"WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?"
WHO IS JESUS CHRIST?
September 28, 2012
This chapter is the most important one. There is no greater undertaking for man than to come to know and understand the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Some of what has become standard Christian doctrine has inadvertently obscured the divine personality and unmatched love of our Father. We hope we can bring to the fore the absolute and unfailing love of the Father, and the wisdom and tender loving care of Jesus Christ as he skillfully brought mankind “out of darkness and into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
How Jesus’ Life Began
The life of Jesus began in the heavens as the unique creation of the Father. John referred to him as ‘the Word.’
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”
– John 1:1-2
The ‘Word’ was not only a direct divine creation, but he was also a Creator in his own right, for the Father granted him the right to create his own universe:
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
– John 1:3
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”
– Colossians 1:15-16
In time, our Creator God, the Word, in some unrevealed manner, transferred his life into the body of a Jewish woman, Mary, and came to be born as a son of man:
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
– John 1:14
After his birth, the Word came to be known as “Jesus.” (Matthew 1:25)
Why Jesus Came to Earth
Jesus came to earth for many purposes. The overarching purpose was to establish his own sovereignty:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
– Philippians 2:5-11
Up until his bestowal on earth, Jesus was a vicegerent of his universe, meaning he was anappointed sovereign. He was existing in God’s form, meaning he had all the accouterments of God, but he lacked the experiential knowledge which the Father possesses existentially. In other words, what the Father inherently knew, the Son would have to learn. So, with the Father’s blessing, Jesus humbled himself and came to be in the likeness of his own creation in order to know them by experiencing their lives and their trials and their joys.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
– Hebrews 4:14-16
And after he completed his mission and returned to heaven, he had earned his sovereignty and was given ‘the name that is above every other name so that all of his creations, in heaven and on earth, would openly confess him as Lord.’ (Philippians 2:9-10) These scriptures lead us to conclude that his intelligent heavenly creations knew of the Son’s relation to the Father. And while they unreservedly worshiped the Father and honored the Son, they knew the Son had only been an appointed Creator God. But after his earthly sojourn, it was as Jesus truly said: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Thus, every knee would bend to his established universe sovereignty.
As the baby Jesus grew into manhood, he dealt with life as a normal human being, though it appears he had a limited awareness of his special relationship to the Father. At the age of 12, when he went missing and was finally found, he said:
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:41-50)
When Jesus reached the full stature of manhood, he presented himself for baptism by his cousin, John the Baptizer, along with other pious Jews as a national sign of repentance. It was at this time that Jesus became fully conscious of his pre-human existence as the Christ, Son of God. His Christ awareness descended upon him in the likeness of a dove.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:16-17
By the Father’s approval, he had earned his right of sovereignty. Now began the second phase of his earthly bestowal.
Immediately after his baptism, Christ Jesus went away alone into the Perean Hills to formulate his plans and determine upon the technique to uplift the spiritual state of his misled, abused and dejected creation, a ministry of enlightenment that would spread over the entire planet and prepare the way for global peace. It was during that 40-day period of isolation that it is recorded that the Devil tried to tempt Jesus from doing that work. (Matthew 4:1-11) But Christ Jesus emerged from the mountain with the glory of spiritual victory, moral achievement, and a plan.
Jesus brought a message of good news, not only peace on earth, but something far greater. He began preaching about a new era for mankind, entry into the kingdom of the heavens:
“From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
– Matthew 4:17
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”
– Matthew 4:23
In his first major sermon, called the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus informed us of the invitation to enter into the kingdom of heavens:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”
– Matthew 5:3-11
This was an unusual message. Never before had mankind been openly taught that they would see God, that the heavens would belong to them, that they would be, not mere slaves or servants of God, but sons of God, and that they would be able to enter into the kingdom of the heavens! As the Apostle John wrote:
“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
– John 1:11-13
For the next few years, Jesus continued to elevate man’s dignity. Specifically, he taught them to refer to God, not by name, but by relationship – as Father – as would any loving child.
“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
– Matthew 6:9-15
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.” – Matthew 23:8-9
But there was a specific work Jesus had to perform, unique to his people, the Jews:
“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
– Luke 4:16-19
Jesus purposed to free the Jews from their captivity to the burdensome Law Covenant and its associated rituals. As he said:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
– Matthew 5:17-18
Yes, Jesus fulfilled the Law. By fulfilling it, he finished it. He released the Jews from it and he brought it to an end.
