Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Relationship Between the Ascension of Christ and His Second Coming

By Hedrik F. Stander

The New Testament links Christ's ascension with his second coming. We read in Acts 1:10-11 that, when Jesus ascended to heaven, two men dressed in white said to the disciples that "this same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." The ancient theologians often argued about the meaning of the words "in the same way." Ps.-Epiphanius suggests that it means that Christ will come "in bodily form." When he returns to the earth, he will also keep his side which was wounded by the soldier's spear to the front so the Jews could see whom they had pierced (c.f. Rev. 1:7). And Augustine believes that just as Christ ascended as both God and man, he will also come again as both God and man. Diadochus states that Christ will descend on a cloud since he ascended on a cloud.

The close relationship which the ancient theologians saw between Christ's ascension and his second coming can clearly be seen in, inter alia, the sermon of Chrysostom. When he concludes his sermon on the ascension, he calls upon his audience to look at the ascension of Christ and remember Paul's words: "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel,... and we who are still alive and are left will be caught up on the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thess. 4:16-17). Thereafter he exhorts his audience to practice righteousness in order to be found worthy of being taken up by the Lord at the Second Coming. Diadochus argues that not only will Christ come on a cloud, but we too will go to the Father on a cloud.

From The Early Church in Its Context: Essays in Honor of Everett Ferguson, "Fourth and Fifth Century Homilists on the Ascension of Christ".