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The Ascension Of Christ


Mike
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I'd never thought much about the teaching of Christ's ascension - figuring it to be merely a literary device at best and a dogma at worst. Christ's ascension, of course, is a needed plot point to explain where he is now, where he went following his resurrection and embodied appearances thereafter. Early Christians believed that Jesus left the physical world to be seated with God. From various passages, it seems that at this point Christ became omniscient - "all in all" - uniting the whole church as his mystic body.

 

"God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:6 NIV)

 

"...you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." (2 Peter 1:4 NIV)

 

Then there is the dialogue in John, in which Jesus explains that he must disappear in body if the church is to be joined in spirit.

 

This divinization/theosis extends to a teleological vision for the whole cosmos (1 Cor 15). Christ will be all in all, everything to everyone. All this seems to flow naturally from the vision of Christ’s ascension. I take a line I read from Buddhist prajnaparamita literature, which describes the Buddha as the “one who has so beautifully disappeared into Truth.” To me this beautifully describes the vision of Christ’s ascension.

 

Death does not have the final say on the meaning of one’s life. This is shown in the story of Christ’s resurrection. Eternal life is not an individual possession, but a participation in the Divine life, and this is shown in the baptismal imagery, buried in the likeness of his death, raised to walk in newness of life (the Divine Life). The true meaning of Jesus’ life, and death, is to be found in the face of God, and that is a place where death (or birth) has no final meaning in itself, because God him (or her)self is ultimate meaning.

 

I was also thinking about the psychological effect Jesus’ death must have had on his early followers, and the closure the vision of ascension must have offered. If not for the ascension, the last image we might have of Christ, physically, is his brutal execution. But the ascension provides another way of seeing his physical departure, another layer of meaning to his disappearance from this world.

 

This thought actually occurred to me after watching the movie Kung Fu Panda the other day. There is a scene in which Master Wu Gui, the wise old turtle who invented Kung Fu, passes away under a sacred peach tree. He states simply, and without any trace of regret or anxiety, that his time has come, and admonishes his student to believe. As Wu Gui is saying this, he merges with a whirl of peach tree petals as the wind carries them off. I really like the musical score for this scene, which happens to be entitled “Wu Gui Ascends.”

 

But we know that death does not happen like this. People do not seem to disappear painlessly with flower petals, at complete peace and oneness with the cosmos. Rather, the body shuts down, usually accompanied by pain and some sort of delirium. Or, in the unfortunate case of Jesus, after an anguished six hours of torture by crucifixion. But surely there is another side to Jesus and the significance of his death. Surely there is a deeper dimension to his existence. And to ours. And this is what makes possible “ascension.”

 

What do you think?

What is it about Jesus that makes this possible?

What is it about you or I that makes it possible?

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Mike,

 

I don't think i can address your questions to others nor add much to your eloquent words except to say this....

 

Even as a fundamentalist, I never believed in the physical ascension described in Acts 1:9

 

.. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

 

One will notice they are recorded 'gazing' and looking steadfastly and when i looked up the Greek word it was the same one used where John the baptist 'looked' at Jesus and said Behold the Lamb of God......... Now it is most obvious that John didn't see a lamb. If anything he had to be looking in the Spirit to discern such a thing to recognize who Jesus was to make that statement.. Furthermore the Angels in Acts said, Why do you stand gazing into heaven. this same Jesus shall come in like manner.

 

If we are to see Jesus coming in like manner than they need not stand there gazing. To me that made his ascension not physical as if heaven is up there someplace. Because of this, I had always believed his coming was not a single event for everyone but each man in his/her own order. To me, from my experience, Christ s coming is a spiritual event in the life of a person whereby one comes alive to the revealing of God in us as One. It does not happen in man's time as one time for all. In fact, in my view, it is a continuous event and the words used are always present tense as is come and is coming. Anyway... your topic is the ascension which i believe you described well in the quote as....

 

"one who has so beautifully disappeared into Truth." To me this beautifully describes the vision of Christ's ascension.

 

 

Just my own little tidbit

Joseph

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Guest billmc

Eternal life is not an individual possession, but a participation in the Divine life.

 

I like the way you put this, Mike.

 

While I do think the ancient Jews thought of heaven and God as "up" or "above" and us as "down here" or "below," I agree that the meaning of the ascension is deeper (or higher - ha ha!).

