Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage begins with the forty-ninth verse of the twelfth chapter and continues through to the ninth verse of the thirteenth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find it coming directly on the heels of words which Jesus spoke concerning the last days, as well as His imminent return. That which you find within this particular set of verses come in the wake of Jesus speaking directly unto His disciples and followers concerning the last days and the incredible and tremendous need to make themselves ready and prepare themselves. In all reality we would be incredibly wise to pay close attention to the words found in this chapter located in the New Testament gospel of Luke. It is with these words we find Jesus the Christ speaking directly unto those who followed Him, as well as those closest to Him concerning the last days, as well as concerning the reality of His imminent return. In all reality, I can’t help but be incredibly gripped and captivated by what is written within the gospels during this particular portion of the ministry of Jesus the Christ, for if you read and study His words carefully you will find Him preparing His disciples for two very distinct realities—the first which would be His suffering, His death, His burial, and His resurrection. The gospels are replete with account after account of Jesus speaking unto His disciples concerning His suffering and death, and that He would be betrayed unto the hands of those who hated and opposed Him. At one point there came a time during the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ when He knew that His time had come and that the hour of His suffering and death had approached. Eventually and ultimately we read Jesus beginning to speak unto His disciples concerning His imminent suffering and that first He would be handed over into the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders in order that He would suffer many things. What’s more, is that Jesus also declared unto His disciples that He would be handed over into the hands of sinners where He would ultimately face—not only suffering, but also death. All of this would be set into motion by the betrayal of one of his own who would for thirty pieces of silver betray Him unto the hands of His enemies. What we must recognize and understand is that within the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ we find Him recognizing that His time had come and that He would in fact be betrayed unto the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders, and that as a direct result, He would suffer at their hands before being handed over unto sinners and gentiles where His suffering would take on a whole other level, and where He would ultimately be killed and crucified. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for one of the main realities Jesus prepared His disciples for was His betrayal, His suffering, and His death.
As you continue reading the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find that in addition to His speaking unto the disciples concerning His betrayal, His suffering and His death, He also spoke unto His disciples concerning the last days, and the reality that He would ascend unto the right hand of the Father and return unto the place of His glory. Jesus spent a considerable amount of time speaking unto His disciples concerning the last days and the end of times, and would declare unto them that He must needs ascend unto the right hand of His Father in heaven. As surely and as much as Jesus prepared His disciples for His ascension unto the right hand of His Father who was in heaven, He also prepared them for the tremendous reality that the same way and in the same manner in which He would go, so also would he come back. In fact, one of the most interesting and incredible realities concerning the ascension of Jesus unto the right hand of His Father in heaven is that once He was hidden and concealed from their sight, an angel appeared unto those who sat gazing into the heavens and declared unto them that in like manner would Jesus return and come back. Immediately after the cloud hid Jesus from their sight an angel of the Lord appeared unto those who were present on that day and declared unto them that just as Jesus ascended before them into the heavens, so also would Jesus return and come back. In all reality, the ascension of Jesus is in fact a portent and a sign that would point to the imminent return of Him in the same manner in which He came. I cannot help but consider the ascension of Jesus the Christ into the heavens and think how much that single act would signify the same manner in which He would return for His body and bride. I am completely and utterly convinced that if we want to catch a glimpse of the manner in which Jesus the Christ will in fact return in that moment when the trumpet shall sound we need look no further than the ascension and the manner in which He ascended unto the right hand of His Father. The words which the angel spoke unto those who were present on that day were and would be absolutely and incredibly significant, for through His words we would come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality of Jesus ascending unto the right hand of His Father, and returning in the same manner in which He ascended before their faces on that day. The same way Jesus would ascend into the heavens would be the same manner in which He would return when the appointed time would in fact come. What so amazes me about the words which describe the ascension of Jesus the Christ is that the account of His ascension into the heavens bring us face to face with the manner in which He would return in the could with all His angels and saints in order to rapture and catch up His body and bride. Consider if you will the words which describe Jesus’ ascension unto the right hand of His Father in heaven before we move any further into the reality of His return as a whole and that which is required of us in light of the knowledge of His return:
“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:16-20).
