1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. 3 After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.”
6 So when they met together, they asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 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.”
7 “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.”
8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. 9 But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”
10 Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. 11 Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.”
12 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. 16 I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. 18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
It’s a pity that Ascension Day doesn’t receive the attention and acknowledgment that it should these days. It’s no longer a public holiday in many countries, including ours, but you have to wonder why so few Churches hardly recognise the importance of the ascension of Jesus as part of the great story of God’s salvation of mankind anymore.
The greatest event in the history of the world was the coming of Jesus into the world. The eternal God, the creator of the Universe, took on frail human flesh and He came into our world. Amazing.
And yet, there is another very important event in the future, the greatest of all future events, that we have been promised: the second coming of Christ.
Jesus came to this earth in human form. He was put to death at a very early age on a Roman cross. He was buried and resurrected from the dead. He remained on earth a further 40 days and then He ascended back to heaven where He now reigns as Kings of Kings and Lord of Lords. And one day He will come back. The Bible does not say He will ever walk on this earth again. But the angels who appeared to the disciples at the ascension made it very clear that Jesus would return in exactly the same way that He left. “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.” In the words of the song we have just sung, “Behold He comes, riding on the clouds.”
Throughout the New Testament we are told of the certainty of Jesus’ return. He said Himself in John 14, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
The apostle Paul taught that He is coming back. He wrote in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels: He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
2 Peter 3:10 says, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.”
Revelation 1:7, “Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of Him. So shall it be! Amen.”
And there are many other references to the absolute certainty that Jesus will return. We have the wonderful privilege of living in what is sometimes called the age of grace, between the two great comings of Jesus. He came the first time two thousand years ago and He is coming again someday.
But why is He coming back? The only way we are able to make sense of the promised return of Jesus, is to see His return as part of the greater story of God’s perfect plan of redemption and salvation. Too often we divide up the story of Jesus into compartments. In December we look at His birth, In March and April we focus on His death and resurrection. As important as it is to be reminded of these crucial events, the danger is that we easily miss the greater overall picture. The birth, death, resurrection, ascension and return of Jesus is one story, and each chapter in that story is as vital as all the others. So when we see the promised return of Jesus as part of God’s overall master plan of salvation, the purpose of His return makes a lot more sense.
And it will help to understand the reason for His return by looking first at some of the things He will not do on His return.
Firstly, Jesus will not come back to warn, teach, or invite. He did that when He came the first time. When He was here He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
He is not coming back to set us an example of godly living. He gave us an example when He was here before. As He said in John 13:15, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” He has already given us a perfect example, and we don’t need an example again. We are simply called to follow in His footsteps and live and behave as He did.
When Jesus comes again He is not coming to die for our sins. Never again will He have to go into the Garden of Gethsemane and pray. Never again will He be beaten with a whip. Never again will He have to take the cross out toward Calvary and fall underneath its weight. Never again will they drive nails into His hands and feet and lift up the cross and let Him die on it. The atoning death of Jesus transcends time, in that it atones for sins past, present and future. He made the sacrifice for our sins once and for all.
He is not coming back to set up His kingdom.
In fact, He did not come the first time to set up an earthly kingdom either. He said to Pilate in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Instead, He taught that the Kingdom of God is within us. Jesus wants to rule in your heart, not on an earthly throne, and this is why we need to be born again to come the Kingdom. Some 600 years before Jesus’ life the prophet Daniel wrote, “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed.” During His life Jesus established the Church, and it is in and through the Church that the Kingdom of God is lived out. We are part of that spiritual kingdom – the Kingdom of God.
At Pentecost, the day the Christian Church began (and this will be our focus next Sunday), God’s Kingdom truly took hold of the hearts of men, and we are so privileged to be part of the ongoing work of the Church which began with Peter and the other apostles.
Jesus spoke to His disciples about this at His ascension, and just 10 days later the Spirit came on the Church in power.
In Colossians 1:13-14 Paul says that God “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
The purpose of both Jesus’ first and second comings is not to establish an earthly kingdom, but to bring into reality the Kingdom of God – the eternal kingdom that He will rule and reign over for all time.
So why is He coming? He is coming as the conquering King and as the Judge. He is coming to raise the dead. Jesus said in John 5:28-29, “A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out - those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
According to Matthew 25, all the nations of the world will be gathered before Him for judgment. Acts 17:31 says God “has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
What is He going to do when He comes? He is going to raise the dead, and He will separate the saved from the lost. He will reward the saved and the lost will go away into everlasting damnation. On that day of days Jesus’ words in John 14:6 will finally make sense. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father, except through me.” On that day all the deceptions and empty man-made philosophies and hollow religions will be exposed, and there will be only two kinds of people: Saved and lost.
It’s not a popular thing to proclaim in the modern world, but the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is clearly taught in Scripture. Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power on the day He comes to be glorified in His holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.”
