Ascension Day Matters
Exactly forty days after His resurrection, the disciples watched as Jesus bodily ascended into heaven. Moments earlier, the Lord had given final instructions with a promise that the Holy Spirit would baptize and empower them in a few days. The disciples were instructed to wait (Acts 1:4).
The apostle Luke gives a personal account:
“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” (Acts 1:9-11)
Jesus did not vanish or dematerialize in the presence of the disciples gathered around Him. They saw the Lord defy gravity and lift from the surface of the earth high into the sky until a cloud obscured their view.
As the disciples strained to catch a last glimpse, two angels dressed in white clothing suddenly appeared on the scene. The disciples were jolted from their bewilderment with the angels’ question, “Men of Galilee, why do you keep standing here staring into heaven?” (v. 11).
The angels’ prophetic message that followed revealed Jesus’ absence would not be permanent. He would return in the same way He had ascended into heaven (v.11).
Rather than sending a representative or emissary, Jesus will physically return to establish His kingdom on earth. Approximately 550 years earlier, the prophet Zechariah foretold,
“And in that day His [Messiah’s] feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south.” (Zech. 14:4).
Please note. Jesus physically ascended into heaven from the precise location of the return prophesied by Zechariah and the two angels.
Two events shape the Christian’s expectation of Jesus’ return.
The first—commonly called the Rapture—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.
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52). (1)
The second—appropriately termed the Second Coming—will be a spectacular event visible to the entire population of Planet Earth. The Second Coming is the still future event the angels prophesied to encourage the disciples following Christ’s ascension.
Matthew communicated graphic details about the Second Coming:
“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).
Daniel foresaw and described the visible return of Messiah to establish His earthly Kingdom:
“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, John recorded his vision of the revelation of Jesus Christ.
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him . . .” (Rev. 1:7).
A heavenly processional—with Jesus at the head followed by the angelic host and redeemed saints of every age—will approach earth through the vastness of space (Rev. 19:11-16). As the procession nears the planet, every living human being will witness the event (Mt. 24:29-30).
Much to our detriment, Ascension Day is mostly a neglected celebration in much of Christendom today. Titus, a Greek pastor and recipient of the New Testament letter that bears his name, indirectly provides perspective:
“. . . 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” (Tit. 2:12-13).
Ascension Day matters because it’s an annual reminder for all Christians to live with expectancy! This year, use Ascension Day—May 30, 2019—to focus on related passages in God’s Word with family and friends. It’s appropriate to celebrate with festivities. Then, expectantly look for His return because the day Jesus Christ ascended into heaven is not the end of the story!
IMAGES (Used for illustrative purposes):
1) L’Ascension (The Ascension). By James Tissot/Purchased by Public Subscription, Brooklyn Museum/[No known copyright restrictions]/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios
2) The Ascension, featured and footer. By James Tissot/Purchased by Public Subscription, Brooklyn Museum/[No known copyright restrictions]/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios
1) For further reading by Charles E. McCracken, follow the link to short reads about the Rapture.
Copyright © Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.