Keep Heaven in Your Peripheral

By Heather Hanton

Keep heaven in your peripheral!

Matthew 28:16-20
Acts 1:4-8

I have been thinking a lot about the ascension. When Jesus left this world and went into heaven.

His work on earth in his physical body was complete. He had died for our sins. The cross was history. He was alive, in the flesh, appearing, talking, eating, teaching with his followers. There was still much for them to learn.

But Jesus couldn’t stay here. While He is fully human, He is also fully God and had to return to the Father. And the work here on earth was NOT done yet. There was an entire world of people who needed to hear about Him. Who did he leave in charge? His disciples and apostles. Those witnesses as they are described in Acts 1.

I think about those parents who have graduating seniors. We’ve given them the tools they need to succeed in life and now they have to get to work as adults.

Let’s take a look at the account. First in Matthew 28:16-20

The disciples went to the mountain where Jesus told them to and he met them there. They worshiped but some doubted.

Have you ever found yourself there at that mountain, worshiping God but doubting Him at the same time? You trust and know that God can do it, but you doubt He will choose to or that you’re worthy of it?

Maybe those who were doubting on that day were confused because Jesus said he would never leave us but here he was about to leave!

Jesus meets us at that mountain. He knows and understands our hearts. He is doing something greater than we can fully comprehend and He is asking that we trust Him.

He tells the disciples to go and tell others about him. He reminds them that He will be with them always.

Now let’s look at the account from Acts 1:4-8

In this account, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. He had already been talking about the Holy Spirit during his ministry. In John 14 he talks about the helper who would remind them of everything they had learned from Him.

I love that he calls them “witnesses”. Witnesses to whom? everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

What a prophetic statement! Jesus was saying that salvation is available to everyone – Jews and Gentiles! That’s you and me!!

Jesus reminds them that the Holy Spirit is coming so that they could continue the work that Jesus had begun in them.

Philippians 1:6 says: And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

And then He leaves. Jesus is taken up into heaven. Look at verses 9-11.

What a sight! I’m sure the followers were just amazed. So the angels who appeared had to remind them to get going!

But I think we’ve missed a key point in this scripture. While yes, it was important for Jesus’ disciples to snap out of it and go do what Jesus had commissioned them to do, the angel also said that Jesus would return in the same way he left. I wonder if the disciples walked away but kept looking up. I imagine that every time they passed by that spot, they looked up and were reminded that He is coming back!

I think it’s important to go and do the good works God has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10) but we need to keep heaven in our peripheral vision. We need to remember that Jesus is coming back!

We should be living in the promise of Christ’s return and what a day of rejoicing that will be!!

Heather Hanton
Media and Ministries Specialist
The Salvation Army Central Territory
Women’s Ministries Department

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