4.3.5 The Qur'an And The Ascension Of Jesus
The Qur’an claims that Jesus ascended to Heaven in order to escape death (4.157,158). Yet the New Testament teaches that He ascended to Heaven as part of His exaltation, the reward and result of His sufferings. Because He humbled Himself to the death of the cross, therefore He was highly exalted (Phil. 2: 8-9). This idea of humility is not attractive to any of us, not least Muslims. Their perception of Jesus is of a man who was saved from being humiliated by being glorified. Yet the Bible teaches that Jesus was humbled and as a result of this humiliation, was glorified: and this must be our pattern too in the life of following Him (Jn. 13:31-33; Heb. 5:7-9; Col. 3:1; 1 Pet. 1:19-21; 4:13; Rev. 5:12).
Muslims claim that Jesus only ascended to a lesser heaven; whereas the Old Testament teaches that Messiah is to sit on the right hand of the throne of God Himself (Ps. 16:11; Dan. .7:13). He “ascended far above all heavens” (Eph. 4:9), to the throne of God Himself (Rev. 3:21). The purpose of the ascension of Jesus was not to save Him from temporary death - if so, why has He remained there for 20 centuries? When the Son of God was under threat earlier, God sent Him away into Egypt (Mt. 2:13,20). Again, we ask why is it that Jesus alone of all men, according to the Qur’an, was taken to Heaven for so long? If He is just another of many prophets, why this special treatment? And why was He, according to the Qur’an, the only man who never died (4.156,157)? If the wages of sin is death, this would mean that He never sinned, and was the only man never to have sinned. This makes Him far more than just another prophet. There is a serious tension within the Qur’an relating to the nature of Jesus. He is spoken of in very exalted terms [probably because much of the Qur’an text is merely borrowed from the New Testament]; and yet on the other hand, seeks to downplay Him.