In Acts 1, Luke, the author of Acts, mentions that for forty days “after” Christ’s crucifixion Jesus continued to be seen conducting additional miracles and speaking about the Kingdom of God.
But in Acts 1:10 we read of a historical event which resulted in a promise that remains unfulfilled to this day. Notice that in verse 10 we are told two men (angels) appeared while the apostles, mesmerized, watched Jesus ascend into the clouds.
In Acts 1:11 these angels reaffirm the promise Jesus personally made in John 14 when he said, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself.” They said, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven.” This
was the very first promise made by God, through these angels, after Jesus Christ ascended to the Father as our high priest.
Have you ever wondered why that particular truth was the one mentioned first? Why not “Don’t forget to love your neighbor as yourself” or “God loved the world so much that He sacrificed His only begotten Son for you” or “This Jesus, whom you see ascending, is now your High Priest at the right hand of the Father”?
Now don’t get me wrong; all of the above statements are true and very important, but they were not mentioned during this remarkable historical event. Quite the contrary, our Father had a very important reason for choosing this particular truth as the first reminder. There was a purpose behind stating this future event and promise first. Let me explain.
The Christian “way” is not an easy life. If a person engages, truly participates, in the battles of the flesh, it can be a brutal experience. The expectation God has for the Christian often translates into overwhelming sacrifices. These sacrifices are the challenges we Christians contend with regularly. It is these events that can wear a Christian out if we’re not careful. The trials and tests, when in the heat of the circumstances, can be quite overwhelming. It’s during these times–in the crucible of a trial–that real Christians are prepared and made.
However, I would like to point something out. Turn to 1 Peter 1:3-9. I want to bring your attention to verse 3. Notice how Peter mentions that we are begotten and brought into a lively hope existence “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance, incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away [it’s eternal], reserved in heaven for you.”
Notice what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:19: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you [being] in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?”
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, Paul describes the future resurrection and then immediately admonishes us to “comfort one another with these words” (verse 18). As you read throughout the New Testament you can’t help but notice how important the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection were to these early Christians. It gave them motivation and hope. It afforded them the inner strength and courage to face the raging challenges of persecution and death. Those were times of extreme agony and strenuous tests and trials for those early New Testament Christians and families.
Today the cauldron of trials is not causing most of us to face incarceration or loss of family and friends due to religious persecution; but we do have our challenges–trials of health, aging, finances, career, school, relationships, and marriage. There are issues that test our Christian character and attitude, reproving and testing us, allowing God to observe our skill, talents, patience, and ambition. Yes, brethren, God is learning a lot about us by our degree of performance or lack thereof.
Yet, the lesson is clear. A linchpin to successful Christian living is clearly identified. It’s by no means the only one, but it is a major ingredient. It’s key to our “long-term” success in this marathon race of life. It’s the “lively hope” we have of the resurrection and return of Jesus Christ.
This should be central and foundational to our lives. It should be the underscore to our behavior. God the Father, through those two angels, and through Peter, Paul, and others, consistently and frequently made reference to these events and promises. They were the driving force that kept life focused for so many Christians down through history.
So remember, brethren, whenever you need to refocus your perspective on life, think back on that first promise that was made as Christ was ascending to His rightful position at our Fathers right hand. Take some time to recognize you are being prepared for something much larger in scope than this temporary life. Remember, this too will pass.
Understand God is getting to know you by your commissions and omissions. You are constructing your legacy as you live. Remembering that Jesus Christ is returning to resurrect and reward will help you achieve and maximize that “long-term” objective of entering into His Kingdom.
By Bill Watson
Here is our booklet with more about the Return of Jesus