Jesus' ascension to Heaven
Difficulties interpreting Jesus' ascension
Difficulties that skeptics and progressive Christians have about the ascension:
The ascension of Jesus and the four other individuals mentioned in the Bible who also ascended or are prophesized to ascend made a lot of sense to folks in the first century CE. They lived in a pre-scientific culture and believed in the "three story" view of cosmology. They viewed the Earth as being more or less in the shape of a flat dish; columns supported the earth over the abyss; there was a rigid firmament above the earth. Angels pushed the sun, moon, planets and stars along the underside of the firmament during day and night. Heaven was located above the firmament. Floodgates in the form of windows allowed God to pour water down from Heaven in the form of rain. With this concept of the universe, it made a lot of sense that if Jesus was to return to God, he would have to ascend from earth through the air towards Heaven.
This story has presents all sorts of difficulties to many liberal and progressive Christians today:
One solution to these difficulties, as suggested by Markus Borg, is to abandon the literal interpretation of the Gospel stories of the ascension and interpret them symbolically. He writes:
If Jesus' family tomb is ever found, as has been claimed in a 2007 documentary, Christians who believe that Jesus did not literally rise through the air to Heaven would have fewer difficulties understanding the ascension as a purely spiritual event.
Difficulties that Oneness theologians have with the ascension:
The United Pentecostal Church teaches Oneness theology (a.k.a. "Jesus-Name" theology and by the derogatory term "Jesus only"). They reject the belief in the Trinity that is common among other Christian groups:
Needless to say, the Jesus-Name and Trinitarian theologians consider each other as heretics.
Mark 16:19 presents problems to both Oneness and Trinitarian theologians. It states:
This cannot be interpreted literally by Oneness theologians because it implies that God the Father and Jesus are simultaneously existing. It cannot be interpreted literally by Trinitarians because it implies that God the Father and Jesus are two separate entities with physical bodies. A solution is to interpret Jesus' ascension symbolically.
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