The ascension of Christ is the ‘transference of the resurrected body of Jesus from this world to heaven.’
It is described in Acts 1:9–11 (but see also Lk 24:50f), where Jesus is described as being “taken up” and disappearing into a cloud. This event took place near Bethany, on the Mt of Olives.
John’s Gospel records Jesus’ own comments regarding his ascension:
- he has departed, but he will return (21:22);
- he cannot be touched, for he must ascend (20:17);
- many will believe without having seen him (20:29).
The ascension is referred to by Paul, who wrote that God raised Christ from the dead “and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:20), and in Hebrews, according to which Jesus sits “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3).
1. Its meaning for him
It is the necessary entrance into his heavenly “glorification” in which he sits on the right hand of the Father until his enemies become his footstool (Ps 110:1—the OT text most quoted in the NT).
It is proof of his glorification and his superiority over such OT heroes as David (Acts 2:33–36).
By it he rises over all and fills all (Eph 4:10), receiving “the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9–11).
It is proof of his superiority to angels; he sits enthroned while they are constantly being sent out to serve (Heb 1:13). Angels, authorities, and powers are all subject to him (1 Tm 3:16; 1 Pt 3:22).
2. Its meaning for us
Without it there would be no gift of the Holy Spirit, (Jn 16:7). Jesus would be confined to one place, and not ‘with’ his people as they ‘go’ with the gospel to all nations, (Mt 28:20).
Since a truly human Jesus has ascended to heaven, human beings can ascend there too. He has gone “to prepare a place” for his followers (Jn 14:2). Those who as “in Christ” will eventually ascend to be with him (2 Cor 5:1–10).
Christ’s sacrifice is completed and accepted by God (Heb 1:3; 9:12; 10:12; 12:2). Jesus has passed through the heavens (Heb 4:14) and entered the presence of God (Heb 6:20), which is described as the inner sanctuary of the heavenly temple, of which the one on earth was a copy (Heb 9:24).
There is a human being in heaven who sympathizes with humanity and can therefore intercede on our behalf (1 Jn 2:1). As the perfect God-man he can serve effectively as an intermediary before God in heaven (Heb 2:17; 5:7–10). His presence in heaven assures us that God understands our needs and we can therefore approach him boldly in our prayers (Heb 4:14–16).
Based on (and drawing of the wording of):
Peter H. Davids, in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, art. ‘Ascension of Christ’