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God’s Word for You

Acts 1:10-11 in the same way you have seen him go

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, August 12, 2019

10 They were looking intently into the sky while he went. Suddenly, two men in white clothes stood beside them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

The word atenizo (ἀτενίζω) means to “look straight at; fix one’s eyes upon” a thing. It is a physician’s term, and while Luke’s writings might not be quite so inundated with medical terminology and some have claimed, it is interesting to note some of these words when they appear. A physician might be concerned to meet a patient with a “fixed gaze,” as if some trauma had occurred. Here, the disciples can surely be pardoned for their intent stares as they watched their teacher and friend rise into the air and vanish into a cloud. It is a further curiosity to see how many paintings of the ascension have twelve disciples gazing up into the sky rather than eleven (Matthias will not be added to their number until the end of the chapter).

The two men who were suddenly standing there with them were angels; this is shown by their white clothes, a choice that must have been so rare in their culture as to be remarkable. White shows purity, holiness, and worthiness (Isaiah 1:18; Revelation 3:4); in some contexts it shows a pure (and simple?) life (Ecclesiastes 9:8). Jesus’ clothes gleamed white in the transfiguration (Matthew 17:2), and other angels we meet in the Bible are dressed in white. These two witnesses call the disciples “men of Galilee,” a title which told the disciples that these “men” knew who they were. Combined with their message about the Lord’s return, they needed no other proof as to their identity.

What does it mean that the Lord will come back “in the same way you have seen him go into heaven”? Simply this: The return of Jesus will be visible, seen by mankind. He will not come the second time the way that he did the first time, born of a woman, but as the returning Son of God, descending out of the sky and out of the clouds. The return of Jesus is prophesied this way:

  “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.” (Revelation 1:7)

The return of Jesus on the Last Day will surpass his ascension in its glory and majesty. “The Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels” (Matthew 16:27). His return will surpass what once were the laws of physics. The natural universe will be unraveling even as Jesus returns, so that “the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). All the world will see him at once, not in the way the sun passes over Asia and Australia first, followed by Europe and Africa, and finally the Americas. No, Jesus will be seen by all at the same time. How this will be possible will be simplicity itself for God even though it transcends human understanding. Perhaps, and this is only a single thought, as the world is unmade but not yet fully destroyed, Jesus will descend at a moment when the globe will be turning inside-out, and we will all see him at once the way all the cereal in a bowl could witness the milk as it is poured.

The signs of his return are given in the Bible, and they will take place (1) in the world, (2) in nature, and (3) in the church. In the world, there will be “wars and rumors of wars…nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Mark 13:7,8). In nature “there will be earthquakes in various places, and famines” (Mark 13:8). In the church, there will be false teachers (“many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many,” Mark 13:6). There will also be a falling away from faith in general, and the rise of the church’s great enemy, the Antichrist (1 John 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10). But at last, when Jesus comes in his glory, he will raise all of us who have had faith in him. He will raise us from the dead, lift us up to heaven, and we will give glory to his name for ever and ever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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