Acts 1:7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts 1:9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
Acts 1:10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,
Acts 1:11 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.”
N.T. Wright explains the ascension of Jesus in a really clear way. When we say, “From a small town in Indiana, he ascended to be one of the most notable musicians in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” we don’t mean that John Cougar Mellencamp climbed up some stairs to Cleveland, Ohio. Ascended is more about stepping into a role or a position.
The worst image in the world is that Jesus movie where, at this point, Jesus flies up into the sky, becoming more cheesy and tiny until He disappears. It probably wasn’t like that.
Throughout the Old Testament, the glory of God shows up like a cloud. Even on the mount of transfiguration, there is a cloud all around James, John, and Peter as Jesus talks to Moses and Elijah. That is probably what happened here. Jesus was taken up a lot like Elijah, except Elijah got a fiery whirlwind and Jesus got a cloud.
The white-robed men that show up say something very puzzling: “[Jesus] will come back in the same way you saw Him go.” That means that at some point, Jesus is going to show up and step out of a cloud of God’s glory. He may even be up in the sky a little bit and come down onto the ground.
The point is, He’s not gone for good.
He’s going to come back and while He’s gone, we have the Holy Spirit with us to go be His witnesses all over the world.
How different a moment this is from when He died on the cross! At that moment, He left and it seemed to be against His will. He was killed by others and left to die! His return was uncertain and unexpected, and His only command was for John to take care of His mother.
Now He goes away again, but in triumph. He gives His followers a mission. A mandate. A foretelling. Heavenly beings are even there to encourage them like grandma waving goodbye while mom and dad drive off to have an anniversary weekend out of town.
He’s coming again, just as sure as He said. We don’t know when, but confidence and joy go with us as we look for His return.
You can get the Daily Bible Readings to your inbox via email every day by subscribing on our home page. Join the discussion online on Facebook or Twitter.