. . . Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11)
|Benjamin West, The Ascension|
The fortieth day after Easter commemorates the ascension into heaven of the Risen Lord. The evangelist Luke provides us with two different accounts: a brief summary at the end of his gospel (Luke 24:50–53) and a slight longer narrative at the end of the Forty Day Ministry in his history of the apostolic church that includes Jesus' final instructions to his apostles, a description of Jesus' ascension, and the angelic promise of his return (Acts 1:6–11).
|Harry Anderson, The Ascension|
In many Christian traditions, Ascension Day is celebrated as a minor but important holiday, either with services on the day itself or on the following Sunday. As with most liturgical holidays, the LDS community has never established any formal observances for the ascension. Nevertheless, reading not only the biblical accounts of Jesus' ascension together with scriptures describing his return, including passages from Restoration scripture, is a powerful way for us to conclude the Easter season not only by reaffirming that Christ lives but also by pointing our minds forward to the Second Coming.
Episodes for Personal Study
- The Ascension (Luke 24:50–53; [Mark 16:19]; Acts 1:6–11)
- The Second Coming (Zechariah 14:4, 9; Mark 13:24–27 [par Matthew 24:27–31; Luke 17:22–37]; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 1:7; D&C 45:36–59; D&C 88:89–98)
Suggested Listening: Bach, Ascension Oratorio (German, Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, “Praise God in His Kingdoms”)
Ideas for Families
- Read Acts 1:6–11 and talk about how the disciples might have felt when Jesus left them. Why is it important to know that after the resurrection Jesus ascended into heaven with his body?
- Read one of the prophecies of the Second Coming, such 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, D&C 45:39–59, or D&C 88:89–98.
- Read 2 Peter 3:10, that descibes how Jesus will come "as a thief in the night," and discuss how we do not know exactly when Jesus will come again. Then discuss the parable of the fig tree from Mark 13:28–31 and D&C 45:37–38. While we should not obsess about exactly when Jesus will return, how can we prepare every day?
- Sing "I Wonder When He Comes Again" (Children's Song Book, 82–83)
|The Russian Tower of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives|
The Mount of Olives plays an important role in both the Ascension of Jesus and the Second Coming. Here Jesus had taken his disciples at the conclusion of his Jerusalem ministry to prepare them for his imminent death by sharing with them an importantprophecy of the end of the world and his promised return. On the night before his crucifixion, it was here that he prayed in the Garden and began the saving work of hisatonement. He ascended from here, and, according to Zechariah, this is one of the first places to which he will return.
|At the Mosque of the Ascension in May of 2012|
From early on, Christians came to the summit of the Mount of Olives to commemorate Jesus’ ascension. The Byzantines built a large church here, which was unusual: instead of a dome, it was left open to the sky so that worshipers could imagine how Jesus returned to heaven. This church was later rebuilt by the Crusaders, but when Saladin reconquered Jerusalem, it was converted into a mosque (Muslims do not believe that Isa, or Jesus, died on the cross, but they do believe that he ascended into heaven and will return from there).
|Inside the Mosque of the Ascension|
|The supposed footprint of Jesus in the Mosque of the Ascension|
Studying passages that prophesy of Jesus’ return reaffirm the reality of both the resurrection and the ascension, helping us focus that Jesus’ work is not yet done. He will return to vanquish evil and wickedness, restore peace and happiness, and eventually complete his conquest of death by bringing about the resurrection for each person who has ever lived.
|Harry Anderson, The Second Coming|
I wonder, when he comes again,
Will herald angels sing?Will earth be white with drifted snow,Or will the world know spring?I wonder if one star will shineFar brighter than the rest;Will daylight stay the whole night through?Will songbirds leave their nests?I'm sure he'll call his little onesTogether 'round his knee,Because he said in days gone by,"Suffer them to come to me."
I wonder, when he comes again,
Will I be ready there
To look upon his loving face
And join with him in prayer?
Each day I'll try to do his will
And let my light so shine
That others seeing me may seek
For greater light divine.
Then, when that blessed day is here,
He'll love me and he'll say,
"You've served me well, my little child;
Come unto my arms to stay." (Children's Songbook, 82–83)