Luke wrote the book of Acts, as is evident from its opening verses of both books. He explains that in the forty days before Jesus ascended to heaven he had made it plain he was alive “after his suffering by many proofs” and that he talked “about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). There is so much in the writings of the prophets about God’s kingdom, (e.g. Daniel 2 which we read yesterday), it is clearly a worldwide kingdom. There is a wonderful future life awaiting followers of Christ.
Centuries later a belief in heaven going arose and the entire Christian message became corrupted. It is sad to see the attempts to support belief in heaven going when “no one has ascended into heaven except (Jesus)” (John 3:13).
Attempts to find examples of heaven going are made, such as Elijah, but we see in 2 Chronicles 21 that “a letter came to him (Jehoram) from Elijah the prophet” (verse 12), stating the judgement of the Lord upon him. So Elijah had been caught up into the sky to go to another place – but he still had a role to play in the Lord’s service.
There was an expectation among the disciples that Jesus would proclaim his kingship over Israel. They asked him, “Lord will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (verse 6) – probably his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey (John 12:12-16) only seven weeks previously was influencing their thinking.
He answers, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). Their task, he tells them, is to “be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (verse 8). That first generation received the Holy Spirit to help them preach; today’s generation has God’s word available in all languages to complete that task “to the end of the earth”. Jesus is specific, “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
When the end comes, let us make sure we are among those waiting for their Master, who, said the angels to the disciples as they gazed at his ascending figure, “will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (verse 11).