe with all my heart that God wants to brighten your view of the future and also put a spring in your step so that you can face your tomorrow with hope-that is sure, secure, and steadfast. This hope is sure because it is not based on the stock market's predictions of the future, but on the Living Savior's predictions of the future. Because this hope is built on the Living Savior and His living word, believers today, can also, in the power of the Spirit, take on the world and turned it upside down. We can live to fulfill our God-given destiny. We can also reach our fullest potential in God in this life.
While we celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas and His death and resurrection at Easter, Christ's ascension is often completely forgotten or overlooked. However, the ascension of Christ is as important as His birth, death and resurrection. We cannot afford to ignore this chief tenet of our faith because it has valuable implications for our Christian walk. The purpose of this article is to help us consider afresh the benefits of the ascension of Christ and keep them forefront in our hearts. Understanding and embracing these benefits will encourage our faith as well as our view of the future. It will also help us to share the Good News with purpose and passion. We can tell those who are fearful and hopeless that because Jesus lives and is in complete control, their future is taken care of if they put their trust in Him. They can face the uncertainties of tomorrow because Jesus will be their Shepherd and Guide, even through the valley of the shadow of death. We can assure them that if they put their hope in Christ, He will not let them down. We can encourage them with words of hope that is sure. That is, their lives will be built on Christ, the Solid Rock, not sinking sand.
W. H. Griffith Thomas writes in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:
"The ascension is not only a great fact of the New Testament, but a great factor in the lives of Christ and Christians, and no complete view of Jesus Christ is possible unless the ascension and its consequences are included."
Dennis J. De Haan also writes:
"Four supernatural events have kept humanity from self- destructing. Like beacons of light across a storm-tossed sea, these miracles have shown the way of salvation to a world in despair. We celebrate them on Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and Ascension Day. Most of us recognize the significance of Christ's birth, when God became flesh; the cross, when sin's penalty was paid; and the resurrection, when the power of death was broken. But what about His ascension? Why is that event so important? Jesus' return to His Father affected the lives of everyone, believers and unbelievers alike. After returning to heaven, He sent the Spirit, who would show people their need for a Savior (John 16:8)... Had Christ remained on this earth following His resurrection, His continuing ministry would have been limited. He would not have accomplished what He is presently doing through the Holy Spirit. Ascension Day reminds us that our exalted Lord is not only continuing His ministry for us, but through the Spirit He is also calling sinners to Himself."
This is exactly what this article on the ascension of Christ is all about. For this article, the main passage of focus will be Acts 1:9-11. This is one of two places in the Bible where the event of Jesus' ascension was recorded for us. The other account of the ascension is recorded in Luke 24:50-53. Both accounts were recorded by the same author, namely Dr. Luke. Actually, there is a third account in Mark 16:19, but it is said that some of the oldest manuscripts do not contain vv. 9-20 of Mark 16. Fortunately, our focus will be on the Acts' account. For this article, we will look at the following. First, we will focus on the ascension of Christ into heaven in Acts 1:9, and discuss its implications. Second, we will consider the appearance of angelic messengers to the "sky-gazing" disciples after Jesus was received out of their sight in Acts 1:10. Third and finally, we will examine the announcement of the angelic messengers to the disciples in Acts 1:11. So, if you are ready, let's begin.
This section of Acts begins with a spectacular and supernatural event, that is the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven.
A. Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven (v. 9).
Acts 1:9 briefly and vividly describes the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. The Bible simply says: "And after He said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." (NASB).
The Lord Jesus had just been speaking to His disciples. His last words to them were: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). While the disciples were trying to soak in these words, a supernatural drama unfolded before their very eyes. Jesus was suddenly taken up into heaven.
