9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Forty days after His Resurrection, Jesus presented Himself with “many infallible proofs.” He appeared to Mary at the tomb, to two disciples on the Emmaus Road, to the disciples in the upper room, to disciples at the Sea of Galilee, to the disciples again (including Thomas the doubter this time), and to 500 disciples near Jerusalem. Finally, He met with the 11 apostles in our passage.
Our Lord gave the last commission (Acts 1:8) in view of His imminent, pending Ascension. Verses 9-11 describe the Ascension itself. Three different verbs present the event: “taken up,” “received,” and “go into.”
Now when He [Jesus] had spoken these things, while they watched,
Verse 9 describes the audience who watched Jesus ascend into heaven.
He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
After the Lord disappeared through the cloud, He was gone, not to return until after thousands of years of dealing with the church.
And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up,
Luke used the term “heaven” four times in this verse and the next. Heaven is a literal place where our Lord went with a literal body (Rev 1:7). The 11 were wrapped in amazement at what they saw.
behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,
The “two men” here are angels who announced the promise of the Lord’s return.
who also said, “Men of Galilee [northern Israel], why do you stand gazing [Greek = steadfast gaze] up into heaven?
The two angels asked a rhetorical question, which set the stage for the angels to provide an eschatological future for the 11.
This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven,
One day Christians will see Jesus come again visually as the apostles saw Him leave.
will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
The angels described the Second Coming as similar to His Ascension. He left the earth bodily in the clouds, and He will return bodily in clouds, in clouds of great glory (Mk 13:26). This event will occur just before He sets up His Millennial kingdom (Zech 12:10; 14:14; Re 19:11-16). The angels, in effect, gave the 11 assurances that Christ would come back bodily to earth.
The Ascension of Christ marked the conclusion of His ministry on earth and the launch of the ministry of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the church.
It must have been quite an experience to see Jesus ascend from the earth and depart into the sky. On the other hand, it must have been a mighty welcome when Jesus returned to glory with finished redemption. A finished redemption was never true before the Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension. Once Jesus entered heaven, He sat down at the right hand of God the Father (He 10:12). The sitting down demonstrated the completion of redemption. Now our Lord resides in heaven, constantly intervening on our behalf (He 7:25; 1 Jn 2:1-2). Positionally, this means that the Lord seats the believer “in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 2:6). Now Christians have the resources to carry out the last commission of Christ (Acts 1:8).
The Ascension of Christ meant the end of His bodily ministry on earth and the launch of His followers who depend on the Holy Spirit. The Ascension put ministry in the hands of Christians, for them to carry out the mission of Christ. The angels rebuked the 11 for continuing to gaze into the sky, because unusual spiritual experience is transitory; we need to get on with the task. The church needs to finish the job the Lord began.