Old Testament Characters Who Ascended and Jesus Christ
Ascension’ is ἀναβαίνω (anavaíno) in Greek, which means ‘to rise up.’ It refers to a person going up to Heaven alive and is differentiated from a dead person’s soul going up to Heaven. In the Old Testament ‘Genesis’ and ‘2 Kings’ it testifies about the people who ascended to Heaven while they were alive (Genesis 5:24, 2 Kings 2:11). And in the New Testament ‘Mark’, ‘Luke’, and ‘Acts’ the works of Jesus Christ who ascended to Heaven while alive and in the presence of the disciples are recorded (Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9).
Old Testament Figures (People) Who Ascended to Heaven – Enoch, Elijah
In the Old Testament times, Enoch is one of the characters who ascended to Heaven without experiencing death.
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. ··· Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.(Genesis 5:21, 24)
Several Bible related books explain that Enoch did not experience death and was taken up to Heaven while alive. Even in the New Testament book of Hebrews it is recorded that, “By faith Enoch was taken (to Heaven) ··· he did not experience death ···” (Hebrews 11:5).
The Bible explains the reason Enoch ascended while alive without experiencing death was because he walked with God and pleased God while living on the earth (Genesis 5:24, Hebrews 11:6).
There is another person who ascended while alive without experiencing death. It is Elijah. While Elijah and his successor Elisha were walking and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and in an instant Elijah ascended to Heaven in a whirlwind.
Elijah and Elisha were walking and talking together. Suddenly, some horses and a chariot came and separated Elijah from Elisha. The horses and the chariot were like fire. Then Elijah was carried up into heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw it ···(ERV 2 Kings 2:11–12)
Ascension of Jesus Christ
2000 years ago, Jesus Christ, who is in very nature God, came to the earth in human form (John 1:1–2, 14, Philippians 2:5–6). Jesus Christ was crucified as the reality of the Passover lamb, and resurrected three days after His death on the cross (John 1:29, 1 Corinthians 5:7, Mark 16:1–9, Luke 24:7). Jesus, who had resurrected, appeared to the apostles and showed them that He was alive through various evidences and told them about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3, 1 Corinthians 15:4–7). And on the 40th day He ascended to Heaven in front of the apostles from the Mount of Olives.
So when they met together ··· He said ··· But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria ··· After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.(Acts 1:6–9)
The apostles who witnessed Jesus’ ascension left the Mount of Olives and returned to Jerusalem. And as Jesus commanded, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised” they prayed with one mind while waiting for the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). The Book of Acts lists the names of the disciples who had gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem. They were Peter, who received the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. There were also 120 saints with them (Acts 1:13–15).
The disciples who earnestly prayed from the Day of Jesus’ ascension received the promised Holy Spirit abundantly on the Day of Pentecost, testified of Jesus Christ who came as a human to the Jews and crowds of people from all over the world and boldly preached the gospel (Acts 2:1–31).
The Meaning of Ascension Day
Ascension Day is the day to commemorate the ascension of Jesus Christ. Ascension is the last example that Christ set and the final hope for Christians. In the Bible, ‘1 Thessalonians,’ it is recorded that just as Jesus Christ ascended, the last saints who will be saved will be caught up in the clouds and ascend to Heaven.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that ··· who are still alive and are left will be caught up ··· in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Therefore encourage each other with these words.(1 Thessalonians 4:16–18)
The ascension of Jesus Christ was an important event that planted strong faith in the saints of the Early Church. The saints endured hardships, persecutions, and tribulations from the established powers at the time, imagining how they would change in the future. In the letter that apostle Paul sent to the church in Corinth he confesses that he suffered so much he could not overcome it by his own strength, he had even lost his hope for living, and felt like he had been sentenced to death, but he was able to keep his faith until the end by reminding himself of the hope of resurrection and ascension (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
In 1 Corinthians Paul revealed a mystery to the saints who believed in Christ and hoped for the kingdom of Heaven:
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will… be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.(1 Corinthians 15:51–52)
In the future, when Christ comes to judge, those who believe in Christ and were martyred or died will be resurrected. And there also exists people who will not die and will be changed while they are alive. These are the protagonists mentioned in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, who will be taken up into the clouds and ascend to Heaven. The Book of Revelation prophesies that the saints who will receive the glory of ascension dwell in Zion and keep God’s commandments (Revelation 14:1, 12).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an event that confirms the resurrection of the saints that will take place in the future. In the same way, the ascension of Jesus Christ also proves the reality that in the last days, the saints who dwell in Zion while keeping God’s commandments will be transformed into a spiritual body and ascend to heaven without experiencing death (Philippians 3:21, 1 Corinthians 15:50–54, 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18).
- Henry George Liddell, A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, Forgotten Books; Abridged edition (February 11, 2019), pg. 47, ISBN: 028225126X
- Enoch, Bible Study Tools
- Enoch, Patrick Fairbairn, D.D, The Imperial Bible-Dictionary: Historical, Biographical, Geographical, and Doctrinal, 1866, pg. 92, ISBN: 0282654836