Today, we pick up our study through the book of Acts in verse six.
VERSE 6: When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? It is obvious that the apostles were still looking for an earthly kingdom. To them, nothing had changed. They were still expecting the kingdom to come at any time just as they had been expecting and proclaiming all along. Remember the first words of John the Baptist and our Lord? Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mat 3:2; 4:17). Their message stayed the same as they kept their sights on the Lord's promise to them that they would sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Mat 19:28) when he restored the kingdom.
VERSE 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. Notice that he did not correct them, but instead, he just said that it was not for them to know at that moment.
VERSE 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. Yet, while he refused to elaborate on the timing of the restoration of the kingdom, he did tell them that when it did come, it would be preceded by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost who would come and empower them to take the message to Jerusalem and beyond just like he told them in Matthew 24:14 when he said, and this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. We are all too good at taking this verse and applying it to the church today.
VERSE 9: And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. At this point, a question needs to be asked. Why did Jesus have to ascend? After all, why didn't he just stay and help the newly commissioned apostles complete their task? I believe that Ephesians 4:9-10 answers this when it says, now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. No doubt, we could get lost in the weeds in those two verses, but the latter part says that he might fill all things. The word fill means to make full or to complete. In other words, while the apostles were doing their part on earth, he was to do his part in redeeming the earth back unto himself, e.g., Revelation 5:5, or as foretold by his Father in Psalm 110:1 until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
VERSES 10-11: And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 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. In the previous verse, we saw that a cloud received him. Now we see two men in white apparel. This lends itself to the fact that this cloud may not be atmospheric, but instead, heavenly hosts. In fulfillment of the promise by these two men, the Lord will also return with the clouds. Jesus said in Matthew 26:64, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Also, in Matthew 24:30 he said, and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Also, The Apostle John wrote in Revelation 1:7, Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. Remember also that those who are with him at his return, you and I, will be clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
One final note on the clouds. They are present at the rapture of the church as well. In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, Paul said, 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. Also, the two witnesses that give their lives during the Tribulation ascend up to heaven in a cloud (Rev 11:12).
I also find it interesting that the angels asked them "why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" It is almost like they are saying, "Hey, he is going to do his part, you guys need to get moving to do yours now as well!" What was their part? - To continue proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom as told in Matthew 24:1-31.
On a side note, we need to stop reading the church into Matthew 24, or the rest of the Gospels for that matter. Always remember that while the promises for Israel are earthly in nature (Luke 19:11-28), e.g., a throne, a land, and a kingdom; the promises for the church are heavenly. Paul reminded the Philippians that their citizenship was in heaven (Php 3:20). As the Body of Christ, our future is heavenly and not earthly.
Finally, notice once again that the Lord shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. As I mentioned before, he left with clouds and he will return with clouds. However, he will also return to the same place from which he departed: the Mount of Olives (Zech 14:4, 9).