“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”
– Romans 7:6
“Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
– Romans 10:4
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”
– Colossians 2:13-14
“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.”
– Galatians 3:23-25
The Law Covenant served an important purpose as a tutor leading the Jews to the Christ, who would bring to mankind the next revelation of God. Once the Christ arrived, the Law Covenant with its associated rituals was not longer necessary. The prophet Daniel prophesied that the Law Covenant would end with Messiah’s arrived:
“He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. ” – Daniel 9:27
But how would Jesus go about bringing an end to the Law Covenant? The Law Covenant and the added rabbinical commands were so deeply ingrained in the Jewish mind that death could result for failure to honor and keep them. Obviously, Jesus would have to engage in a more serious and somber undertaking. He would be presented with a “cup” that he would at one time pray be taken away, but one he loving accepted as the will of God in order to free his people. (Luke 22:42)
“Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
– Matthew 20:26-28
The Need for a Ransom Sacrifice
As we begin a discussion of the ‘ransom doctrine,’ we ask our readers to approach the subject matter with an open mind, and please follow our discussion to its conclusion.
Abandoning the discussion in mid-stream may leave one disheartened or, at the very least, confused.
Ransom is defined as the redemption of a prisoner, slave, or kidnaped person, of captured goods, etc., for a price; a means of deliverance or rescue from punishment for sin, especially the payment of a redemptive fine.
In any ransom scenario, there must be four things – a captive, a captor, a price and a willing payor. A captor takes a captive against his will and demands a price from someone who cares enough about the captive to seek his release. So if we apply the ransom scenario to the Biblical setting, who are the players?
There are variations of the ransom doctrine in Christianity. Yet, all agree that the captive is sinful mankind, and the ransom price is Jesus’ sinless body. But who is the captor and who is the caring payor? While it is extremely difficult to say out loud, and even more difficult to make sense of, many Christians believe that God is both the captor and the caring payor.
In other words, one version of the ransom doctrine goes like this: God created Adam and Eve with free will and told them specifically not to eat from a certain tree. They were told that if they did eat of the tree, they would surely die. When Adam and Eve disobeyed and ate from the tree, God sentenced them, and all of their offspring (the captives) to death. God (as captor) then established the ransom price he would require to set matters right – a perfect life for the perfect lives of Adam and Eve – and after about 4,000 years, God (as payor) offered the life of his innocent only begotten-son, Christ Jesus, to be sacrificed to pay the ransom price that God Himself determined. Christ Jesus then delivered the value of that sacrifice to God Himself to satisfy God's own justice so that mankind could live forever on earth the way God originally purposed.
In another version of the ransom doctrine, some believe the captor is the Devil, and that by Adam and Eve’s disobedience, all mankind became the possession of the Devil. And the Devil decreed that he would not release mankind from the sentence of death unless God provided another perfect life and sacrifice that perfect innocent life according to God’s required justice. The Devil was very confident that mankind would never be released because no offspring of Adam and Eve could be perfect. But God tricked the Devil by providing the perfect sinless life of his only begotten son. So Jesus came, sacrificed his life, apparently paying the ransom price to the Devil who thereby released man from the sentence of death.
We believe that neither explanation makes any sense. We cannot understand why God would engage in such an elaborate and convoluted kidnaping scene against Himself in order to accomplish what He always wanted. Neither can we understand how a created being, such as the Devil, could hold a possession belonging to God against God’s will such that God would need to make some supreme sacrifice to appease the Devil in order to obtain the release of God’s own possession. And there are many other strange presumption that accompany these doctrines.
These complex and practically incomprehensible doctrines are one reason why so many people shun Christianity and the Bible. They wonder how a God who is said to be the personification of love (1 John 4:8) could set in motion such an apparently cruel, unjust and unreasonable way of obtaining justice. Others wonder how an all powerful God could be made subject to the demands of a created being such as the Devil whereby God would need to acquiesce to an evil disobedient personality in order to accomplish God’s own purpose.
