The Bible talks about Jesus ascending into the sky. The actual words are: “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going….” (Acts 1:10-11). But does that mean heaven is somewhere in a vertical direction? When the USSR first started sending up space shots they crowed that they hadn’t seen God up there. This is a popular belief.
The Bible uses metaphor and symbolism, and so do we. We talk about the sun rising – which it doesn’t, rather the earth spins. We talk about looking up at the stars, but, of course, the stars aren’t just more or less vertically above us. They’re all around us. In Australia we saw beautiful parts of the night sky which are never visible to us in Britain. They are, as it were, beneath our feet. But from everywhere on earth the visible night sky is above us.
Actually to think of heaven, with Jesus in it, as a physical place tucked away “above the bright blue sky” in some corner of the universe is a mistake. God is not limited by time and space. When Jesus rose from the dead, he had a physical body: people could touch him, he could make and eat breakfast with his disciples. But it was a “glorified” body. He could appear and disappear wherever he wanted to, and he could pass through solid objects.
Modern scientific theories can make our minds boggle. We are familiar with three dimensions – height, width and depth – but scientists tell us that time is a fourth dimension, and some of them talk about there being 5,10 or more dimensions. Some also think there are many universes. We can’t begin to imagine this. I suppose we could think of heaven as another (spiritual) dimension intersecting with our universe, but even that is a human simplification.
But let’s keep it simple. How can we picture the ascension of Jesus in the light of what we know about the universe today? He did indeed go up from the earth and he did that because it would help his disciples to understand and imagine that he was going to be crowned king of the universe.
The known universe is 90 billion trillion miles or 90, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles across! And just as there was never a time when Jesus was not, there is no place where he is not. That is partly what the Ascension of Jesus means to me. He is Lord of the whole universe. More than that, he is Lord of infinity.
If you thought you could get away from Jesus, think again! If you ever feel forsaken by him, that is purely a feeling, however distressing, it is not factually correct.
Remember also what the angels present at his Ascension said to the disciples: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
One day this ascended Jesus will return visibly and physically to this earth, not this time the babe of Bethlehem, but rather the Lord of glory. Are you ready to meet him?
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction