The Ascension and Predicted Return Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Where else should they seek for Christ than in heaven; the place where they just watched Him go?
10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up,
Christ ascended gradually in order to bolster the faith, and delight the eyes and minds of His disciples. The spectators who observed our Lord's Ascension were thrilled by the wonder and spectacle of the experience. As He slowly disappeared into the sky, surrounded by a cloud (of Shekinah glory?), they continued “looking up stedfastly to heaven,” longer, perhaps, than would be expected for even this remarkable occasion, but why did they do it?
1. Perhaps they hoped that Christ would immediately come back to them to restore the kingdom to Israel, and they could not believe they would not see Him again in this life. They still greatly desired to have his bodily presence with them though He told them that it was expedient for them that he should go away. Or, they watch the place where He disappeared, because they thought he might be dropped to earth, like the sons of the prophets thought concerning Elijah (See 2 Kings 2:16); and if it happened they would have Him with them again.
2. Perhaps they expected to see some change occur in the heavens since Christ had gone from them; that either the sun should be ashamed or the moon confounded—“Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign...” (Isaiah 24:23; KJV), and they are being out-shone by His luster; or, perhaps, they thought that the sun would show some sign of joy and triumph; or perhaps they hoped to get a glimpse of the glory of the invisible heavens, when they opened to receive him. Christ had told them that hereafter they should see heaven opened—“And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (John 1.51; RSV)—and why shouldn’t they expect it now? This is a promise Jesus made to Nathanael, that because of his faith, he would see greater things than these. Jesus described these greater things by referring to the Old Testament story concerning Jacob’s ladder (Gen 28). Christ Himself was to be the Ladder between God and man since He was the Son of God (John 1:49) and the Son of man (John 1:51).
Why did Jesus ascend this way, or rather, why did He ascend at all? He certainly could have simply “vanished” and went to the Father’s presence in a secret sort of way. But by the ascension, Jesus wanted His followers to know that He was gone for good, because, He appeared and reappeared during the forty days after the resurrection.
Remember Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 16:7: It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. Now the disciples could know that that promise would be fulfilled.
behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
Two angels appeared to them in human form, like they did when He was resurrected—“And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments” (Luke 24:4; KJV)—and they brought them a timely message from God. There was a world of angels ready to greet our Redeemer, now that he made His public entry into the Jerusalem above. We may assume these two were sent to the disciples to show how much Christ was concerned for His church on earth. They appeared as two men in (bright and glittering) white apparel, to serve Christ by ministering to his servants on earth. Their white garments were a symbol of rare and exceptional dignity. God meant for their appearance to distinguish them from the common people so that the disciples would listen to them.
11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
Which also said,
Since Christ's resurrection had been honored with the appearance of angels, it is natural to expect that his ascension into heaven would receive a similar honor. The angels spoke of our Lord's coming to judge the world at the last day, a description of which he himself had given in his lifetime: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels” (Matthew 16:27).
Ye men of Galilee,
The angels said to them “Ye men of Galilee, etc.” I do not believe the angels used this phrase in an offensive and uncomplimentary way as if they meant to berate the apostles for their dullness. In my opinion, it was intended to make them more attentive; that men, whom they had never seen before, knew about them. And it also served to curb their curiosity: “You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven?” He calls them “men of Galilee,” to bring to their memory the rock out of which they were hewn. Christ had given them a great honor by making them his ambassadors but they must remember that they are men, earthen vessels, and men of Galilee, illiterate men, looked upon with contempt.
why stand ye gazing up into heaven?
But if they were being criticized for looking at the heavens, it was without a cause, since the Scriptures often tell us to do so. Besides, where else should they seek for Christ than in heaven; the place where they just watched Him go? The angels did not have a problem with them gazing at the heavens, but they did not condone their desire to see Christ when the cloud which was put between them and him kept them from seeing him with their bodily senses. Secondly, they disapproved of their desire for Him to return immediately to them, when Christ desired to remain in heaven until the time he would come to judge the world. Perhaps the lesson we may learn from this is that we must not seek Christ either in heaven or upon the earth, except by faith. We may be like the disciples in this respect, we often are astonished by the wonder and splendor of His works, but we seldom think about why He does something.
Now, this is what they said, "Why stand you here, like Galileans, rude and unsophisticated men, gazing up into heaven? What do you expect to see? You have seen all that you were called together to see, so why do you look for more? Why stand you gazing, like men who are frightened and bewildered, like men who are amazed and at their wits' end?" Christ's disciples should never simply stand and gaze because they have a sure rule to go by (the Gospel), and a sure foundation to build upon (Christ).
this same Jesus,
Their Master had often told them about this, and the angels are sent at this time to bring it to their remembrance, "This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, and whom you are looking for in the heavens, wishing you had him with you again, is not gone forever because God has selected the time in which He will come in like manner, as you have seen him go, and you must not expect him back until that chosen day." "This same Jesus will come again, clothed with a glorious body, this same Jesus, who came once to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, will appear a second time without sin—“For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb 9:26-28; KJV). He came the first time in disgrace to be judged; He will come again in glory to judge. The same Jesus who has given you your commission will come again to call you to account for how you have performed your duty, he, and not another"—“Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another…” (Job 19:27; KJV).