After his crucifixion and resurrection, when Christ Jesus' work was finished on earth, and as he was with his disciples at Bethany, Luke's Gospel describes how "it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." Jesus' ascension provides example and guidance of inestimable value for each of us. Isn't ascension really the ultimate victory, where the limitations of materiality and time are utterly transcended? All sin, all illness, and "the last enemy," death, are entirely overcome.
Yet, how does the average person relate to ascension? Was ascension for Jesus only? The very fact that Christ Jesus ascended compels each of us to consider the great consequence of that event. Since he is everyone's example, we all must follow his footsteps sooner or later. Therefore, each of us is to experience ascension in some way and at some time.
From the Scriptural record, we know of only a handful of people who have demonstrated in their own lives that there really is no death or death process. In the Old Testament, in II Kings, we read that after Elisha asked Elijah, "I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me," Elijah "went up by a whirlwind into heaven." The Bible also describes Enoch's translation, or assumption, from the domain of materiality without his subjection to death. It is worthwhile noting that these three experiences, Jesus' ascension, Elijah's translation, and Enoch's assumption, are quite unlike one another. Our own ascension is also an individual experience.
Pondering these accounts from the Bible, suppose we could give consent to our ascension at this very moment. Would we feel it was safe to attempt such a thing? Before we could answer the question "Would I be willing to ascend?" we would need to know something of what ascension actually is and realize that, in fact, it is an ongoing experience that is already a part of our spiritual progress. Every step of spiritual growth is an ascending in consciousness.
The Bible, in the book of Revelation, records some of the observations of John at the time he gained a glimpse of the spiritual purity of God's kingdom: "And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
With ascension, the "former things"—sorrow, pain, and death, even physical birth—give place exclusively to a realization of God's allness and the harmony of His creation. God's creation is spiritual; it is in no way associated with mortality. It is eternally intact and perfect. He is the only creator and therefore precludes any other creative force or outcome. Ascension, then, doesn't mean leaving a material reality for a spiritual one. Ascension means a total awareness and demonstration of the only reality there is—God's infinite, spiritual creation. This awareness is available to each of us now; and as we grow in spiritual understanding, nothing is lost but the hypnotic belief in matter's reality that would act as a blindfold, blacking out the spiritual sense of true existence.
When Mary Baker Eddy was asked if she believed in translation, she responded in part: "I believe in this removal being possible after all the footsteps requisite have been taken up to the very throne, up to the spiritual sense and fact of divine substance, intelligence, Life, and Love. This translation is not the work of moments; it requires both time and eternity. It means more than mere disappearance to the human sense; it must include also man's changed appearance and diviner form visible to those beholding him here" (Miscellaneous Writings). The "footsteps requisite" to behold "the spiritual sense and fact of divine substance, intelligence, Life, and Love" can be taken by each one of us.
The hallmark of the scientific Christian healing of sin and disease is always an increased understanding of God and His creation. Whenever true Christian healing occurs, there is inevitably found a glimpse of divine Spirit, and of perfect, altogether spiritual man. Both thought and experience are ascending. In healing, the truth of being becomes as perceptible and real as anything in daily life, although completely apart from the dense dreaminess of mortality. Christian healing is a vital footstep in our own ascension because it involves relying wholly upon the spiritual senses to discern the well-being of God's child. The willingness to pray from the standpoint of divine Truth, whenever we feel God impelling us, always brings another step in our ascension.
Each healing, each overcoming of sin, is a step forward in the process of ascension, since its basis is a better comprehension of reality. In fact, without these healings of sin and disease, ascension is impossible. The very last instruction Christ Jesus gave to his disciples, moments before his own ascension, points to how meaningful these steps are. He told them, according to Mark's Gospel, "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
To give consent to our own ascension is something we may very well have already done. If a knowledge and a practical, genuine awareness of spiritual reality is what we deeply hunger and strive for, and we're cherishing reformation, healing, and deep moral purity, then we are following Christ Jesus' footsteps in working out the problem of being. There is much work to be done, yet there can be joyous satisfaction in the process. In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy concludes, "The periods of spiritual ascension are the days and seasons of Mind's creation, in which beauty, sublimity, purity, and holiness—yea, the divine nature—appear in man and the universe never to disappear."
In John's Gospel, Jesus told his followers, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." To "be lifted up from the earth" didn't mean only a degree of increased spirituality while still living conservatively in the context of materiality; it really meant full ascension. What did Jesus say would be the consequence of his ascension? He said that it would "draw all men" to him. In other words, each of us is compelled to accept Christ, Truth, and to abandon step by step all belief in and fascination with mortality. The darkness dissipates, and we open our eyes to this remarkable universe of Spirit in which we are actually now living.
The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.
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