Tuesday, December 26, 2017


9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11). 

I've discussed this before, but I have a few new things to add. 

i) Unbelievers cite this as an example of Biblical error, where the narrator subscribes to a flat-earth, three-story cosmography. 

Readers who construe the passage that way seem to think it depicts Jesus shooting up into heaven like a rocket. He passes out of sight when he passes through a cloud overhead, obscuring the view for ground-based observers. "Heaven" is up in the sky or outer space. 

ii) But that's a misreading of the passage. He doesn't pass through a cloud. Rather, the cloud removes him. 

In context, the "cloud" is a synonym for the Shekinah, viz. the pillar of cloud in the Exodus narratives. Acts is the sequel to Luke, and in Luke's Gospel, we have the same type of imagery: 

34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 

Once again, that has reference to the Shekinah, with allusions to cloudy pillar (by day) and fiery pillar (by night). The same phenomenon seen under different lighting conditions.  A theophanic "cloud". 

When we read the Ascension account, we should visualize something like the theophany in Ezk 1, which–from a distance–may have resembled an electrical storm. In Ezekiel, the theophany is a portable throne room. The Shekinah is like a corona ensheathing the enthroned Deity and his angelic sentinels. 

iii) In the Ascension account, the theophanic cloud functions like time portals and interdimensional portals in science fiction lore, which transport someone stepping through them into the past, future, or parallel universe. In this case, it transports Jesus to another realm ("heaven"). 

I'm not saying it's literally an interdimensional portal. I'm just using that analogy to clarify the function. We might also compare it to the Wood between the Worlds in The Chronicles of Narnia. 

iv) There is, though, the intriguing question of Christ's ultimate destination. In standard biblical eschatology, the intermediate state precedes the final state. The intermediate state is a disembodied condition while the final state is a reembodied condition. However, the resurrection of Christ is "anachronistic" in the sense that it foreshadows the resurrection of the just. So where did Jesus go? Presumably he went to a physical place inasmuch as he has a body. But if his resurrection is a foretaste of something that only happens at the Parousia (or thereabouts), then is he all alone?

v) It would be fitting if the much maligned passage in Mt 27:51-53 dovetails with the Ascension. The same question arises: what happened to them after they made their appearance? Perhaps the answer is that Jesus, along with the resurrected saints in Mt 27:51-53, went to the same place–wherever that is. Not here on earth, certainly. And there they remain until the new Eden is inaugurated on earth. 

vi) As a side note, Lk 1:35 using the same theophanic imagery, like the Shekinah suffusing the tabernacle. Figuratively speaking, Mary's womb was akin the tabernacle while prenatal Jesus was akin the Shekinah in the inner sanctum.

But perhaps it's more than rhetorical. Maybe the Shekinah really did overshadow Mary to effect the Incarnation. To miraculously effect the virginal conception. 

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