He ascended into heaven

An essential teaching in Christianity is that Christ ascended into heaven. Before He ascended, he taught the disciples what to do in their ministry. This supports even more that the disciples were witnesses to His resurrection. The disciples knew He was raised from the dead because, they all touched Him and felt His body.

After He was done with the disciples training, He went up into the sky where He was no longer seen by the disciples. He went to the farthest place in heaven, “The Right Hand of God,” where He is above all created things. The Second Helvetic Confession states,

We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, in his same flesh, ascended above all visible heavens into the highest heaven, that is, the dwelling-place of God and the blessed ones, at the right hand of God the Father. Although it signifies an equal participation in glory and majesty, it is also taken to be a certain place about which the Lord, speaking in the Gospel, says: “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). The apostle Peter also says: “Heaven must receive Christ until the time of restoring all things” (Acts 3:21). . . .
The Second Helvetic Confession CHRIST IS TRULY ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN. CHAPTER XI Of Jesus Christ, True God and Man,the Only Savior of the World

Jesus did not take a ride some human invention or fly off on a UFO. He was not abducted by space aliens. Nor is he a superhuman with a cape flying off with superhuman powers.

The definition of Ascend

The definition of the word ascend can be found in the Hebrew and the Greek.

Hebrew

<05927> עָלָה (alah) (748a)
Meaning: to go up, ascend, climb
Origin: a prim. root

Greek

<305> ἀναβαίνω (anabaino)
Meaning: to go up, ascend
Origin: from 303 and the same root as 939
Strong’s New American Standard Bible Concordance

Both simply mean “to go up” into the sky. Simply put, when we say Christ ascended to heaven, we mean He went up into the sky so as not to be seen anymore.

The definition of Heaven in the Bible

The Definition of the word heaven is very simple. The Hebrew and Greek words are defined as follows.

Hebrew

<08064> שָׁמַ֫יִם (shamayim) (1029c)
Meaning: heaven, sky
Origin: from an unused word
Usage: astrologers*(1), compass(m)(1), earth(m)(1), heaven(195), heavenly(3), heavens(152), heavens to the other*(1), highest heaven(2), highest heavens(4), horizons(1), sky(50).
Notes: 1 )Or, firmament

Greek

<3772> οὐρανός, οῦ, ὁ (ouranos) {oo-ran-os’}
Meaning: 1) the vaulted expanse of the sky with all things visible in it 1a) the universe, the world 1b) the aerial heavens or sky, the region where the clouds and the tempests gather, and where thunder and lightning are produced 1c) the sidereal or starry heavens 2) the region above the sidereal heavens, the seat of order of things eternal and consummately perfect where God dwells and other heavenly beings
Origin: perhaps from the same as 3735 (through the idea of elevation); the sky; TDNT – 5:497,736; n m
Usage: AV – heaven 268, air 10, sky 5, heavenly + 1537; 284
Strong’s New American Standard Bible Concordance

Heaven simply means the sky and everything proceeding outward from the sky. Genesis has the story of creation where God created the Heavens and the Earth.

Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. And God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
(Gen 1:6-8 NAS)

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. And God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day. Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.”
(Gen 1:14-20 NAS)

The Bible defines heaven in Genesis where we see the statement, “God called the expanse heaven.
This is the simplest and most acceptable explanation of what the Apostles and Prophets meant by heaven.

NOTE! Modern Christians try to show that the Bible is teaching 3 Heavens. This is simply not true. When talking about heaven, the early church had a “geocentric” viewpoint of heaven. We must not interpret the Bible with our modern day scientific notions. The Bible must always be interpreted with the understanding of what people believed at the time the documents were written. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with explaining realities with an imprecise knowledge of science. It is similar to someone in the 1970’s explaining that Christ ascended past the planet “Pluto“, even though there is no planet Pluto. We know what they are saying, regardless of their scientific understanding. 500 years from now we will have a new explanation of our solar system that differs from ours today. There is no alarm in this. Science changes by the minute. For more information on the view of the Apostles and the Jews during Christs time, read “What did the Apostles believe about Heaven during Christs time?

