I grew up in Florida, and I was in elementary school when the space program first got started. Every time there was a manned flight, they would dismiss classes for a few moments so we could all go out side and watch the rocket go up. Then we’d go inside and watch the rest on television. I remember how the rocket would go up on a massive column of smoke. Then there would be a small explosion as the second-stage engines fired and the empty booster rocket fell into the sea.
I notice that this didn’t happen when Jesus ascended into heaven on Ascension Day, the fortieth day of Easter. We do not find the following account in Scripture:
[Jesus] said to them, “It is good for you to guess the times and dates the Father has set by his own authority. So you will receive insight when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and the person who has the closest guess will win a special prize.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes. Suddenly there was a bright flash of light, and they saw his divine nature shoot up to heaven in a glorious streak of light, while his spent and lifeless human nature fell to the earth; discarded, because its purpose had been fulfilled.
They were looking intently up into the sky as this happened, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “You are right to stand here looking up into the sky! This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back the same way you have seem him go into heaven. Settle down, make yourselves comfy, and watch the sky for his return.”
—Acts 1:7-11, Reversed Fractured Version
Instead, it happened like this:
[Jesus] said to them, “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 Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid them from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.
“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.”
—Acts 1:7-11, NIV
One obvious lesson we can learn from this passage is that no one has the gift of guessing, estimating, calculating, or prophesying the date of Jesus’ return. It’s just plain none of our business. And as the angels said, there is no reason for us to stand gaping into the sky, because Jesus’ return will be public and obvious to all. Instead of gaping into the sky or burying ourselves in calculations, we need to busy ourselves with obedience. If we think that Jesus’ return is far off, then we should be grateful that we have time to show ourselves approved as worthy servants, who clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned, and save the lost. If we think that Jesus’ return is imminent, we should be working even harder to perfect our obedience before that great day.
But a more important lesson we can learn is that the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ is permanent. God took human flesh upon Himself in the manger, but He never discarded it.