"Men of Galilee" why are you standing here looking up into the heavens? 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.” Acts 1:11
According to Luke, Jesus had presented Himself alive from the dead “by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Acts 1:3
What unforgettable experiences for the disciples, seeing and hearing Jesus in His resurrection body, unmistakable proof that He had completely conquered death itself.
Just like the two disciples who walked with Him on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32), their hearts must have burned with excitement and wonder. He appeared to them in the upper room on resurrection day, and a week later, Thomas had the opportunity to touch the resurrection body of Jesus that bore the marks of His crucifixion, evidence that He had truly died and rose from the dead! (John 20:19-29)
Where did Jesus go? The idea of Jesus’ “heavenly enthronement” is laced throughout the N.T. epistolary traditions. Typical is Ephesians 1:20-23 (a reading for Ascension Day):
God’s great power was put to work in Christ when he was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and Power and Dominion, above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.
God has put all things under his feet and has made Christ head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all. (See also Rom 8:34; Col 3:1; 1 Pet. 3:22; and Hebrews no less than four times!)
Acts 1:11 tells us "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.”
The Rapture is a supernatural event where millions upon millions of born-again Christians will suddenly disappear from the earth. It is that moment in time when we will finally be united with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Rapture will begin when Jesus appears in the clouds above the earth. Christians who have already died will resurrect from their graves and be brought up to Him. Next, those believers who are still alive at that time are transported right off this earth, and are also taken up to meet Him.
Then there will be a huge, joyful reunion in the sky, of Christians from all nations and from every age in history with the Lord, who will then lead them to their home in Heaven.
Now, this sequence of events is based on the Word of God in 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 'For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.'
The words 'caught up' in v.17 is where the word 'Rapture' comes from, as Rapture is a Latin word which means 'seizing and carrying away'. Technically speaking, the Rapture is actually a different event from the Second Coming of Christ although they are often put together.
The Rapture is when Jesus comes in the air for His Church, but His feet will not touch earth. The Second Coming of Christ by contrast, when Jesus comes back to earth with His church and His feet stand on the Mount of Olives (Jude 14; Zechariah 4:14; Revelation 19:14).
In the Rapture, Christ comes to take His bride (which is the church) up to heaven so that the church can join in the Marriage Supper of Lamb (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:6-9), but at the Second coming, Christ will come to make War on earth with the armies of the world and the only supper will be the one enjoyed by the flesh-eating birds and vultures (Revelation 19:17,18).
In the Rapture, Christ will come down in the same way that he ascended up to heaven - without a horse (Acts 1:9-11), but at the Second Coming he will descend from heaven riding on a white horse (Revelation 19:11). These differences show that there are two separate events - the Rapture of believers comes first, and then 7 years after that, the final descent of Christ in His Second Coming.
Some of you may be wondering why the events have to happen in this way. Why should the Rapture be a separate event from the 2nd coming of Christ to earth?
Why do we have to be caught up to meet Christ in the air first? Why can't we just be allowed to remain on earth until Christ comes right down to the earth?
From the description of the Last Days in many Bible passages, we can see that God's purpose for the Rapture is to keep believers safe from suffering all the awful plagues and judgments that God will bring upon the world when the full fury of God's wrath is poured out on the people of the world (Revelation 16)
We cannot even begin to imagine the intense pain, sorrow, chaos and terror that all this will cause to people living on earth. No plague or natural disaster in the world can ever compare with these end-time judgments that earth dwellers will experience!
In fact, we have God's assurance given to us in 2 Peter 2:9 'The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.'
This assurance of divine protection is also demonstrated in His removal of Lot and his family from Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:12,13) just before His judgement rained down upon these sinful cities in the form of fire and brimstone.
How thankful those who were delivered must have been when they realized that they have been supernaturally spared by God from the awful destruction that befell all the rest.
The Rapture of believers was promised by the Lord Jesus Christ just before His crucifixion.
In John 14:2,3 He said to His disciples 'Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.'
Christ made this promise to His disciples when they were all troubled by the news that He was going to leave them. In a short while, He would be gone from them and they would see Him no more.
How they would miss Him then, and long for the Day when they can see Him once again. And this is precisely what Jesus promised that Day is coming.
Because of this promise the disciples can joyfully anticipate the time when Jesus will be back to receive them and take them to the mansions He has prepared for them in glory, and where they will never ever have to part with their beloved Master again. And this promise, which is as precious to us as it was to them, will be fulfilled at the Rapture!
"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."
Ascension Day falls on Memorial weekend 2022!