The Christian doctrine of the Ascension holds that Jesus‘ body ascended to heaven in the presence of his apostles following his resurrection, and that in heaven he sits at the Father’s right hand. Jesus died c. 30. In the Epistle to the Romans (c. 56-57), Paul describes Christ as in heaven and in the abyss, the earliest Christian reference to Jesus in heaven. The most influential account of the Ascension, and according to the two-source hypothesis the earliest, is in the 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 the Great Commission with a prophecy to return. In the Gospel of Luke, the Ascension takes place on Easter Sundayevening. The Gospel of John (c. 90-100) refers to Jesus returning to the Father. In 1 Peter (c. 90-110), Jesus has ascended to heaven and is at God’s right side. Ephesians (c. 90-100) refers to Jesus ascending higher than all the heavens. First Timothy (c. 90-140) describes Jesus as taken up in glory. The traditional ending of Mark (see 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. The imagery of Christ’s Ascension is related to the broader theme of his exaltation and heavenly welcome, derived from Hebrew scripture. The image of Jesus rising bodily into the heavens reflects the ancient view that heaven was above the earth.
Christ’s ascension occurs in the original Nicene Creed, a touchstone of Christian orthodoxy since 325. It is affirmed byChristian liturgy and, in the West, by the Apostles’ Creed. In terms of belief, the Ascension implies Jesus’ humanity being taken into Heaven. Ascension Day, celebrated 40 days after Easter, is one of chief feasts of the Christian year. 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 the gnostic tradition, by which Jesus was said to transcend the physical realm and return to his home in the spirit world. It also contrasts with Docetic beliefs, by which matter is intrinsically evil and Jesus was said to have been pure spirit.
Scholars of the historical Jesus commonly reject New Testament accounts of Jesus’ resurrection as inventions of theapostolic-era Christian community. Some describe the Ascension as a convenient device to discredit ongoing appearance claims within the Christian community.