I had finished teaching the Anchorsaway class on the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. As usual, students had questions as they tried to ingest the magnitude of the miracle. One student blurted out, “Why didn’t Jesus take the believers Him when He went up to Heaven? It doesn’t seem fair. He left them in a mess: Roman oppression, Christians being killed for their faith, frightened followers, and a community that thought that Jesus had come to set them free from Rome and instead, He was nailed to a cross.”
Honest, fair, challenging questions. The following class, I answered him as to why we did not all go to Heaven with Jesus at the ascension.
We believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, proving that He is the Son of God. We Christians have the promise that believers will be going to Heaven when we die. He didn’t leave us as orphans. He promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to live in all believers to comfort, teach, convict, and guide us, no matter what the circumstances. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, God made it clear that all believers would remain behind, but with the promise that God would be with Jesus’ followers and protect them.
John 17:11 “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.”
God did not die to make us happy. Jesus died so that we could be righteous and have fellowship with Him. As believers we are children and friends of God. With that comes considerable responsibility. Being a follower of Jesus, at times, can be extremely difficult. None the less, God has called us to go, with humility, into a dark and sinful world to love the unlovable and to share the good news of Jesus.
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age'” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Our mission is not to hide, but to go with love, humility, and hope to those who are suffering. Jesus left us behind to teach the truth and preach the gospel of eternal life, to be justice amid injustice, to care for the sick, and to be an advocate for those with no voice. He calls us to give to the poor, feed the hungry, and bring hope to the hopeless and comfort the hurting. He charges us to live with humility in the midst of the proud, to be culture changers, to stand for truth, to expect persecution, hardship, and rejection.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
Compared to eternity, we are on earth for a blip of time. No matter how brief or time on this planet is, know that it matters to God. He has given us the opportunity and privilege to serve and glorify Him while we are here. Christians are merely passing through this earthly time. Our home is in Heaven, but until then, there is much to be done. God is in our midst and He is our greatest advocate. We will all stand before God someday and give an accounting of how we have love Him.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, “I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25 :34-40).
Jesus left us only for a time; He promised to return the same way He left. For those who love and obey Him, the reward is great. Revelation 21:3,4: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” That’s why.