The Ascension: Did Jesus Really Go Up?

As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, it might be good to look at an FAQ associated with this feast, namely, “Isn’t the Ascension of Jesus based on outdated science?”

I have to admit that this question has popped into my mind, making me wonder just what it is that we are celebrating on this feast. If science has shown that “heaven” is not to be equated with “outer space,” then where exactly did Jesus “go” when he “ascended into heaven” and where is heaven to be found? This question is dealt with nicely by David Bennett on ChurchYear.Net – take a look:

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at


  1. Nice, manageable article. Re: Ascension, I start my kids off with these bits:

    Acts 1:

    And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

    Rev 20:

    And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

    I explain that as far as the Apostles could tell, Jesus went “up;” and as far as we’ll be able to tell, he’ll come “down” at the Second Coming.

  2. Wow, I can’t tell you how many discussions I’ve had with otherwise rational, educated Christians who are convinced that the Ascension is something akin to an Apollo Moon launch. Thanks for the links Joe!

    • Funny, Nick! It helps for us to think about the meaning and significance of the Ascension rather than on a physical description of it!

  3. I read the David Bennet explanation and his copy and pasted explanation from C.S. Lewis and I don’t think either is very good. If Jesus somehow left the time and space dimensions we are familiar with it seems like he would just disappear, not bother levitating up into the clouds. I think it is pretty obvious the “ascension” was added to the story after the fact probably in response to people who felt the ending of Matthew and Mark was unsatisfactory (i.e. Matthew ends with Jesus alive on earth, and the original ending of Mark was simply an empty tomb). The idea of Jesus floating up into space is utterly silly, but that is what is written farily unambiguously in the Bible.

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