“Afterward He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen. And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but He that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” (Mark 16:14-20).
“And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and return to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen” (Luke 24:50-53).
“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen: to whom also He shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from youinto heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey” (Acts 1:112).
Each of these passages bring us face to face with the awesome and incredible reality of Jesus the Christ ascending unto the right hand of His Father who was in heaven, and the manner in which He was removed from their sight after being received into heaven by the Father. It’s actually quite interesting to read these passages, and to read the words which describe Jesus’ ascension unto the right hand of His Father who is in heaven, for the language that is used to describe Jesus’ ascension is the same language which is used when speaking of and describing our ascension into heaven when Jesus Christ returns in the clouds with all his holy angels and saints to rapture His body and bride unto Himself. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are written and found within the final chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark you will find him describing this event by writing how “He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” The words and language which John Mark used within this particular passage of Scripture to describe Jesus’ ascension unto the right hand of the Father is the language of being parted from them—those who were present on that particular day—and His being carried up into heaven. When John Mark described the ascension of Jesus Christ into the heavens, he was very specific in the language He used, for He described—not only how Jesus was parted from them, but how Jesus was in fact carried away into heaven from atop the mountain where He had spoken with His disciples. As you read the words which the beloved physician Luke wrote in the final chapter of his own gospel account concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, you will find him describing this same event, and writing how when and while Jesus blessed those who were present on this particular day at the mount of Olivet, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. Thus far within the New Testament gospel of Mark, as well as the New Testament gospel of Luke we find and discover that Jesus was received into heaven, how He sat down at the right hand of the Father, and how He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. When you come to the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the same physician who wrote the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ unto Theophilus writing concerning this same event, however, in this particular book he describes it in even greater detail. When you come to the New Testament book of Acts you will find the beloved physician Luke describing how when and after Jesus had finished speaking all His words unto those who were present on that day at the Mount of Olives, and while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
Within the New Testament book of Acts we find the beloved physician Luke describing this same event, and how when and after Jesus had finished speaking unto those who were present at the mount of Olives, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. What makes the way Luke describes this event in the book of Acts so incredibly intriguing and captivating is that He adds and also includes the message of the angel to those who remained upon the earth looking steadfastly into the heavens. The angel of the Lord emphatically and boldly declared unto those who were present on this day how this same Jesus which was taken up from them into heaven would so come in like manner as they had seen Him go into heaven. Thus, there is hidden and concealed within the ascension of Jesus a wonderful and powerful picture and symbol of the return of Jesus the Christ in the same manner in which He ascended into heaven and unto the right hand of the Father who was in heaven. I am thoroughly convinced that if we want to truly understand the reality of Jesus returning and coming back for His saints, we need look at the ascension into heaven and unto the right hand of the Father in heaven, for it was in the ascension of Jesus unto the right hand of His Father in heaven that we truly encounter and catch a glimpse of what the rapture and return of Jesus Christ would and is going to look like. What’s more, is that there is a single fundamental difference between the ascension of Jesus the Christ unto the right hand of the Father in heaven on that day at the mount of Olives, and His return at that moment when the trumpet shall sound. When Jesus ascended unto the right hand of the Father who was in heaven, it was Jesus Himself who ascended into the heavens, was received by the Father, and was hidden and concealed by a cloud from the view of those who were present on that day. When Jesus ascended unto the right hand of the Father He did so alone and accompanied by no one, for all those who were present with Him at the mount of Olives would remain upon the earth. When, however, He returns at the moment when the trumpet sounds, He would be accompanied by His holy angels, as He would rapture up and carry away His faithful saints and disciples from upon the earth. In the same manner in which Jesus ascended unto the right hand of the Father, Jesus would again appear in the clouds and would appear with a great host of angels, and holy saints. It would be at this moment when the dead in Christ shall rise first, and then all who are alive and remain upon the earth will be caught up together to meet Him in the clouds in order that they too might be received into the heavens. The first time Jesus Himself would be received into heaven alone, however, when He returns at the moment when the last trump sounds, He will be received in heaven with all his holy saints, body and bride. Consider the words which are written concerning this moment when Jesus Christ will descend with a shout at the sound of the last trumpet, and how Jesus will carry away and rapture His saints unto Himself to receive them into heaven:
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; WWE shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immorality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immorality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory” (1 Corinthians 15: 50-55).
