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Stop Staring into Heaven

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

            Acts 1:9-11 NASB

People often use this passage of scripture to talk about Jesus’ return, emphasizing that “He will come in just the same way as you watched Him go.” But the message of the angels was not “be ready for Jesus’ sudden return” (whatever being “ready” for that day might mean) but “Stop starting into Heaven. You have work to do.”

Jesus’ ascension is not about a physical journey through space but about Jesus taking his rightful place in the cosmos on the throne next to His Father in Heaven. Jesus “ascended” as kings do to a throne. The point of Jesus taking His throne is so His people can carry out His purpose with the knowledge that His power and authority are secured for all time. The first object of a kingdom is to ensure the throne. Jesus secured the throne through the cross and resurrection. So, now the King’s subjects must work to bring the rest of the kingdom into subjection to the King’s will.

When the angels said, “He will come again,” we should read that as “He will appear again.” Jesus said, after all, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20. So, Jesus is already with us. One day, the veil between Heaven and Earth will be obliterated, and Jesus will be visible once more, but rest assured, Jesus is already with us, which is the angel’s point.

If Jesus went away in the sense of leaving Earth to go a long way away to Heaven, then we are really in trouble. Jesus said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5. Maybe the reason so much of the Church does nothing is because we don’t believe Jesus is with us. But that is not what Jesus said. Jesus said He is with us “always.” The writer of Hebrews also reminds us that He has promised to “never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5. We should not read Acts 1:11 as though Jesus must “return” to us in the sense of being absent and coming to us after a long journey. We should read “come again” in the sense of returning to the visible plain. The point of the angel’s message, after all, is “stop staring into Heaven and get busy!” The urgency of the angel’s message is that Jesus has already assured the disciples of His constant presence. They don’t need to try to stare into Heaven in wonder and worry about Jesus. He is with them. Settle that fact in your heart and get to work in confidence.

In present-day America, at least, Satan has had great success in handcuffing, silencing, distracting, deceiving, manipulating, and intimidating the Church into ineffectiveness. It’s time to make the devil fear us again. Stop starting into Heaven, the future, or the TV screen. Get an assignment from Heaven and work at it as if Jesus is with you…because He is, always.

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