"And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." Acts 1:9-11 (Read 1-11)
In the Apostles' Creed, we confess of Jesus Christ, our Lord, that "He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead."
And last Thursday was Ascension Day, a Christian festival now often forgotten by churches. It is the day we remember Jesus' ascension into heaven and the fact that He now rules over and fills all things (Eph. 1:15-23), intercedes for us (1 John 2:1-2; Rom. 8:34), pours out His Holy Spirit in our hearts (John 16:7), sends forth men to preach the Gospel and creates faith through the hearing of God's Word (Eph. 4:8-16; Rom. 10:17), and will soon return to judge the living and the dead and establish His everlasting kingdom (Matt. 25:31ff.; Dan. 7:13-14; Rev. 11:15; 20:11ff.).
Today, we consider the words of the angels to Jesus' disciples when Jesus was taken up into heaven: "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
This Word of God, spoken by angels to the disciples who had just witnessed Jesus' ascension into heaven, teaches us that Jesus Christ will return visibly in the clouds of glory on the Last Day. The Bible also says this in Revelation 1:7: "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen." (Cf. Matt. 24:29-31).
Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica that "... the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day" (2 Thess. 1:7-10).
As Jesus ascended into heaven, so He shall also return on the Last Day, the Day of Judgment. He will come again in clouds of glory with His holy angels. Every eye will see Him! His return will be no secret rapture -- both the believer and the unbeliever will see Him coming in glory!
The true question for us is this: "Are you ready for His return and judgment? Are you prepared to meet Him?"
Those who do not trust in Him for salvation will wail in sorrow at His return because they stand condemned for not trusting in the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18; 2 Thess. 1:6-10). As Jesus said, they remain in their sins and, thus, face God's judgment in the filthy garments of the flesh (cf. John 8:24; Isa. 64:6; Matt. 22:11-14).
But those who do trust in Christ Jesus as their Savior -- trusting that they have pardon for their sins and peace with God for the sake of Christ's innocent sufferings and death in their stead -- will rejoice at His return because He comes to take them to be with Him forever in the mansions of heaven (cf. Luke 21:27-28; Heb. 9:27-28; John 14:1-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).
And so, I ask you: "Do you acknowledge your sins and look to Christ and His cross for mercy and forgiveness?" If not, the day of His return will be for you a day of sorrow and mourning as you face His eternal judgment and condemnation!
But, if you, by the grace of God, agree with God about your sins and trust in Christ and the atonement He made for the sins of the world when He died on the cross, that day will be a day of joy and gladness as you receive His mercy, His pardon, and life eternal in His glorious kingdom! (Cf. 1 John 1:7-2:2; 5:11-12; Mark 16:15-16.)
We will then see Him face to face and be transformed into his image (cf. Psalm 17:15; 1 John 3:2; Phil. 3:20-21). And, we will partake of the pleasures of His everlasting kingdom (John 14:2-3; Psalm 16:11).
Dear Lord Jesus Christ, as You have ascended up into heaven to the right hand of God the Father, so come again and take us to be with You forever. Graciously keep us in the true and saving faith so that, on that Day, we may greet You with joy and not with sorrow. Grant this to us for the sake of Your holy life and bitter sufferings and death on the cross in our stead. Amen.
Editor's note: Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible. Devotion is by Randy Moll. He may be contacted by email at [email protected]. More of Moll's devotional writings are freely available at https://goodshepherdonline.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.]