A Reflection on the Significance of Jesus’ Ascension
Forty days ago we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. We do well to recall that this was not merely a spiritual resurrection, but a truly bodily resurrection. The body of the resurrected Lord was not simply a reanimated physical body, rather it was an immortalized, glorified body – a human body wonderfully perfected. Following his resurrection, on numerous occasions Jesus appeared in this amazing body to his apostles and disciples, until his final appearance (recorded in Acts 1) at which time they witnessed him Ascend into Heaven. By this glorious Event the resurrected Jesus was exalted by the Father to his right hand on high and crowned as the Lord of lords and King of kings – as Psalm 24 sings and prophesies.
With the Ascension & Exaltation of Jesus Christ, the nature of heaven itself was transformed forever. What caused this transformation? The entrance of God incarnate into heaven, for when Jesus ascended into heaven he retained his full humanity (though now in an immortalized and glorified form). Thus into the sphere where the angels and archangels eternally adore the Holy Trinity, Jesus brought human nature and a human body; and heaven – which was already perfect – was given a higher degree of perfection and grace. Because the Incarnate Son of God is in heaven, those who are united to him (enclosed, as it were within his glorified human nature by the action of the Holy Ghost) are also united to the Holy Trinity.
Thus within the Triune Life of the Holy Trinity there was and there remains glorified human nature. This is an amazing thought and truth, with most holy and saving consequences for human beings, not least the possibility of the beatific vision of beholding the glory of the Father in the face of Jesus Christ.
Previously the angelic hosts and choirs alone praised and magnified the Holy Trinity with their perpetual cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” but now the human voice of the exalted Jesus – High Priest, Son of God, Lord and Mediator – is heard as well.
Additionally, from the time of Jesus’ Ascension and onwards, a constant procession of redeemed and sanctified human beings (both the saints from the Israel of the Old Covenant and the martyrs and saints of the Church of the New Covenant) have been entering Heaven by, through, with and in him. Thus now in heaven, the heavenly choir is comprised of both angelic and human voices – all of whom joyfully sing in the Name of Jesus to the glory of God, who is the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity.
Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad that Heaven was eternally changed, being marvelously developed and expanded, through the Arrival and Coronation of the Lord Jesus. Through Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life we have the hope of entering into the holy sphere of Heaven, in which he has promised “are many mansions” for the heirs of Abraham’s promise.
So on Ascension Day we celebrate not only the Exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ to the supreme place of authority alongside the Father but also the raising of our human nature into the very centre of heaven. Where he has gone those who are united to him by faith and in love by the Holy Ghost will also go – in heart and mind now and in full bodily reality at the End time.
As St. Augustine put it long ago – “All our activity will be Amen and Alleluia.” For “There we shall rest, and we shall see; we shall see and we shall love; we shall love and we shall praise. Behold what shall be in the end and shall not end.” (The Latin is most evocative – Vacabimus et videbimus, videbimus et amabimus, amabimus et laudabimus. Ecce quod erit in fine sine fine.)
So we ask: Why, O Why is the Festival of the Ascension so neglected today? As Prayerbook commentator Evan Daniel wrote:
The festival of the Ascension, though in modern times much neglected in comparison with the other great festivals of the Church, was evidently intended by the framers of the Prayer Book to be celebrated with special honour. It has assigned to it Proper Psalms, Proper Lessons, a special Collect, Epistle, and Gospel and a Proper Preface, and stands, therefore, in the same rank with Christmas, Easter Day, and Whitsunday (Pentecost). St. Augustine speaks of it as universally observed in the Church, and argues that it must have been instituted either by the Apostles themselves, or by Church Councils. He says: ‘For those things which are received and observed all over the world, not as written in Scripture, but as handed down to us by tradition, we conceive to be instituted by the Apostles themselves or some numerous Council whose authority is of very great use in the Church. Such are the anniversary solemnities of our Saviour’s passion and resurrection, and ascension into heaven, and the coming of the Holy Ghost from heaven.
We do well to recall that this is the Festival without which the other Festivals cannot fulfill their meaning and purpose. For unless the Lord Jesus is exalted into heaven, his work is incomplete and thus there is no salvation, redemption, divinization and beatification for the human sinners whom he came to save.
Jesus is risen from the dead. Alleluia. Jesus is exalted to the Father’s right hand. Alleluia. Jesus has transformed and remade heaven. Alleluia. The Father sends the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, in Jesus’ Name. Alleluia. Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead at the end of the age. Alleluia.
– Dr. Peter Toon (with J. S. Patterson)
 Augustin, City of God, Book XXII, chapter xxx.
 Evan Daniel, The Prayer-Book: It’s History, Language and Contents, 1901, pg. 281.