The Ascension of Jesus refers to the event where the resurrected Christ was taken up into heaven in the arms of angels, forty days after his rise from death. After this, an angel prophesied that he would return one day, in the same way as his ascension.
Two brief accounts of the Ascension of Jesus are given in the Canonical Gospels, in Luke 24 and Mark 16. The Acts of the Apostles (1) gives a more detailed account of Jesus taken up into heaven in the clouds.
The Ascension of Jesus is today part of the Apostle’s Creed and Nicene Creed. The ascension means that the human Jesus is taken up into heaven. Every year, the Feast of Ascension is celebrated, forty days after Easter Sunday. This feast dates back to 4th century AD. This event is part of the five main events in the life of Jesus, the others being, the baptism, the transfiguration, the crucifixion and the resurrection.
The Biblical Account of the Ascension of Jesus:
After the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, he first appeared to the women near the tomb (Mathew 28), his disciples (Luke 24) and more than 500 others (1 Corinthians 15). Jesus taught his followers about the Kingdom of God, in the days after his resurrection.
After forty days, since the resurrection, Jesus along with his disciples journeyed to Mount Olives, in the vicinity of Jerusalem. In this place, Jesus gave a promise to his disciples that the Holy Spirit would descend on them, soon. He instructed them to remain in Jerusalem.
After this, Jesus blessed them and even as he gave the blessing, he was taken up into heaven. This account of the Ascension is found in Luke (24) and Acts (1).
It is evident from Gospel accounts that the ascension of Jesus was a bodily, literal return to heaven. He ascended gradually into the clouds, in full view of his onlooking followers. Even as the disciples strained their eyes to get a better view, he was hidden in the clouds and two angels appeared in his place, promising the return of Jesus in the same manner of his ascension.
- The Ascension implied the end of Earthly Ministry of Jesus. God, the Father, has sent his only begotten son to earth and now, he was taking him back. This ended the period of human limitations of Jesus.
- It implied the success of the mission of his earthly life. He had accomplished all he had come to do.
- It signified his return to heavenly glory. The glory of Jesus was hidden in his earthly sojourn, except for his transfiguration (Mathew 17).
- It was a symbol of his exaltation by God, the Father. The subject of God’s pleasure was given a name, above all names (Philippians 2).
- It gave Christ an opportunity to prepare aplace for us humans in the heavenly abode of God.
- It marked the assumption of Jesus of the role of high priest and mediator of the New Covenant.
- It prophesied the pattern of his return: he will appear in the clouds, in his bodily form, with great glory.
- Jesus is today seated at the right hand of the Father. He is the head of the Church and granter of all spiritual gifts.
The Value of the Ascension:
- Before his ascension, he taught his disciples about the Ministry of the Holy Spirit. He saved them from utter despair saying that they are not losing him, but he will be there with his spirit.
- The Ascension of Jesus gave joy and hope to the apostles as Jesus promised a great reward on his return.
- The Ascension implied the beginning of intercession of Christ on our behalf.
- It also signified the victory of Jesus over all his enemies.
- Also, it implied the empowering of the Church to complete the mission of Jesus.
Biblical References to The Ascension:
- The Ascension was the fruition of the prophecies in the Old Testament (Psalm 110, Acts 2) and those by Jesus himself (John 6, Mathew 26, John 7, John 14, John 16, John 20).
- It took place on the Mount of Olives (Luke 24, Mark 11), forty days after the Resurrection (Acts 1: 3).
- It took place after Jesus talked with his disciples (Mark 16) and after he lifted his hand to give a blessing (Luke 24). He was lifted into heaven, above the clouds (Acts 1: 9).
- Two angels prophesied that He will return in the same way, at the end of time (Acts 1: 11).
- The Ascension was an enaction of the power of God (Ephesians 1: 19).
- This along with crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus implied the acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, by God (Hebrews 10). It marked Jesus’ stature as the Lord and Son of God (Philippians 2, Acts 2).
- It was the clear ascent of Jesus in his human nature from earth to heaven (Mark 16, Peter 3). He was glorified in his heavenly abode which he had left to assume earthly life (Ephesians 4).
- It celebrated the return of the Son to the Father, who had sent him to the world (John 6, John 7, John 14, John 16, and John 20).
- It marked the glorification of the humanity of Jesus; he carried this humanity even on his return to heaven, and he received great exaltation for the same (Hebrews 2, Hebrews 4, Acts 2, John 7, Timothy 3). He was given the highest honour by God (Ephesians 1).
- The Ascension implied the acceptance of God of the great sacrifice of his son for the sins of humankind (Hebrews 1, Hebrews 9).
- Jesus entered into heaven to present our case before God, the Father.
- He assumed the role of the royal priest with no more atoning sacrifice to the Father (Hebrews 7, Hebrews 8).
- Jesus is seated at the right hand of the father (Mathew 26, Acts 2, Romans 8, Colossians 3, Hebrews 1, Hebrews 10).
- He has all powers over heaven and earth (Daniel 7, Mathew 26, Ephesians 1, Ephesians 4).
These are some of the aspects of the great event known as the Ascension of Christ.