On April 20, 2010, the Space Shuttle Discovery and its seven-member astronaut team returned safely to Earth after their 15-day, 6 million-mile journey to the International Space Station, which is about 220 miles (354 km) above the earth. Millions of dollars are spent to launch the space shuttle into space. Actually, the average cost to launch a space shuttle is about $450 million. If all goes well, NASA is planning to send Space Shuttle Atlantis into space on May 14, 2010, Space Shuttle Endeavor on July 29, 2010, and Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to go on another mission on September 16, 2010. Just for these four missions into space, NASA will be spending approximately two billion dollars. It's a staggering amount. But I am so glad to say that when the Lord was lifted, raised, or taken up (Greek: epairo) on that memorable day, God didn't even spend a dime. The Lord Jesus didn't need an expensive launching pad or a space suit or a missile to lift Him up into space. Actually, you can say that space travel isn't really new. Enoch was taken by God (Genesis 5:24). Later, Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven (2 Kings 2:11). And now the Lord Jesus. After His glorious resurrection and several appearances to His disciples ascended miraculously into heaven. God the Father Himself took Jesus Christ in His resurrection and glorified body from this world to His rightful place, that is, at the Father's right hand, a place of equal honor and dignity with the Father.
The Bible tells us in Acts 1:3 that the ascension of the Lord Jesus took place forty days after His resurrection. This year, Resurrection Sunday (Easter) was celebrated on April 5, 15. This means that this year's Ascension Day is May 14, 2015.
Please notice very carefully that the Bible didn't give us a lot of detail about this spectacular and supernatural event. It simply and succinctly says: "He was lifted up...and a cloud received Him out of their sight." (Acts 1:9). Before, when the resurrected Christ left the disciples, He simply vanished out of their sight (see Luke 24:31). But this time they actually saw Him ascend. If Christ had vanished secretly from their sight again as on previous occasions, the disciples might have been wondering what happened. Doubts would have been lingering in their minds. But on this occasion, they were listening to Him and looking at Him. Then suddenly, as they looked on, Jesus was lifted up until He was hidden by a cloud. By choosing to ascend visibly rather than vanish instantly as He had done previously, the Lord Jesus was impressing on His disciples that this was the end of His visits. His bodily presence would soon be replaced by "another Helper, "the Holy Spirit promised in John 14:16. No doubt, Jesus' ascension marked the dawn of a new era.
Commentator W. Macdonald writes:
"Such a spectacular event, yet it is described so simply and quietly! The restraint which the writers of the Bible used in telling their story points to the inspiration of the Word; it is not customary for men to handle such unusual events with such reserve."- W. MacDonald:-Believer's Bible Commentary, p. 1579.
When Jesus was born into this world, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:7, 12). But when He left this earth, He was wrapped in glory clouds. No doubt, the cloud is meant to symbolize the Shekinah, the visible manifestation of God's presence and glory. Recall, such a cloud hovered above the tabernacle in the wilderness as a visible token of the glory of God that dwelt within the tabernacle (Exodus 40:2, 17, 34; Numbers 9:15-16). Also, on the Mount of Transfiguration, such a cloud literally enveloped the Lord Jesus and three of His disciples, Peter, James and John, as a visible sign of God's presence and His approval of Christ, His Beloved Son (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34-35). Well, something very similar is presented here. Jesus as the Ascended Lord is enveloped by the Shekinah cloud, the visible manifestation of God's presence, glory and approval. So, for, Peter, James and John, this was not the first time they had witnessed such a Shekinah cloud of God's glory. Also, Jesus Himself mentioned a cloud in relation to His second coming. Jesus responded: "And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (Luke 21:27; cf. Mark 14:62).
We know exactly when the ascension of Christ took place. It occurred forty days after Jesus' glorious and triumphant resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:3, 9). But the question is: Do we know where it took place? Well, in Acts 1:12, we are told that the disciples returned from the Mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem. So we know exactly where the spectacular event of the ascension took place. It was on the Mount of Olives. This is where the resurrected, glorified, and ascended Lord will return. I will talk about that later.
Actually, the Lord Jesus Himself predicted His ascension into heaven before and after His resurrection. In John 6:62, Jesus declared: "What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before?" Earlier, while speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus gave the first hint about subject of the ascension (see John 3:13). After Jesus' resurrection, He predicted His ascension to Mary in John 20:17. "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.'" Also the Lord Jesus had taught His disciples that He came down from heaven, and that when He completed His work here on earth, He would return to the Father (see John 6:32-33; 14:1-4). Jesus' predictions came true. This teaches us that whatever Jesus says will come to pass. None of what He predicted will fail. Every prediction of Jesus Christ will be fulfilled. It's a guarantee. I wonder if the disciples remembered these predictions as they watched Jesus taken up into heaven.
he ascension was prophesied in Isaiah 52:13: "Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted." Also prophetic allusions to the ascension have been noted in Psalms 68:18 and 110:1. Please read them.