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow. Not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a. Shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Each of these passages bring us face to face with the tremendous reality that in a moment, and in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump the dead will rise incorruptible, and we shall be changed. Within these passages we come face to face with the tremendous and wonderful reality that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord cannot and will not prevent them which are asleep. The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first, and then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Please don’t miss and lose sight of the words “in the clouds” and “in the air,” for with these words we find the same language which was present within the New Testament book of Acts concerning the ascension of Jesus the Christ unto the right hand of the Father. ON that day at the mount of Olives Jesus would ascend unto the right hand of the Father who was in heaven, and would be hidden and concealed by the clouds in the sky. It would be on that day when Jesus would ascend unto the right hand of the Father who was in heaven, and would be hidden and concealed from the sight of all those who were present on that day until the moment would come when He would return in the clouds in order that He might rapture His body and bride. In all reality, there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if Jesus Christ can and won’t return in the same place in the heavens where He first ascended unto the right hand of the Father. Wouldn’t it be just like the Lord to come and return in the clouds in the very same place in which He ascended into the heavens before He was received out of the sight of all those who were present on that day? Wouldn’t it be just like the Father to have the Son return and appear in the same place in heaven where He ascended unto the right hand of all power before the eyes of all those who were present on that day? In the same manner in which Jesus was taken up and received into heaven by the Father, so also would Jesus once more appear in the clouds in order that He might capture and catch up His holy saints in order that He might bring them into His kingdom and the kingdom of His Father. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular reality, for it is absolutely incredible and wonderful to think about and consider the fact that in the ascension of Jesus Christ unto the right hand of the Father we find a symbol and picture of our own ascension unto the Father in heaven, for just as Jesus was caught up into the heavens, so also would we ourselves be caught up into the heavens in order that we might be brought into the kingdom of the Father and of the Son.
When you come to the latter portion of the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke you will find Jesus the Christ speaking unto His disciples concerning the tremendous need to make themselves ready and to be prepared for that moment when He would return. What marks and what makes the words of Jesus so challenging is the fact that inasmuch as Jesus instructed His disciples to make themselves ready and to prepare themselves for His coming and return, He did not provide them with the exact time when He would return. If you read and study the words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto His disciples concerning His return you will find that He did not not give them a definitive time and date when He would return, but only signs which would point to the timing of His return. In fact, towards the end of this twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke we find Jesus upbraiding and condemning men for their inability to correctly discern the signs of the times. The twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke is in fact a stinging indictment to those who were present on that day, for they could discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but they could not discern the time which was before them. In all reality, this indictment of Jesus Christ was one that directly pointed to their inability to discern the times in which they were living in, and how they could not recognize that which was taking place before them. If you read and study the words which Jesus spoke unto those who were present on this day, you will find Him rebuking and indicting them for their ability to discern the natural, however, when it came to discerning the supernatural, and when it came to discerning the times in which they were living, they were completely unable and incapable of doing so. They could see a cloud rise out of the west and immediately know there would be rain, and they could see the south wind blow and know that there would be heat, however, they could not discern, nor even recognize the times in which they themselves were living. This is quite remarkable and quite astonishing when you think about it, for in addition to making ourselves ready for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to discern the times in which we are living, and discern the signs of the times. In all reality, I am convinced that it is about more than simply making ourselves ready, for there is also a great and wonderful need for us to understand and recognize the signs of the times in which we are living. It is only to the degree and measure that we understand the times in which we are living in that we can truly make ourselves ready and prepare ourselves for that moment when Jesus the Christ can and will return to catch away His body and bride. Consider if you will the words and language which is found—not only in this New Testament gospel of Luke, but also in the New Testament gospel of Matthew—concerning the signs of times, and discerning the times in which we are living:
“And He said also the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time? Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?” (Luke 12:54-57).
