The Savior’s victory over sin, death and the devil was confirmed and stamped by the Heavenly Father through Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Scripture records many incidents in which Jesus showed Himself after the resurrection. The apostle Paul records the significance of the resurrection, as well as the comfort of Jesus’ victory. He “was raised again because of [for] our justification” (Romans 4:25). The justification of the sinner by the atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus is credited to us through faith. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Forty days after His resurrection the Savior would return to His Father in glory.
Before He did so, He spoke “of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). He laid before His disciples their mission after His departure, laying out a program and a timetable for the commencement of their mission. For three years He had instructed them, corrected them, comforted them, strengthened them, and prepared them for their task. As He fulfilled His Father’s will He gave them the substance of their message.
“ But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Commissioned by the Lord, and empowered by the Holy Spirit after Pentecost, they were to go forth with the Gospel of life. This commission and its message remains the mission and the message of the Church to this day!
As Jesus spoke to them, suddenly a transcendent event occurred. Luke tells us at the end of his Gospel, “While He blessed them…He was parted from them and carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51). The Lord Jesus Who came to earth in Bethlehem, born in a stall, and laid in a manger, and Who humbled Himself unto death in our place, now as true God and true Man in exaltation ascended to the throne of His Father. Luke gives us more detail in Acts. “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). What an awesome sight! The last physical view of Jesus the disciples and others had of Him on the ascension mount was He with His hands raised in blessing upon them! We can well understand why the disciples “looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up.”
As Jesus ascended, they were gazing up, watching intently. Why? They were struck with awe. No doubt they viewed the ascension with mixed feeling – with joy that Jesus, the victorious Lord, was ascending to fulfill another promise, and with nostalgia that He would no longer be with them physically. Two angels, messengers of the Father, announced as they watched, “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). Though no one except Mary and Joseph observed Jesus’ humble entrance into the world, when He returns, the exalted Lord will come in power and glory. He will be visible to the whole world[DF1] . Then will be fulfilled Jesus’ promise to the disciples on the night of His betrayal. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. 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).
After the disciples left the mount of ascension they returned to the upper room where “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” (Acts 1:14). They offered prayers of thanksgiving for the Father having kept His promise of the Savior, for all the blessings they had received from and through the Lord Jesus. They implored the Lord for strength and faithfulness to carry out their assigned task as they waited for the fulfillment of the promised Comforter. Remember how Jesus had told them, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). He further told them that He, God-Immanuel, would be with them always even to the end of the world.
According to promise, the Lord, Immanuel, has been with His Church through the ages. All God’s promises “in Him (Christ) are Yes, and in Him (Christ) Amen…” (2 Corinthians 1:20). As He has promised that He will return to gather His disciples to where He is, His children through the generations, can be of confident faith that at God’s appointed time in history, Jesus Who came in lowliness to live among us will, [DF2] at a God-appointed time in history, come again in exaltation to exalt us so that we may live with Him where He is!
After the Lord ascended, the believers went home to worship and pray. They went about their tasks as assigned by the Lord. They went in the assurance of the Lord’s care, guidance, and blessing. They went in confidence that He “ascended up far above the heavens, that He might fill all things” (Ephesians 4:10) and that He to whom all power in heaven and earth belongs (Matthew 28:18) would use His power in the interest of His Church (Matthew 16:18), to the benefit (Isaiah 43:2-3) of each believer whom He knows by name (Isaiah 43:1).
Believers in Christ, in the year of our Lord, 2021, gazing up in anticipation of His return is an acknowledgement of His grace and will dictate how we live.
“The time is at hand” (Romans 13:12). God does not reckon time as we do. Mockers of day of judgment will face it as it comes to all, first in a personal sense. The personal day of judgment comes when the sinner dies. One either dies in faith in Christ and is saved, or he dies in unbelief and is damned. On the day of judgment of all things, the Son of Man “will come, in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him…” (Matthew 25:31). “He will send His holy angels with the great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31). He will judge the living and the dead and “… will separate them one from another, as a shepherd gathers his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:32). The sheep who heard His voice and believed in Him will enter into life. The goats who listened to other voices will be cast away.
The apostles declared that the day of the Lord was approaching. Are we not living in such days as those of which the apostle Peter spoke? He said, “Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying ‘Where is the promise of His coming…’” (2 Peter 3:4)? Immorality, incivility, hatred, greed, abound. All of this is nothing new in the world. But it is receiving private and official sanction in a manner hardly seen, except before the flood at Noah’s time. The warning flags are flying! Furthermore, we must ask, “Is the Church today about its mission? Or has it, for its own reasons, accommodated itself to the world?”
The world stands yet because the Lord is gracious. He is calling all people to repentance for He desires the damnation of no one. God forbid that during this time Christ-believers should be lulled into the destructive mentality that willfully forgets “that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water” (2 Peter 3:5-6). “The day of the Lord will come as thief in the night…both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3: 10-11).
“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11)?
This leads us back to the exhortation. Be watchful. “Look up.” The disciples looked up as Jesus left the earth. We are to watch for His return. Look up in joyful anticipation of the blessings of His ascension. How do we do this?
As eager watchers, Christ-believers will prepare personally by getting into the Scriptures, by acknowledging our own sins, and pleading for and trusting in God’s Word of promise, “Your sins are forgiven you.” We look up to Him for strength to daily walk the faith-walk. We are not to sit on a mountain top, or on our hands. We are not to observe the dying world scene with a baleful attitude, “The world is inviting judgment, what is the use?” We are commissioned to preach the Gospel into all the world. We are called to be useful in the kingdom by sharing the one thing needful. We do not stop living, but as confessors of Christ privately and with our brethren in the Church, the Body of Christ, we will engage in worship and prayer to our Lord, with thanksgiving for the privilege. As we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd in His inspired Word, we rejoice in Him Who has promised, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
The ascended Lord said through the apostle John who witnessed the ascension, “Surely, I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:20). How do you or I know that won’t be tonight? In faith LOOK UP and with John say, “Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus.” Grand will be the day for all who are watching!