TheÂ Christian doctrineÂ of theÂ AscensionÂ holds thatÂ Jesus‘ body ascended toÂ heavenÂ in the presence of hisÂ apostlesÂ following hisÂ resurrection, and that in heaven he sits at theÂ Father’sÂ right hand. Jesus diedÂ c.Â 30. In theÂ Epistle to the RomansÂ (c. 56-57),Â PaulÂ describesÂ ChristÂ as in heaven andÂ in the abyss,Â the earliest Christian reference to Jesus in heaven. The most influential account of theÂ Ascension, and according to theÂ two-source hypothesisÂ the earliest, is in theÂ Acts of the Apostles1:1-11, where Jesus is taken up bodily into heaven forty days after his resurrection, as witnessed by his apostles, after giving theÂ Great CommissionÂ with aÂ prophecy to return. In theÂ Gospel of Luke, theÂ AscensionÂ takes place onÂ Easter Sundayevening.Â TheÂ Gospel of JohnÂ (c. 90-100)Â refers to Jesus returning to the Father.Â In 1 Peter (c. 90-110), Jesus has ascended to heaven and is at God’s right side.Â Ephesians (c. 90-100)Â refers to Jesus ascending higher than all the heavens.Â First Timothy (c. 90-140)Â describes Jesus as taken up in glory.Â The traditional ending of Mark (seeÂ Mark 16) includes a summary of Luke’s resurrection material and describes Jesus as being taken up into heaven and sitting at God’s right hand.Â The imagery of Christ’s Ascension is related to the broader theme of his exaltation and heavenly welcome, derived fromÂ Hebrew scripture.Â The image of Jesus rising bodily into the heavens reflects the ancient view that heaven was above the earth.
Christ’s ascensionÂ occurs in the originalÂ Nicene Creed, a touchstone of Christian orthodoxy since 325. It is affirmed byChristian liturgyÂ and, in the West, by theÂ Apostles’ Creed. In terms of belief, theÂ AscensionÂ implies Jesus’ humanity being taken into Heaven.Â Ascension Day, celebrated 40 days after Easter, is one of chief feasts of the Christian year.Â The feast dates back at least to the later 300s, as is widely attested.
The canonical account of Jesus ascending bodily into the clouds contrasts with theÂ gnosticÂ tradition, by which Jesus was said to transcend the physical realm and return to his home in the spirit world. It also contrasts withÂ DoceticÂ beliefs, by which matter is intrinsically evil and Jesus was said to have been pure spirit.
Scholars of theÂ historical JesusÂ commonly rejectÂ New TestamentÂ accounts of Jesus’ resurrection as inventions of theapostolic-eraÂ Christian community.Â Some describe the Ascension as a convenient device to discredit ongoingÂ appearance claimsÂ within the Christian community.