WHY WERE THE DISCIPLES DISCOURAGED FROM LOOKING UP IN ACTS CHAPTER 1?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“And while they looked stedfastly 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 you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10-11). Why did the angels ask the Apostles, “Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?”
The Book of Acts begins: “ The former treatise have I made [that is, the Bible Book of Luke], 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.”
The Apostles are stunned when the resurrected Lord Jesus, physically and visibly, suddenly soars upward into the sky! As they watch Him ascending, two angels appear and ask them, “Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?” Should they have been looking into Heaven? (No!)
Acts begins with Jesus spnding 40 days with His Apostles during His resurrection and ascension. Verse 3 says He spoke of “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God”—see Matthew chapter 28, Mark chapter 16, Luke chapter 24, John chapter 21, and Acts chapter 1. Before ascending into Heaven from the Mount of Olives, Jesus told them they should not leave Jerusalem. Verses 4 and 5: “…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.”
The Apostles, having heard Him talk about the kingdom of God those last 40 days, ask Him in verse 6, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Notice “again.” The only kingdom Israel ever had was a literal, physical, earthly kingdom—its apex with Kings David and Solomon. Rather than rebuke them—“No, I am talking about a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men, not a literal earthly kingdom. I am about to start the spiritual Body of Christ” (what people assume Jesus said)—Jesus simply told them in verses 7 and 8: “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.” The time-schedule of that coming literal, physical, visible, earthly kingdom is withheld from these Apostles.
Yet, they start looking up as the Lord Jesus Christ goes into Heaven (our opening comments). They have not been mindful of His instructions to them. Several weeks earlier, just before His crucifixion, Jesus had told His Apostles: “ And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;  Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.  And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke chapter 21). Believing Israel was not to look up until they saw certain signs. Those signs were absent in Acts chapter 1; therefore, Israel was not to be looking up in Acts chapter 1! The angels asked the Apostles why they were looking up to prompt them to remember Jesus’ words.
Furthermore, Jesus had told them to wait for the Holy Spirit who would come days later: “ For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence….  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.” They were not to be looking up as though Jesus would return right there in Acts chapter 1 because He was not coming back at that time.
God’s Word told Israel not to look up for Christ’s return until certain events transpired. Let us compare and contrast this with His Word to us concerning Christ’s return.
Acts 1:10-11 declares the 12 Apostles looked “stedfastly” toward Heaven. They were not merely watching Christ Jesus ascend. Rather, they continued to look up. It was an intense gaze, not casual observation. Perhaps they even looked up long after He was out of sight. In spite of His instructions not to look for His return until they saw certain events (Luke 21:25-28), they looked up for Him to reappear immediately to “restore again the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). As we ask someone doing wrong, “Hey, what are you doing?,” to cause him or her to realize misconduct, so the angels asked the Apostles, “Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?”
Jesus told Israel’s believing remnant—particularly His 12 Apostles—they were not to look up for His Second Coming (for them) until they saw specific phenomena. Contrariwise, when describing Christ coming for us (the Church His Body), Scripture says nothing about preceding signs. For example, see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, Philippians 3:20, Titus 2:13, and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2. There will be no warning signs concerning this coming (for the Body of Christ). In contrast to Israel anticipating the Second Coming, we should be looking for the Rapture to occur at any time. Only in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, do we find this doctrine of the Body of Christ being caught up from Earth into Heaven. Us searching for the Rapture elsewhere in Scripture will introduce unanswerable confusion.
A thoughtful and prayerful consideration of the Bible reveals two future comings of Christ Jesus. To force all verses about “Christ’s coming” to apply to one event is dangerous. We must not combine what God has separated; we must not mixed what God told us to “rightly divide” (2 Timothy 2:15). These two future comings of Christ are separate!