Filed Under (Sharon Nichols, book excerpts) by Sharon Nichols on 15-07-2012
Below is an except from the book “Jesus Ascended: The Meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation” by Author Gerritt Scott Dawson. I found this to be quite edifying and thought provoking.
“One nuance from the church fathers on the ascension and the person of Christ deserves attention. The passage quoted in Chapter 2 from Tertullian’s “On the Resurrection of the Flesh” continues:
the last Adam, yet the primary Word – flesh and blood, yet purer than ours -… ‘shall descend in like matter as He ascended into heaven’ the same both in substance and form, as the angels affirmed, so as even to be recognized by those who pierced Him. Designated, as He is, ‘the Mediator between God and man,’ He keeps in His own self the deposit of flesh which has been committed to Him by both parties – the pledge and security of its entire perfection. For as ‘He has given to us the earnest of the Spirit,’ so has He received from us the earnest of the flesh, and has carried it with Him into heaven as a pledge of that complete entirety which is one day to be restored to it. Be not disquieted, O flesh and blood, with any care; in Christ you have acquired both heaven and the kingdom of God.
The ascension inaugurates a double pledge of our future in the person of Jesus. The first we recognize easily as the deposit in our flesh of the Holy Spirit, who was received from the Father by the ascended Son and then poured out on his disciples (Acts 2:32). But Tertullian discerns that as Jesus went up still wearing our flesh, he now holds in himself the pledge of the resurrection bodies and eternal life in which we will partake. Ascending in the glorified skin and bones of our nature, Jesus guarantees in his very person what we will become, having secured ‘an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of that salvation is ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1 Peter 1:4,5). Not only does Christ send the Spirit as a pledge in our hearts, he bears in himself the guarantee of what we will become in union with Christ.
Two centuries later, in still another sermon by an unknown author, yet so close in thought to Chrysostom as to be assigned to him, we hear an echo of Tertullian’s formulation:
Above His body, below His Spirit for us… On account of the flesh which He took up, we are His kinsmen; we therefore have this pledge above, i.e. the body, which He took from us, and below the Holy Spirit with us. And behold the wonder! I do not say that the Holy Spirit came down from heaven and is no longer in heaven, and that having changed places the body is in heaven and the Spirit on earth, but that the Spirit is with us and everywhere and above… Heaven has the holy body and earth received the Holy Spirit: Christ came and brought the Holy Spirit; He went up and took our body… We have therefore the pledge of our life in heaven; Christ Jesus went up in our body of flesh, bringing the pledge of our future into heaven. The ascension narrative is the very drama of our assurance. How do we know what our future is in Christ? Because the witnesses saw him go, still in our skin, back to his Father, just as he promised. Moreover, we are not left here as orphans, but bear now in our bodies the Holy Spirit, because Christ has fitted flesh to be a receptacle for him, and in his days among us, as Irenaeus said, accustomed the Spirit to dwell within the human heart. So the ascension inaugurates the double pledge through the person of Jesus.It is the occasion for the taking of flesh to heaven and of the sending of the Spirit to earth. We now have the “arrabon”, the first payment guaranteeing full payment (Ephesians 1:14-15), of all we will receive in union with Christ.By the Spirit of Jesus, we are ‘being little by little accustomed to receive and bear God’, just as he did on our behalf in his flesh.”