Ascension

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Ascension is the act of growing into a higher state or dimension of experience, as the ascension of a king to the throne, or a physical act such as in mountain climbing is commonly called an ascent.

For lessons on the related topic of the Ascension Career, follow this link.

In Religion

  • Enoch's, Elijah's, or Muhammad's disappearance into heaven or Shantideva's disappearance or Shakyamuni Buddha's entrance into parinirvana
  • In Theosophy, and some New Age groups, a process of enlightenment whereby any person may escape the physical plane of existence to become an ascended master
  • Ishayas' Ascension, a form of meditation

The concept of humans directly entering heaven without dying is a feature of multiple religions and mythic traditions, including the three main Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam. Since death is generally considered the normal end to an individual's life on earth, entering heaven without dying first is considered exceptional and usually a sign of God's special recognition of the individual's piety.

According to the Jewish Midrash, nine people went to heaven (also referred to as the Garden of Eden and Paradise) alive[1].

  • Elijah the Prophet "went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (Kings II Chapter 2, Verse 11)
  • Serach, the daughter of Asher - one of the sons of Jacob (Midrash Yalkut Shimoni (Yechezkel 367))
  • Enoch went to heaven alive (Genesis 5:22-24)[2]
  • the Messiah
  • Eliezer, the servant of Abraham
  • Hiram, king of Tyre
  • Ebed Melech, the Ethiopian
  • Jaabez, the son of Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nagid
  • Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh[3]
  • Serah bat Asher

Christianity

The Assumption of Mary, mother of Jesus, has been a subject of Christian art for centuries. Since the adoption of the Nicene Creed in 325, the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, as related in the New Testament has been a doctrine of most Christian denominations and is celebrated on Ascension Thursday. In Roman Catholicism the Ascension of the Lord is a Holy Day of Obligation. In the Eastern Orthodox Church the Ascension is one of twelve Great Feasts.

In the Reformed churches tradition of Calvinism, belief in the ascension of Christ is included in the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Second Helvetic Confession (for more information, see Ascension).

The Roman Catholic Church distinguishes between "The Ascension", in which Christ rose to heaven by his own power, and "The Assumption" in which Mary, mother of Jesus, was raised to heaven by God's power. (Enoch and Elijah are said to have been "assumed" [experienced assumption] into heaven.)

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII, acting ex cathedra, issued Munificentissimus Deus, an official doctrine of Roman Catholicism. In Section 44 the pope stated:

"By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."

The doctrine is based on Sacred Tradition that Mary, mother of Jesus, was bodily assumed into heaven (for more information, see Assumption of Mary). For centuries before that, the assumption was celebrated in art (see Assumption of the Virgin Mary). The proclamation leaves open whether or not Mary died and was then resurrected before assumption into heaven.

Mormonism

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) believe that Jesus Christ died, was resurrected, and ascended into heaven as a resurrected being. The church teaches that all persons who ever live and die will one day be resurrected, although not all will be resurrected to the same glory and not all will be admitted into heaven. It is also believed that not all will be resurrected at the same time; although Jesus was the first person to be resurrected, since his resurrection some righteous people have been resurrected and have presumably ascended into heaven.(For example, church founder Joseph Smith, Jr. reported that Moroni was sent to him from heaven as a resurrected being to reveal the Book of Mormon to him. Latter-day Saints thus believe that all persons who go to heaven will eventually ascend there with a living, physical body.

Latter-day Saints also believe that a select number of individuals have ascended into heaven "without having tasted death". Often, these persons are referred to as translated beings; they are said to be "changed so that they do not experience pain or death until their resurrection to immortality." These individuals may be admitted into heaven to await their formal resurrection or they may be permitted to remain upon the earth until that time. The following are a list of persons that Latter-day Saints believe were translated; the individuals in bold script are the ones that have presumably been admitted into heaven as a translated being:

  • Enoch
  • People of Enoch's City of Zion
  • Moses
  • Elijah
  • John the Apostle
  • Three Unnamed Nephites
  • Alma, son of Alma

Many Latter-day Saints believe that there are also other persons who have been taken into heaven alive; there is some LDS scriptural support for this belief.

Islam

The Dome of the Rock

  • Muhammad is believed by many Muslims to have ascended into heaven at the site of the Dome of the Rock. (See Kitab al-Miraj).
  • Most Muslims believe that Jesus is alive in heaven, but that view is not universal. Tariq Hashmi writes in the Islamic journal, Renaissance: "[W]e see that the Holy Qur’an clearly negates that Jesus (sws) was raised to heavens alive (3:55)." Yet Dr. Ahmad Shafaat writes elsewhere that the Qur'an in fact states that "God raised him to himself".
  • Some Muslims believe the Mahdi was taken into heaven.

Other religions

  • Apollonius of Tyana is said to have been assumed into heaven.[24]
  • Francis Bacon is believed to have undergone a physical "Ascension" (without experiencing death) by members of various Ascended Master Activities [1]

Quote

The mortals of the realms of time and space may differ greatly in innate abilities and intellectual endowment, they may enjoy environments exceptionally favorable to social advancement and moral progress, or they may suffer from the lack of almost every human aid to culture and supposed advancement in the arts of civilization; but the possibilities for spiritual progress in the ascension career are equal to all; increasing levels of spiritual insight and cosmic meanings are attained quite independently of all such sociomoral differentials of the diversified material environments on the evolutionary worlds. (5:1.4)

See Also