Believer, Your Flesh Is in Heaven BY William Boekestein for Core Christianity
(46) Q. What do you mean by saying, “He ascended to heaven”?
A. That Christ, while his disciples watched, was taken up from the earth into heaven and remains there on our behalf until he comes again to judge the living and the dead.
(47) Q. But isn’t Christ with us until the end of the world as he promised us?
A. Christ is true man and true God. In his human nature Christ is not now on earth; but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit he is never absent from us.
(48) Q. If his humanity is not present wherever his divinity is, then aren’t the two natures of Christ separated from each other?
A. Certainly not. Since divinity is not limited and is present everywhere, it is evident that Christ’s divinity is surely beyond the bounds of the humanity that has been taken on, but at the same time his divinity is in and remains personally united to his humanity.
(49) Q. How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
A. First, he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father. Second, we have our own flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that Christ our head will also take us, his members, up to himself. Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a corresponding pledge. By the Spirit’s power we seek not earthly things but the things above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead. He has defeated death and gained new life for everyone who trusts in him.
But it would be a mistake to think that the resurrection is the end of the story of Christ’s saving work. It may surprise us that while the catechism asks only one question about the resurrection, it asks four questions about the ascension. Part of the reason has to do with a sixteenth century debate. But the debate itself shows the importance of the event.
What Is the Ascension?
Christ’s ascension is that historical event following his resurrection at which Jesus was physically and visibly raised from the earth as he returned to his Father in heaven. After Christ rose from the dead, he lived 40 more days on earth (Acts 1:3). During this time, he appeared to many people, proving the reality of his resurrection. He also encouraged his friends and continued teaching them (Acts 1:1–3), ending on the crescendo known as the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18–20). Christ was returning to heaven. His disciples were to remain as witnesses to his life and ministry. But they wouldn’t be alone; in some way he would be with them.