Acts 1:9-11 (ESV)
9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
This very familiar passage which I worked through on Sunday reminded me of something that I find quite important. Jesus will return. That return will be literal, physical, and visible. And, that return has most certainly not happened yet.
Sadly, I have recently been reminded that there are those in and among the global church who teach that the prophesied return of Jesus Christ has already taken place. Unbeknownst to many, that return is supposed to have been a spiritual occurrence, invisible to our mortal eyes. To some, this happened at the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD.
In general I would not take any time to write about this topic except for the fact of the verses I recently read and the fact that some are doing harm to the body of Christ by misleading others.
When Jesus left his disciples in Acts 1, he was literally, physically, and visibly lifted up into heaven before their eyes. The disciples stared in amazement. Angels came from God to pry them from the spot and to get the disciples moving again. But, the angels left the disciples with the promise that Jesus, the very same Jesus, would return in the very same way as the disciples just saw him leave.
What is the promise of those angels? The promise is that Jesus will return. How? He will return literally, not figuratively, because he left literally, not figuratively. He will return physically, not spiritually, because he left physically, not spiritually. He will return visibly, not invisibly, because he left visibly, not invisibly.
While I do not deny that 70 AD is a very big year in human history, and I do not deny that prophesies in the New Testament may well refer to the temple’s destruction, Jesus has not returned yet in the same way that the disciples saw him go. Jesus will come again. This was the hope of the disciples, and it is the hope of our faith. While Jesus may be raining as king—his kingdom has come—we also know that Jesus will reign as king—hiss kingdom will come.
What did this truth do the disciples? It led them, not to gaze at the heavens and try to predict Jesus’ return, but instead to get back to work. They were to be filled with the Spirit of God and communicate the message of God as they obeyed the revealed will of God. What are we to do? We are to yield ourselves to the Spirit of God as we are filled with the word of God, as we preach the word of God, and as we obey the commands of God. And, like the apostles, we can look forward to the promise of God, yet to be fulfilled, that the Lord will return just as the men saw him depart, and we will all see it happen.