So when Jesus returns, the dead will be raised up, and the saved will be separated from the lost. Christians who are alive at the second coming of Jesus will be caught up in the air. This is where we get the term ‘rapture’. Those alive who have accepted salvation in Christ are going to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air to be with Him forever.
So just where is heaven? We don’t know, but we do know it won’t be on this earth because the Bible teaches that at the end of time the earth and everything in it will be destroyed by fire. We hear the phrase “heaven on earth” sometimes, but Heaven will not be here. It will be somewhere else, in a different geographical place, but also in a totally different dimension.
When Jesus returns, He is coming for His bride, the Church, and all those who have rejected Him, will be turned away into everlasting torment.
When is His coming going to take place? The Bible does not tell us. Throughout the ages people have tried setting dates but no-one knows when He will return. Even the angels don’t know. If there’s one thing we do know about the return of Jesus, it will be unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.
One of the greatest tragedies we see in the world is that people are not living as if they expect Jesus’ imminent return. Instead, as Peter says, “You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this coming He promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”
So many people live as if this life is all there is, but the Bible tells us that this life as we know it will come to an end. Not only does it tell us about Jesus’ return, but we are encouraged to look forward to it.
I know I’ve asked this question before, but it is worth asking again: If you knew that Jesus was going to return or that you were going to die in the next 24 hours, how differently would you live your last day?
Whenever someone dies unexpectedly, you often hear people saying things like, “You just never know when your time will come.” Yet we never really contemplate that truth as if it may well be our turn tomorrow, do we? It’s really quite strange if you think about it. In an uncertain world where we cannot tell what each day will bring, the one thing that we do know is coming, is the one thing we prefer to ignore.
But as Christians we are called to be different. We are to live as if we’re just passing through, knowing that our true home is heaven, trusting and believing that Jesus will come again to take us home.
Are you looking for Him? Would you like Him to come today? Would you be ready if He did? And what if He’d come last night? Where would you be right now had Jesus returned yesterday? These are crucial questions that we need to be able to answer. We can know with absolute certainty that Heaven is or home, but only in and through Jesus Christ. There is no other means of salvation.
There is no greater truth that should have a greater effect upon our living than the truth of the second coming. The apostle John encourages us with these words in 1 John 3:2-3: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
This should be our incentive and our motive for living today. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
I’m sure you’ve heard the word maranatha before. It’s an Aramaic word that means “the Lord is coming” or “come, O Lord.” The early Church faced much persecution, and life for a Christian under Roman rule was not easy. The Romans required everyone to declare that Caesar was god. The early Christians knew that there is only one God and one Lord - Jesus Christ - and in all good conscience they could not call Caesar “Lord,” so the Romans regarded them as traitors, persecuted them, and put many of them to death.
Living under those adverse conditions, the Christians’ morale was lifted by the hope of the coming of the Lord. “Maranatha!” became the common greeting of the oppressed believers, replacing the Jewish greeting shalom (“peace”). The followers of Jesus knew there would be no peace because Jesus had told them so. But they also knew the Lord would be returning to set up His kingdom – the true spiritual kingdom, and from that truth they drew great comfort. They were constantly reminding and being reminded that the Lord is coming. Jesus taught several parables on this same theme of watching and waiting and being prepared for His return.
Today as Christians we are to live our lives in the light of the knowledge that He can come at any time. We are to be ready when the call comes. Every day we should expect Him to come, and every day we should long for Him to come. Maranatha reminds us to keep our eyes on the eternal things of the Spirit. To dwell on material things is to be in constant mental turmoil. Looking down, we see the earth; looking around, we see earthly things. But looking up, we see the hope of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Are you discouraged today? Maranatha!
Are you worried today? Maranatha!
Are you filled with anxiety over the problems you are facing today? Maranatha! Our Lord is coming!
Listen to these closing verses of the Bible once more:
“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus. Do you want Him to come today?
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Acts 1:9-11
The disciples are sometimes criticised for “looking up into the sky,” rather than focusing on the work they needed to be doing for the Kingdom, yet the Bible teaches us to “look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” (2 Peter 3:12)
Discuss how we should get the balance right between working for Jesus now while anticipating and looking forward to His return.
Read 2 Peter 3:3-7
The second coming of Jesus is promised throughout the New Testament, yet so many people (including many Christians) live as if there is nothing beyond this life.
How should we live, and how can we guard against being among the “scoffers” as Peter describes the doubters?
If you knew that Jesus was returning or that your life would end in the next 24 hours, what changes would you making during your last day?
Read Revelation 22:7-21
Discuss some of the many warnings and promises we find in this passage, and how these things should affect the way we live.
Close by praying that Jesus would remind us each day of His promised return and our eternal home in Heaven.