Review of Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, eds., “Ascension.”

Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, eds., “Ascension.” In Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 49. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998.

Although this article is about the ascension of Christ, what it has to say about the way the concept is used symbolically in the Bible is useful in understanding ascent theology and symbolism. The ascent of Christ is narrated only in Luke 24:51 and Acts. 1:6-14, but it is mentioned or alluded to elsewhere in the New Testament, such as Ephesians 4:8 and Colossians 3:1-2. The physical images that surround the ascension connote much. It involves crossing a boundary and making a transition. Jesus ends his earthly existence and begins his life in heaven. “The ascension also completes the cyclic U-shaped life of the incarnate Christ–a descent followed by an ascent, with an obvious sense of completeness and closure.” Second, it is the “ultimate example of the generally positive meanings of the archetype of ascending,” or ascent. Its main meaning is exaltation. Other imagery associated with the ascension reinforces the sense of exaltation. For example Jesus took a position of honor at the right hand of God the Father. He ascended “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named.” (Eph 1:21 RSV). Closely liked is the motif of kingly triumph over the forces of evil and enemies of God, anticipated in Psalm 68:18, and applied to Christ in Eph. 4:8. It puts all things under the feet of Christ; he is head over all. (Eph. 1:22) Finally, the ascension is associated with the motif of preparation for a brief return to the earth in glory.

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