The proclamation, “he ascended into heaven,” is the glorious counterpart to the utter humiliation of Christ proclaimed in the earlier phrase, “he descended into hell.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ was not complete with his death and bodily resurrection. The mission of God the Son was to restore humanity to its divinely intended place in God’s presence, to exalt and to glorify humanity. He was triumphant in this mission upon his ascension. “It was God who went into the far country, and it was man who came home” (Barth). Our “deification” happened when Jesus carried our restored/perfected/resurrection humanity into God’s presence, never to be cast out again. As the Ascended Man he is the Eschaton Man, the Omega Man, the Man who has gone where humanity was always destined by the will of God to go. And he is our Man, our Vicar, our Representative. He went to prepare a place for us (John 14:3), because he wants us to be with him where he is (John 17:24). In his ascension we have been glorified (Romans 8:30). “Your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
“He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Ephesians 4:10). “This Jesus” (Acts 1:11)—the Ascended Jesus—is the very same Jesus we see in the Gospels (Hebrews 13:8). He remains the humble, loving Servant-Lord. He remains Immanuel, “God with us,” even after his physical departure. Jesus didn’t just ascend into the heaven of God’s creation, but beyond it, to Glory, to the eternal dwelling place of God, to the divine heart of all reality, so that he could be present to all reality. Therefore, his ascension should not be seen as a loss of his presence, but as the super-cosmic universalization of the Gospel, that God is with our humanity and our humanity is with God, forever.
Does your understanding of the Gospel include the Ascension? How does it factor in to your evangelism? How does the Ascension change your view of God? Of the world? Of yourself? What hints are there in the Old Testament that humanity’s ascension was God’s plan all along?