Now an important question to ask at this juncture is: Why is the ascension important? In other words, what's its significance for the believer in Jesus Christ? Please allow me to enumerate the importance of one of the chief tenets of our faith.
First of all, the ascension is important, because it demonstrated that Jesus' sacrifice for our sins has been fully accepted by the Father. In other words, it showed that Jesus Christ was the perfect pattern of righteousness acceptable to the Father. Speaking of this Himself before the cross in the Upper Room, Jesus declared to His disciples: "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; and concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness because I go to the Father" (John 16:8-10). Here the Lord Jesus was speaking about the works of the Holy Spirit. The last part of Jesus' declaration shows that only Jesus' sacrifice guarantees perfect righteousness for sinners who believe in Him. This is the only righteousness God will accept for the sacrifice of sins. The inspired writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus' sacrifice was acceptable to the Father and as a result, He welcomed Jesus to His right hand. "He [speaking of Jesus Christ], having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God,...For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:12, 14). In fact, if the Lord Jesus had not been received to His rightful place at the Father's right hand, our future in this world and in the world to come would have been bleak, hopeless and fearful. But because Jesus had been welcomed at the Father's right hand, those who believe in Him have a future that is bright and hopeful. The ascension therefore speaks of an accomplished redemption whereby perfect righteousness is credited to the account of sinners who believe in Jesus Christ.
A second reason why the ascension of Christ is relevant for the believer is that it set in motion the coming of the Holy Spirit with His gifts for Christians. In other words, it is linked to the sending of the Holy Spirit to live in believers. Jesus told His disciples in the Upper Room: "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7). Clearly then, if the Lord Jesus had not ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit would not have been sent to us. Someone has said: "Jesus went away so the Holy Spirit could come come to stay." In fact, all the present works of the Holy Spirit for Christians, such as comforting, counseling, guiding, empowering, etc. depend on the ascension of Christ (see also John 14:16-18, 26; Acts 2:23; Ephesians 4:11-12). God's purpose was that the presence of His Son, the Lord Jesus, would be replaced by the presence of His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, who could be everywhere at the same time. So, the ascension is truly a major blessing for believers because it led to the sending of the Holy Spirit.
A third significant teaching we discover in the Bible about the ascension is that it symbolizes the exaltation of Jesus Christ to the highest place in the entire universe. We read of this in Philippians 2:9-11. "Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Ephesians 1:20-22 further confirms that the Lord Jesus has been exalted to the highest place in the universe. He is seated at God's right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every named that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. The fact that a place of supremacy has been bestowed on the Risen and Ascended Lord should give believers all the confidence they need to share the Good News and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
A fourth reason why the ascension is important is that it redirects our focus from the Jesus' completed work of redemption to His present ministry at God's right hand, one of which is His prayers on behalf of Christians. Jesus' ascension marked the beginning of His ministry of intercession for believers at the right hand of God the Father. There, at the right hand of God, the Bible tells us, Jesus continually intercedes for all believers. The Bible speaks of this in Romans 8:34: "Who is the One who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us." Also, in Hebrews 7:25 we read of Christ's ministry of intercession for believers in Him. "Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (cf. Hebrews 4:14; 6:20). Jesus' constant prayers on behalf of believers shows His deep concern and affection for them. "Although Christ is not physically present with His people today, He is no less concerned for them or less active on their behalf."- New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p. 125.
A fifth reason why the ascension is significant is this. In His present ministry at the right hand of God the Father, Jesus serves as our advocate before the Father when we sin. Believers around the world enjoy peace and security because the Lord Jesus Christ is the Advocate with God. John the Apostle writes: "My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). The Ascended Lord and Christ defends believers from the accuser of the brethren, the devil, who accuses believers before our God day and night (Revelation 12:10). The word "Advocate" is Paracletos in the Greek. It means one called alongside to help. We desperately need someone to help us against the constant accusation of our archenemy, the devil. Thanks be God, because in His present ministry at the right hand of God, Jesus defends believers and diffuses the accusation of the devil against God's believing people. This ministry is only possible because of the ascension of Christ.
