Before Jesus was arrested and put on trial to be crucified, He spent the good part of the evening with His disciples. He was sharing and teaching many things. The disciples would not understand at that time all the things He was sharing, but they eventually would see things more clearly when the promised Spirit was given to them. These were not just simple instructions, but much of what He shared were promises and words of comfort. This One they had walked with and spent their time with for the last three and a half years was about to depart from them. He had met all their needs and protected and kept them all this time, bearing with their weaknesses and infirmities. While He was on the earth He perfectly kept all those given to Him by the Father (John 17:6-13).
The emotional state of the disciples had to be intense. Sorrow, fear, and confusion had to be a part of what they were experiencing. They had to be feeling isolated and forsaken as well. Into this setting and at this critical moment, the Lord Jesus, ever so gracious and always aware of the full importance of His circumstances and surroundings, speaks these comforting words to the disciples in the form of a promise.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
This is a promise for all true believers, not just the eleven that were with Him. We can reason it is for all believers because the greater part of the promise remains unfulfilled. He has not yet come again and received anyone to Himself with the intention that where He went He would take them also. But this promise from Jesus was divine comfort to the disciples at that time. Comfort and peace as given by Him to His own. Not in the character and nature as the world gives comfort.
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.”
His Promise is Comfort, Peace, and Joy now
This is very similar to what He said earlier in the same chapter, and He calls this to their attention – that He is going away, but He would return back to them. His peace given to the believer, in the midst of fears and apprehensions upon His departure from them out of this world or from His absence from us now, is based on the promise that He would come back for us.
The Lord gives comfort and peace to the believer that cannot be found or acquired from this world. “In the world you will have tribulation,” (John 16:33). This is what the true believer receives from the world. Also the believer is hated by the world, because He stands apart from the world as Christ does (John 15:18-19). We have been left in this world, but not as part of it. It is not just that the Lord departed from us that gave rise to our discomfort, but that we have been left in a world that we are no longer a part of.
“But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
He also gives us His joy to be ours while He is away. This divine joy is ours based on the same understanding we are to have concerning the world – believers are set apart from the world and this world doesn’t have divine joy to give. The understanding of the Lord’s words is in the truth that He is separated from the world, having now ended any relationship with it. And if He is not of the world then we are not of the world. If the believer had a relationship with the world it would be one that is inappropriate. The declaration of Christ’s complete separation from this world is uniquely spoken by Him earlier in John’s gospel.
God condemns the World; Jesus is lifted up apart from it
“Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
At this time God had fully condemned the entire world. The lifting up of the Son of Man would be the end of any relationship Christ had with the world He had created and into which He was sent by the Father (John 1:10). The world did not know Him. He came to His own, but the Jews did not receive Him. They rejected Him and put Him to death. God had fully tested the responsibility of man, who by nature was descended from Adam, and found absolutely no fruit whatsoever (Matt. 21:19). Man was proven lost, without resources, and a child destined for wrath (Eph. 2:2-3). The sending of the Jewish Messiah to Israel was the final testing by God. They were God’s most privileged people. When they failed this last testing, by it God condemned the whole world (Rom. 3:19).
The Believer is lifted up apart from the World
Jesus Christ, as the Son of Man, is lifted up apart from the earth and world. He has no relationship at all with the world that is judged. Those He draws to Himself are believers, as chosen by God from out of the condemned world (John 15:19, 17:6). They are associated with Him as lifted up apart from the earth and world. These are of the heavenly calling in Christ Jesus, and not of the earth (Heb. 3:1). And they are the ones He prays for that last evening He spent with them.
“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.”
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.”
He does not pray for the condemned world, but rather for those given to Him out of the world by the Father. He prayed for all believers, those who would be drawn to Him by God through the testimony of these eyewitnesses (John 15:27). But all these passages, particularly those from John’s gospel, serve to develop the full meaning of Christ’s and the believer’s separation from this present evil world. This understanding then brings us to these words He spoke that evening.
