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Exaltation in Heaven


Exaltation is promoting or honoring someone in a lofty position. For a Christian, God offers reward and honour in heaven according to his or her loyalty to God.

1. Exaltation of Jesus
Paul details the exaltation of Jesus in heaven. God has “worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way” (Eph 1:20-23).

According to Paul, God exalted Jesus because of his obedience and humility. Paul advised Philippians to follow the same for their exaltation in heaven. “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:5-11). The Catholic Church honors such exemplary Christians as saints.

2. Holy men of the Old Testament
The Bible gives examples of people exalted in heaven. “The whole lifetime of Enoch was three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him” (Gen 5:23-24). Jesus said to the crowd, “you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God” (Lk 13:28). Like Enoch, God took Elijah without tasting death. While he along with his disciple Elisha “walked on still conversing, a fiery chariot and fiery horses came between the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind” (2 Kgs 2:11). During the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared on the mountain on the two sides of Jesus (Mt 17:1-8).

3. Exaltation of the Apostles
Peter asked Jesus: “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” Jesus replied: “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19:27-29).

4. Honour in heaven for those who continue the mission of Jesus
During the sermon on the mountain, Jesus promised heaven for the poor in spirit (Mt 5:3), the meek (Mt 5:5), the clean of heart (Mt 5:8), and the persecuted for the sake of righteousness (Mt 5:10). He added, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt 5:11-12). Towards the end of Paul’s life, he wrote: “For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance” (2 Tim 4:6-8). When the Jewish leaders martyred Stephen, “he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts
7:55). Thus, Stephen felt Jesus welcoming him to heaven.

5. Honour for those who do the will of the Father
Jesus promised: “whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt 12:50). Thus, Jesus will consider them as members of his family.

6. Heavenly dwelling for the disciples
Jesus promised heavenly residence for his disciples. “You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be” (Jn 14:1-3).

7. Heavenly reward according to one’s actions.
Jesus promised: “The Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct” (Mt 16:27). “Each will receive wages in proportion to his labour. For we are God’s co-workers” (1 Cor 3:8-9). “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6). Peter told the presbyters: “When the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Pet 5:4). According to Daniel, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; Some to everlasting life, others to reproach and everlasting disgrace. But those with insight shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, And those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever” (Dan 12:2-3).


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