But fear not, dear reader, one does not need to reconcile these odd doctrines. For the ransom referred to by the Christian Bible writers in the New Testament is not actual, but psychological and theological, and a praiseworthy effort to make the gospel of the Kingdom of God more appealing to disbelieving Jews.
The Apostle Paul, prior to being a Christian, was a prominent Jew and a learned Pharisee:
“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”
– Philippians 3:4-6
He was therefore fully versed in the Law and its associated requirements, and quite qualified to explain its features and its meaning. And he well understood how deeply ingrained those requirements were in the Jewish mind. Thus, his letter to the Hebrew Congregation was a dissertation to the Jewish Christians on how they could let go of the old system and grab hold of Jesus’ teachings. Particularly, in chapter 9, Paul connects Jesus to the Law Covenant, and then skillfully leads them to the Christ. In fact, most of Paul’s writings were designed to relieve the Jewish mind from an ‘eye for an eye’ mentality and see God as a loving merciful Father.
Specifically, in the 9th chapter of the book of Hebrews, after detailing the events that occur on the Day of Atonement, Paul explained that instead of needing to offer animal sacrifices year after year, Jesus’ life was offered ‘once for all time’ giving the Jews a clean conscience before God, something the sacrificing of bulls and goats could not do. (Hebrews 9:13-14) He explained that once a perfect sacrifice is made, there is no need for more sacrifices. Therefore, the so-called ransom had a theological effect by satisfying the Law Covenant of sacrifice for sin, as well as a psychological effect by cleansing the conscience of guilt by freeing them from the heavy burden of ancestral sin.
We further know that the ransom is a theological and psychological remedy because there was no physical or genetic change in man after the so-called ransom was paid. Man did not become perfect; he continued to sin and err, and to get sick and die. The Devil continued his machinations, and the world continued on its march toward apparent self-destruction. We note also that man did not regain access to the Garden of Eden or introduced to paradise-like conditions at all. Had the ransom been an actual event, the ramifications would have been actual.
Instead, the ransom was a method of releasing from captivity specifically the Jewish religious mind. No other people were in the Law Covenant and required to make annual sacrificial atonements for their sins; thus no other people needed to be released from it by ‘ransom.’ Nevertheless, this teaching could be used to explain to people of other nations, who also are encumbered with the idea that human and/or animal sacrifices are needed to gain God’s favor, that Jesus’ death put an end to such sacrifices, once for all time.
As Jesus said:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
– Matthew 5:17-18
Jesus understood the superstitious and sensitive Jewish mind which had been taught that blood sacrifice was necessary for the atonement for sin. Therefore, Jesus allowed his death to serve as a concluding blood sacrifice to end all such sacrifice and complete the Law’s requirements. (Daniel 9:27) By so doing, Jesus ‘discharged’ them from the law (Romans 7:6), ‘blotted it out’ (Colossians 2:14), and brought it to an end (Romans 10:4), all without condemning or snatching away their cherished beliefs. He fulfilled, not destroyed. This was further good news to the Jews!
Today, the ransom doctrine has become as deeply ingrained in the Christian religious psyche as was the Law Covenant in the Jewish mind. Because of this, some may be stumbled at our explanation. However, when once you grasp the idea of God as a true and loving Father, the only concept which Jesus ever taught, you must forthwith, in all consistency, utterly abandon all those primitive notions about God as an offended monarch, a stern and all-powerful ruler whose chief delight is to detect his subjects in wrongdoing and to see that they are adequately punished, unless some being almost equal to himself should volunteer to suffer for them, and die as a substitute in their stead. The whole idea of ransom and atonement is incompatible with the concept of God as was taught and exemplified by Jesus of Nazareth. The infinite love of God is not secondary to anything in the divine nature, not even justice. And we need not comment on the Father’s superiority of power over the Devil.
Accordingly, in answer to the question, Why do we need a ransom? The answer is: We do not. The ransom doctrine was a teaching to appease, placate and put to rest the Jewish mind that was legally attached to the Law Covenant so that they could accept Jesus Christ. No other race of man needed such a release in order to find and know the Christ. This becomes clearer as we come to understand the true Good News of the Kingdom that ‘from the founding of the world,’ the Father viewed us as his children, only waiting until our minds and hearts were prepared to receive the grand blessing of spiritual adoption into the heavens. (Ephesians 1:3-5) A grave error so many Christians make is to read the Old Testament with its Law Covenant mediated by Moses, and assume it applies to all mankind. It did not, and does not.