Jesus is Departing the World; He cannot stay here
(11) “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. (12) While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept, and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. (13)But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.(14) I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (15) I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. (16) They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
He certainly was departing this world and going to the Father. He would be leaving them behind. There are simply many spiritual truths associated with His leaving. As the Son of Man He would be the forerunner for all believers into the presence and glory of God. He would be the firstborn from among the dead and the firstborn among many brethren. As the perfect and eternal sacrifice it would be necessary that His blood be brought into the tabernacle in the heavens made without hands (Heb. 9:11), into the presence of God for us (Heb. 9:23-26). In this one time work He is both the better sacrifice and the better High Priest carrying in the blood of propitiation. This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, sat down in perpetuity at the right hand of God (Heb. 10:12). The sitting down is only indicative of an eternally accepted sacrifice highly pleasing and satisfying to God – a work perfectly and completely finished (Heb. 10:1-14). Until Jesus was glorified in this manner, the Holy Spirit could not be sent down, the seal of God in the believer by which our bodies are the temple of God (John 7:39, 16:17).
All these are blessed truths associated with His having to depart this world. But we sense something entirely different in the above quoted passage. Somehow the world itself is prohibiting His continued presence in it. He speaks of leaving, or even as already having left the world when He prays, “Now I am no longer in the world…and I come to You, Holy Father…”Yet the disciples would be left behind for He says, “…but these are in the world…I do not pray that You should take them out of the world…” What is so prominent in our Lord’s words and the character of John’s Holy Spirit inspired gospel is the thought and teaching of absolute separation from this present condemned world. It is a setting apart of both the Son of Man lifted up (John 12:32) and all believers united to Him (John 14:19-20). Therefore He also remarks, “…and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
The World is condemned; it is only Defilement.
The believer’s position in relation to the world is the same as His – a relationship with the world doesn’t exist any longer.The world is condemned, He is lifted up apart from it all, and we are associated and united with Him, so much so, He is in us and we are in Him. But He is departing out of this world and He tells us we have to stay behind. Why?
There was a difference between the Lord and believers at this time that is the basis and reason for His departure and their having to remain behind. As the Son of Man lifted up apart from the world He would have a resurrected glorified body (John 20:27). This world, condemned in its own sin (John 8:21, 9:39-41, 12:31, 15:22-24), would only be defilement for Him if He stayed here in the resurrected state (John 20:17). He came into the world He had created looking for fruit, but found none. This world is guilty of rejecting Him. He no longer has any relationship with it because the relationship itself would be defilement to the Son of Man lifted up. He cannot stay down here in this defiled place, so He is going away to prepare a place for us.
Being present in this evil world is defilement for anything that is ‘of God.’ This is easily seen as the case for Jesus in the time after His resurrection and before His final ascension. He never appears to the world, to those of the unbelieving world. He only appears to His own, those He was given by the Father out of the world (John 17:1-6). All of them would become eye-witnesses in testimony of His resurrection (I Cor. 15:4-7). These are the ones that were already pure by the word He had spoken to them (John 15:3, 17:17) and so there would be no defilement in appearing to them.
(23) “`But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. (24) Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (25) He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (26) If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.
(27) “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. (28) Father, glorify Your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”
(29) Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.”
(30) Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake. (31) Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. (32) And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
The Glory of God manifested in the Glorified Son of Man
I want to step back from the minute detail of this passage and consider its context and the general truths presented in it. Jesus is the Son of Man who would be glorified. It would be God who would glorify Him after the Son of Man accomplished a certain work which first perfectly glorified God (please read John 13:31-32). This work is the foundation by which all God’s counsels are to be accomplished. This work is the Son of Man as the single grain of wheat that must fall to the ground and die. By His death the righteousness and holiness of God was maintained, satisfied, and fully glorified.
God therefore glorified the Son of Man. All the counsels of God, all His workings, result in His own glory. This is accomplished by all the glory of God centering on Jesus Christ, the now glorified Son of Man – all things in heaven and all things on earth – in Him (Eph. 1:10). If the Son of Man glorified God, then God would glorify Him immediately. God begins this by raising Christ from the dead and exalting Him far above everything to the right hand of God (Eph. 1:19-23). There He now sits, as the Son of Man, crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:9).