“The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired Him that He would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seekers after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them and departed” (Matthew 16:1-4).
There is within this passage of Scripture—not only a tremendous and wonderful call to prepare and make ourselves ready for the imminent coming and return of the Lord Jesus Christ, but also to discern the signs of the times, and to understand the hour in which we are living. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which are found and written in the Old Testament book of First Chronicles concerning the sons of Isaachar, for the words and language which describes them is directly applicable to that which we find concerning understanding and discerning the times in which we are living. IN the thirty-second verse of the twelfth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Chronicles we find it written concerning the sons of Issachar that they were men which had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. Please don’t miss and lose sight of that which is found and written concerning these sons of Issachar, for that which is written concerning them is one of the greatest needs facing the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ within this generation. The sons of Issachar were men of understanding, for they understood the times and what the children of Israel ought to do, and there is a great need for there to be a generation of “sons of Issachar” in this generation—men and women who understand and recognize the times, and understand what needs to be done. There is a great need within our culture and society for men and women to correctly understand and discern the times in which we are living, and not only understand what needs and what ought to be done, but also how we ought to live. Perhaps one of the most important realities surrounding the knowledge of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus the Christ is the need to not only know and understand what needs to be done, but also how we ought to live. It isn’t enough for us to understand the times and not also understand and recognize how we are to live. It is absolutely necessary and imperative for us to understand the times, and for us to understand what ought to be done, but in addition to that, it is also necessary and imperative that we understand how we ought to live and what manner of men we ought to be in this generation. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—what good is understanding the times if we also don’t understand how we ought to live our lives, and how we are to conduct ourselves in this generation? Speaking to this reality I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Peter wrote in the third and final chapter of the second epistle he wrote unto the believers and Jews who were scattered abroad throughout and among the nations:
“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat. Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwellers righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the long suffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you” (2 Peter 3:8-15).
Within the final and latter portion of the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke—not only do we find Jesus the Christ instructing His disciples and followers to “let their loins be girded about, and their lights burning,” but we also find Him speaking unto them and instructing them to be like unto men that wait for their Lord, when He will return from the wedding. There is within the final portion fo the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke—not only a powerful word of instruction concerning discerning and understanding the times, but also understanding and discerning what manner of men we ought to be. In all reality, if we are not living our lives in light of the knowledge of the imminent return of Jesus the Christ when He will descend with the voice of a shout and with the last trump, we are deceiving ourselves and are playing a dangerous game with time, as well as with our lives. I am absolutely and convinced that we as the saints of God must not only understand and discern the times in which we are living, but we must also understand what manner of men and women we must be. What’s more, is that we must diligently strive to make ourselves ready and to prepare ourselves for that moment when Jesus Christ will descend from heaven with a shout, for we do not know the hour or time when Jesus the Christ can and will return. In fact, this is perhaps the greatest truth found within the latter portion of the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke, for Jesus was very clear and very specific that we do not know the hour or time in which He will return. What’s more, is that not even Jesus Himself knew the hour in which He would return—a reality which should bring us face to face with the tremendous need for us to live each moment as if the next month could be that moment in the twinkling of an eye when the trumpet will sound and Jesus will descend with a shout and with the voice of an archangel. I can’t help but leave you with the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples, which are found within the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew:
“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilence, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the Houston not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that vie suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, not eve rshall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, He is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shine the even unto the west; so hall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wherever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send His angels with a. Great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect form the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other…but of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father in only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:4-39).