Alive, and returning to earth

Sometimes I wonder if the fascination I have with clouds and sky and the light of the heavens was birthed by what I have been taught since I was a little girl. Now I am an adult and, like you, must choose whether to believe the hope…or not. It might be that this point is the strongest test of our belief in what God has said to us.

This is the hope—the certainty—that Jesus is coming back to this earth. If we have this hope, it changes how we view all of life and death and what is happening in the world around us. It means there is more to come beyond the days we’re living now with jobs and bills and sickness and wars and governments and poverty…there is much more to come. And Christ’s return will usher in that new age.

Why do we believe this? Do we have evidence that this will happen? Does logic point toward this? Is there any anecdotal experience on which we can base our expectation?

Our hope rests on one thing: God says it will happen.

The disciples of Jesus were faced with the same challenge of belief. Let’s set the scene.

The followers of Jesus have had a few weeks to get accustomed to the idea that Jesus really did come back from the dead. Many have seen and talked with Him.

They’ve had an emotional ride over the last weeks. Heading into Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, Jesus had been greeted with cheering, worshipping crowds. A few days later, at a solemn, intimate supper, Jesus delivered two pieces of devastating news: He would be leaving them very soon, and one of them had sold Him out to His enemies. In less than 24 hours, everything exploded, Jesus’ ministry was done, and His lifeless body hung on the execution tree. They mourned and wondered, What now? And then they heard: Some of the women had seen Jesus. Alive!

Unbelievable, at first. But then they saw Him with their own eyes. Ate with Him. Walked and talked with Him.

Now they are finally convinced; He’s back.

One day they meet with Him. Is it now? they ask. Is now the time You will set up your kingdom?

An understandable conclusion. After all, He came back from the grave. Surely it was to exert His power and continue on with His mission.

Instead, He disappears in the clouds and leaves them.

Gone.

Now what were they to think?

God sends two angels who make a promise: “He will be coming back.”

Jesus had told them earlier, “I’m going away, but when everything is ready, I will come and get you.” (See John 14:3)

We hear His heart in His agonized prayer before His death, as He prays not only for His twelve close friends but for everyone who hears of Him and believes: “I want them to be with me where I am.” (See John 17:24)

The disciples constantly misunderstood Jesus’ mission and plan, right up to the day He disappeared into heaven. But clarity came when the Spirit, Jesus’ representative, entered their lives. Once the Spirit opened their eyes and understanding, we hear them say (well, okay, we read their letters) with confident and clear hope:

We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior (Philippians 3:20).

This hope is repeated over and over, like a clear bell ringing out through all the early Christian letters. He will be back!

That’s the hope of all children of God and citizens of heaven. The Jesus we follow is alive, and He is coming back to this earth.

 

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

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