Heaven is where Christ is

The descent into Hades and the ascension into heaven—both events are recorded in Holy Scripture. And both events have stirred up theological controversy to this day. Unfortunately, neither of them is well understood—and yet their significance is clear!

After His death on the cross, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, descended into the depths of Hades. There He preached to all those who were not able to believe already in the time of Noah. The first epistle of Peter in particular relates these events. Today this descent of Jesus into the realm of the dead, as it is called in the early church creeds, is one of the widely forgotten truths of faith, and seems incomprehensible, if not downright strange, to most Christians. What is often ignored here is that these events hold special significance for salvation history: they show that God’s will to redeem mankind applies universally: to all people—in all time periods!

It is similar with the ascension of Jesus Christ. This event is likewise of significance for salvation history. Without His ascension, there would be no ascension for us! In all things He is the first, and we Christians are His followers. Anyone who wants to understand the Ascension must look at God’s plan of salvation as a whole, without getting hung up on any one particular point. In fact, there are at least three notable conclusions that people today can associate with the Christian Holy Day known as Ascension Day.

  • It was by way of this supernatural process that Jesus proved his divinity: the ascension serves as confirmation that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. He came from the Father and He returned to the Father.
  • This was the moment that Jesus completed His mission on earth: He came to this earth in order to accomplish a specific work. He completed it fully and then returned into the glory of the Father. His Ascension marks the end of the Son of God’s mission on earth.
  • A new era began with His ascension: the Son of God became man and not only returned as the Son of God, but also as resurrected man, that is, as a new man. For believers today, this means that human beings can indeed enter into the glory of God if they have a resurrection body.

An example for us

These thoughts are taken from a sermon that Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider conducted on Ascension Day 2021. The true meaning of Ascension then is: Jesus Christ did not go back the same way He had come. He took on a low estate for the sake of mankind, completed His work of redemption, was exalted, and ultimately returned to the Father. He came to the earth in the form of a bondservant and left it as a King! A new kind of thinking began: Jesus Christ is no longer here, but there! His Spirit remained. What a comfort for believers: transitory human beings do not have to remain in the realm of the dead, but can indeed ascend into heaven as redeemed souls! God has brought heaven close to His children. Heaven is wherever Jesus Christ is.

A binding link between Easter and Pentecost

Thirty-nine days had passed since Easter Sunday. The empty tomb had brought about the dawn of the Christian faith and marked the start of the divine plan of redemption. But Pentecost was still needed in order to ensure that the saving message of the ascension of Christ could spread throughout the world. Pentecost is the birthday of the church, where there is fellowship between God and the believers, where the gospel lives and is preached, and where holy acts are offered for mankind. And in the middle of it all there is Ascension. The period from the lifting up on the cross to the resurrection to the ascension of Jesus into heaven and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was certainly a tumultuous one. But as Jesus said in 1 John 16: 7: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”

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Peter Johanning
Christian holidays, Ascension