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Ascension of Christ

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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his visible passing from earth to heaven in the presence of his disciples, on the Mount of Olives, forty days after the resurrection (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:1-11).

(1) The ascension was a necessary consequence of the resurrection. Had Christ died a natural death, or simply disappeared from view in obscurity, the resurrection, as a proof of Divine power, would have gone for nothing. It was essential that He should "die no more," so as to demonstrate forever his victory over death.

(2) It was predicted in the 0. T. in several striking passages (e.g. Psalms 24, 68, 103, 110); and also by Christ himself (John 6:62; John 20:17).

(3) It was prefigured in the patriarchal dispensation by the translation of Enoch (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5); and in the Jewish, by the translation of Elijah (2 Kings 2:11); so that each of the three dispensations have had a visible proof of the immortal destiny of human nature.

(4) The fact of the ascension is given by two evangelists only; but John presupposes it in the passages above cited. It is referred to, and doctrines built upon it, by the apostles (2 Corinthians 13:4; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 4:10; 1 Peter 3:22; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 6:20). "The evidences of this occurrence were numerous: the disciples saw him ascend (Acts 1:9); two angels testified that he did ascend (Acts 1:10-11); Stephen, Paul, and John saw him in his ascended state (Acts 7:55-56; Acts 9:3-5; Revelation 1:9-18); the ascension was demonstrated by the descent of the Holy Ghost (John 16:7-14; Acts 2:33); and had been prophesied by our Lord himself (Matthew 26:64; John 8:21).

(5) The time of Christ's ascension was forty days after his resurrection. He continued that number of days upon earth in order that he might give repeated proofs of the fact of his resurrection (Acts 1:3), and instruct his apostles in every thing of importance respecting their office and ministry, opening to them the Scriptures concerning himself (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:5-8).

(6) As to the manner of his ascension, it was from Mt. Olivet, not in appearance only, but in reality, and that visibly and locally. It was sudden, swift, glorious, and in a triumphant manner. (See GLORIFICATION). He was parted from his disciples while he was solemnly blessing them, and multitudes of angels attended him with shouts of praise (Psalms 24:7-10; Psalms 47:5-6; Psalms 68:18)" (Watson, Theol. Dictionary, s.v.).

(7) Its results to the church are:

(a) the assumption of regal dominion by Christ, the head of the church

(Hebrews 10:12-13; Ephesians 4:8; Ephesians 4:10; Psalms 68);

(b) the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7; John 16:14; Acts 2:33; John 14:16-19);

(c) the intercession of Christ, as mediator, at the right hand of God

(Romans 8:34; Hebrews 6:20).

The 3d Article of the Church of England and of the Protestant Episcopal Church runs thus: "Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all men at the last day." The corresponding article of the Methodist Episcopal Church is the same, omitting the words "with flesh, bones, and;" an omission which does not affect the substance of the article. Browne's note on this article is as follows: "It is clear" (from the account in the Gospel) that "our Lord's body, after he rose from the grave, was that body in which he was buried, having hands and feet, and flesh and bones, capable of being handled, and in which he spoke, and ate, and drank (Luke 24:42-43). Moreover, it appears that our Lord thus showed his hands and feet to his disciples at that very interview with them in which he was parted from them and received up into heaven. This will be seen by reading the last chapter of St. Luke from Luke 24:36 to the end, and comparing it with the first chapter of the Acts, Acts 1:4-9; especially comparing Luke 24:49-50, with Acts 1:4; Acts 1:8-9. In that body, then, which the disciples felt and handled, and which was proved to them to have flesh and bones, these disciples saw our Lord ascend into heaven; and, immediately after his ascent, angels came and declared to them that that same Jesus whom they had seen taken up into heaven should so come in like manner as they had seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:11). All this, connected together, seems to prove the identity of our Lord's today after his resurrection, at his ascension, and so on, even till his coming to judgment, with the body in which he suffered, and in which he was buried, and so fully justifies the language used in the article of our church.

But because we maintain that the body of Christ, even after his resurrection and ascension, is a true human body, with all things pertaining to the perfection of man's nature (to deny which would be to deny the important truth that Christ is still perfect man as well as perfect God), it by no means, therefore, follows that we should deny that his risen body is now a glorified, and, as St. Paul calls it, a spiritual body. "But, after his ascension, we have St. Paul's distinct assurance that the body of Christ is a glorious, is a spiritual body. In 1 Corinthians 15, we have St. Paul's assertion that, in the resurrection of all men, the body shall rise again, but that it shall no longer be a natural body, but a spiritual body; no longer a corruptible and vile, but an incorruptible and glorious body (1 Corinthians 15:42-53); and this change of our bodies from natural to spiritual is expressly stated to be bearing the image of our glorified Lord the image of that heavenly man the Lord from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:47-49). So, again, the glorified state of the saint's bodies after the resurrection, which in 1 Corinthians 15 had been called the receiving a spiritual body, is in Philippians 3:21 said to be a fashioning of their bodies to the likeness of Christ's glorious body: 'who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.' We must therefore conclude that, though Christ rose with the same body in which he died, and that body neither did nor shall cease to be a human body, still it acquired, either at his resurrection or at his ascension, the qualities and attributes of a spiritual as distinguished by the apostle from a natural body, of an incorruptible as distinguished from a corruptible body" (On Thirty-nine Articles, p. 115).

On the fact and doctrine of the ascension, see Neander, Life of Christ, p. 437 sq.; Olshausen, Comm. on Acts 1:1-11; Baumgarten, Apostolic History, i, 2428; Bossuet, Sermons, 4:88; Watson, Sermons, ii, 210; Farindon, Sermons, ii, 477-495; South, Sermons; iii, 169; Bibliotheca Sacra, i, 152; ii, 162; Knapp, Theology, 97; Dorner, Doct. of Person of Christ, vol. ii; Barrow, Sermons, ii, 501, 608; Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie,-vi, 106; Maurice, Theol. Essays, p. 251. Monographs connected with the subject have been written, among others, by Ammon (Gott. 1800), Anger (Lips. 1830), Bose (Lips. 1741), Crusius (Lips. 1757), Deyling (Obs. iii, 198), Doederlein (Opp. p. 59), Eichler (Lips. 1737), Fliigge (Han. 1808), Fogtmann (Hafn. 1826), Georgius (Viteb. 1748), Griesbach (Jen. 1793), Himly .(Argent. 1811), Hasse (Regiom. 1805), Loescher (Viteb. 1698), Mayer (Gryph. 1704), C. B. Michaelis (Hal. 1749), Otterbein (Duisb. 1802), Schlegel (Henke's Mag. 4:277), Seiler (Erlang. 1798), id. (ib. 1803), Steenbach (Hafn. 1714), Weichert (Viteb. 1811), Zickier (Jen. 1758), Brennecke (Luxemb. 1819 [replies by Haumann, Iken, Soltmann, Starum, Tinius, Weber, Witting]), Kikebusch (Schneeb. 1751), Korner (Sachs. Geistl. Stud. i, 10), Liebknecht (Giess. 1737), -Mosheim (Helmst. 1729), Schmid (Lips. 1712), Andreai (Marb. 1676), Mahn (Lips. 1700), Remling (Viteb. 1685). (See JESUS).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Ascension of Christ'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​a/ascension-of-christ.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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