For the past several months, I have been doing my own personal studying through the Book of Acts. It has been amazing and I have learned so much. It is just so incredible how much more we are able to learn from God’s Word when we just read it much slower and really interrogate the text to get its full meaning and implication. Our lives as believers are not just about reading the Bible just to say that we do it, or as some may say, have done it, but rather it is about knowing God more and more each and every day. And it just so happens that God reveals Himself to us more and more as we meet Him in the Scriptures. The Bible is not just a book…it really is a Living Word. And I am so thankful that God has been revealing Himself to me more and more as I seek Him in the pages of Scripture.
So, here’s something that I have been pondering over for the past several days found in Acts 1: 3-11
After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
So, as I read this passage over and over, I kept imagining what it must have been like for the disciples to see Jesus taken up to Heaven in front of their very eyes. It must have been absolutely amazing, but at the same time, it must have been incredibly hard. I mean, they saw Him after His resurrection, so they knew that He really was God and that death could not keep him down. And it says that He spoke to them over a period of 40 days. So, they must have gotten used to seeing Jesus again. And now, even after He has been resurrected, He is now removed from them and the Scripture says in verse 9, “…and a cloud hid him from their sight.”
So, Jesus is gone from their sight, but He did not leave them without the things that they would need to live for His glory. First, He spoke to them for forty days. About what? About the Kingdom of God. He told them about the Kingdom of God and what the overall plan of God is. He did not give them all the specifics to the plan, but told them enough of what they would need to know in order to live their lives, suffer, and die for His glory. The disciples had hopes, based on their limited sight, that their dreams would come true of Israel being completely liberated from their Roman oppressors. They thought that the totality of Jesus’ ministry was to this end. They still did not have the complete understanding of the spiritual liberation and promise of eternity that Jesus lived and died for.
They asked Him, “Lord, are you now going to restore the kingdom back to Israel?” Notice their eagerness in this. They were hurting under Roman oppression. They yearned for freedom from this pain. But Jesus does not give them the direct answer of yes or no. He simply says, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.” They were hoping for an answer, but Jesus only gave them what they needed, and that was to know that it was not for them to know, but God alone. But He also told them that they would have all that they needed for this life to bring Him glory. He promised them the power of the Holy Spirit so that they could live their lives testifying to the glory of God. He assured them that this gift (The baptism of the Holy Spirit) from the Father was coming soon.
And that was it. Those were the last words they heard before He was taken up. And they looked and looked until “a cloud hid him from their sight.” After the cloud hid Jesus from their sight, they were still looking intently into the sky. Why? Because they wanted to see Jesus. They most likely did not want it to end like this, even though they were most likely prepared by God during those forty days that it would “end” like this. And that was it, right? No, Jesus loved them so much that He allowed two angels to appear to them and give them the assurance and confidence that the same Jesus, no other, who has ascended before them into the clouds, will come back again…someday.
The angels called the disciples “Men of Galilee”. Perhaps this was to remind them that they were not yet to be like Jesus ascended into the clouds, but are still of earthly dwelling. They were still to remember that, for a time, they are Galilleans living on this earth with the promise that one day, but not yet, they too would ascend from this earth to meet the Lord in Heaven. So, the angels were there to assure them of the faithful promise and also to ground them back to the reality of where they were. They could not stand forever looking into the sky to try and figure out Heavenly things. They had work to do. Besides, remember…the cloud hid him from their sight anyway. They couldn’t see what they really wanted to see. And it was after this encounter with the angels that they returned to Jerusalem to live their lives for the glory of God.
So, what does all this mean? Well, for me, it is very significant and I hope that the Lord can minister to you also through this passage.
For one thing, I have questions just like the disciples. The restoration of Israel was their greatest hope. It is what they had all been longing for. It would have really made their day. Yet, Jesus did not give them the answer that they hoped to get. I think about the struggle that I have since my little girl Susana was taken to Heaven. I don’t understand why it had to be like this. I wish God would answer me and show me how it is all going to play out in the end. I wish that somehow it didn’t have to happen this way. It is so hard. My days are often filled with tears when I am in the secret place before God. I wish it could have been different. My imperfect reasoning is like that of the disciples. I would say, “Lord, if you just allowed her to live, that would have really made my day.” Just like the disciples who were short sighted in thinking that the restoration of Israel was the greatest hope, so too my short sightedness is thinking that Susana remaining alive here on this earth would have been the greatest thing. God had a greater plan for the disciples, and God has a greater plan for me.
And just like Jesus told the disciples, so too I am told that it is “not for me to know what God has set by His own authority.” And just like Jesus also gave them what they would need to live, suffer well, and even die for His glory, so too He has given me the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit so that I too can live, suffer well, and one day die for His glory.
Also, it is worth mentioning that the hope that the disciples had was not completely off base. The truth is that one day God will fully restore the Kingdom, just not in the way that they were thinking. And so too with me, I must realize that God has indeed allowed Susana to live, for she is more alive than I am right now, and one day we will live together on the new earth, but just not now.
And after these things are shown to me, just like the disciples, I want to know more, but a cloud hides Him from my sight.
It is interesting to think about this cloud because normally in the scriptures (Old Testament) the cloud represented the presence of God. The children of Israel were led through the desert by the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. It meant that God was with them. The temple that was built unto the Lord was inhabited by God’s glory in a cloud. So, to me, the cloud would resemble the closeness and presence of God. And yet in this passage in Acts 1, the cloud now does the opposite – it prevented the disciples from seeing Jesus any longer. Well, I should say that it prevented the disciples from seeing into the glorified things as Jesus was ascending into Heaven. And I too have felt that a cloud has blocked me from seeing into the Heavens.
But God is good and He gives us everything that will be needed to live a life to bring Him glory. He spent 40 days with the disciples and spoke about the Kingdom. He told them that some things are simply not meant for them to know. He promised them the Holy Spirit, which would empower them and remind them of all that the Lord had told them. And He sent two angels to assure them that Jesus will indeed return in the same way that He was taken up. And that was all that they needed to live the rest of their lives trusting Him and His perfect plan even in the midst of such great pain and suffering.
And I also have been given what I need to live for His glory. He has given me His Word which enables me to know Him. He has given me the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, which now signifies that my body itself is the dwelling place of the third person of the Godhead. Yes, having two angels sent to me would indeed be awesome, but God has instead sent many brothers and sisters in the faith throughout the world that are there to encourage and assure me, as I am to them, that this same Jesus who is now, in some way, hidden from us by a cloud, will one day soon come back in great power and glory, and not only that, but we too, if we belong to Him, shall be taken up with Him into Heaven.
So, yeah, the cloud hiding Jesus from the sight of the disciples speaks a lot to me. I must realize that there are just some things that I also am not meant to know, but I can be assured that God has given me all that I do need to know to live a life here on this earth that will bring Him much pleasure and glory for His name. I wish that the cloud was not there. I wish that I could see directly into Heaven and see what my little princess is doing at this very moment. I wish that I was connected to Heaven completely. But God sees it best by His awesome wisdom to put a cloud between Heaven and myself. God sees it best to use the cloud to remind me that I am still here on this earth and I cannot just stand there gazing into the sky trying to look at something that He has hidden from my sight. No, I am still on this earth, and until He calls me home, I must be about the Father’s business, loving and trusting Him, and sharing His love and truth with others. But I know that one day the clouds will break and my faith shall be my sight, and I shall see Him as He is.
May we all be encouraged by these words…