ascension of Jesus
The visible bodily return of Jesus to heaven, an event which occured in the presence of his apostles forty days after his resurrection; Christ’s physical return to the glory of His Father, where he sits at the Father’s right hand.
- From scripture:
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and 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 1:1-3, 6-11 ESV)
[Jesus Christ] has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. (1 Peter 1:22 ESV)
- From The Heidelberg Catechism:
Question 46. How dost thou understand these words, “he ascended into heaven”?
Answer: That Christ, in sight of his disciples, was taken up from earth into heaven; and that he continues there for our interest, until he comes again to judge the quick and the dead.
Question 47. Is not Christ then with us even to the end of the world, as he has promised?
Answer: Christ is very man and very God; with respect to his human nature, he is no more on earth; but with respect to his Godhead, majesty, grace and spirit, he is at no time absent from us.
Question 49. Of what advantage to us is Christ’s ascension into heaven?
Answer: First, that he is our advocate in the presence of his Father in heaven; secondly, that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that he, as the head, will also take up to himself, us, his members; thirdly, that he sends us his Spirit as an earnest, by whose power we “seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on earth.”
Question 50. Why is it added, “and sitteth at the right hand of God”?
Answer: Because Christ is ascended into heaven for this end, that he might appear as head of his church, by whom the Father governs all things.
- From The Ascension of Christ by Charles Spurgeon:
Our blessed Lord and Master has gone from us. From the mount of Olives, the place where in dread conflict his garments were rolled in blood, he has mounted in triumph to his throne. After having shown himself for forty days amongst his beloved disciples, giving them abundant evidence that he had really risen from the dead, and enriching them by his divine counsels, he was taken up. Slowly rising before them all, he gave them his blessing as he disappeared. Like good old Jacob, whose departing act was to bestow a benediction on his twelve sons and their descendants, so ere the cloud received our Lord out of our sight, he poured a blessing upon the apostles, who were looking upward, and who were the representatives of his church. He is gone! His voice of wisdom is silent for us, his seat at the table is empty, the congregation on the mountain hears him no more. It would be very easy to have found reasons why he should not have gone. Had it been a matter of choice to us, we should have entreated him to tarry with us till the dispensation closed. Unless, peradventure, grace had enabled us to say: “Not as we will! but as thou wilt,” we should have constrained him, saying, “Abide with us.” What a comfort to disciples to have their own beloved teacher visibly with them! What a consolation to a persecuted band to see their leader at their head; difficulties would disappear, problems would be solved, perplexities removed, trials made easy, temptations averted! Let Jesus himself, their own dear Shepherd be near, and the sheep will lie down in security. Had he been here we could have gone to him in every affliction, like those of whom it is said, “they went and told Jesus.”
It seemed expedient for him to stay, to accomplish the conversion of the world. Would not his presence have had an influence to win by eloquence of gracious word and argument of loving miracle? If he put forth his power the battle would soon be over, and his rule over all hearts would be for ever established. “Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.” Go not from the conflict, thou mighty bowman, but still cast thine all-subduing darts abroad. In the days of our Lord’s flesh, before he had risen from the dead, he did but speak, and those who came to take him fell to the ground; might we but have him near us no persecuting hand could seize us; at his bidding, the fiercest enemy would retire. His voice called the dead out of their graves; could we but have him still in the church his voice would awaken the spiritually dead. His personal presence would be better to us than ten thousand apostles, at least, so we dream; and we imagine that with him visibly among us the progress of the church would be like the march of a triumphant army.
Thus might flesh and blood have argued, but all such reasoning is hushed by our Lord’s declaration, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you.” He might have told us that his majestic presence was expected by the saints in heaven to complete their felicity; he might have said that for himself it was fitting that after so long an exile and the performance of such stupendous labors, he should rise to his reward; he might also have added that it was due to his Father that he should return into the bosom of his love; but, as if he knew that their trembling at his departure was mainly occasioned by fear for their own personal interests, he puts the consoling word into this form: “It is expedient for you that I go away.” He has gone then, and whether our weak understandings are able to perceive it or not, it is better for us that Jesus should be at the right hand of God than here corporeally in our assemblies below. Fain would a hundred Bethanies entertain him, a thousand synagogues would rejoice to see him open the Scriptures; women there are among us who would kiss his feet, and men who would glory to unloose the latchets of his shoes; but he has gotten him away to the mountains of myrrh and the hills of frankincense. He no more sits at our tables, or walks with us on our highways; he is leading another flock to living fountains of waters, and let not his sheep below imagine that he has injured them by his removal; unerring wisdom has declared that it is expedient for us that he is gone.
- GotQuestions.org: What is the Meaning and Importance of the Ascension of Jesus Christ?
- Don Stewart: How Did Jesus Leave the Earth?
- Dr. Richard P. Bucher: What Was the Ascension of Jesus Christ?
- Bob Deffinbaugh: The Ascension of Jesus
- Michael Horton: The Ascension of Christ (mp3)
- Dr. W. Robert Godfrey: The Gift of the Ascension (mp3)
Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.
I’m also interested in any suggestions you have for tweaking my definitions or for additional (or better) articles or sermons/lectures for linking. Credit will be given for any of these suggestions I use, too.
Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms organized in alphabetical order or by topic.