 

To me, the purpose of the ascension is story is to give us a word-picture that tells us that nothing could ultimately separate Jesus from his Father. Though there is no doubt that Jesus claimed unity with the Father in the gospels, the ascension story seems to take this oneness to a new level, perhaps that of ontology? To me, this was the only language they had available to them that could adequately describe Jesus and the Father being truly one, of Jesus as an avatar of God's kingdom.

 

Piggy-backing on what Joseph said, I, too, think that Christ continues to come, every time we do an act of love. Yes, it seems the gospel writers and the writer of Revelation expected a literal, bodily return of Jesus of Nazareth to the Mount of Olives. Taken literally, those prophecies failed -- we have to admit that if we are true to the scriptures. But, at the same time, the incarnation of the Spirit continues in us every day. And the Church has insisted that we are "really" the Body of Christ. If this is true, then, yes, Jesus returned, not quite in the same way that the disciples claimed to see him leave, but in a very real way in us as we seek and live out the kingdom. The worldwide Church is waiting for Jesus to return. Failed returns and raptures are quite common. But maybe God is waiting us to really be the Body of Christ. If we did that, we would see Christ return, not in clouds of glory, but in the faces and lives of others around us.

Edited by billmc
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Thanks for the great input guys.

 

Joseph writes,

 

If we are to see Jesus coming in like manner than they need not stand there gazing. To me that made his ascension not physical as if heaven is up there someplace. Because of this, I had always believed his coming was not a single event for everyone but each man in his/her own order. To me, from my experience, Christ s coming is a spiritual event in the life of a person whereby one comes alive to the revealing of God in us as One. It does not happen in man's time as one time for all. In fact, in my view, it is a continuous event and the words used are always present tense as is come and is coming.

 

I like this, hadn't thought about the passage in Acts. It makes sense that if Christ's ascension was his disappearance into omniscience, expecting his 'return' to a particular time and place would be a little redundant, since he is already there. Or maybe, as you suggest, since he was gone into omniscience, then he can 'return' in like fashion to every time and place. Seeing 'going to' and 'returning from' omniscience as basically identical is part of the apparent paradox of oneness.

 

 

 

Bill writes,

 

 

To me, the purpose of the ascension is story is to give us a word-picture that tells us that nothing could ultimately separate Jesus from his Father. Though there is no doubt that Jesus claimed unity with the Father in the gospels, the ascension story seems to take this oneness to a new level, perhaps that of ontology? To me, this was the only language they had available to them that could adequately describe Jesus and the Father being truly one, of Jesus as an avatar of God's kingdom.

 

I agree - I think the ontological sense here is very fitting. Thanks for your insightful words here.

 

Taken literally, those prophecies failed -- we have to admit that if we are true to the scriptures. But, at the same time, the incarnation of the Spirit continues in us every day. And the Church has insisted that we are "really" the Body of Christ. If this is true, then, yes, Jesus returned, not quite in the same way that the disciples claimed to see him leave, but in a very real way in us as we seek and live out the kingdom. The worldwide Church is waiting for Jesus to return. Failed returns and raptures are quite common. But maybe God is waiting us to really be the Body of Christ. If we did that, we would see Christ return, not in clouds of glory, but in the faces and lives of others around us.

 

I agree that the apostle's expectations were very physical. Perhaps this is even more relevant since the May 21 debacle with Family Radio.

 

But I think, and hope, that we can be true to the Christian tradition on the whole, for which the New Testament need not be considered the only source. But, of course, your last line here hearkens back to 'He that has done this for the least of my brethren has done it for me', which indeed is New Testament.

Thanks for sharing.

 

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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Guest billmc

One other small addition, if I may. Though I haven't verified this lately, if memory serves, the word that translators call "return" or "coming" is parousia and actually means "presence." It doesn't connotate so much a shift from one physical location to another, but, rather, an abiding, a taking up residence.

 

This, to me, seems to fit much better with some of Jesus' promises that he would always be with his disciples or that he would never leave them or forsake them or that he would make his dwelling with them. I want to take the language of the Bible seriously (the truth that it points to), though not too literally (the metaphors used to point to the truth), and I suspect that Jesus' parousia is much more about "Christ in us" (one of Paul's favorite phrases) than about a physical Jesus floating over Jerusalem.

 

One of my sometimes harsh critiques of Christianity is the irony that the people who claim to be indwelt by this Christ can do the most harmful things to each other. And I've been guilty of this myself (though I'm reluctant to say that the ghost of Jesus somehow posesses me). But I can't help but think that some of this comes from the general understanding that Jesus' return is future in Israel instead of present-tense in us today.

 

And that makes me wonder what might be implied (and, hopefully, discussed) if we considered the "ascension of Christ," not to a place called heaven far above the earth, but in our own lives? What would it look like if Jesus ascended in *me*?

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Personally , i find the NT a great pointer in the things we are discussing but i believe translations were slanted to more fleshly or literal meanings by the church system or men. Maybe this was done even innocently. However, enough writings still point to what we are discussing here if the language it was translated from is considered. Consider this excerpt from an old post i made on the True Gospel Message.

 

---------------------

John 3:3-6

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. [4] Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? [5] Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

 

Truly, Truly, unless a man is (gennao) regenerated or brought forth of the water (flesh) and of the (pneuma) Spirit/vital principle he can't go in the realm of (theos) Divinity. The two are different. Flesh is (sarx) flesh as in meat of an animal and Spirit is Spirit/vital principle as in essence. To regenerate is to renew again which signifies that something of the Spirit was set aside or forgotten or as lost and needs to be renewed to enter back in to the realm of Divinity. In reality nothing is really lost but in this world of duality it is as if it is lost.

 

Luke 17:20-21

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: [21] Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

 

Here it is plainly told that the realm of Divinity does not (erchomai) appear or come with (parateresis) observation or ocular evidence. Further more he tells us the realm of Divinity is (entos) inside or within you. The outside world would not exist without the presence of the life force from within. (Within and without are from the perspective of this world as in the realm of divinity there is neither)

 

------------------------

 

I post this as an example to show that the words recorded of Jesus in the NT, including the ascension, while they may pick up a literal flavor to many, to me , they are deep and more of the spirit than of the flesh. Perhaps that's why he used so many parables and the men who translated , when they had a choice of possible meanings, choose the words that made the most sense to their flesh. Perhaps it was no accident Jesus is not recorded writing any words himself , except in the sand which would blow away. However he seemed to me keen on writing them on the hearts of those he came in contact with. And i don't believe they got lost.

 

Joseph

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What do you think?

What is it about Jesus that makes this possible?

What is it about you or I that makes it possible?

 

Peace,

Mike

 

Good thread, thanks for starting it!

 

Staying within the scope of the thought you present here, it has seemed to me that it helps to keep in mind that where ever these "flesh-spirit" matters are under consideration in so many NT passages, especially those presented as Jesus' own speech, that "flesh" itself holds dual meaning. First of course in the literal physical sense, this physical body, but also in another sense, represented in the modern concept in psychology as "Ego." The seat of our human sense of self-identity within this world.

 

Now, it's a walk through a mine-field of quicksand to start thinking in the direction of ideas about "ego death" as I've encountered some trying to do, because such discussion usually fail for having not yet broken from ideas that Ego is somehow bad, something of the flesh to be destroyed and eliminated in the search for enlightenment, and I disagree there. As vessel for our very state of consciousness of our own existence in this life, we need Ego!

 

However, if we relate Ego to the flesh, as in seat of our sense of personal, individual, and unique identity in this world, the "body" in which we dwell, I think we can draw a valid comparison of Ego to Jesus' physical body, which suffered and died, yes, but which was also shortly ressurected back into life. I think that makes the ressurection of his physical body a neccesary part of the process being represented. If His physical body and just remained dead, and it were only His spirit, or soul, that arose, it could seem consistent with the idea I reject above, of there being good reason to want to kill, destroy, Ego entirely.

 

Perhaps the death and ressurection of Jesus' physical body could be analogy to flesh-bound Ego being forced from it's egocentric perception of itself as being not only the seat of our SENSE of identity as a person here in this life, but BEING the entirety, or at least the substance, the foundation and basis, of our identity. But if Ego had no value or use, as in this analogy that the physical body has no value or use, it would make sense to leave it dead, not to ressurect it back to life. A disembodied spirit of Jesus would serve just fine.

 

When Jesus' physical body was ressurected, it was not with the old flesh-bound spark of life that had previously animated it, which can be analogized as nothing more than the cellular ATP process present beiologists idenity as the literal 'spark of life', but with the greater spirit of life, that is cosmic spirit of life, or God. Similarly ressurected Ego has a new animating principle, but still exists. I think this is along the liine of the commonly used analogy to the transformation of the catapillar to the butterfly...in the process that takes place within the crysalis involves the body of the catapillar utterly disintegrating and reintegrating into the butterfly, there is a coninuity of life, but not of identity. For non-biology aware, the body of the catapillar doesn't merely sprout wings and put on a new superfical coat of colors.