If you have difficulty digesting this understanding, then we encourage you to pray for the Spirit of Truth to guide you in this matter. He will provide the needed conviction and understanding, and bear witness with your spirit as to its truthfulness. Until then, if you are so inclined, you are free to hold onto your belief in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus for all mankind, while at the same time continuing to serve God whole-souled.
The ransom doctrine is a matter of theology, not salvation. Whether Christ died as a ransom sacrifice or for some other reason, the fact remains that your sins have been forgiven (1 John 2:12), that you are a child of God by having faith in the living Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26), and that you are an heir to the Kingdom of the Heavens. (Romans 8:17)
Why Jesus Had to Die
If Jesus did not die as a ransom, what did he die for? According to the Apostle John, Jesus himself said:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
– John 3:16
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
– John 5:24
“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
– John 6:40
“Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.”
– John 6:47
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
– John 17:3
So, we learn from Jesus’ words that his death was not the catalyst to our having everlasting life. While Jesus was yet alive, he granted believers the gift of everlasting life. (John 1:11-13) By this, we know the ‘good news of the kingdom’ was not that Christ died for us and was resurrected, for even before his death, Jesus himself was preaching the good news. And so were his apostles who, at the time, did not even comprehend that Jesus would die.
“Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.”
– Luke 18:31-34
Nevertheless, Jesus’ death is important and has profound meaning to all mankind. The most obvious reason why Jesus had to die is so that he could return to heaven and receive “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18) so that every being would recognize his earned universal sovereignty. (Philippians 2:9-10) He could not tarry indefinitely on earth.
Another reason why Jesus had to die we have already considered: to fulfill and complete the Mosaic Law Covenant so that the Jewish mind could approach God with a clean conscience. And Jesus’ death has a similar benefit to mankind in general.
The Mosaic Law Covenant served as a tutor leading the Jews to recognize the Christ (Galatians 3:23-25), but it also serves as a tutor to other nations who, though not bound to the Law, can peer into the Jewish system to likewise recognize the Christ and his importance to man. By learning about Christ, all men are able to understand the ‘sacred secret’ of our true relationship with God and our true destiny. (Colossians 1:25-29)
It is important to know that even though the Jewish mind required a propitiatory sacrifice, it was still the life of Jesus, not his death, that had the saving power:
“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
– Romans 5:10-11
A further reason why Jesus died is to show us the way to our heavenly inheritance. Jesus told us:
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
– John 14:6
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”
– John 14:1-2
And the Apostle Paul explained:
“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:50
Thus, in order to inherit the Kingdom of the Heavens, we must abandon the flesh through our death. Jesus set a courageous example by being the first one from earth to enter the Kingdom of the Heavens:
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”
– Colossians 1:17-18
Those who follow Jesus must also undergo a ‘death like his’ through baptism:
“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”
– Romans 6:4-7
Jesus’ courageous example no doubt empowered his immediate followers to lay down their lives for the good news of the kingdom, and it likewise empowers those of us today who must also suffer for our faith, as well as those who suffer in order to protect the faith and lives of others. As Jesus said:
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
– John 15:13
As we contemplate the sufferings of Jesus as he offered up his life, we are strengthened when we face even the severest hardships of our lives, much less at the petty harassments and our many purely fictitious grievances. Jesus’ life was so glorious and his death so triumphant that we are all enticed to a willingness to share both. There is true drawing power in the whole life ministry of Jesus, from the days of his youth to the overwhelming spectacle of his death.
