and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."Acts 1:11(ESV)
We have not been appointed to gaze on the Word of God without understanding, or in a frightened, astonished or perplexed way, as did His disciples when the Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven. We now have a more-sure Word of prophecy which informs us of our unshakable hope in God's plans and purposes for our future.
Despite all that Jesus had taught the apostles during His earthly ministry, and even though He opened the prophetic scriptures to their understanding, following His glorious resurrection, these disciples still held tightly to their limited perspective and biased understanding of what the Messiah would do and when He would set up His kingdom.
Instead of searching the scriptures to find out if their interpretation was based on Scriptural fact, human tradition or a skewed understanding of Christ's message and ministry, they gazed with wonder and amazement when Christ ascended into heaven. The teachings He gave, together with many prophetic Scriptures should have prepared them for all the events that took place during those astonishing post-resurrection days - but first, they were to be baptised into the body of Christ and empowered and taught by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
They hoped the Lord Jesus would set up His kingdom there and then, and had to be reminded that it is not for us to know the times that the Father has ordained to fulfil His plans and purposes. Jesus will indeed return to earth and set up the literal kingdom of heaven on earth - but it will be when God decides... and it will not be influenced by the traditions of men, nor will it be worked out by mathematical gematria or extra-biblical revelation.
Just as the angels at the tomb had to remind these men of things Christ told them, while He was still with them, so also the two men in white at His ascension, had to remind them of Scriptural truths as they beheld Jesus being lifted up, and watched in amazement, as a cloud received Him out of their sight.
They would soon learn that just as Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives, He will return to the same holy Mount at His second coming. Just as He ascended visibly at the end of His first advent and was received up into heaven in a cloud... so too at His second advent, Jesus will visibly return to the earth on the clouds of heaven - and every eye will see Him. And just as the Lord ascended in glorious majesty so He will return in power and great glory when He comes back to Israel to set up His earthly kingdom, as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Did they continue to gaze up into heaven sorrowfully because their Master had been taken from them or was their intent gazing into the clouds an act of astonished wonderment and reverent worship? No doubt there was an element of both emotions... but they had work to do! "And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going - behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."
The self-same Jesus, Who rose from the dead in a resurrected body of flesh and bone and Who was taken into heaven in a risen, glorified body, will return from heaven in the same manner that these disciples saw Him depart. The self-same Jesus Who came to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself on the cross, and to break the power of death by means of His glorious resurrection, will appear a second time without sin.
The self-same Jesus Who came the first time as a baby in humility and disgrace, will return a second time as King of kings in power and great glory. The self-same Jesus Whom His disciples watched being taken from them on clouds of heaven, will return to earth with His Church in the self-same way - on clouds of glory accompanied by a host of angelic ministers.
When the two messengers in white told the Men of Galilee "this same Jesus, Who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven", they were referring to the second coming of Christ to earth, to set up His millennial kingdom. It refers to His return to earth at the end of the 'great tribulation', when Christ returns to earth and rule and reign in righteousness. Christ's second coming happens at the END of the seven-year tribulation but BEFORE His 1000 year reign on earth.
The return of Christ, as proclaimed by the two men in white, is not referring to the rapture of the saints, which will have already taken place, over seven years earlier, when Jesus comes in the CLOUDS to meet His people in the AIR. The rapture of the Church happens at the start of Daniel's 70th week, and not at the end of the 'great tribulation', when He returns to the mount of Olives and sets His feet on the Mount of Olives, and begins to rule and reign in righteousness.
This precious truth that our Lord and Saviour will return in the CLOUDS of glory for US.. i.e. to take His Body - the Church, to be with Himself, should be of tremendous comfort, glorious encouragement and an assured hope. And the wonderful truth that we are coming with Him when He returns to earth to set up His promised kingdom, as proclaimed by the two men in white, should rejoice our heart.
Just as Christ's first coming began with His birth at Bethlehem and ended with His ascension into heaven, so the rapture of the Church and the return of Christ to the Mount of Olives stand as two bookmarks, at the beginning and the end of Christ's second Advent.
How precious to know that not one promise from God has failed and we can be assured that this same Jesus, Who died and rose again, is coming back to take His Church to be with Him forever, and He is also returning to set up His millennial kingdom - ALL for the glory of God.
We praise Your name, heavenly Father, for the sure promise that we have of Christ's return to take us to be with Himself when we meet Him in the air. Thank You that a day is coming when He will also return to the earth to claim His rightful position as King of kings and Lord of lords at the end of the 'great tribulation'. May we live each day of our life in a way that is pleasing to You - a life that points others to the Lord Jesus.. as the soon-coming Saviour of the world, with the fixed assurance that Your Word of prophecy stands fast forever. AMEN.