He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. ” 9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; 11 and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (NASB, bold for emphasis)
Just after Jesus gave the Great Commission to His disciples (v. 8) on the mount called Olivet (v.12), “[Jesus] was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” And then two men in white clothing said to them, “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
Now the question we are asking, according to this study, is, what does His future coming refer to, the rapture, or His second coming—when He comes to judge the world and to set up His kingdom on earth?
Well, we don’t have much to go on, but we do have a few clues: 1) He was lifted up from the earth to heaven, 2) a cloud received Him out of their sight; so it seems that He went up with or into the clouds, and 3) He went from Mount Olivet to heaven.
We will take “clouds” first. I think we are kind of stuck on this point, because both the verses we know to be rapture verses (e.g. 1 Thess. 4:17) and verses we know to be second coming verses (e.g. Matt. 24:30) speak of clouds, or of coming in the clouds.
The other two points, however, should convince us that this passage is speaking of His second coming. First of all, He was taken up from the earth to heaven. This means that if He will come in the same way, in His second coming He must come from heaven all the way to earth and stand on the earth. Yes, this will be true of the second coming, but will not be true of the rapture, for in the rapture His feet will not touch the earth, as we will meet Him in the clouds (1 Thess. 4:17). Secondly, interestingly enough, when Jesus ascended He ascended from the Mount of Olives; and when He returns to earth at His second coming at the conclusion of Armageddon, we know that He will also return to the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4).