Summary: A biblical revelation of Jesus’ second coming inspires hope, service, and evangelism. The early church lived in anticipation of His coming.
Jesus’ Promise to Return
Series: Book of Acts #7
In our study of Acts we are at chapter 1:9-12. Please follow with me as we read, “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city.”
I. Only in Luke’s writings do we have the story of Jesus’ ascension. This marks the end of the forty days of Jesus’ appearances after His resurrection. In our previous studies we saw how Acts 1 overlaps with the last chapter of Luke. This is also the case with the ascension story. So let’s go to the last few verses in Luke’s gospel and read this event as it is recorded in Luke 24:50-52 “When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Bethany is on the east side of the Mount of Olives. The phrase, “a Sabbath day’s walk” is Jewish terminology for distance. This actually happened on a Thursday, forty days after Jesus’ resurrection. Based upon Old Testament regulations concerning the Sabbath, the Rabbis calculated the maximum distance one could travel without breaking the Sabbath, which could be described as “a Sabbath day’s walk.” Their journey was about ¾ of a mile. There is something precious about the thought of Jesus lifting his hands here and blessing his followers. Isn’t that characteristic of Jesus? Aren’t you glad this morning that Jesus’ fist is not raised with a curse? But instead He raises both hands toward us to bless us.
What a sight that must have been to watch Jesus ascend into heaven before their very eyes. It’s not a vision. They are seeing the resurrected Christ with their natural eyes. The Gospel of Luke says, “Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” You will never find the Bible sanctioning worship of anyone but God. Paul warns in Colossians against worshipping angels. In Acts 12 when Herod accepted worship he was immediately struck dead. But Jesus is God the Son and worthy of our worship. “Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” I’ve got a feeling some of those people danced their way back to Jerusalem.
I want to take as our point of focus this morning the promise of Christ’s return. We know that the promise of the Holy Spirit is about to be realized in Acts 2. The Day of Pentecost is drawing near. When Jesus ascends to the Father He will make good on that promise. He will send the Holy Spirit to empower His people for mission. But notice the new promise given in verse 11. It is found in the words spoken by the two angles, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
We have a lot of information in those words concerning the coming of the Lord. First, it will be “This same Jesus...” We will know Him by the nail scars in His hands as the old hymn says. There have been many imposters over the centuries of history claiming to be the Christ. It amazes me the people who follow leaders like Rev. Moon and David Koresh—people of flesh and blood who claim to be Christ. In 2Cor. 11:4 Paul warned about those preaching “another Jesus.” In Matt 24:23-24 Jesus said, “At that time if anyone says to you, ’Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ’There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect-if that were possible.” In our pluralistic society we need to be firmly established on Who is coming—“This same Jesus...”—not another claiming to be him.
And how will he come? Will he come somewhere in Waco, Texas? No, He will return to this same Mt. of Olives (Zec 14:4). He will not come as a person in flesh and blood because Jesus is no longer flesh and blood. He has poured out His blood for our salvation. He is now in a glorified body. He will return in the same manner that He ascended. He ascended in a cloud of glory into heaven. He will return in a cloud of glory. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”