A sixth reason why the ascension of Christ is significant is His preparation of our future dwelling place. The Ascended Lord is currently engaged in His work of preparing a place for believers. An ancient writing says that Jesus ascended bodily into heaven "our entrance to secure, and our abode to prepare." Before going to the cross, Jesus Himself assured His disciples that He is going to prepare a place for them. "Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:1-3).
Notice twice, Jesus stated, "I go to prepare a place for you." The repetition is for emphasis. Jesus' promise will not fail. Certainly, without the ascension this promise will have no chance of being fulfilled. Thank God for the ascension and the wonderful promise it holds for believers. Now, I would like you to take note of an important observation from the passage in John 14. Please understand that Jesus makes it clear that it's not really so much about the place He is preparing for us, but about the Person we'll be with. Notice He says, "I will...receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." Please make no mistake about this! The place Jesus is now preparing for us-heaven-will be indescribable and incredible beyond our greatest and wildest imaginations. But mark this! Our greatest joy will be the experience of being in the presence of the glorified, exalted, victorious, majestic, and ascended Lord-Jesus Christ. Why? The Person of Christ makes the place-heaven-truly heaven.
A seventh reason why the ascension is important is that it reassures believers that Jesus is directing and running the Church from heaven as the Head, Builder, and Lord of the Church. In Acts 9, the Ascended Christ, Head, Lord, and Builder of the Church, confronted Saul from heaven. His confrontation of Saul from heaven is a vivid reminder that Jesus is indeed in charge of the Church. Saul, later Paul, who was on his to Damascus to persecute Christians, fell to the ground after a light from heaven flashed around him. He heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? And he said, 'Who are You Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do'" (Acts 94-6). Clearly, the Ascended Lord is running His Church. He is in control from His throne in heaven. This makes the ascension important because it shows that:
"the Christian mission must be based on the ascended and living Lord who directs His Church from heaven and who will return to consummate what He has begun."- Richard N. Longenecker: Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, p. 258.
A final reason why the ascension is important will be discussed later in the announcement of the angelic messengers.
B. Appearance of Angelic Messengers to the "Sky-Gazing" Apostles (v. 10).
On that fateful day when the Lord Jesus gloriously and bodily ascended into heaven, one spectacular event followed another. What followed immediately after the ascension of Christ was the appearance of angelic messengers to the "sky-gazing" apostles. As if the drama of the ascension of the resurrected Christ was not enough to dazzle the disciples, leaving them agape and wide-eyed, God decided to put on another supernatural drama. This is what the Bible says about the next supernatural drama sometime after the glorious ascension of Christ: "And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them" (Acts 1:10).
Please just think of this for a moment. First of all, to the amazement of the disciples, the Resurrected Jesus was suddenly lifted up and in a twinkling of an eye, He was received out of their sight. He vanished out of their sight. He disappeared. One commentator says:
"Jesus' visible departure was different from his other disappearances during the forty days following his resurrection (John 20:19-29; Luke 24:31, 36). It made a clear point as to where he went-up, in simple human terms, to the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1). Peter used Psalm 110:1 to describe this event (acts 2:33-35).-Hughes and Laney: New Bible Commentary, p. 574.
No doubt, the apostles were stunned by Jesus' sudden disappearance. He had just been speaking to them, but was suddenly lifted up and received out of their sight. Now, to their further astonishment, two men suddenly and surprisingly appeared to them and stood behind them. The disciples had no warning that this was going to happen. Notice the Bible uses the word "behold." That's used to help us grasp the dramatic nature of the sudden appearance of the two men. The Greek word translated "gazing intently" is atenizo. It also means to fix one's eye on, look straight at, stare, look intently at something or someone. In other words, the disciples' eyes were so fixed skyward. They were literally, "sky-gazing." There were no stars to gaze at that moment. Only the sky. Actually, the word translated, "sky" (Greek: ouranon) literally means "heaven." It is the same word used in verse 11 but translated "sky" and "heaven." In fact, "ouranon" is used four times in verses 10-11 to emphasize the point that Jesus is now in heaven.
