On Various Subjects
By Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
Text: Acts 1:6-11. "When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him (Jesus), saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7 And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power.
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
9 And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
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."
Introduction: How long has it is since you gazed into the heavens, and let your imagination run free? Sometimes on a cloudy day, I look at the clouds and see shapes that remind me of all sorts of things. For example, look at this cloud. (Insert picture of cloud.) What do you see? I see a winged horse.
In our text, Jesus has completed His post-resurrection ministry, and as He stands on the Mount of Olives, a cloud appears in the sky. We are not told the shape or size of this cloud. The King James translation pictures Jesus suddenly rising into the air. Verse 9 says, "He was taken up (hoisted up)." In the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in China, a man did this kind of thing with cables. He ascended to the top of the stadium, to light the Olympic torch. It was impressive! Jesus did not need cables and He most likely ascended higher than an Olympic stadium. We are not told how high Jesus ascended, when this cloud met and received Him in the air. There are other English translations that say that the cloud simply obscured, or hid Jesus from their sight. Obviously, Jesus did not need a cloud to assist Him in His return to heaven, but I like to see Jesus stepping onto that cloud. If we stepped on to a cloud, we would fall right through, but not Jesus. What a sight!
Verse 10 tells us that those who witnessed this event, were totally absorbed. They stood there following Jesus in or on the cloud with their eyes, until He was just a speck in their sight! Today, we could compare this to a space shuttle launching. People at the launch site follow the space shuttle until it is out of sight. This must have been the case on that special day when our Savior returned to heaven in the sight of His disciples.
Jesus ascended into heaven! Actually, Jesus traveled past the atmosphere into space, or the second heaven, where the space shuttle orbits, along with the countless stars, planets, galaxies, and on into the third heaven. In II Corinthians 12:2, the apostle Paul recounts his out of the body experience, his soul flight to the "third heaven," where God dwells. Paul writes, "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth)." Those who stood on the Mount of Olives that day, could not see into the third heaven. Their eyes lost Him in the atmosphere of the first heaven. The hubble telescope could have followed Jesus into the second heaven, but eventually they also would lose sight of Him.
As those faithful disciples followed Jesus as He ascended into heaven, perhaps they remembered His words recorded in John 14, "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. 3 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." Wow! It is no wonder these followers of Jesus Christ stood there on that day gazing into heaven. They were letting their imaginations run free. Heaven is a real place! Heaven is a wonderful place! Heaven is a place prepared for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. In II Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul called it "paradise," a Persian word that describes the exquisite garden or park of a king. Verse 4 reads, "How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." Paul saw and heard things that mortal words could not begin to describe! A poet once wrote, "When surrounded by the terror of the darkest night, ...untold waves before you roll. At the end of this long journey is a shining light, ...and death is swallowed up in victory! But, just think of stepping on shore, ...and finding it heaven. Of touching a hand, ...and finding it God's. Of breathing new air, ...and finding it celestial. Of waking up in Glory, ....and finding it home."
It is no wonder these two angels dressed in white who were present, had to bring the disciples back down to earth! They probably stood there gazing into the sky long after Jesus had vanished from sight. In verse 11, the two angels asked them why they were still standing, looking into heaven. They went on to assure them that this same Jesus would one day return in much the same way. The apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 4, informs us by the Spirit of God, that Jesus will catch us up and out to join Him and His heavenly host in the clouds. I Thessalonians 4:17 says, "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 of our angelic friends in verse 11, "...why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" came as a gentle, but firm rebuke. They weren't denying the reality of heaven with all of its glory, nor the return of Jesus Christ to one day take us there. In a sense, they were saying, "Heaven is great, but not now! Heaven can wait! There is a better way to invest your time and resources!"
In the summer of 1978, a movie was released entitled, "Heaven Can Wait." The story was about a quarterback for the L.A. Rams, who was prematurely called to Heaven after a traffic accident. When archangel, Mr. Jordan discovered the error, (evidently mistakes happen in this version of heaven) he offers to return his body, only to find that it has been cremated. On the verge of playing in the Super Bowl, the disembodied quarterback demands to be returned to the earth, and fit with a suitable body. The craziness ensues from there, but the message is clear, "Heaven can wait, at least until I win the Super Bowl!" Incidently, former Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Fare is staring in a movie entitled, Retirement Can Wait!
What is more important than going to heaven? What is more important than trying to determine the day or the hour of Christ's return? The answer is given in verse 8 of our text. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Someone has said that when Jesus returned to heaven, He did not assign us to the date setting committee, but to the preparation committee! We are left here on the earth, to prepare people to meet God!
