JESUS ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN
Christmas and Easter we celebrate every year, but there is a third holy day we have almost forgotten. Ascension is the missing festival in modern church calendars. It was not always so. The early church celebrated the ascension of Jesus as much as his birth and resurrection
.Why has Ascension slipped into obscurity? Perhaps it is because it occurred forty days after Easter which always puts it on a Thursday. People now-a-days are reluctant to attend church any day but Sunday. Perhaps it is because Ascension competes with Mother's Day, a modern holy day scheduled at the same season. Perhaps it is because Ascension commemorates a doctrine which is quietly dying of benign neglect. This, I fear, is the most significant reason we no longer celebrate Ascension.
Before we discard the ascension of Jesus into the attic of forgotten Church festivals and doctrines, let us take another look to see why the writers of scripture reported it and the church has affirmed it in the Apostles' Creed for nearly two thousand years.
Luke concludes his gospel with these words: "Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God" (Luke 24:50-53).
TO THE RESURRECTION
A phantom or hallucination can just fade away, but a body has to go somewhere. If Jesus' resurrected body didn't ascend, as the scriptures say, what happened to it? Luke tells us and I believe him.
The ascension of Jesus was a visual metaphor. The world is round, so going up really means going out. But the direction he went is not significant. Heaven is not a location within the visible universe, but a different dimension of reality. Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you" (Luke 17:20-21).
The astronauts who went to the moon were no nearer to heaven than we. Russian astronaut Titov's ridicule that he didn't see God or heaven while in orbit came as no surprise to us. What would have really shocked biblical theologians is if he had seen heaven out there.
The ascension doesn't mean Jesus went from one place to another within the created universe. Removal from sight, not departure from earth, is its true significance. What happened at his ascension was no different from what happened during the prior 40-day period when he would vanish from their sight now and then. It did not mean that he had gone somewhere. He simply disappeared and reappeared from time to time. His final removal from sight had to be so convincing that they would no longer expect him to return until his final appearing at the end of time.
His last words were, "Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). We can neither see him nor escape him. He is able to invade all the power structures on earth. Closed and barred doors still mean nothing to him.
Jesus is with presidents and prime ministers, whether they are aware
of him or
The ascension means the power, not the weakness, of Jesus. "He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him" (1 Peter 3:18, 22). Invisibility increases his power in the world. By faith the blind can see him, the deaf can hear him, the lame can walk with him and the dead can live with himall at the same time! He is not only invisible; he is invincible.
He is with us not only to observe but to act. He ascended into heaven not to explore the universe but to rule it. "When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive 'He ascended,' what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things" (Ephesians 4:8-10).
Yes, "He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty." From there he directs all the traffic of history with all its evil to the ends which he has set for it. If you center your life on Christ, you get a new sense of direction, a new perspective which gives meaning and purpose to human existence, something to make life worth living or losing. You are marching through time with him who is the Master of it.
You don't have to do what people had to do 2,000 years ago to be near Jesus. People can meet him in 100 million different sick rooms on the same day. Jesus can put his nail-pieced hands on every fevered brow and spend long hours with the lonely, the aged, the sorrowing and the discouraged. No door is closed to him and no distance too far for him to travel.
Ascension means the success, not the failure, of Jesus. He didn't come
on an inspection tour. He came on a rescue mission. Leaving it doesn't
has abandoned his cause, but that he has completed the earthly phase
continues in heaven where he is preparing a place for you (John 14:3).