The “Ascension” of our Lord is an article of defined faith. The scriptures describe it; the creeds proclaim it and Christians believe it. Pause with me for two questions: What does it really mean to say that Jesus Christ ‘ascended’ into heaven? and, Why did he ascend?
What is the Ascension?
The word, “ascension” simply means to be taken up. Luke says it this way:
“He led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them.
As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.” That must have been quite a sight!
When “the cloud took him from their sight” (Acts 1:9), did Jesus just keep going up into the atmosphere, the stratosphere and somewhere into outer space? Maybe to another planet? Or where exactly? We obviously know that he went to heaven, which is in another realm or dimension than our empirical science can detect. So we can say that the “ascension” is the translation of the personal (risen) body of Jesus from the earthly realm into the heavenly. To “ascend” means to pass from our sight into the dimension of eternity with God.
Did Jesus Really Leave?
The vision of the disciples, as Luke relates, 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection is an occurrence that symbolizes his passing into the eternal realm but also defines a new time for human history. But that does not me Jesus is absent. He is very much with us in various forms, even though beyond our physical sight — like when we pray, when “two or three are gathered in my name,” in the preaching of his word, and most excellently in the Eucharist.
His ascension in our human nature is the promise that we will be with him in heaven too. As a matter of fact, St. Paul says that we already have a foothold in heaven! Ephesians 2:6 declares, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Because of Christ’s ascension we too have our place with him in heaven.
As Jesus himself said, “If I go to prepare a place for you I will come back and welcome you into my presence, so that you also may be where I am” (Jn 14:3). He also said, “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.But if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16: 7).
The Ascension is a Promise
The ascension of Jesus is a hinge to some very important promises of Jesus:
- The promise of the presence and working of the Holy Spirit, who gives us the power to transform our lives and to spread the Kingdom of God;
- The promise of being in heaven with Jesus for eternity.
- There is another promise that is given in the Ascension of Jesus — that of living a triumphal life. In Ephesians 1:18-23 Paul prays this inspired prayer:
“May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know … what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body,”
The Ascension is Your Triumph
The Ascension of Jesus Christ is the promise of victory! Just as Jesus became triumphant over all and God put beneath his feet and established him over all things, so you and I are victorious because Jesus is at the right hand of God. He is our Head and his dominion is over all. What this means is that as members of Christ, we get be victorious over all things as well.riu
It matters not what our battle is, what report we have received, what circumstances are surrounding us. “We are more than conquerers in him who loved us” (Rom 8: 37). What battle are you in? What circumstances surround you? What bad report you have received? No matter what, you are victorious because your place is already in heaven with the ascended Jesus.
As we now await the promised Holy Spirit let your heart be filled with expectant faith and joy at what is to come! Did Jesus have to ascend? Yes!, because he wants you to live a life with him in victory.