Why were the disciples "sky-gazing?" The Bible doesn't give us any reason why they were "sky-gazing." Perhaps, some of the disciples expected the cloud to disappear and leave their Lord standing with them alone, as it happened on the Mount of Transfiguration, where Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus in their glorified form. On that occasion a cloud of glory overshadowed them and then God spoke. However, the cloud disappeared and Jesus was left alone (see Luke 9:34-35). Peter, James, and John, who were there with Jesus might have thought, the cloud would dissipate again for Christ to reappear. Or, perhaps, others of the disciples thought the Risen and Ascended Lord would return at any moment. So they kept "sky-gazing" to see His return. But lo and behold, two angels appeared to them to awaken them from their stupor. The disciples were amazed, astonished, and awestruck. What a tough day it was for them!
Now someone says, the Bible speaks of "two men" but you are saying two angels appeared to the apostles. What are you teaching us? Well, I'm glad you asked. Please listen! These two men were obviously angelic beings who were enabled by God Himself to appear on earth in the form of men (Greek: andres). In fact, such angelic appearances were not unusual in the Bible. In Genesis 18:2, angels appeared in the form of three men to Abraham. Later, two of them were specifically described as angels who came to Lot at Sodom (Genesis 19:1). Also, before the conquest of Jericho, Joshua encountered an angel, who described himself as the captain of the Lord's host, in a form of a man (see Joshua 5:13-15). Also, in Luke 24:4, the women who went to the tomb of Jesus on the first day of the week at early dawn, encountered two men who were angels wearing dazzling apparel. Perhaps these were the same angels who now were enabled to appear again, only this time to the disciples as men.
Now the question arises: Did the angelic messengers merely appear to put on a dazzling and dramatic show for the apostles? No! Not at all! They came to deliver a special message to the apostles that would not only challenge and motivate them, but also brighten their view of the future, build up their hope in the Risen and Ascended, and put a spring in their step for the mission ahead of them. This brings us to our last point of discussion, that is, the announcement of the angelic messengers.
C. Announcement of the Angelic Messengers (v. 11).
In verse 11, we read of this announcement to the awestruck apostles. The Bible says: "And they also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). Notice angelic messengers addressed the disciples as "Men of Galilee." They did this to make them pay greater attention. Also, they were called "Men of Galilee" since all apostles were from Galilee except for Judas Iscariot, who had committed suicide by this time (Acts 1:18). So the angels were right on. They spoke as though they knew the disciples perfectly. That's amazing. Without wasting any time and going straight to the point, the angels delivered their message to the bewildered apostles-beginning with a penetrating question that was specifically asked to awaken them from their daydreaming and "sky-gazing." "Why do stand looking into the sky or heaven (ouranon)?
This question actually teaches us two things. First, the angels emphasis on "looking" (Greek: blepo) is important. Jesus was taken up before the very eyes of the disciples. This means they were credible witnesses of the ascension, just they were of His life, death, and resurrection.
The second thing we learn from this question is that it was a gentle rebuke from the angels. The disciples feared they had lost Jesus. They were feeling hopeless and fearful of the future. Therefore, the angels gently rebuked them. They did not need be fearful of the future. They did not need be sad and sorrowful. They did not need be hopeless. Why? The angels went on to explain to them that the Jesus they had heard, seen, known, and watched ascend a few moments ago, now had a heavenly existence. This is emphasized by the two-fold use of the expression "into heaven" (Greek: eis ton ouranon) in the latter part of their announcement. The angels didn't want the disciples to miss the point that the Risen and Ascended Lord is now living in heaven itself. So they stressed it in their announcement to them.
I really love these angels. You ask, why do you love them? Well, I love them because they were so good at saving the best for the last. With great confidence and conviction, they boldly announced to the apostles that the Jesus they had known, the Jesus they had watched ascend, this same Jesus would certainly return in the same way they had watched Him go into heaven to set up His earthly kingdom. In other words, the angels were not speaking of the Rapture of the Church, but the Jesus' return to reign. "The Jesus who lived, died, and rose in history past will come again, and his return will mark the beginning of history's end." -The Revell Concise Bible Dictionary, p. 60.
