Ascension of Jesus

Jesus' ascension to heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley, 1775
Events in the
Life of Jesus
according to the Gospels
Life of Jesus

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The Ascension of Jesus ( anglicized from the Vulgate Latin Acts 1:9-11 section title: Ascensio Iesu) is the departure of Christ from Earth into the presence of God. [1] The narrative in Acts 1 takes place 40 days after the Resurrection: Jesus, in the company of the disciples, is taken up in their sight after warning them to remain in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit; as he ascends a cloud hides him from their view, and two men in white appear to tell them that he will return "in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." [2]

Stories of Heavenly ascents were fairly common in the time of Jesus, [3] signifying divine approval or the deification of an exceptional man. [4] In the Christian tradition, reflected in the major Christian creeds and confessional statements, the ascension is connected with the exaltation of Jesus, meaning that through his ascension Jesus took his seat at the right hand of God: [5] "He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty." The Feast of the Ascension is celebrated on the 40th day of Easter, always a Thursday; [5] the Orthodox tradition has a different calendar up to a month later than in the Western tradition, and while the Anglican communion continues to observe the feast, most Protestant churches have abandoned it. [6] [7] The Ascension of Jesus is an important theme in Christian art, the ascending Jesus often shown blessing an earthly group below him to signify his blessing the entire Church. [8]

Background

The world of the Ascension is a three-part universe with the heavens above, a flat earth centered on Jerusalem in the middle, and the underworld below. [9] [10] [11] Heaven was separated from the earth by the firmament, the visible sky, a solid inverted bowl where God's throne sat "on the vaulted roof of earth."(Isaiah 40:22). [12] [13] Humans looking up from earth saw the floor of heaven, made of clear blue lapis-lazuli (Exodus 24:9-10), as was God's throne (Ezekiel 1:26). [14]

Stories of heavenly ascents were fairly common in the time of Jesus, [3] signifying the means whereby a prophet could attain access to divine secrets, or divine approval granted to an exceptionally righteous individual, or the deification of an exceptional man. [4] Figures familiar to Jews would have included Enoch (from the Book of Genesis and a popular non-Biblical work called 1 Enoch); the 5th century sage Ezra; Baruch the companion of the prophet Jeremiah (from a work called 2 Baruch, in which Baruch is promised he will ascend to heaven after 40 days); Levi the ancestor of priests; the Teacher of Righteousness from the Qumran community; the prophet Elijah (from 2 Kings); Moses, who was deified on entering heaven; and the children of Job, who according to the Testament of Job ascended heaven following their resurrection from the dead. [15] [16] Non-Jewish readers would have been familiar with the case of the emperor Augustus, whose ascent was witnessed by Senators; Romulus the founder of Rome, who, like Jesus, was taken to heaven in a cloud; the Greek hero Heracles (Hercules); and others. [17]

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