I know “ascenscial” is probably not a word. But there is an assumption within the “ascension” that can lead to all sorts of other messes, if we don’t sort it out ahead of time. Of course, it could also simply be interesting speculation…
In Luke 24:51, “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.”
and in Acts 1:9-10, “When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.”
The word used in the Luke passage for “taken up” does not automatically mean “up” as a direction. Anymore than when my 2 year old “swallows up” her food, does it mean she took it in a direction opposite the floor.
In Acts, we find a similar situation, with Jesus being taken out of their sight as literally “a cloud received him”.
These are human attempts to describe something that doesn’t occur on a regular basis. Something “science fiction” authors hadn’t yet developed easily-grasped modes of describing yet (if we can consider todays common sci-fi terminology “easily-grasped”).
To put it simply, if Jesus went “up” from one spot on the world into “heaven”, that means he went “down” from another spot on the world. We have seen the galaxies and solar systems beyond our own a bit more than they had in the early Church, enough to understand “heaven” is probably not simply “up there somewhere”.
It seems more likely, especially with things like Christ entering the locked room after the resurrection, that “paradise” as Christ called it on the cross, is a realm that is not far from our own. The resurrected Christ seems to be physically going in between “paradise” and our world in a way no one else can. Recent science fiction might even refer to it as “another dimension” occupying a space very near to ours.
So what does all of this mean for us? Why does it matter?
It may not be a big deal. But it definitely offers to give us hope, as we look forward to a New Heaven and New Earth being married together. Perhaps someday we will all share in the resurrected existence we see in Christ, crossing back and forth between the two dimensions. We do not have to believe in a moment where Jesus, like Superman, looks up and thrusts his fist into the air – blasting off from the surface of the earth.
Is it any less fantastic to believe that Jesus is simply “taken into” another dimension? I suppose not. But at least I don’t feel as silly. I guess it also makes me feel like God is a bit less removed than some would believe Him to be.