A Theology of Space, Matter, & Time: Part 1
In Acts, Luke gives insight into the days after Jesus’ resurrection. For forty days he instructs the apostles after revealing that he was actually alive. He talks about the Kingdom of God constantly and he says something amazing is going to happen.
Jesus says that in just a few days they were going to receive power. Great power. Unleashed power. Power that doesn’t come from guns, or bombs, or position. He says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and, when that happens, you won’t just witness something great… you will be witnesses TO something great.” (My translation).
And then He ascended.
Most churches lump the ascension of Jesus with the resurrection of Jesus. But the resurrection and the ascension are two different things. The Apostle’s Creed says, “On the third day he ROSE again. He ascended into heaven … and is seated on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”
This would be the appropriate time to cheer.
The Biblical Writers and Heaven
The biblical writers believed heaven was a place but there was more to it. “Heaven and earth are in relation to one another – both under the authority of God as part of his creative order" (Wright).
If heaven and earth are in relation with one other then the One God, who is in heaven, can be in multiple places at the same time. In other words, He is present in multiple locations.
I used to think that when Jesus ascended into heaven – pop! – he was gone. Disappeared from this earth, like he went to the drug store for a prescription or he went on vacation to see his dad.
However, when Jesus ascends into heaven, it’s not like Jesus left. For the biblical writers, it’s like he is “Extra Present!” ONLY God could be everywhere.
So, Luke is essentially saying that in this event, the ascension, Jesus is the ONE, the Lord, “accessible, available, and no longer do people have to travel anywhere to find him" (Wright).
The ascension of Jesus doesn’t mean that Jesus is gone – off to another place – but rather Jesus is there, here, and everywhere!
But there’s more: The biblical writers also saw heaven as “God’s space.” As such, it was the control room to earth. Jesus says, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth." In other words, “heaven is the place from which all instructions are given." (Wright)
It means that in this great event – the ascension – Jesus has surpassed space, matter, and time, and has taken the seat of authority right next to God.
We could say it this way, because the first century believer said it this way:
“Jesus is Lord!”
At this moment, Jesus takes up the authority of God, and connects these two dimensions, heaven with earth, creation with new creation.
If Jesus in his ascension connects heaven and earth, the two dimensions of God’s created order then Space (those places we live, work, play, and explore) is under the authority of God and is sacred because Jesus resides there.
Matter – how we care for this good earth, the life that exists on it, and the mysteries that surround it, the things that we have been given, such as our homes, our money, our resources, our talents, and our children - become “sacred” because Jesus has taken residence there.
And Time – what we are shaped by, how we give use what little of it we have, it actually sacred because Jesus resides in and has authority over it.
The ascension means that the Lord Jesus is renewing space, matter, and time.
Questions to consider:
1) Have you ever heard a message or sermon on the ascension of Jesus?
2) When you hear the phrase: “Jesus is Lord” what has this meant to
3) If Jesus has not only taken up residency in a place, but now connects
these two dimensions of God’s creation (Heaven and Earth), what does this mean for us practically?
(Don’t know? It’s cool. Stay up with the blog by reading PART 2 of A
Theology of Space, Matter, and Time).
N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, p. 111