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11 December 2017

When Jesus got raptured.

He doesn’t say. Not that this stops us from guessing.

On 15 May, in the year 33 (if we take Luke’s count of 40 days Ac 1.3 literally, and not as an estimate) this happened.

Acts 1.6-11 KWL
6 So when they came together, the apostles questioned Jesus:
“Master, is it at this time you’re restoring the Kingdom of Israel?”
7 Jesus told them, “It’s not for you to know times or timing.
That, the Father sets by his own free will.
8 But you’ll all get power: The Holy Spirit is coming upon you.
You’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the world.”
9 Saying this as they watched him, Jesus was raptured.
A cloud concealed him from their eyes.
10 While they were watching him go up into the sky,
look!—two men in white clothing stood by them.
11 The men said, “Galileans, why’d you stand looking at the sky?
This Jesus, raptured from you into the sky like this,
will come back like you saw him go into the sky.”

Christians call this Jesus’s ascension, and celebrate it on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter (and 10 days before Pentecost Sunday). ’Cause it’s when Jesus went up, ascended, into heaven, to stand in service or sit in judgment, at the Father’s right. Ac 2.33, 7.55-56

But the reason I bring up Jesus’s ascension today isn’t to remind you he’s in a position of authority and intercession. It’s the bit the two men said after the students realized they weren’t alone in watching Jesus rise up into the sky. Yes, Jesus went up. But at some point he’s coming back down.

What goes up must come down.

Luke called ’em men. Historically Christians have taught these were angels. Doesn’t matter their species. The Holy Spirit had informed them, and they informed the students, that Jesus is returning. That’s the message they passed along to the first Christians, and the first Christians to us.

He “will come back like you saw him go into the sky.” Ac 1.11 That’s consistent with how Daniel of Babylon described his vision of the Son of Man coming with the heavenly clouds. Da 7.13 Sounds like he’ll appear in the sky. So that’s the idea many of the Pharisees of Jesus’s day had about how Messiah would arrive to take power: Not showing up in a caravan from the Galilee, but bursting from the heavenly plane to the earthly plane, ripping a hole in the heavens large enough to see God through.

In any event we Christians teach the very same thing: The sky will go black, Messiah will appear in it, and everybody will see it.

Since Christians (heck, humans) tend to be a bit literal-minded, tradition has it that when Jesus returns, he’ll land on the very same mountain he ascended from. That’d be Mt. Olivet, Ac 1.12 also called the Mount of Olives. The Jews also have a tradition that Messiah will come to that mountain, which is why they’ve put a massive cemetery there: If Messiah’s gonna raise the dead, may as well put them in a convenient spot for him!

At the same time, we who are Jesus’s followers will likewise get raptured to join him:

1 Thessalonians 4.16-18 KWL
16 With a commanding shout, with the head angel’s voice, with God’s trumpet,
the Master himself will come down from heaven.
The Christian dead will be resurrected first.
17 Then, we who are left, who are still alive,
will be raptured together with them into the clouds,
to meet the Master in the air.
Thus, we’ll be with the Master—always.
18 So encourage one another with these words!

From there, Jesus and his new entourage of several billion Christians and angels will march to Jerusalem, and claim his city. And his world.