The angels are saying here that the promise of Zechariah 14:4 will indeed come to pass. Zechariah 14:4 says: "And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will split in the middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south." Well, when the Lord Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives, there was no splitting of the mountain. But when the Messiah returns to the Mount of Olives, a literal earth-moving event will take place there. It was on the Mount of Olives that Jesus was lifted up. And it will be there He will land on His return to reign on the earth. Jesus will return in His glorified body accompanied with clouds (cf. Daniel 7:13; Matthew 24:30; 26:64; Revelation 1:7; 14:14), just as at His ascension. In other words, it is the glorified Jesus who ascended into heaven. This same Jesus, the glorified Jesus, will return in the same way and to the same place. This means that ascension of the Lord is the guarantee for the second coming of Jesus Christ. In other words, if the ascension had not occurred, we would be wasting our time looking forward for the return of Christ to come back to earth. This is the final reason for the importance of the ascension. It assures believers that Jesus is coming again.
Since the angels announced to the disciples of Jesus that Jesus will come in just the same way as they had watched Him go into heaven, it is necessary to compare the events at His ascension to the events at His return. Below is a summary of that comparison. It is adapted from W. MacDonald.
He ascended from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12). He will return to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).
He ascended personally (Acts 1:9). He will return personally (Malachi 3:1).
He ascended visibly (Acts 1:9). He will return visibly (Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:9).
He was received up in a cloud (Acts 1:9). He will come on the clouds of heaven (Matthew 24:30).
John Calvin comments on "He will come."
"A wholehearted waiting and looking for Christ's coming must affect the way we live. It must control physical passions, give patience in all troubles, and refresh when we are weary-but only in those who faithfully believe that Christ is their Redeemer. To the wicked his coming brings nothing but dread, horror, and terror. They joke now when they hear of his coming and refuse to listen to him, but they will be forced to see him sitting on his judgment seat."- John Calvin: The Crossway Classic Commentary: Acts, p. 20.
John MacArthur also writes:
"No one knows when He will come, but everyone must live in anticipation that it could happen in their lifetime (cf. Rom. 13:12-14; 2 Peter 3:14-18). The truth that Christ will return provides a powerful motive to serve Him... The task of finishing the work that Jesus began, the duty of evangelizing the lost world, is a daunting one. But the Lord in His mercy from the start has provided all the spiritual resources necessary to accomplish that task. It is up to each believer to appropriate those resources and put them to use. "We must work the works of Him who sent [Jesus Christ], as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work" (John 9:4)."- John MacArthur: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary; Acts 1-12, p.23.
I have no doubt that this simple, short, and straightforward message the disciples heard that day from the angels, put a spring in their step. It brightened their view of the future. It strengthened and sustained their hope, faith, and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His purposes for them. It provided a powerful motivation for serving Christ and His purposes. In fact, the Bible tells us in Luke 24:52-53 that after the ascension, the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple, praising, literally, blessing God. Talk about having a new spring in your step. That's what the announcement of the angels did for the disciples.
Perhaps you are an unbeliever. You are feeling hopeless today. You are fearful of living in these uncertain days. Your world has collapsed around you. Perhaps you are wondering if your life is worth living at all! You've hit rock bottom and 've been there for years. You may even be contemplating suicide. You ask: Can anyone turn my life around for good? Can anyone enter my situation and give me hope for a brighter tomorrow? Yes, the Jesus who ascended into heaven, the Jesus who will be coming again to reign on earth, He can, if you let Him. He will not only turn your life around for good, but He will put a spring in your step. He will give you hope for a brighter and better tomorrow with Him. Call upon His name. Confess His name today. Come and lay your burdens at His feet and He will give you rest. Jesus says: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Cry out to Jesus today.
Simply pray, "Dear Jesus, I am a sinner. I need You to save me from my sins. I understand my sacrifice cannot save me from my sins. I also understand that only Your sacrifice for sins is acceptable to God the Father and gives sinners who believe in You perfect righteousness. This is my desire. Please, save me and make me a new creation in You. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit whom You sent from heaven. Help me live for You. Let me serve Your purpose. Assist me to fulfill my God-given destiny. Let me live with confident hope because You are in full control of the future. I thank You Jesus for loving me and saving me. Amen."
If you have prayed this prayer to Jesus, the Only One who saves us, please contact us and let us encourage and guide you in your new found relationship with Jesus Christ.
"Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; for all the nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed" (Revelation 15:3-4).