The only narrative of the Ascension which can with confidence be ascribed to the original text of the NT is found in Acts 1:4-11. The reference in Mark 16:19 comes in a passage which is a late addition to the gospel, and the reading in Luke 24:51 is uncertain. The story does not suggest that Jesus was taken on a long journey upward into the sky. It simply states that “he was lifted” (a symbolic movement but not necessarily involving any great distance) and that “a cloud took him out of their sight” (again a symbolic way of veiling His divine presence as it was removed in that mode from earth). The ascension brings to a close the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus (apart from the special one to Saul in Acts 9) and so marks the end of the once-for-all revelation of God in Christ and opens the way for His universal presence through the.
Theologically the Ascension is closely associated with the Resurrection as demonstrating the vindication and exaltation of Jesus (Acts 2:32f., 5:30f.; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20). He is present in heaven in His glorified humanity as a pledge of the completion of His act of redemption and of the final salvation of His people (John 14:2; Heb. 1:3; 6:20). There He continues His priestly work in interceding for His people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). The present sovereignty of Christ over all will be demonstrated clearly at the parousia (1 Cor. 15:24-26).
Ascension Day has been celebrated since at least the fourth century; following, perhaps overliterally, the “forty days” of Acts 1:3, it has been kept on the fifth Thursday after Easter.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
a-sen’-shun: Most modern Lives of Christ commence at Bethlehem and end with the Ascension, but Christ’s life began earlier and continued later. The Ascension is not only a great fact of the, but a great factor in the life of Christ and Christians, and no complete view of is possible unless the Ascension its consequences are included. It is the consummation of His redemptive work. The Christ of the Gospels is the Christ of history, the Christ of the past, but the full New Testament picture of Christ is that of a living Christ, the Christ of heaven, the Christ of experience, the Christ of the present and the future. The New Testament passages referring to the Ascension need close study and their teaching careful observation.
I. In the Gospels.
If with most modern scholars we regard Mark’s Gospel as ending with 16:8, it will be seen to stop short at the resurrection, though the present ending speaks of Christ being received up into heaven, of His sitting at the right hand of God, and of His working with the disciples as they went preaching the word (
II. In the Acts.
The story in
The Ascension is mentioned or implied in several passages in
III. In the.
While for its purpose Romans necessarily lays stress on the Resurrection, Ephesians has as part of its special aim an emphasis on the Ascension. In 1:20 God’s work wrought in Christ is shown to have gone much farther than the Resurrection, and to have "made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places," thereby constituting Him the supreme authority over all things, and especially Head of the church (1:20-23). This idea concerning Christ is followed in 2:6 by the association of believers with Christ "in the heavenly places," and the teaching finds its completest expression in 4:8-11, where the Ascension is connected with the gift of the heavenly Christ as the crowning feature of His work. Nothing is more striking than the complementary teaching of Romans and Ephesians respectively in their emphasis on the Resurrection and Ascension.
The emphasis placed on the second advent of Christ in 1Th is an assumption of the fact of the Ascension. Christians are waiting for God’s Son from heaven (1:10) who is to "descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God" (4:16).
The only allusion to the Ascension in the
IV. In Hebrews.
In Hebrews there is more recorded about the Ascension and its consequences than in any other part of the New Testament. The facts of the Ascension and Session are first of all stated (1:3) with all that this implies of definite position and authority (1:4-13). Christians are regarded as contemplating Jesus as the Divine Man in heaven (2:9), though the meaning of the phrase, "crowned with glory and honor" is variously interpreted, some thinking that it refers to the result and outcome of His death, others thinking that He was "crowned for death" in the event of the Transfiguration (Matheson in Bruce, Hebrews, 83). Jesus Christ is described as "a great, who hath passed through the heavens" (4:14), as a Forerunner who is entered within the veil for us, and as a High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek (6:20). As such He "abideth for ever," and "ever liveth to make intercession" (7:24,25). The chief point of the epistle itself is said to be "such a high priest, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" (8:1), and His position there implies that He has obtained eternal redemption for His people and is appearing before God on their behalf (9:12,24). This session at God’s right hand is also said to be with a view to His return to earth when His enemies will have become His footstool (10:12,13), and one of the last exhortations bids believers to look unto Jesus as the Author and Perfecter of faith who has "sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (12:2).
V. In the Petrine Epistles.
The only reference to the Ascension is in
VI. In the Johannine Writings.
Nothing is recorded of the actual Ascension, but
All the references in the Apocalypse either teach or imply the living Christ who is in heaven, as active in His church and as coming again (
VII. Summary of New Testament Teaching.
1. The Fact:
The New Testament calls attention to the fact of Ascension and the fact of the Session at God’s right hand. Three words are used in the Greek in connection with the Ascension: anabainein (ascendere), "to go up"; analambanesthai (adsumi), "to be taken up"; poreuesthai "to go." The Session is connected with
2. The Message:
There are two questions usually associated with the Ascension which need our attention.
1. Relation to the Laws of Nature:
There is no greater difficulty in connection with the Ascension than with the Resurrection, or the Incarnation. Of our Lord’s resurrection body we know nothing. All we can say is that it was different from the body laid in the tomb and yet essentially the same; the same and yet essentially different. The Ascension was the natural close of Our Lord’s earthly life, and as such, is inseparable from the Resurrection. Whatever, therefore, may be said of the Resurrection in regard to the laws of nature applies equally to the Ascension.