We pray that we do not look with the eyes of our spiritual ancestors who regarded God as a relentless Sovereign of stern justice and rigid law-enforcement. Rather, make sure that you see in Jesus’ death the final manifestation of the love and devotion to his life mission to mankind. See in the death of the Son of Man the climax of the unfolding of the Father's divine love for his earthly sons, and as a portrayal of the devotion of willing affection and voluntary salvation upon those who are willing to receive such gifts and devotion. There was nothing about Jesus’ humiliating and ignominious death that the Father required. The grotesque way in which Jesus was killed was strictly of man’s doing. But it was the love of our Creator/Brother who so willingly submitted to it, and which he refused to avoid. (Luke 22:42)
If one cannot otherwise appreciate Jesus and the meaning of his earthly ministry, one can at least comprehend the fellowship of his mortal sufferings. No man can ever fear that our Creator does not know the nature or extent of our temporal afflictions. (Hebrews 4:15)
Overall, we know that Jesus’ death was not to effect man's reconciliation to God. Our reconciliation occurs as a result of our following Jesus’ life and ministry. Instead, Jesus’ death served to free the Jews from mental, psychological and spiritual bondage, to set an example for us in courageously facing life’s trials while undergoing the baptism into death, to stimulate man's realization of the Father's eternal love and his Son's unending mercy, and to broadcast these universal truths to a whole universe. (Philippians 2:9-10)
So, while it is not appropriate to think of Christ Jesus as an actual ransomer or redeemer of mankind, it is quite appropriate to view him as our Savior.
What Jesus is Doing Now
Before the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, he told his apostles that he had to go away but that he would send a helper to be with them in his absence:
“I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
– John 16:4-7
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
– John 16:13-15
While Jesus remained on earth, he could only teach those persons who were within his physical presence. But by means of the Spirit of Truth, which was poured out on ‘every sort of flesh’ (Acts 2:17), Jesus could be with each one of us individually throughout the centuries until his return. Because the Spirit of Truth speaks only what Jesus declares, Jesus is clearly continuing to work on our behalf from his vantage point in heaven. Jesus is still active in teaching, communicating and nurturing each one of us as he promised. He has taken no break, no time out, no vacation, no resting. He is diligently about the Father’s business. He needs no successors to represent him on earth:
“Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
– Hebrews 7:23-25
Even through what we call the ‘dark ages,’ the Spirit of Truth was active preserving Jesus’ original teachings, though they were shrouded within manmade ideas. If the Spirit of Truth had not been active, the good news of the kingdom could not have survived into our day.
Though Jesus gave us ‘gifts in men,’ he did not provide an intercessor or mediator. He himself continues to be the only one through whom we can reach the Father. Remember, too, what Jesus told his apostles:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
– John 14:1-4
So Jesus is also working with his spiritual organization preparing abodes for us, places where we can be received after our resurrection to further educate and care for us. As the Creator of our entire universe, Jesus has a fully equipped spiritual kingdom getting ready for our arrival. Jesus is not alone in the heavens.
And when we consider the vastness of our universe, we are certain the earth is not his only concern. We are told that he will ‘gather together the things in the heavens and the things on the earth to himself.’ (Ephesians 1:10) Perhaps there are other inhabited planets that he is uplifting and gathering together with us.
The Apostle Paul said that Jesus “sat down at the right hand of God, from then on awaiting until his enemies should be placed as a stool for his feet.” (Hebrews 10:12-13) But we should not interpret that to mean that Jesus was just sitting and waiting for someone else to subdue his enemies. It is more likely that he is waiting for his enemies to be subdued while he continues to work to prepare mankind for his return to earth.
And, we wondered, how would a ‘Prince of Peace’ defeat or destroy his enemies? By turning them into friends! Perhaps what Christ is waiting for is for us to complete our ministry of reconciliation by turning Christ’s enemies into brothers of the kingdom, thus subduing Christ’s enemies. And, of course, Christ is active in this work by means of the Spirit of Truth.
Finally, just prior to Jesus ascension into heaven:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:18-20
By this scripture, we know that Jesus has been ruling as king of his kingdom since his resurrection in 33 C.E. As such, we are confident that his entire heavenly universe is peaceful and completely subject to his sovereignty, and has been so since 33 C.E.
It is now our turn to keep in step with the kingdom by teaching the things Jesus actually commanded – the actual, authentic, plain and open good news of the kingdom.
Therefore, all disciples of Jesus, all sons of the Kingdom, all ambassadors substituting for Christ must preach the true good news of the kingdom until the conclusion of the system. And as we do so, we will subdue Christ’s enemies by leading them into the spiritual brotherhood of man so that when the Christ makes his second appearance, he will indeed “find the faith on the earth.” (Luke 18:8)
"Your Brothers in Faith"