In verse 8, Jesus is restating the promise to empower His church to take the gospel to every creature. The church which consisted of the apostles minus one Judas Iscariot, plus other baptized believers, the number totaling 120, had assembled in Jerusalem and were waiting for the fulfilment of this promise, as commanded by Jesus Christ. In the gospel of Luke 24:49, Jesus had said, "And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." The promise was a baptism in or with the Holy Spirit, administered by Christ Himself from heaven. On the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2, this took place! Today the church stands empowered to take the message of the gospel to everyone! As individual members of His body, we are to be witnesses! Acts 1:8 says, "...ye shall be witnesses unto me." Heaven as wonderful as it is, can wait! Right now, we are to be witnesses!
What is a witness? S. Briscoe in his book Getting Into God said, "A witness is someone who by explanation and demonstration, gives audible and visible evidence of what he has seen and heard without being deterred by the consequences of his action." A Christian witness is someone who has had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. The basic identity of a witness is an individual who says, "I know this is true. I saw it happen. I was there!" In a court of law, an individual cannot give as evidence here say or a carried story; it must be his or her own personal experience. So it is for a gospel witness. A witness for Jesus Christ is someone who is able to say, "I know Jesus Christ, I know He can and will save you because He saved me. I know, because I was there when it happened." This means that if you are saved, you are a witness for Jesus Christ! You do not have to memorize the Bible to be a witness! All you have to do is share what Jesus has done for you! You have Holy Spirit, witnessing power! We have read bumper stickers that say, ‘Honk if you love Jesus." A better bumper sticker would read, "Witness if you love Jesus; anybody can honk."
Who are we to witness to? The answer is given in verse 8b. It says, "...and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." This one verse actually serves as an outline for the entire book of Acts. The setting of Acts begins in Jerusalem, and from there moves to all Judaea, Samaria, and travels all the way to Rome and beyond! Praise God the gospel reached the shores of America, and eventually to the door of my heart!
Heaven can wait! Right now, we need to get our heads out of the clouds, out of ourselves, and concentrate on witnessing!
Heaven can wait! You need to be a witness in your Jerusalem, your home. Jerusalem represents your home, where you live and the people you know the best. Often this is the toughest mission field. Why? These are the people who know us all to well. They know our faults, our failures, and our fleshly ways! What a challenge this presents for us to live a transformed life at home among our family members and before our friends. Our first responsibility and mission field is our own family, our own children.
Heaven can wait! You need to be a witness in your Judea, your community. While we are to witness to our Jerusalem, we go in and out of our Judea everyday! Judea represents a larger community. It speaks of your city or region. As you go about your day, everyday, you cross the path of lost people everywhere. You see them in the shopping mall, at the post office, at the ballpark, the grocery store, or at the fast food restaurant.
We have a responsibility to witness to our Judea at the same time we are witnessing to our Jerusalem. Sometimes we can reach these people with a gospel tract. Sometimes we see a need and respond to that need with the love of Jesus Christ, which in turn opens the door to speak a word for Jesus Christ. Our God's Touch cards are designed to reach our Judea!
Heaven can wait! You need to be a witness in your Samaria, to people different from you. Samaria represents the people in your life who are different from you, who for one reason or another, you are not as comfortable to be around.
We might see them as a different race. Friday evening, at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games held in Beijing, China, the people and nations of the earth were represented! There were nations I never knew existed! God loves them all! Jesus Christ died for them all!
Actually, there is only one race. It is called the human race! Paul preaches in Acts 17:26-27, "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us."
Today every major city of the world, is international! God has brought the world to our door step! We can view ourselves as native citizens of Texas, complain and resent these people, or we can view ourselves as citizens of heaven and share the gospel with them! "For God so loved the world, not just a few, The wise and great, the noble and the true, Or those of favored class or rank or hue. God loved the world. Do you?"
These people might be of a different religion. There are as many religions in the world as there are nations! Most religions are attempting to be good enough, live good enough to transcend this miserable existence into a better life or state. We need to tell them of a God who loved us so much, He entered our world, became one of us, even died and rose again for us, so that we might have eternal life!
Heaven can wait! You need to be a witness to your ends of the earth, those out of the way places. Do you witness while on vacation? Do you witness on those out of town business trips? Do you witness at those times and in those places that seem so far removed from the power and influence of Jesus Christ? In Genesis 20, Abraham lied to Abimelech concerning his wife, because he reasoned to himself that the "fear of God" was not in that place. God ended up speaking to Abimelech instead of speaking through Abraham, who was supposed to be the "friend of God." Wherever we go, we need to be reminded that God is there. We have His power available to witness! The Greek word "power" in Acts 1:8 is dunamis (doo'-nam-is), which speaks of a supernatural power to penetrate, to convict, to convince, to transform hearts of stone into good soil! In Romans 1:16 it says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power (dunamis doo'-nam-is) of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
Heaven can wait! but there are people in our lives who cannot afford to wait much longer to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ! Just yesterday, Bernie Mac, a comedian died suddenly and unexpectedly. He was just 50 years old! Ask the Lord to help you live with a daily awareness to witness every chance you get! Heaven can wait, but we can't! We must be busy doing what God called us to do!