Atmospheric Friction and the Apocalypse

O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God;

sing praises to the Lord, Selah

to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens;

behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.

Ascribe power to God,

whose majesty is over Israel,

and whose power is in the skies.

-Psalm 68:32-34 (ESV) -

    Dumbfounded, we stared at the TV screen as the news unfolded before us. Our worst fears for the astronauts were realized before our eyes as we began to hear words like "no contact" and "contingency." Our nation once more faced another space tragedy. Atmospheric friction was too much to overcome, as the Columbia spacecraft splintered apart with multiple tails streaming behind. Human carnage and toxic-laden fragments soon were scattered between California and Louisiana. Undaunted by such a colossal heart-break and blow to the American psyche, the space program, we are told, will go on.

    Man's destructibility cannot be masked amid the technology revolution; yet his dream for conquering space prevails. In the meantime, the only hope for those who sacrifice their lives for such an adventurous cause, like the rest of us who bear the name of Christ is that "just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven . . . for this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:49, 53).

    No one knows human vulnerability more than the One who created the heavens and numbered the stars, as our President has graciously reminded us. And no one knows human indestructibility more than the One who has tasted death for everyone (Heb. 2:9). John wrote, "No one has ascended into heaven except him who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3:13-15 ). Since these words were spoken as though the ascension were already an accomplished fact, it seems clear that John, rather than Jesus, is the speaker here. As the narrator, John is writing after the event. It would also appear that the lifting up in verse14, unlike in the John 12:32 passage where it refers to the cross, refers to the ascension of our Lord. No man has ever ascended, as Jesus has ascended, "far above every rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come" (Eph. 1:21). Jesus' exaltation is unique.

    Our risen Lord was raised incorruptibly on the third day, and after demonstrating to his disciples for forty days by many infallible proofs that He was alive, He ascended bodily into the heavens as his disciples watched from the Mount of Olives. As they stood gazing, and a cloud took Him out of their sight, two white-robed bystanders said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven" (Acts 1:10-11).

    Atmospheric friction posed no problem for Jesus Christ during His ascension, and we can be assured it will pose no problem for Him upon His return. Jesus has already taken the heat and has withstood the fire. The one who stood in the midst of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in that ancient Babylonian furnace also stood by us in the furnace of his afflictions on the cross. He has been tested and tried and found worthy. The obedience that He rendered to the Father as the Second Adam, was an obedience unto death. It was impossible, therefore, for death to continue its grip beyond three days. Death has no power over Him who is our Second Adam. His resurrected body is a glorified body. 

    In the Apocalypse, commonly known as the book of Revelation, the veil is pulled back in order that we might be given a glimpse of our Savior in His ascended glory. One of the most outstanding attributes of His physical person, conspicuous in view of the recent Apollo tragedy, John described in Revelation 1:15: ". . . his feet were like burnished bronze refined in a furnace." When Jesus returns to receive his bride, to be glorified in His saints, and to judge the world, He will descend feet first, and atmospheric friction will pose no hazard for Him.  His return will be a triumphant return--visible to the entire world. It will be a welcome sight to every believer.  "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!" John writes, "Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen."