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Holman Bible Dictionary


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Act of going to heaven in bodily form from earthly life. Experienced by Enoch (Genesis 5:24 ) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:1-2 ) but supremely by Jesus Christ (Acts 1:9 ). Jewish literature outside the canon of the Bible developed long stories and explanations of the ascension of many religious heroes. See, for example, the Assumption of Moses. The Bible gives only brief notices. Still, the ascension of Jesus provides important theological foundations. It concluded the earthly ministry of Jesus, allowing eyewitnesses to see both the risen Christ on earth and the victorious, eternal Christ returning to heaven to minister at the right hand of the Father. The ascension expanded Christ's ministry from its geographically limited earthly dimensions to its universal heavenly dimensions. The ascension (1) allowed Jesus to prepare a heavenly place for His followers (John 14:2 ), (2) return to the Father (John 16:5 ), (3) send the Holy Spirit to the disciples (John 16:7 ) to bring conviction of sin, open the way to righteousness through faith, and condemn the devil, (4) comfort those suffering for Him through visions of the Ascended One (Acts 7:54-60 ), (5) call persons to fulfill His missionary task (Acts 9:1-18 ), (6) open doors of ministry for His people (2 Corinthians 2:12-14 ), (7) demonstrate God's power and His rule over all who would exercise power and authority on earth or in heaven (Ephesians 1:20-23 ), (8) give gifts for ministry to His people (Ephesians 4:7-12 ), (9) give hope to troubled followers showing they would join Him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4 ), (10) rescue His servants from persecution so they can preach His gospel (2 Timothy 4:16-18 ), (11) demonstrate that glory, not death, is God's final word for the Son and for disciples (Hebrews 2:9 ), (12) exercise a heavenly priesthood (Hebrews 4:14 ), (13) make revelation of future trials and final victory possible (Revelation 1:1 ), (14) discipline His church so He may have fellowship with it and provide final full fellowship in ruling with Christ (Revelation 3:19-22 ).

Most of all the ascension combined with the resurrection exalted Christ (Philippians 2:9 ). Contrasted to Christ's act of humbling Himself to move from heaven to earth and especially to the cross (Philippians 2:5-8 ) is God's act of exalting Jesus to the highest position in the universe, in charge of everything that exists and all that happens. Thus in ascension Jesus showed He had defeated death for good and made eternal life possible. The ascension thus calls on all people to bow in worship and obedience to the Ascended One (Philippians 2:10 ).

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Ascension'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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Ascension of Christ
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