What Does It Mean to Say That Jesus Ascended into Heaven?
Over the years, I have heard more than one skeptic ridicule the notion that Jesus ascended into heaven before the very eyes of his disciples. In their view, even if Jesus were traveling at the speed of light he would not yet have escaped the confines of our universe. Not only that but he must surely be struggling with oxygen deprivation by now.
In response, let me first point out that to say Jesus ascended into heaven does not imply that he is traveling through space but rather that as the God-man he transcended time and space. Put another way, heaven is not located in time and space; it exists in another dimension.
Furthermore, the physical universe does not exhaust reality. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that an effect such as the universe must have a cause greater than itself. This is self-evident not only to those who are philosophically sophisticated but to thinking people everywhere. Thus, the notion that the creator of the universe transcended his universe should pose no problem.
Finally, I should note that God often uses physical examples to point to spiritual realities. Thus, the physical fact of Christ’s ascension points to the greater truth that he is now glorified in the presence of God and that our glorification is divinely guaranteed as well.
“After he said this, he was taken up
before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from
their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky
as he was going, when suddenly two men
dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’
they said, ‘why do you stand here looking
into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken
from you into heaven, will come back
in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’” Acts 1:9–11
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