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Updated: May 4

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)

And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:50-51)

And said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

The essence of the Christian faith finds its climax and heart in the story of Jesus, the God-Man. He's the one who willingly laid down his life for our sins and triumphed over death through resurrection. But there's more to this gospel story as the Apostle's Creed affirms: 'He ascended into heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the living and the dead.' The one who once proclaimed the Kingdom now reigns as its King.

In Revelation 4-5, we witness a glimpse of heaven with two thrones: one for the Father, the Lord of Glory, and the other for the slaughtered Lamb, who rules with self-giving sacrificial love. Here we find a holy mystery, meant to encourage the saints.

The eternal Son of God took on human form in the incarnation, and through the ascension, the risen crucified one returns from the far country and enters the heavenly realm. He is the good and faithful servant who endured the cross and is promoted to glory. The divine became flesh so that flesh, bearing the wounds of the cross, could enter the heavenly realm. Thus, we, with our frail flesh, have an advocate, friend, savior, and king in the realm of the angels, in the presence of the Father—a great high priest.

Jesus' ascent doesn't signify an abandonment of creation; rather, it serves as the operational center where Jesus is worshipped and glorified. It's the place where the King upholds the saints as they proclaim and enact the kingdom, drawing believers into a participatory role in the ongoing redemption of the world. As Gregory of Nyssa reflected, "Our Lord's Ascension into heaven is not His abandonment of the world, but the beginning of a new way of being present to the world."

This narrative of the gospel, with its culmination in Jesus' exaltation and ongoing reign, shapes the identity and mission of the Christian community.

As Cyril of Jerusalem stated, "The Ascension of the Lord is our elevation." The ascension empowers the church to live out the reality of the kingdom amidst the brokenness of the world until that day when heaven and earth are reunited in the redemption of all things.

- Swales 2024


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