40 Days After: the Feast of the Ascension

This past Thursday was the Feast of the Ascension. Not a Feast commonly celebrated among Reformed Protestant Christians, but perhaps it should be. Actually, we might be better off ditching our compromised, virtually idolatrous observance of Christmas, and re-appropriate Ascension Day instead.

The Feast of the Ascension comes 40 days after Easter Sunday. It is based on Luke’s testimony in Acts 1:3 that after Jesus resurrection he appeared to his disciples over the course of 40 days before ascending into the sky right before their eyes, and was taken bodily into heaven.{{1}}

[[1]]Many people have had trouble with the idea that ‘ascending into heaven’ appears to assume that heaven is a place in the sky. Ever since we’ve had telescopes we’ve been pretty sure that this wasn’t the case. When the Soviets put Yuri Gregarin in outer space, the matter was settled for good. Jesus is not currently orbiting the planet in a Deathstar called ‘Heaven’.

Jesus’ bodily ascension, however, wasn’t primarily about his mode of transport, it was the visible fulfilment of the prophecy in Daniel 7:13-14:

I continued watching in the night visions, and I saw One like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him. He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13–14 HCSB)

The Apostles’ confidence in the fact that Jesus now rules over all creation (see Peter’s speech in Acts 2), was based on seeing Jesus as the Son of Man, riding the clouds, being received into heaven – into the throne room of the Ancient of Days.

So, where is heaven? Well, we are told by Luke that as the Apostles’ watched, “a cloud took Him out of their sight.” In a sense, we’re still standing on that mountain with the Apostles. We gaze up into the sky, thinking that if we sharpen our eyesight, or build better instruments, we will be able to scrutinise Jesus. But Heaven is hidden. Not less real, not completely unknowable, but for now: not open for earthly human inspection.[[1]]

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