In Acts 1 we're told:

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11 (NIV)

It is not clear to me what the angels mean by Jesus being taken "into heaven". Some Christians believe that Jesus must still have his physcal body, and therefore is present somewhere in our universe. Others interpret "heaven" to mean the spiritual realm, and therefore Jesus in some way transitioned out of our physical realm, although that leaves the question of what happened to his body.

How does Reformed Theology understand where Jesus went when he ascended, and what is their explanation for where Jesus' physical body is now?

  • I doubt anyone can answer this question. The cloud does not permit us seeing what happened : ). But +1 nevertheless.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 14, 2020 at 13:38
  • @NigelJ "He's still behind the cloud" is an acceptable answer!
    – Korosia
    Jul 14, 2020 at 13:46
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    'He will come in like manner' is all I need : ) The rest is none of my business nor would I be able (presumably) to understand it.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 14, 2020 at 13:49
  • @Korosia Jesus has gone into heaven and you ask what that means. It means He is back with the Father see John 13:1.
    – C. Stroud
    Jul 14, 2020 at 21:11
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    @WalterSmetana Hopefully the tag description explains it, but essentially Calvinism, see Wikipedia
    – Korosia
    Jul 15, 2020 at 7:17

2 Answers 2


I think the Reformed tradition would locate Jesus' body "in heaven", I believe these two quotations from Reformed authors will illustrate.

John Calvin

From his commentary on Acts 1:9-11:

And it was needful that the history should have been set down so diligently for our cause, that we may know assuredly, that although the Son of God appear nowhere upon earth, yet doth he live in the heavens. And this seemeth to be the reason why the cloud did overshadow him, before such time as he did enter into his celestial glory; that his disciples being content with their measure might cease to inquire any further. And we are taught by them that our mind is not able to ascend so high as to take a full view of the glory of Christ; therefore, let this cloud be a mean to restrain our boldness, as was the smoke which was continually before the door of the tabernacle in the time of the law.1

Louis Berkhof

From Systematic Theology:

b. The nature of the ascension. The ascension may be described as the visible ascent of the person of the Mediator from earth to heaven, according to His human nature. It was a local transition, a going from place to place. This implies, of course, that heaven is a place as well as earth. But the ascension of Jesus was not merely a transition from one place to another; it also included a further change in the human nature of Christ. That nature now passed into the fulness of heavenly glory and was perfectly adapted to the life of heaven. Some Christian scholars of recent date consider heaven to be a condition rather than a place, and therefore do not conceive of the ascension locally.[Cf. Milligan, The Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood of our Lord, pp. 24 ff; Swete, The Ascended Christ, pp. 8 f.; Gore, The Reconstruction of Belief, pp. 272 f.] They will admit that there was a momentary lifting up of Christ in the sight of the Eleven, but regard this only as a symbol of the lifting up of our humanity to a spiritual order far above our present life. The local conception, however, is favored by the following considerations: (1) Heaven is represented in Scripture as the dwelling place of created beings (angels, saints, the human nature of Christ). These are all in some way related to space; only God is above all spatial relations. Of course, the laws that apply in heavenly space may differ from those that apply in earthly space. (2) Heaven and earth are repeatedly placed in juxtaposition in Scripture. From this it would seem to follow that, if the one is a place, the other must be a place also. It would be absurd to put a place and a condition in juxtaposition in that way. (3) The Bible teaches us to think of heaven as a place. Several passages direct our thought upward to heaven and downward to hell, Deut. 30:12; Jos. 2:11; Ps. 139:8; Rom. 10:6,7. This would have no meaning if the two were not to be regarded as local in some sense of the word. (4) The Saviour’s entrance into heaven is pictured as an ascent. The disciples see Jesus ascending until a cloud intercepts Him and hides Him from their sight. The same local coloring is present to the mind of the writer of Hebrews in 4:14.2

  • In the end, I decided to accept this answer, since it quotes directly from the reformers. Calvin's comment, "his disciples being content with their measure might cease to inquire any further" proves that the reformers position is indeed that we simply do not fully know.
    – Korosia
    Aug 3, 2020 at 9:48

St. Paul anticipated questions on the resurrected body of a person, on account of which he says at 1 Cor 15: 35-49:

But someone may ask, “How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed. Similarly there are different kinds of flesh—one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.

There are also bodies in the heavens and bodies on the earth. The glory of the heavenly bodies is different from the glory of the earthly bodies. The sun has one kind of glory, while the moon and stars each have another kind. And even the stars differ from each other in their glory.

It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.

If the scripture says that Jesus was taken up into heaven, He is present in heaven in body. Of course, that body is something which transcends human comprehension, just as St. Paul was trying to explain to the Corinthians.

  • Note that the question explicitly asks for an answer from the perspective of Reformed Theology. Do you have any quotes or references from Reformed sources to back up your thoughts here?
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 15, 2020 at 5:50
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    Sorry, I do not . Till I get some, my answer may please be put on hold. Jul 15, 2020 at 5:57
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    1 Cor 15 is helpful. But yes, I'd like some quote from Reformed sources to confirm this is the position they generally hold.
    – Korosia
    Jul 15, 2020 at 7:25
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    From my own study of Reformed Tradition and from my own experience of contemporary Reformed Ministry I would say that @KadalikattJosephSibichan has stated what Reformed Theology expresses on this subject. Up-voted +1. The answer just needs a referenced citation to complete it.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 15, 2020 at 7:55

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