“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. And as they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, whom was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.’ -Acts 1:9-11
Today is Ascension Day, though, unless reminded, you might not think anything about it. After all, it is neither Christmas nor Easter, two rarely forgotten holidays. Jesus’ enemies really thought they had disposed of their “problem with His crucifixion, fabricated by lies as His guilty verdict was. So, these same patent liars’ reactions to an obviously empty tomb was to bribe the guards then falsely report that Jesus’ disciples had unsealed the large stone over the tomb entrance and stolen His body from under the noses of a military guard…highly improbable!
Jesus’ ascension from the earth 40 days after His resurrection is quite at odds with ordinary science, as is His virgin birth, resurrection, and the many miracles accompanying His ministry, including raising three from death. One ridiculous skeptic mocked that if Jesus had really ascended, then He would have gone into orbit. The supernatural is beyond the understanding of such.
His disciples actually observed Jesus’ feet and body leaving the surface of the Mt. of Olives and rising to a certain height before being enveloped in a cloud. But the disciples continued to stare after their Lord until two angels in white robes asked them why they were still looking up. “He will come again exactly as you have seen Him go, they told them.
The use of a cloud or clouds is not an unobserved event in the history of God’s dealings with His people. He led the escaping Israelites when they left Egypt by a pillar of cloud traveling before them and a pillar of fire at night, even preventing the Egyptians from overcoming them by that same pillar intervening when their backs were against the sea. The next morning, they would cross over a God-parted Red Sea into Arabia, most likely through the Gulf of Aqaba at a place marked by stone pillars placed there by King Solomon generations after.
A cloud covered Mount Sinai when God and Moses were on it, and Moses then returned with two stone tablets inscribed by God’s “finger with the Ten Commandments. A cloud also covered the Mount of Transfiguration on which stood Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, and Peter, James, and John, when a voice spoke from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, whom I love. With Him I am well pleased.
It is apparent from study of these cloud passages that God not only presents Himself within a cloud at various times, but He actually speaks from the cloud and uses the cloud to obscure while transacting a transfer from the visible realm of earth to the currently invisible realm of heaven or transverse. It is what God, whom no eye has seen, uses to hide from our eyes what we do not or cannot comprehend. You can question God about His choice to do this, but I think your best course of action is to trust Him and believe because of who He is! He has proven Himself worthy of trust and of faith.
So, Jesus ascended into the sky and was enveloped by a cloud before His eyewitnesses. Then we are told here and in a number of passages, including Revelation 1, that He will return with or on those clouds, and at that time alone, every eye will see Him. How is this so? I do not question the God of the universe, who alone knows what He is about.
Why celebrate Ascension Day? Because all will go through some form of it one day. All, believers and unbelievers, will move from the realm of earth to the realm of heaven and the final Judgment. This is true for those who die first and those who live until the Lord’s return. But it was your Lord who ascended first, the One who leads the way, making all possible for you and me to follow.
Ascension, just as birth, ministry, death, and resurrection, is worthy then of your meditation and celebration. In your ongoing sanctification, you are becoming like Him, as the Psalmist says, “When I awake I will be like Him, for I will see Him as He is.
“Hail the day that sees Him rise, Alleluia!
to His throne above the skies, Alleluia!
Christ the Lamb for sinners given, Alleluia!
enters now the highest heaven, Alleluia!
(First verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Hail the Day That Sees Him Rise, 1739)