Over 150 years ago, Anne Richter wrote, “We walked not with the chosen few who saw Thee from the earth ascend, who raised to heaven their wondering view, then low to earth all prostrate bend.” Luke tells us of their threefold action after “He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” They worshipped, greatly rejoiced, and continually praised God (Luke 24:52-53). They were transformed. In short order, they move from melancholy to merriment. The book of Acts shows us that this did more than lift their spirits. It redrew their focus. They were continually devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14). They appoint a successor to Judas (Acts 1:15-26). Then, they went out and preached the gospel, starting a spiritual revolution that continues to this day (Acts 2ff).
As Richter wrote in her hymn, we did not see this with our physical eyes as those men did, “But we believe that human eyes behind that journey to the skies.” In fact, we order our whole lives by standing on that foundation of hope. We believe what the messengers told the apostles, that “this Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
In our materialistic, secular, and fleshly world, where people pursue the physical and immediate, we truly do as Paul said we should. We keep seeking the things above (Col. 3:1-2). We are not literally looking up at the clouds and sky, but we figuratively do this. Prayer and worship are done with the knowledge that Jesus is at the right hand of God. We live in the earnest expectation that He is going to come just as He went. With all our being, we believe that in just one moment everything will be eternally changed with a trumpet sound and all the dead rising (1 Cor. 15:52). He will descend with an otherworldly shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God (1 Th. 4:16).
What should this knowledge produce in you and me today? How should it change the course of this 24 hours and all the days that come after it? Let Peter, who was one of those present the day Jesus went back to heaven, tell us. Jesus “has caused us to be born again to a living hope…” (1 Pet. 1:3). You and I who live this side of Christ’s ascension anxiously await the moment the trials and troubles of this life are obliterated by eternal life and joy. If we embrace that truth, it will transform us the way it did the early disciples. The world will get turned upside down!