2. Localization of the Spiritual World:
The record in Ac is sometimes objected to because it seems to imply the localization of heaven above the earth. But is not this taking the narrative in too absolutely bald and literal a sense? Heaven is at once a place and a state, and as personality necessarily implies locality, some place for our Lord’s Divine, yet human person is essential. To speak of heaven as "above" may be only symbolical, but the ideas of fact and locality must be carefully adhered to. And yet it is not merely local, and "we have to think less of a transition from one locality than of a transition from one condition to another. .... the real meaning of the ascension is that .... our Lord withdrew from a world of limitations" to that higher existence where God is (Milligan, Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood, 26). It matters not that our conception today of the physical universe is different from that of New Testament times. We still speak of the sun setting and rising, though strictly these are not true. The details of the Ascension are really unimportant. Christ disappeared from view, and no question need be raised either of distance or direction. We accept the fact without any scientific explanation. It was a change of conditions and mode of existence; the essential fact is that He departed and disappeared. Even Keim admits that "the ascension of Jesus follows from all the facts of His career" (quoted, Milligan, 13), and Weiss is equally clear that the Ascension is as certain as the Resurrection, and stands and fails therewith (Milligan, 14).
IX. Its Relation to Christ Himself.
The Ascension was the exaltation and glory of Jesus Christ after His work was accomplished (
(1) as the
(2) as God manifest in the flesh (
(3) as the exalted Son of God after the Resurrection and Ascension (
The Ascension meant very much to Christ Himself, and no study of subject must overlook this aspect of New Testament teaching. His exaltation to the right hand of meant
(1) the proof of victory (
(2) the position of honor (
(3) the place of power (
(4) the place of happiness (
(5) the place of rest ("seated");
(6) the place of permanence ("for ever").
X. Its Teaching for Christians.
The importance of the Ascension for Christians lies mainly in the fact that it was the introduction to our Lord’s present life in heaven which means so much in the believer’s life. The spiritual value of the Ascension lies, not in Christ’s physical remoteness, but in His spiritual nearness. He is free from earthly limitations, and His life above is the promise and guarantee of ours. "Because I live ye shall live also."
1. Redemption Accomplished:
The Ascension and Session are regarded as the culminating point of Christ’s redemptive work (
(a) the removal of sin (negative); and
(b) the presence of righteousness (positive).
The Resurrection demonstrated the sufficiency of the atonement for the former, and the Ascension demonstrated the sufficiency of righteousness for the latter. The Spirit of God was to convict the world of "righteousness" "because I go to the Father" (
2. High Priesthood:
This is the peculiar and special message of He. Priesthood finds its essential features in the representation of man to God, involving access into the Divine presence (
The Ascension constituted Christ as Head of the church (
In several New Testament passages this is regarded as the crowning point of our Lord’s work in heaven (
5. The Gift of the Spirit:
There is an intimate and essential connection between the
It is in connection with the Ascension and our Lord’s life in heaven that we understand the force of such a passage as "Lo, I am with you always" (
Reviewing all the teaching of our Lord’s present life in heaven, appearing. on our behalf, interceding by His presence, bestowing the Holy Spirit, governing and guiding the church, sympathizing, helping and saving His people, we are called upon to up "lift our hearts," for it is in occupation with the living that we find the secret of peace, the assurance of access, and the guaranty of our permanent relation to God. Indeed, we are clearly taught in He that it is in fellowship with the present life of Christ in heaven that Christians realize the difference between spiritual immaturity and maturity (
LITERATURE. Milligan, Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood of our Lord; Swete, The Appearances of the Risen Lord; The Ascended Christ; Lacey, The Historic Christ; Lives of Christ, by Neander, B. Weiss, Edersheim, Farrar, Geikie, Gilbert; Fairbairn, Studies in the Life of Christ; Knowling, Witness of the Epistles; Bernard in The Expositor T, 1900-1901, 152-55; Bruce in The Expositor. Greek Test, I; Swete,; Westcott, Historic Faith, chapter vi; Revelation of the Risen Lord, chapters x, xi; Epesians to Hebrews; article "Ascension" in Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes); Paget, Studies in the Christian Character, sermons xxi, xxii; Findlay, Things Above; article. "Priest" in Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes) (in New Testament), "Hebrews"; Davidson, Hebrews, special note on "Priesthood of Christ"; Dimock, Our One Priest on High; The Christian Doctrine of Sacerdotium; Perowne, Our High Priest in Heaven; Rotherham, Studies in He; Soames, The Priesthood of the ; Hubert Brooke, The Great High Priest; H. W. Williams, The Priesthood of Christ; J. S. Candlish, The Christian Salvation (1899), 6; G. Milligan, The Theol. of Ep. to Heb (1899), 111; R. C. Moberly, Ministerial Priesthood (1897); A. S. Peake, "Hebrews" in Century Bible; Beyschlag, New Testament Theol., II, 315; article "Ascension" in Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels; article "Assumption and Ascension" in HDRE; article "Ascension" in JE; Charles, The ; The Slavonic Secrets of En; The Book of Jub; The Apocalypse of Bar; The Ascension Isaiah.; ; M. R. James, " " TS, II, 2, 1892; Martensen, Christian Dogmatics.
W. H. Griffith Thomas