What does the ascension mean for us?
This year (2022), Ascension Day is May 26. On May 29, many churches will celebrate Jesus' ascension from earth to the Father's right hand in heaven (see Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:1-2). What does the ascension of Jesus to heaven mean for us today?
|"The Ascension" by Rembrandt (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)|
In the book Royal Priesthood, T.F. Torrance notes that Jesus ascended "in the fulness of His humanity," remaining "bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh" so that in union with him, we are "bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh (Eph. 5.30)" (p. 43). Torrance exhorts the church to take this truth seriously:
If Jesus Christ is not risen in Body, then salvation is not actualised in the same sphere of reality in which we are, and we are yet in our sins (1 Cor. 15.17). If Jesus Christ is not ascended in the fulness of His Humanity, then we have no anchor within the veil and there is no hope for us men and women of flesh and blood (Heb. 6.19; Col. 1.27). To... dehumanise Christ is to make the Gospel of no relevance to humanity [and]... to turn it into an inhospitable and inhuman abstraction.
Is this not why our churches today often appear so inhospitable because they have lost something, as it were, of the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ? It is only too easy for a church to become an inhuman institution... [operating] with a docetic Christology [a heresy that denies the humanity of Jesus]....
The teaching of the New Testament [is] that the Church is the Body of the living Christ... [And] here we are concerned very much with the Humanity of Jesus. 'We are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones' (Eph. 5.30). This is the strongest possible emphasis upon the fact that in the resurrection of Christ and in the Church's participation in Him the purpose of God in creation is brought to its fulfilment. This fulfilment is no abrogation of its creatureliness but on the contrary a restoration of its creaturely reality which had been impaired by sin.... This means that our creaturely humanity is not transcended or transmuted or trans-substantiated but is fully substantiated as creaturely humanity in the creature-Creator relation.
The Pauline concept of the 'spiritual body'...does not mean a spiritualised body, as if it were less body because it has become spiritual. The 'spiritual man'...is no less man because he is spiritual, but on the contrary, far more man because through the Spirit he participates in the real Humanity of Jesus Christ, who is more fully Man than any other man, and who is above all the humanising Man, the Man through whom all who believe in Him are humanised, and restored through atonement to true and perfect humanity" (pp. 43-44).As we celebrate Jesus' ascension this year, let us remember that Jesus, the resurrected, glorified, ascended man (human) remains forever human as our representative and mediator with God (1Tim. 2:5). From heaven he sends his Spirit to dwell with us, transforming us into the likeness of his own humanity, and leading us in his continuing work to fulfill the Father's mission.
Note: this post was first published in May 2010.