Gazing into the Aether
As I’d just finished the Gospel of John, I prayed for guidance as to which book I’ll study next. I was lead to Acts. As if to underscore Harold Camping’s failed prediction of the Rapture, Jesus gives some sober instructions before he ascends into heaven.
The book opens with the author (likely Luke), introducing the text to his intended recipient, Theophilus, about how Jesus performed many more proofs of his resurrection, appearing to many throughout a period of 40 days, speaking mostly about “the kingdom of God.”
In Acts 1:4-5, Jesus instructs the Apostles to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit (not so much because the Holy Spirit couldn’t go elsewhere, but that he wanted the church to start spreading from there) to arrive. Because of this, the Apostles are excited. They ask him if he’s going to “restore the kingdom to Israel,” which is code for “Kick out the Romans and make things like the good old days of David.”
The reply Jesus gave was sobering:
“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalm, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)
Afterwards, Jesus ascends before their eyes, and the Apostles spend a good time gawking at the aether. Two angels then appear and tell them to stop gawking, and that Jesus will come back the same way.
It’s interesting that the angels here are described in a relatively simple, mortal-looking fashion (two men dressed in white) as opposed to Luke’s previous account of angelic appearances during the Resurrection in Luke 24:4 (two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning), and even the Old Testament visions of the Ophanim, Cherubim, and Seraphim (which were all very alien and terrifying in appearance.)
While I am no Bible scholar, I can’t help but notice the stark difference, especially since in the New Testament, such visions don’t appear again until Revelation. It’s like they’re saying that Jesus had already given all the signs necessary, and that from then on, Christ’s primary witness of who he was would be through mankind. Yes, miracles were still performed, and while more subtle now, I believe they still do happen. However, the sobering implication of this is that we Christians have to take our testimony seriously.
Yes, Mr. Camping has his good intentions for this, but what happens? Cynics and critics of Christianity instead get more ammunition to mock the body of believers as a whole, and they make no distinction between believers who believed in Mr. Camping’s numerology, and those who are much more sane and much more effective in their witness. I do not want to judge anyone as not being a true believer, but it’s pretty clear that Jesus here desires a much more fleshly and earthly witness of His goodness—us.
Instead of staring at the sky, we’d do better to obey Christ’s command: Receive the power of His Holy Spirit, and be His witnesses to lands nearby and lands far away.
Yes, Jesus will come again. Yes, the End Times are near, and while we cannot know for certain when they will happen and how the events will occur, they are far closer than many believe. However, brothers and sisters, let’s not be caught gazing into the aether when we can instead continue carrying His cross, speaking the truth in love, and humbly but boldly preach the Gospel, living lives deserving of that calling. That’s how the Church should be preparing for the End Times.