There is also the glory from eternity past that the Father shared with the Son (John 17:5). The Father would again share His glory with Him upon His return, for Jesus prays, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself…” However, we must understand this distinction. Christ re-enters God’s glory as the Son of Man raised up and exalted. He re-enters the glory as a Man. In the above quoted passage from John 12, the glory of God is in view, and He would be glorified in all that was about to take place. He would be glorified in the grain of wheat dying, in the Son of Man being set apart from the earth, and in His holy and righteous judgment of the world.
Life in the First Adam
The contrast of Christ and the believer to the world is brought out even more so in verse 25 of the above quoted passage. He who loves his present life in this world will lose it. This is life in the first Adam and part of this world. This life is to be hated and put to death, ending your relationship with Adam and the world. Life in the first Adam must be crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6, Gal. 2:20). It is only through death you can end your relationship with this present evil world (Gal. 6:14). It is only through death – through following Him – that the individual will be found where He is. And where is He? He is certainly apart from the world. Where did He go? He went into the glory of God (v.26).
It is important to have a clear understanding of the distinction made by the Holy Spirit in this gospel between the believer and the world. By it we better understand the promise the Lord spoke to them as comfort. Let us look at the promise now more closely.
(1) “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (2) In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (4) And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
The Lord’s words and promise bring up two questions from Thomas, which He patiently answers in turn.
- How can we know the way? Jesus’ answer is that He is the way and it is through Him. The believer is ‘in Christ’ and united to Him.
- Lord, where are You going? His answer is that He is going to the Father.
It should be easily understood that He was departing this world and going to His Father. The Father was not somewhere in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, or Galilee. He wasn’t anywhere on this earth and in this world. The Lord’s promise to all believers boils down to this – He will personally come from where He went and where He presently is, and take us to the Father. He will come from the Father and take us back to the Father.
The Glorified Body
It is obvious Christ is departing this world. It is also obvious the disciples would remain in this world, being comforted with the sure hope of our Lord’s promise. As for the disciples left behind, the glorified body is the difference between themselves and the Lord. The Son of Man would be raised and in a glorified body, and for Him to remain in this world would only be defilement. The believer would not have a glorified body like Jesus, at least not yet.
“Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you.”
“Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?”
Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.”
Jesus is leaving the world, while the disciples would have to remain behind. He is going away. They cannot follow Him now, but they would certainly follow Him later. This is the difference between what He promises all those who are His own and what He speaks to the condemned world. Those who are His are associated with Him – they are not of the world as He is not of the world. When the Holy Spirit was sent down to them (for this is the understanding of all the similar phrases in the Lord’s discourse here that start with the words, “In that day…” John 15:20), they would eventually comprehend their union to Him – you in Me, and I in you. But sin would remain in their bodies of flesh and they would not be able to go where Christ was going at that time.
The World cannot follow Christ to where He went
It is never the thought that believers cannot go where He is, but rather they cannot go yet (John 13:36). However, the world and all those of the world simply cannot go period! This is an impossibility confirmed by the Lord’s words spoken to the Jews previously in this gospel.
“Then Jesus said to them, “I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come.”
“Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.”
Here Jesus distinguishes between His followers and the world. What He said to the Jews are His words to the unbelieving world which is condemned. The world, including the Jewish people, is not associated with Him. They will die in their sins – the whole world will die in their sins. This is the judgment that stands over the entire world and those who are part of the world. As we’ve said previously, when the Son of Man was lifted up from the earth (John 12:32) it meant the end of any relationship He had with the world. And now He is speaking of His physical departure out of this world. His separation is morally, spiritually, but also physically from this world. It is simply impossible for those of the world to follow Him.