Christ duties prior to His Ascension

After Christ rose from the dead, He stayed on earth for some time teaching the Apostles what to do next. He did not immediately ascend into heaven. The Westminster Larger Catechism states,

Christ was exalted in his ascension, in that having after his resurrection often appeared unto and conversed with his apostles, speaking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, and giving them commission to preach the gospel to all nations, forty days after his resurrection, he, in our nature, and as our head . . .
Westminster Larger Catechism Question 53

Christ appeared to the disciples 3 times

In the gospel of John, there are three accounts of the Apostles talking with Christ before His ascension.

When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
(Joh 20:19-20 NAS)

After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples.
(Joh 21:1-2 NAS)

This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.
(Joh 21:14 NAS)

Christ stayed on earth for some time prior to His ascension.

Christ was on Earth 40 days after His resurrection

In the beginning of Acts, Luke shows how Christ appeared to the disciples teaching them about the kingdom of God before He ascended to Heaven.

To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.
(Act 1:3 NAS)

Christs statement of not touching Him before His ascension

There are some who say Jesus would not let Mary touch Him after His resurrection because She was a Faithless woman (tasbeha.org – why did jesus told mary magdolin not to touch him?). They get this from the following statement in John.

Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'”

(Joh 20:17 NAS)

Clearly Christ did not refuse anyone to touch Him. There are plenty of passages that show Christ telling people to touch Him.

And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.
(Mat 28:9 NAS)
“See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
(Luk 24:39 NAS)
Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing
(Joh 20:27 NAS)

Clearly when reading John 20:17, where Christ says not to touch Him, He is merely saying for her to get up and quickly go and tell the others. He was reassuring her that He was not going anywhere and that she will see Him again.

Christ ascended to heaven

The Bible emphatically teaches that Christ ascended into heaven. He did not dematerialize or fade away. He did not poof away though some cosmic transporter. He was not beamed up like on Star Trek. He simply went up towards the sky.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. (Heb 4:14 NAS)

And it came about that while He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.
(Luk 24:51 NAS) ** NAS Notes (Luk 24:51): 1 )Some mss. do not include and was carried up into heaven

The Bible does teach that the clouds are his mode of transportation. As He ascended into the clouds so He will come in the clouds.

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
(Act 1:9-11 NAS)

So where did Christ go? Is he floating in outer space somewhere? The location where Christ ascended is explained clearly in the Bible.

Christ ascended above the heavens to the furthest part of heaven

The Bible teaches that Christ did not merely go to “Paradise” where God’s people go at death. He went to the farthest part of heaven before God Himself where no created being can go.

Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men. (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
(Eph 4:8-10 NAS)

Christ went farther than that. This “far above” location is called “The Right Hand of God” and is above all the heavens.

So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. (Mar 16:19 NAS See also, Act 2:34-36 and Eph 1:20)

The placement of Christ at the right Hand of God exalts Him above all things in the highest part of heaven. He is above and over everthing in existence. The Westminster Larger Catechism states it well.

Christ was exalted in his ascension, . . .(He) visibly went up into the highest heavens, there to receive gifts for men, to raise up our affections thither, and to prepare a place for us, where himself is, and shall continue till his second coming at the end of the world.
Westminster Larger Catechism Question 53

He went to where no created being can go. Only Christ can stand before and with God Himself, where all things are His subjects.

“And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
(Joh 3:13-14 NAS)

And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you– not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience– through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
(1Pe 3:21-22 NAS)

The ascension of Christ is an essential part of our salvation. If Christ had not ascended to heaven before God, we would not have a mediator between God and us. He would merely be roaming around earth.

Christs ascension is necessary for the atonement for our sins

The ascension and atonement go “hand in hand.” Christ goes before God on our behalf, to keep our salvation sure. He intercedes for us as our advocate.

For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
(Heb 9:24 NAS)


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