There are three ascensions from the Bible, although only two of them are
Biblically documented. The third has been passed on as an assumption, made
primarily because of the circumstances surrounding the events.
The first ascension takes place in the Old Testament of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish Bibles. This is the ascension of Elijah, witnessed firsthand by his successor Elisha.
The second ascension takes place in the New Testament of both the Catholic and Protestant Bibles. This, of course, is the ascension of Jesus Christ.
The third ascension is a matter for Catholic belief, and some other Christian sects, which concerns Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, who was assumed into heaven to be with her Son. There is no record of this ascension directly from the Bible, either in the gospels or in the Acts of the Apostles.
For those who believe that Enoch had an ascension, as has sometimes been told, the answer is that there is no wording in the Biblical episode that speaks of any kind of ascension. From Genesis 5: 23-24, one can only assume the obvious, that God chose to end the life of Enoch peacefully. There is no possible interpretation of ascension in these passages. The statement is simply made that Enoch walked with God, and then he was not. In other words, he ceased to exist, he died. God chose to end the days of Enoch at this point.
Only the three ascensions mentioned above are legitimate references to any kind of physical or implied ascensions.
All three of these ascensions can be explained by the funeral pyre, which was obviously known to almost everyone from Jerusalem to Galilee because of the trade routes north to Damascus, which acted as a road to the Far East. In India, in particular, the funeral pyre was the "Chariot of Fire" to carry one away, although not exactly in those terms.
To discuss all three ascensions as reality within this context, one must also explain the surrounding circumstances. Let us begin first with Elijah, since he was indeed the first.
The Ascension of Elijah
You can find the Biblical passages beginning at 2 Kings 2: 1-18 which give the details of Elisha's accompanying of Elijah to his deathbed. The clues to the funeral pyre are not difficult to grasp.
As the ashes and smoke ascend into the sky Elisha can sense the presence of Elijah within, and therefore he accepts the gift from Elijah to succeed him. The body of Elijah was never found, nor was there ever a fresh grave or any earth dug up or covered. Indeed, Elisha could spread the remaining ashes upon the flora and return to his home.
There has never been doubt in my mind about this from the first time that I deduced that the funeral pyre was the correct answer. Elijah, by the way, is many times painted on a "Chariot of Fire." This practice from the Far East was the perfect solution for Elijah, and the Biblical description, as is often the case, portrays the scene well, with Elisha witnessing the fiery exit. For 3 days people looked for Elijah's body, but no body was ever found.
The Ascension of Jesus Christ
The ascension of Jesus Christ takes place in The Acts of the Apostles 1: 4-11 which describes the apostles gazing into heaven as Jesus leaves. While there is no direct mention of fire or chariot here, there is a clue to what would become Christian mysticism at Pentecost.
The Acts of the Apostles 1: 11: "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."
Even a novice of the New Testament knows that Pentecost Sunday is when the apostles, along with Mary, the siblings of Jesus, and the women who knew Jesus, gathered together to meditate upon Jesus, and they saw Jesus as tongues of fire. One can easily imagine them sitting at a table, holding hands side by side, with a single candle in front of each one. As they open their eyes, they can see the image of Jesus in the flame of the candle in front of them. Therefore, not only is this the beginning of Christian mysticism, but it is a confirmation of the fire that took Jesus away.
Indeed, "as you saw Him go into heaven."
Further explanation is required here, however, for a complete understanding of what transpired. Jesus Christ had already been buried once. He had walked away from the grave once. The apostles would have never placed his body in any grave a second time after the original triumph. He was burned on the funeral pyre, and his ashes and spirit were witnessed ascending into heaven. Additionally, as Jesus praised Elijah, he would have been accorded the same exit.
It should be stated here that you can consider Jesus to have been either buried alive or resurrected. It makes no difference to the point of the ascension.
I myself believe that Jesus was buried alive, and the earthquake on Sunday removed the stone and allowed him freedom from the grave in triumph. Therefore, Christianity actually begins at this point, when Jesus exits the grave. There is no way that anyone would have ever let Jesus be buried a second time.
The Ascension of Mary
The ascension of Mary is usually called the Assumption. There is no doubt, when circumstances are examined, that Mary was burned at the funeral pyre as well. She was the mother of Jesus, enough of a reason to pay such a unique respect in the young Christian world.
She was also present at Pentecost, and she would have been protected by many from harm or corruption in this sense. While many of the apostles and disciples of Jesus were also crucified, this end would have never been allowed for the mother of Jesus.
As was mentioned above, Jesus had siblings, and Mary was the mother of those children by Joseph, unless you accept the apocryphal gospels. Most of us do not accept the apocryphal gospels whereas their late origin lends itself to a lack of credibility and dubious statements. For the birth of Jesus, Mary had sexual intercourse with Joseph only one time, as was the case with all virgins of the Old Testament. After one time of sexual intercourse, Mary and Joseph waited for a sign from God. If she became pregnant, it was a good sign and Joseph would not have sexual intercourse with her again until after the child was born. All virgins went this route. If she had not become pregnant, Joseph would have abandoned her as barren and sought another virgin to do it all over again.
A Messiah needs to come from a single episode of sexual intercourse with a fresh virgin, as was predicted by the prophecy of Isaiah. The other siblings did not need to start from scratch as was done with the birth of Jesus. The siblings had no restrictions on the number of episodes of sexual intercourse. They were not to be the Messiah.
The point to make, however, is this woman named Mary was an extraordinary person of the New testament because of this, and there is no doubt special handling would have been in order at her death.
Therefore, all three ascensions of the Bible fall quite well into the definition of the funeral pyre. The body is consumed with flames, and the ashes, the smoke, and the spirit of the person all rise into heaven. This ascension can be witnessed physically, and its heat and presence felt literally.
END OF ARTICLE
Mr. J.V. Presogna is a writer, composer and artist with a background in science and mathematics. He is a Christian-Buddhist.
Sources cited: New King James Version of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.