Sunday, November 28, 2010

After the ascension

What happened to Jesus after he ascended?

Luke (Acts) describes him leaving in bodily form, and Revelation pictures his eventual return in bodily form, and various other places talk of him being 'seated at the right hand of the Father' - which suggests wherever he is right now, he is in bodily form (although, it also suggests the Father is in bodily form too).

But Paul (e.g. Ephesians 4v10: "He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe") talks in language that suggests that Jesus does not remain in bodily form.

Which is it?

Why does it matter?

Well, the former option has a few problems for me, specifically where exactly Jesus is, but more importantly, what he can do. In the gospels, even in resurrection appearances, Jesus appears to be limited in capabilities by his physical form - sure he can appear in locked rooms, but he can only interact with small numbers of people at any given time. Today literally millions of people pray to him on a daily basis, if he's constrained in any way by humanity, I kind of doubt that he can actually deal with all that.

If, however, he has returned to his pre-incarnation form, then will he have to re-incarnate for the second coming? (and then de-incarnate again at some time after that in order to interact with all his people?) - That all starts to get a bit messy.

The more I think about it, the more I find myself thinking that the former option (remaining in the body) is more consistent with the faith I was raised with, but is less consistent with reality and practicality - in other words, I can't see how it would actually work - while the latter option (returning to spirit) might make more spiritual sense, but starts raising questions about some doctrines like the second coming.

Anyone got any insights here? I have to say I'm really struggling with this one - the ascension seems pretty mythical to me, but if it is a myth, then either the story ended a different way, or a lot more of it is myth...


Anonymous said...

I don't have much rationality to offer her (as if I ever do lol), but the bodily ascension is what makes Christianity appealing to me; that God having suffered a human life, does not wash his hands of us.

"I'm glad that's over"

In returning to his pre-incarnate state.

It is the ascension that is our token of our own life with God.

It is not difficult for him, although finite in space - we must consider doctrines such as theosis, and the communion of saints, to help us understand how He is able to intercede for us.

I've noticed elsewhere on your blog that you are not a fan of the Creeds and Ecumenical Councils, perhaps if might be worth revisiting them?

Anonymous said...

I've always seen being in heaven and in our early bodily form as being fundamentally incompatible so he will return to human form for the second coming. I guess this is why the Father never appeared in human form.