The church’s observance of Jesus’ Ascension is an invitation for the preacher to bend the Space/Time continuum. After all, what did Jesus mean when he disappeared from view but promised his disciples he’d BRB (Be Right Back)? Pentecost comes on the heels of Ascension, and the two are related.
Traditional theology describes time and space in linear ways. The Apostles Creed says: “[Jesus] descended into hell . . . ascended into heaven.” These words reinforce a “three-story” notion of the cosmos: earth sandwiched between heaven and hell as if there’s an escalator in either direction. But is our cosmology really as simplistic as that?
Consider this great paragraph from NT Wright:
When the Bible speaks of heaven and earth it is not talking about two localities related to each other within the same space-time continuum or about a nonphysical world contrasted with a physical one but about two different kinds of what we call space, two different kinds of what we call matters, and also possibly two different kinds of what we call time.
It’s time for our cosmology to adapt to new ways of imagining time and space. Have you noticed how much of our current entertainment plays with time and space? We don’t assume that every narrative will unfold in a linear progression. We appreciate overlapping storylines, gaps in history, and shifting points of view. Of course, the same things happen in scripture. What we intuitively understand is that space and time are not static. The Bible gives us plenty of interesting fodder as we celebrate Ascension — when Jesus left the planet — and Pentecost — when the Spirit arrived in a new way.