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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Ascension of Jesus (anglicized from the Vulgate Latin Acts 1:9-11 section title: Ascensio Iesu) is the Christian teaching found in the New Testament that the resurrected Jesus was taken up to heaven in his resurrected body,[Acts 1:9-11] in the presence of eleven of his apostles, occurring 40 days after the resurrection. In the biblical narrative, an angel tells the watching disciples that Jesus' second coming will take place in the same manner as his ascension.
The Ascension of Jesus is professed in the Nicene Creed and in the Apostles' Creed. The Ascension implies Jesus' humanity being taken into Heaven. The Feast of the Ascension, celebrated on the 40th day of Easter (always a Thursday), is one of the chief feasts of the Christian year. The feast dates back at least to the later 4th century, as is widely attested.
The account of Jesus ascending bodily into the clouds is given fully only in the Acts of the Apostles, but is briefly described also in the Gospel of Luke (often considered to be by the same author, see Luke-Acts) at 24:50–53 and in the ending of Mark 16 at 16:19.
In the Epistle to the Romans[10:5-7] (c. 56-57), Paul of Tarsus describes Christ as in heaven and as having descended into the abyss─the earliest Christian reference to Jesus in heaven. The fuller account of the Ascension, the earliest account, according to the two-source hypothesis, is in Acts of the Apostles[1:1-11] where Jesus is taken up bodily into heaven forty days after his resurrection as witnessed by his apostles, after giving the Great Commission with a prophecy to return.
In the Gospel of Luke, there is no time marker to say when the Ascension took place. Some read the text of Luke literally and take the final four verses of the last chapter as if events were contiguous on the same day─i.e., the Ascension taking place on Easter Sunday evening. Others hold the Ascension took place 40 days after the Resurrection based on Acts 1:3.
The Gospel of John[20:17] (c. 90-100) refers to Jesus returning to the Father. Some interpret 'Receive the Spirit' of John 20:22 as a possibly meaning that Jesus was then already ascended and glorified on the late Sunday of resurrection.
In the First Epistle of Peter (c. 90-110), Jesus has ascended to heaven and is seated at the Right Hand of God.[1 Pet. 3:21-22] The Epistle to the Ephesians[4:7-13] (c. 90-100) refers to Jesus ascending higher than all the heavens, perhaps a reference to the Throne of God being placed above the Seven Heavens.
The First Epistle to Timothy[3:16] (c. 90-140) describes Jesus as taken up in glory.
The appended ending of Mark[16:19] includes a summary of Luke's resurrection material and describes Jesus as being taken up into heaven and sitting at God's right hand. The imagery of Jesus' Ascension is related to the broader theme of his exaltation and heavenly welcome, derived from the Hebrew Bible. The image of Jesus rising bodily into the heavens reflects the ancient view that heaven was above the earth.
One mention of the Ascension found in the Christian Bible is in the Gospel of Mark[16:14-19]—but see article on Mark 16. In one segment of the account, Jesus and the remaining eleven apostles are seated at a table. The passage summarizes a number of teachings attributed to Jesus: they are to spread the Gospel (see also Great Commission) and those who believe will be known by their ability to handle venomous snakes without ill effects, to heal the sick, to cast out demons, to speak in "new tongues," and the like. The next segment in the most common, later ordering of the account states that after teaching these things, Jesus was received into heaven to sit at the right hand of God. No description of the Ascension itself is given; Mark simply states that it happened. This traditional but possibly non-canonical ending of Mark is considered a summary of Luke's resurrection appearances, commission, and ascension, plus miracles from the apostolic tradition.
The Gospel of Luke[24:50-51] is even more brief in its description. Jesus led the eleven to Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. While in the act of blessing them, Jesus was carried up to heaven. Since Luke was once the first part of Luke-Acts, scholars surmise that this Ascension, less detailed than that in Acts 1:9-12, is from a different hand, perhaps created when Luke-Acts was divided into Luke and Acts.