 

Now, ascention....while the resurrection is the rebirth into a new creation, perhaps the ascention is, as the butterfly must shake out, dry and harden it's new body and wings before it can take flight, the maturing of the newly-born creature into it's full new identity, and relationship to its new envirnment...while the catelillar dwelt on solid earth, feeding on growing plant foliage, the butterfly will take flight in the air, nurtured on nectar.

 

I think, too, we may be into the area of those that partake of the first death (Ego as flesh based identity) will not be hurt by the second death, of the physical body which unregenerate Ego identified itself with/as.

 

Jenell

 

Jenell

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(snip for brevity)

 

However, if we relate Ego to the flesh, as in seat of our sense of personal, individual, and unique identity in this world, the "body" in which we dwell, I think we can draw a valid comparison of Ego to Jesus' physical body, which suffered and died, yes, but which was also shortly resurrected back into life. I think that makes the resurrection of his physical body a necessary part of the process being represented. If His physical body and just remained dead, and it were only His spirit, or soul, that arose, it could seem consistent with the idea I reject above, of there being good reason to want to kill, destroy, Ego entirely.

 

(snip)

Jenell

 

Interesting Jenell,

 

Personally, i do not see ego as bad as i assume you do not either from your post. Therefore i agree it is not a thing to be destroyed or kill in that sense. It seems to me in my experience that the more or harder you try to fight or extinguish it, the stronger it becomes. It seems to me to be more of something that falls away of its own accord as one identifies with ones nature in Christ and dis identifies with the old self. .I guess i do not share the necessity or view that Jesus had to resurrect his physical body since he had attained Oneness with his source (the Father), Of what further use is ones personal individual and unique identity once once one is dead to self? What is the purpose in dieing daily only to resurrect that which is temporal and destined to die?

 

It seems to me it is done for nought. If old things must pass away then why would we bring the past with us after death of the physical? To be born again in the flesh? If we are indeed dead and our life hid with Christ in God, what is it that is resurrected (brought back to life)? Ego seems to me something that humans are destined to pass through and when they have, however long that takes, there seems to me no further need for the separation that is part of its requirement to continue to exist.

 

My questions of course, are rhetorical in nature for thought, and need no response unless you would like to exchange views in the debate and dialog section by starting a thread there on Ego and your thoughts on it. Otherwise , i would think we would get off topic here and step out of the intent of this section.

 

Joseph

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Guest billmc

Much of this puzzles me when it comes to Christ's ascension. It makes me question my "big picture" of what God's kingdom is all about and if God has a "plan" for humanity.

 

A few years ago, during a Bible study at church, I asked a retired pastor, "Why is the resurrection so important? If, when we die, we go to heaven to be with God and Jesus, then why is the resurrection necessary?" His response, which made sense to me at the time, was, "God didn't created humanity to live in heaven. God created us to live on earth." His point-of-view was that, through Christ, God was restoring (or would restore) the world to, once again, a Garden of Eden type of existence. Keeping with what he believed to be ancient Jewish notions, he believed that the "big picture" was for God to create or recreate a "new" earth wherein everyone lived in an immortalized, physical form in communities of compassion.

 

Okay, all well and good. And then we have Jesus flying off to...where? :D Where did he go? :blink: If the "big picture" or God's "plan" was the literal, physical restoration or redemption of this planet, why did Jesus leave it?

 

Ever since Jesus' ascension, it seems to me, the door is left wide open for Christians to trade out the "big picture" of the restoration of the planet for flying disembodied off to Alpha Centauri or someplace similar when we die. :D I'm not saying that this is wrong. I'm just saying that Jesus' ascension seems to support that view, that we are truly "spirit beings", trapped in bodies, not intended to ultimately have a physicality to us. Of course, Greek thinking did hold to a very dualistic view that the physical was evil and the spiritual was good. I'm not sure how much of this influenced the thinking of the early church.

 

So this all puzzles me. I guess I don't really care whether I go to Alpha Centauri. I've heard that it's a fairly next galaxy. But then, it is supposed to collide with the Milky Way eventually. It's always something. :)

 

I just wish the Bible was a little more monolithic on what the "big picture" is. Maybe we get to pick? I'd rather have a cabin in the hills with my family and my accordion. Some would consider that to be hell. :lol:

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