And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.Acts 1:9(NASB)
Following forty glorious post-resurrection days, the risen Lord Jesus led His little band of disciples out from the tiny town of Bethany to the beautiful Mount of Olives, where He spoke to them for the very last time before being taken from them, into heaven. It must have been a time of confusion and expectancy, for His words were those of a dearly loved friend, Who was bidding His precious followers farewell, for "after He had said these things, Jesus was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight."
Christ's slow, ascension into heaven, where He was enveloped by the Shekinah glory of God, as He returned to the Father, would call to mind His recent promise that He must go away but would return, to take them to be with Himself in glory. The details of the blessed hope for Christians and the second advent for Israel had yet to be revealed to these men - through the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who would guide them into all truth and inspire them to write the New Testament Scriptures, for OUR learning.
There was still much for them to discover about the Church, which is Christ's body. They still had to accept the setting aside of Israel for a season during the 2000-year long dispensation of the Grace of God. They still had to learn about the rapture of Christians at the end of this dispensation, and come to a fuller understanding of the great and terrible Day of the Lord... which follows the Church Age, and will be a time of Great Tribulation, when God's wrath will be poured out on a Christ-rejecting sinful world, for seven years.
And so, lifting up His hand, the Lord Jesus blessed the disciples that He loved so dearly, and began to be taken up into heavenly places. Finally, their beloved Lord Jesus and heavenly Saviour was lost from view. No doubt their eyes were straining to capture this poignant picture, as their hearts trembled in wonder - until the cloud finally hid Him from their vision.
How that memory must have been etched forever on the mind of each one who was silently standing in that little olive grove – a place that had become a setting of such significance to our Lord Jesus. He was gone from their view, but He would never be gone from their thoughts, from that day forward. And the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit, a few days hence, must have started to pound through their minds, in hopeful expectation.
It was as Jesus was speaking that He started to ascend. He had commanded them to stay in Jerusalem for the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit. "John baptised with water," He reminded them, "but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." For three years they had been taught the Gospel of the Kingdom and now, they kept on asking Him, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" These dear disciples still had MUCH to learn.
The Gospel of the Kingdom would not be the main gospel message taught, until after the Church Age. The good news of Christ's coming Kingdom would be taught during the Great Tribulation, by 144,000 Jewish evangelists. But from this time forward, these Jewish disciples would teach the Gospel of the Grace of God to ALL people - Jew and Gentile alike. YES, they had much to learn. "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority," Jesus had told them as He ascended.
These believers were not to focus exclusively on Christ's second advent - when HE returns to earth in power and great glory to set up His Millennial Kingdom, at the end of the Tribulation. As Christ's Body on earth, they were to fulfil the commission to the Church, during this Age of Grace, and not the commission that is given to Israel, during the Time of Jacob's Trouble. YES, they had much to learn.
After He was lost from view, two men in white told them, "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." YES, at the end of the Great Tribulation, Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives, in a cloud of glory and His feet will stand on that same soil where the disciples saw Him leave. Every eye will see Him come. They will look on Him Whom they pierced and a great earthquake will split the land in two, as prophesied by Zechariah. YES, the disciples had much more to learn, and remember.
However glorious this precious picture of His ascension is to us – we too have a time of hopeful expectation on which to train the eyes of our hearts – for this same Jesus, Who was taken from that little company into heaven, will come to meet us in clouds, at the end of the Church Age. before the Great Tribulation, when we will be raptured into His presence, as His Bride - but this same Jesus will ALSO return to the earth in the same manner as that little company saw Him go up into heaven - at the end of the Great Tribulation, when Israel will call on the Lord for salvation.
The hope that was placed into the hearts of the disciples on that wondrous ascension morning, kept the hope of their Lord’s return alive in their hearts, for the rest of their difficult lives, knowing that one day their Lord would return in like manner to take them to be with Himself - for we are not appointed to the wrath that will be poured out during the Great Tribulation.
We too have that hope in our hearts and with each passing day we are one day closer to that time when the trumpet will sound - the dead in Christ shall be raised first and we that are alive and remain, will be caught up together into the clouds of heaven to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will be with the Lord, forever.
Let us keep the hope of His imminent return for His Church alive in our hearts from this day forward. But let us ALSO warn lost sinners of their need to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, so that they too can escape the great wrath to come.
Loving Father, thank You that Jesus told us that He will return to earth in like manner as the disciples saw Him go into heaven, on that wondrous Ascension morning. What a wonderful day that will be when Jesus comes in the clouds, back to earth to set up His Millennial Kingdom where He will rule and reign with righteousness and power for 1000 years. Thank You that as a believer in Him and part of the Bride of Christ, I will come with Him from heaven and rule and reign with Him on earth. Keep my eyes fixed on Jesus as I await the any day Rapture of the Church, when Jesus will take us up to heaven, to await this glorious return to earth. To Him be all honour, and glory, and strength, and majesty, for ever and ever, AMEN.