“And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
The overall emphasis of the separation from the world continues throughout this gospel. It is one of the major themes of the Spirit through John. “You are of this world; I am not…” And again the condemnation of what is ‘from beneath’ is repeated. As the Son of Man He has been given all judgment (John 5:22, 27) and He certainly implies He has judged the world (John 8:26).
The Believer follows Christ to where He has gone
Yet He never speaks this way to the disciples. He never implies any of these things concerning believers. They are not of the world as He is not of the world. He promises them that He will personally take them to be where He has gone. It then becomes clear that it would have to be in the same manner in which He went – in a resurrected glorified body.
As believers we will need the sin nature removed from our flesh and our bodies glorified. This will be necessary in order to enter into the presence of the Father. And once our bodies are glorified as our Lord’s, this world will no longer be a fit place for us to remain in. This physical change is what Paul speaks of to the Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 5:4
“For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.”
In order for the believer to follow Christ where He has gone he needs for his mortality to be ‘swallowed up by life.’ Specifically this refers to those who are in Christ and still alive on this earth when God demonstrates His exceedingly great power towards us at the time of this event. They are the ones specifically spoken of in the scriptures as mortality putting on immortality (I Cor. 15:53-54). They are those referred to by the apostle when he says, “We shall not all sleep…” (I Cor. 15:51), and again when he says, “… we who are alive and remain…” (I Thess. 4:15, 17) In the verse above it is “…we who are in this tent groan, being burdened…” It is all those in Christ who are still in this present physical body on the earth.
However, many believers have also fallen asleep in Christ. Death will not exclude them from this event. They are the ones specifically referred to in the scriptures as corruption putting on in-corruption (I Cor. 15:50-54). These are the ones the apostle speaks of in saying, “…I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep…those who sleep in Jesus…will by no means precede those who are asleep…the dead in Christ will rise first.” (I Thess. 4:13-16) Again the apostle speaks of “…those who have fallen asleep in Christ…” (I Cor. 15:18)
Not to be Unclothed, but further Clothed
In the above quoted verse from II Corinthians 5, the state of those asleep in Christ is described as being ‘unclothed’ or naked. This state is being absent from the body while it is corrupting in the grave. It is the believer’s spirit and soul present with the Lord, which is described as far better than being still in this tent groaning and burdened. The death of a believer is not to be feared, for it is truly a state of greater blessing than life on this earth. If our thoughts and feelings about these two distinct states were known, it would reveal much about what is in our hearts as believers. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord – it is the thought of being with Jesus that creates all the believer’s proper desires and affections. But this is veering off the particular direction of this chapter, so I’ll attempt to better address these thoughts later in the book. This teaching establishes the reality of three different and distinct states for the believer.
1) Being present in the body on the earth is to be absent from the Lord. At the first this was the state of all the disciples. The Lord had departed from this world and they were left behind. It is the state in which we groan within ourselves, being burdened (Rom. 8:23, II Cor. 5:4). But in this state the Lord did not leave us comfortless, but gave all believers another Comforter, the Spirit of truth who abides with us now forever. This same Spirit, while the believer is still present in the body, constantly makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered, and this always according to the perfect will of God (Rom. 8:26-27). Also the Lord left His promise that He would personally return for all believers, by which the indwelling Spirit becomes God’s guarantee that such promise is our sure and steadfast hope (Rom. 8:23-25).
2) Being absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. However this is the state of being unclothed and naked (II Cor. 5:3-4), where spirit and soul departs to be with the Lord, and the body is corrupting in the grave. This is a far better state than the previous one, yet it is not one that the believer is to properly desire. The apostle says, “…not because we want to be unclothed…” It is not what we want, nor is it the blessed hope of the believer. It is scripturally described as being asleep in Christ. But death is not what the Lord promised the believer. Death is not the reason He returns for us.
3) The final state of the true believer is not to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life (II Cor. 5:4, Rom. 8:11). For all those who are asleep in Christ it is resurrection from among the dead. It is the corrupted state putting on incorruption. For both, the alive and asleep in Christ, it is what the apostle says, “…we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (I Cor. 15:51-54). It is the time when sin is removed from the flesh, the adoption, the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23). It is the glorified body, the glorified state, by which we will be enabled to enter the very presence and glory of the Father God.
