40 days after the resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven. His ascension is recorded in Mark, Luke and the book of Acts. It took place on a mountain top in the vicinity of Bethany according to Luke 24:50-51 “And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” Mark also adds in Jesus’ destination after His ascension, Mark 16:19 “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.” In the book of Acts, Luke, the author, gives us a more complete picture of this event. Acts 1:9-11 “And after He said these things, He was caught up as they looked on, and a cloud took Him up out of their sight. 10 While they were looking intently into the sky as He was going, two men in white clothing suddenly stood beside them, 11 who said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This [same] Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will return in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
The disciples who were focused on where Jesus went and the angels assured them that Jesus will return in the same way He left. Jesus had lovingly told them that He would send a helper to guide and empower them in His absence. Acts 1:7-8 “He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority. 8 But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.” Jesus wanted His followers to be about telling others of the kingdom and the good news of the salvation and forgiveness available to each one though Jesus. The promised Holy Spirit would come upon them in just 10 days at Pentecost and then the truth of Christ and His work would revolutionize the world!
Are you anticipating the return of Christ? Be encouraged with these words from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Are you telling others about your Savior as you wait? Be encouraged by Peter’s words: 1 Peter 3:15 “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” Be ready to tell others of your HOPE in Jesus!
Today we celebrate the birth of the Christ. His birth was foretold by the ancient prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born…” The place was foretold in Micah 5:3 “But you Bethlehem…”. He came to earth that day born as a human child, yet one who would lead a sinless life and die to save us from our sins. We believe that only God’s Son, Jesus, could satisfy Holy God and bring us back into relationship with God. Isaiah foretold in Isaiah 53:5 “But He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.” So where does that leave us? If we believe He was born miraculously as a man who was both fully human and fully God, and He was able to die to save us from our sins, what more is there for us to believe? He is coming again. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
As we celebrate Jesus’ birth, we need to remember the story does not end in the manger or at the cross. The story of the redemption of mankind will end with us living with God for eternity. Just as His first coming was heralded by angels so will His second coming. Just as His first coming was miraculous, awesome and breathtaking so will His second coming be worthy of King Jesus when we meet Him in the air.
What do these events say about God? God is eternal. God exists outside of time. He is not measured by anything. We measure time by the movement of the planets and stars, which God created. God has always been and always will be. No one is like Him. We are not eternal because we have a beginning and an end. Because God is eternal, He can give us eternal life. David described God in Psalm 90:2 “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, form everlasting to everlasting you are God.” John wrote in Revelation 4:8 “Holy, holy, holy is he Lord God Almighty, who was, and is and is to come.”
With our finite minds, the eternality of God is difficult to grasp. However, we can be assured that God is who He says He is and will do as He has planned for eternity. Jesus is the one who holds the key to our eternal life. John 4:13-14 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Come to Him this Christmas and be filled with His eternal blessing. Look past the manger, past the cross and look forward to His return!
As Paul begins his first letter to the Corinthian church, he introduces himself and then proceeds to tell them why he is thankful for them and their faithful witness for Jesus. Walk with me through 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 and put yourself in the place of a receiving Corinthian believer and see what Paul is saying to you too.
“I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Have you thought about the gifts God has given you in Christ? Who would give thanks for your serving them with your gifts of encouragement, love, peacemaking, hope, and joy? 5 Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. Okay, how active are you in your church? Do you go there with the intent of serving the body of Christ? 6 This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. 7 Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Knowing you have faith and gifts from God, are you serving with anticipation of His return? 8 He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 9 God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Through faith in Jesus we have all we will need to keep a steady course and await His return, are you living like He could come today? Are you doing things (praying, studying, worshiping) to keep you strong in your faith?
I thank God for Paul’s ministry, sacrifice and love for others that spills over to me generations later. He was committed and totally living in anticipation of Christ’s return. He wanted to encourage others to follow Christ completely knowing that Jesus equips every believer to complete the tasks He has prepared for their lives. How are you doing in giving thanks for your fellow Christians that serve alongside you at your church, workplace, or neighborhood ? Are you using your God given gifts to support the body of Christ and live a life filled with thanksgiving and praise?
May this November be a time of renewal and praise for you as you consider Christ and all He has done and given you to keep you strong for Him. May it overflow to others daily as you give thanks and serve Him.