Ascension Day: Jesus Ascends to Heaven

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Ascension Day - Jesus ascends to heavenAscension Day is the 40th day of Easter when we commemorate Jesus’ ascent into heaven.

While it’s common to picture Jesus’ resurrection at Easter as the final major event in his earthly ministry, his ascent is important too. Not just because it marks Jesus’ physical departure from Earth, but because during it Jesus issued a famous command that his followers try to pursue even today, thousands of years later: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

The Ascension in the Bible

Christ’s ascension is described—albeit fairly briefly—in a few places in the Bible, and is mentioned or referenced in several of the epistles. The most detailed account is found in Mark 16:14-19:

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.Mark 16:14-19 (NIV)

Other Biblical References to the Ascension

While a multitude of Bible references confirm that this event took place, it’s difficult to piece together the exact details and chronology of Jesus’ ascension. (There is some question about whether the verses above were later additions to the book of Mark, for example—if you’re a Bible Gateway Plus member, see the useful discussion of this question in the NIV Quest Study Bible.) You can also read about Jesus’ ascension in these passages:

In addition to these accounts, you can find references to Christ’s ascension throughout the New Testament. Some of these references occur before the event—for example, Jesus’ mention of his future ascension in John 20:17. Many of the epistles make reference to the ascension after the fact—for example, Ephesians 1:19-20 and 1 Timothy 3:16. You can find a complete list of ascension references in the Dictionary of Bible Themes on Bible Gateway.

What Does Jesus’ Ascension Mean for Us Today?

Is Jesus’ ascension significant for our faith and understanding of God? Or is it just a short epilogue to his earthly ministry? Christians believe that the ascension does hold value and meaning for us today. Here are two articles that unpack the importance of the ascension, and Jesus’ post-resurrection ministry:

What’s Next After Ascension Day?

In less than two weeks, the Christian church will celebrate another huge event in the history of Christianity: Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent to equip and encourage the fledgling Christian church. At Pentecost, God demonstrated that although Jesus had physically left Earth, his followers would never be without a heavenly guide as they faced life’s trials. So today, join with Christians around the world in commemorating Jesus’ ascension—and let’s all look forward with anticipation to the joy of Pentecost!

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