Jesus’ Promise is not about Death
Some will say that the Lord’s promise at the beginning of John 14 is referring to the death of the believer. That simply is false teaching and gross misunderstanding, especially when you consider what the Holy Spirit is emphasizing in John’s gospel and our Lord’s words – it is Christ’s and the believer’s complete separation from this condemned world. Jesus is departing the world, but promises to return, at God’s appropriate time, and take all believers into the presence of the Father. If this was the death of the believer, it would mean that the Lord was promising to come thousands upon thousands of times. If it was referencing death, then it is the unclothed condition with the body left behind for corruption. Without the body the individual is not a complete man. Death is not the promise here, but rather it is resurrection and life.
For the disciples it was obvious that Jesus departing from them was distressing; to be with Him was comforting. He had to leave the world. But He knew what to speak to them, for He gives them the promise of His own word. He tells them, “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” God’s own Word is the basis of all our comfort and certainty. This is the blessed hope of the believer. This is the blessed hope of the church.
Chapter 1: Endnotes
 The understanding of the principle of responsibility in man and how God fully tested it is thoroughly discussed in the first book in this series, ‘The Son of Man Glorified.’ When God tests man in this principle it is symbolically represented in Scripture as God looking for fruit. Man is proven as always failing in responsibility and this is the story of man and of Scripture. Man’s responsibility is his works. When any man is judged by God on his own works, it is certain condemnation and wrath. God’s testing of responsibility in man came to an end when Messiah was presented to Israel. The parable in Matt. 21:33-40 depicts God’s testing of Israel when they represented all mankind in the first Adam. The cursing of the fig tree in Matt. 21:19 represents the outcome and final test results for man, again represented by Israel as the most privileged nation on earth. At that time God condemns the entire world (John 12:31, Rom. 3:19).
 The lifting up of the Son of Man in John 12 has a different emphasis of meaning than that found in John 3:14, although the phrasing is similar. In John 3 it is the use of a teaching instrument called types or shadows – the lifting up of Christ on the cross is prefigured by Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness on a pole. The symbols found in all types are used for their similarities and contrasts to teach spiritual truths and realities. All types/shadows precede their fulfillments/substance. And the fulfillments and substance is always the greater value and reality. When Moses lifted up the serpent, it was judged, cursed, and condemned by Jehovah on behalf of the nation of Israel. In John 3 the Son of Man is lifted up as judged, cursed, and condemned by God on behalf of the sin of the world. In John 12 His being lifted up is His separation from the world – morally, spiritually, and ultimately physically in His glorification.
 The Son of Man lifted up is a reference to His death on the cross. By His death He has ended any relationship with the world. The principle is ‘until death do you part’ with death ending the relationship. Jesus goes on to identify the believer as not of the world just as He is not of the world (John 17:14). In the epistles this redemptive truth is explained in greater detail – it is by our death we are separated from the world. It is because we have died with Christ (Col. 2:20, Gal. 6:14).
 Whenever death is actually spoken of in the epistles it is always with this understanding – to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (II Cor. 5:8). The true believer’s proper desires and affections are in Christ and with Christ. If the Lord tarries, most of us as believers will sleep in Christ. The earthly body corrupts in the grave, but spirit and soul depart and go to be with the Lord. This is described scripturally as being unclothed or naked, yet also always described as a well pleasing or far better state (II Cor. 5:8, Phil. 1:21,23). Why? – Because we are in the presence of our Lord. Now it is never described as ‘going to heaven’ although this is true, but that thought is not where our proper affections should be. Also it is not properly a ‘going on to glory’ because the believer’s entrance into God’s glory will not be until he has the glorified body. One last distinction concerning death – it is the believer leaving his earthly body behind and going on to be with the Lord in heaven. It is never described in scripture as ‘the Lord coming’ or ‘the Lord coming back’ for us.