The Acts of the Apostles[1:9-12] reports that for forty days after the Resurrection, Jesus continued to teach His followers. Jesus and the eleven were gathered near Mount Olivet, to the northeast of Bethany. Jesus tells His apostles that they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit, the "Comforter," see also Paraclete, and that they will spread His message the world over, i.e., the Great Commission. Jesus is taken up and received by a cloud. Two men clothed in white (i.e., angels, see also Two witnesses) appear and tell the apostles that Jesus will return in the same manner as he was taken.
The original Gospel of Luke and the Acts were both written by the same author and were thus very unlikely to contain such discrepancies in their original form.
Not only is the Ascension related in the passages of Scripture cited above, but it is also elsewhere predicted and spoken of as an established fact. Thus, Christ asks the Jews: "What if then you shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?"[Jn 6:62] and to Mary Magdalene Jesus said, "Do not hold on to Me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to My God and your God.' " 20:17 In Acts,[2:30-33] Ephesians,[4:8-10] and 1 Timothy[3:16] the Ascension of Christ is spoken of as an accepted fact, while Hebrews[10:12] describes Jesus as seated in heaven.
The Gospel of Matthew ends[28:18-20] at a mountain in Galilee with Jesus commanding the Disciples to spread the Gospel to the ends of the world, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (the "Great Commission"). No mention is made there of the Ascension.
The Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditional view is that Mary was also present at the Ascension, following her mention in Acts 1.
he place of the Ascension is not distinctly mentioned in the Gospel of Mark. Luke 24:50 states that the event took place in Bethany while it appears from Acts that it took place on the Mount Olivet (the "Mount of Olives"). After the Ascension the apostles are described as returning to Jerusalem from the mount that is called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, within a Sabbath day's journey. Tradition has consecrated this site as the Mount of Ascension.
Before the conversion of Constantine in 312 AD, early Christians honored the Ascension of Christ in a cave on the Mount of Olives. By 384, the place of the Ascension was venerated on the present open site, uphill from the cave.
The Chapel of the Ascension in Jerusalem today is a Christian and Muslim holy site now believed to mark the place where Jesus ascended into heaven. In the small round church/mosque is a stone imprinted with what some claim to be the very footprints of Jesus.
Around the year 390 a wealthy Roman woman named Poimenia financed construction of the original church called "Eleona Basilica" (elaion in Greek means "olive garden", from elaia "olive tree," and has an oft-mentioned similarity to eleos meaning "mercy"). This church was destroyed by Sassanid Persians in 614. It was subsequently rebuilt, destroyed, and rebuilt again by the Crusaders. This final church was later also destroyed by Muslims, leaving only a 12x12 meter octagonal structure (called a martyrium—"memorial"—or "Edicule") that remains to this day. The site was ultimately acquired by two emissaries of Saladin in the year 1198 and has remained in the possession of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem ever since. The Russian Orthodox Church also maintains a Convent of the Ascension on the top of the Mount of Olives.
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In Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox theology, the Ascension is interpreted as the culmination of the Mystery of the Incarnation, in that it not only marked the completion of Jesus' physical presence among his apostles, but consummated the union of God and man when Jesus ascended in his glorified human body to sit at the right hand of God the Father. The Ascension and the Transfiguration both figure prominently in the Orthodox doctrine of theosis. The bodily Ascension into heaven is also understood as the final token of Christ's two natures: divine and human.
The Orthodox doctrine of salvation points to the Ascension to indicate that the state of redeemed man is higher than the state of man in Paradise before the fall.
The Orthodox understand Christ's physical presence to continue in the Church, which is the "Body of Christ".[1 Cor 12:12-27] Jesus' promise that he will be "with you always" is understood not only in terms of his active, divine grace, but also in the divine institution of the church (human sinfulness notwithstanding).
Christ's Ascension into heaven is understood as a necessary prerequisite for the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.[Jn 14:15-20] [14:25-28] [15:26] [16:7] The biblical texts regarding the Ascension also prophesy the Second Coming of Christ, stating that Jesus will return not only in the same glorious manner, but in the same place. In other words, the Second Coming and Last Judgment will take place on the Mount of Olives, with the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) below and to the left.
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