Historical Perspectives on the Doctrine of Christ’s Ascension Part 2: The Meaning of the Ascension for Christ -- By: Peter Toon

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 140:560 (Oct 1983)
Article: Historical Perspectives on the Doctrine of Christ’s Ascension Part 2: The Meaning of the Ascension for Christ
Author: Peter Toon


Historical Perspectives on the Doctrine of Christ’s Ascension
Part 2:
The Meaning of the Ascension for Christ

Peter Toon

[Peter Toon, Director of Post-Ordination Training, The Diocese of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich, England]

[Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of four articles delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, April 12–15, 1983.]

Evangelicals have traditionally believed, taught, and confessed that heaven is both a place and a state. They have insisted on heaven being a place, not primarily because they did not have a modern, post-Einstein view of cosmology, but because the Scriptures require such belief (e.g., Deut 4:36; 12:5, 11, 21; 26:15; Acts 1:11; 3:21). Heaven, as the dwelling place of God, the holy angels, and saints, was seen as “above” the starry heavens. Thus Christ has passed through the physical heavens and has been raised “higher” than them (Heb 4:14; 7:26; 9:11, 23–24).1 In insisting that heaven is both a state and a place, Christianity has usually been careful to deny any knowledge of its particular and specific spatial characteristics or of its precise relation to the physical universe.2

John Pearson (1613–1686), the best-known Anglican commentator on the Apostles’ Creed, explained in this way the statement, “I believe…He ascended into heaven.”

I am fully persuaded, that the only-begotten and eternal Son of God, after he rose from the dead, did with the same soul and body with which he rose, by a true and local translation convey himself from the earth on which he lived, through all the regions of the air, through all the celestial orbs, until he came unto the heaven of heavens, the most glorious presence of the majesty of God.3

He also commented, “Whatsoever heaven is higher than all the rest which are called heavens; whatsoever sanctuary is holier

than all which are called holies; whatsoever place is of greatest dignity in all those cour...

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