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30 May 2019

Ascension: When Jesus got raptured.

Forty days after Easter, Jesus left. For now.

On Thursday, 15 May 33 (if we take Luke’s count of 40 days Ac 1.3 literally, and not as an estimate) this happened.

Acts 1.6-9 KWL
6 So when they came together, the apostles questioned Jesus:
“Master, is it at this time you’re restoring the Kingdom of Israel?”
7 Jesus told them, “It’s not for you to know times or timing.
That, the Father sets by his own free will.
8 But you’ll all get power: The Holy Spirit is coming upon you.
You’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the world.”
9 Saying this as they watched him, Jesus was raptured.
A cloud concealed him from their eyes.

Christians call this Jesus’s ascension, and celebrate it 40 days after Easter—and 10 days before Pentecost Sunday. ’Cause it’s when Jesus went up, or ascended, into heaven, to stand in service or sit in judgment, at the Father’s right. Ac 2.33, 7.55-56

Various people who don’t believe Christians are getting raptured when Jesus returns love to point out the word “rapture” isn’t in the bible, but that’s only because their favorite translations don’t use it. Rapture simply means “lifted up,” and since ἐπήρθη/epírthi (KJV “he was taken up”) means the very same thing, there’s no reason to translate it otherwise. Jesus got raptured, and we’re getting raptured to join his forces when he returns.

’Cause what goes up must come down.

He’s coming back, y’know.

Just to hammer the point home, two guys said so—not after Jesus was raptured, but right in the middle of it. As he was going into the sky; as Jesus’s followers were watching it happen.

Acts 1.6-9 KWL
10 While they were watching him go up into the sky,
look!—two men in white clothing stood by them.
11 The men said, “Galileans, why’d you stand looking at the sky?
This Jesus, raptured from you into the sky like this,
will come back like you saw him go into the sky.”

Luke called ’em men. Historically Christians taught these are angels. Doesn’t matter their species. The Holy Spirit had informed them, and they informed Jesus’s students, that their Lord is returning. That’s the message the apostles passed along to the first Christians, and the first Christians to us.

He “will come back like you saw him go into the sky.” Ac 1.11 That’s consistent with how Daniel of Babylon described his vision of the Son of Man coming with the heavenly clouds. Da 7.13 Sounds like he’ll appear in the sky. So that’s the idea many Pharisees of Jesus’s day had about how Messiah’d show up to seize power: Not showing up in a caravan from the Galilee, but bursting from the heavenly plane to the earthly plane, ripping a hole in the heavens large enough to see God through.

In any event we Christians teach much the same thing: The sky will go black, Messiah will appear in it, and everybody will see it.

Since Christians (heck, humans) tend to be a bit literal-minded, tradition has it when Jesus returns, he’ll land on the very same mountain he ascended from. That’d be Mt. Olivet, Ac 1.12 also called the Mount of Olives. The Jews also have a tradition that Messiah comes to that mountain, which is why they’ve put a massive cemetery there: If Messiah’s gonna raise the dead, may as well put your family members in a convenient spot so he can raise them!

At the same time, we who are Jesus’s followers will likewise get raptured to join him:

1 Thessalonians 4.16-18 KWL
16 With a commanding shout, with the head angel’s voice, with God’s trumpet,
the Master himself will come down from heaven.
The Christian dead will be resurrected first.
17 Then, we who are left, who are still alive,
will be raptured together with them into the clouds,
to meet the Master in the air.
Thus, we’ll be with the Master—always.
18 So encourage one another with these words!

From there, Jesus and his new entourage of several billion Christians and angels will march to Jerusalem, and claim his city. And his world.

Observing the day.

So yeah, Christians still observe Ascension on the 40th day after Easter, which’ll be on a Thursday. Sometimes we’ll call it the Feast of the Ascension, Ascension Thursday, Holy Thursday, or Ascension Day.

The Sunday after—the last Sunday of Easter, and the Sunday before Pentecost—becomes Ascension Sunday. Since many churches don’t have a Thursday service, they hold off their Ascension stuff till then. Since Orthodox churches use a different calendar than western churches, Easter’s often a week later, which means Ascension and Pentecost are too.

Feasting or fasting vary from church to church. After all, we’re sad he had to leave, but sitting at the Father’s right hand is a big deal. So there’s a little rejoicing, a little lamenting; it’s bittersweet.

And of course lots of churches observe it with, “It’s what day?… Oh, that’s a Catholic thing.” Although you know if they came up with it, it’d be a big, big deal.