Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jesus' Ascension: Between Heavenly and Earthly Visions (Acts 1:9-11)

It was not long afterwards that [Lord Jesus] rose into the sky and disappeared into a cloud, leaving them staring after him. As they were straining their eyes for another glimpse, suddenly two white-robed men were standing there among them, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has gone away to heaven, and some day, just as he went, he will return!’”
(Acts 1:9-11, The Living Bible)

In John 1:14 we read that the Word became flesh and dwelt among men. In John 16:28 Jesus said that He had “came from the Father into the world and will leave the world and return to the Father.” Jesus came a long journey into this world to do His Father’s will. Here Jesus is going back to heaven, to His Father. Jesus loves His Father and we know that the Father loves His Son. This love exchange should make us very glad because indeed, God is love!

The apostles were so surprised that they stood there staring in amazement up into heaven. So two angels (two white-robed men, no doubt were angels) appeared to them and told them plainly that this very same Jesus would come back again in the same way as He had gone into heaven. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (NIV). What can we understand from this passage? I want to quote John R. Stott commentary in The Message of Acts (1990) here:

First, Jesus will come again. “He has gone, and they must let him go; he will return in his own good time, in the same way… There will be important differences between his going and his coming. Although his coming will be personal, it will not be private like his ascension. Only the eleven apostles saw him go, but when he comes ‘every eyes will see him.’ Instead of returning alone (as when he went). Millions of holy ones – both human and angelic – will form his retinue. And in place of a localized coming (‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’), it will be ‘like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other’” (page 50).

Secondly, the angles implied, until Jesus comes again, the apostles must get on with their witness, for that was their mandate. “There was something fundamentally anomalous about their gazing up into the sky when they had been commissioned to go to the end of the earth. It was the earth not the sky which was to be their preoccupation. Their calling was to be witnesses not stargazers. The vision they were to cultivate was not upwards in nostalgia to the heaven which had received Jesus, but outwards in compassion to a lost world which needed him… First, Jesus returned to heaven (Ascension). Secondly, the Holy Spirit came (Pentecost). Thirdly, the church goes out to witness (Mission). Fourthly, Jesus will come back (Parousia)” (page 51).

Obviously for us today, we must remember these 2 important truths: #1 Heavenly vision: Our hope is sure! Jesus is alive and He will come back again to unite us to have fellowship with the loving Father.  And #2 Earthly vision: Between Jesus’ going and coming, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we must go into the world for Jesus! Amen.

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