GETTING THE MESSAGE/Acts 1:9-11
In this passage we read of the ascension of the Lord Jesus into heaven. The Lord had appeared to his disciples at various times after his resurrection. Now he will leave for good until his return in glory. That is one of the points of his visible ascension.
Luke writes this to show the historicity of the event, meaning the actuality of it. It is no myth or legend; there were eyewitnesses to it. Five times in these verses we have references to the apostles “looking” or “gazing” as the Lord went up in a cloud. Luke in his gospel and the book of Acts stresses the verification of events related to the Lord Jesus by eyewitnesses.
This doesn’t mean people believe it. Many men call it nonsense. And it doesn’t mean some who believe it happened believe in Christ as their Lord. In John 6, Jesus speaks to those who witnessed his miracles. He tells them he came from heaven, and that he is the only way to have life with God.
This doesn’t sit well with them, so he asks, “What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” They wouldn’t believe no matter what they saw. Faith is not just a matter of intellectual assent; it is faith in, and submission to, Christ as the only Savior of men.
Nevertheless, the Christian faith is built on objective facts. The Bible is a history book. To those who believe, it strengthens our faith to know the facts about Christ. Things about him were written down in the prophets long before they occurred, and there were eyewitnesses to the majesty of Christ.
The ascension also points to the present glory of Christ. He ascended into heaven to the right hand of God; a position of absolute power and authority. The clouds surrounding Jesus as he ascended pointed to the glory of God.
In Revelation 5, the song of angels and saints before the throne of Christ is, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” This is the welcomed destiny of all those who love Christ, so we make it our aim to honor him now.
As Christ ascended from sight, two angels ask the apostles, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?” Obviously, they wanted him to come back. And he will, but first they have a mission he has given them in verse 8. They will be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.
He has not left them orphans, as he promised he wouldn’t before he died (John 14). He will send the Holy Spirit to enable them to do what he has commanded them to do. They will face great opposition, yet they will have boldness (and joy) in the face of threats and hard circumstances. They persevered because the Lord willed it.
They cast their life and lot upon the Lord. They knew they were invulnerable in the sense that their days were in the Lord’s hands. This gave them freedom; the courage, humility, and love to boldly proclaim the truth of Christ. They did not seek persecution on martyrdom; they prayed, they left cities when they had to, but their eyes were upon Christ.
The church of the Lord should always remember that he is Immanuel, God with us. He is God with us by his Spirit. He is in our meetings, so we should labor to be with him, as much as we can. The sign of our growth is to desire to be nearer to him, to be like him, to be on his side.
The angels also said to the apostles, “This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” They meant his return would be the same pattern as the ascension; a visible, historical event, centering on the glory of Christ.
His return is and inevitable, unavoidable event for all mankind. His people look forward to it, pray for it. Here all is without form, void, dark, and imperfect; vain and fleeting. When Christ comes it will be perfect, glorious, and permanent; a beautiful inheritance.
He also comes to judge. No one on that day can say the serpent deceived me as Eve did, or blame others as Adam did. The Lord brings light with him. Men choose their own way. Let us be among those who walk in the light, waiting on the Lord to come in glory.