A Series of Answers to Common Questions
Jesus in John 3:13 claims that no one has ascended into heaven except him, the Son of Man. Yet there are two instances in which persons ascended into heaven, Enoch and Elijah. Doesnt this prove that Jesus was either wrong (that is if Jesus actually said this) or that the Bible is full of contradictions?
Before we analyze Jesus words in their immediate context we would first like to cite the references that speak of the ascension of these two Old Testament prophets:
"When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methu'selah. Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methu'selah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; AND HE WAS NOT, for God took him." Genesis 5:21-24
"By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God." Hebrews 11:5
"Now when the LORD was about to take Eli'jah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Eli'jah and Eli'sha were on their way from Gilgal And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Eli'jah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Eli'sha saw it and he cried, My father, my father! the chariots of Israel and its horsemen! And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and rent them in two pieces." 2 Kings 2:1, 11-12
As the reader can see, when these prophets ascended into heaven they did not return to the earth. These men did not come back down from heaven after ascending in order to make known to men the heavenly mysteries or secrets they had seen and experienced. Rather, they ascended and remained in heaven, in Gods presence.
With the foregoing in mind we can now turn to Jesus statements in the Gospel of John:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what WE KNOW, and bear witness to what WE HAVE SEEN; but you do not receive OUR testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man." John 3:10-13
The reason for Jesus use of plural pronouns is to account for the fact that he speaks on behalf of the Father and the Spirit. Christ was saying that both the Father and the Holy Spirit are communicating Divine truths that they know firsthand, by personal experience, through the Person of the Incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus:
"And John bore witness, I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, "He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit."" John 1:32-33
"So Jesus said, When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him." John 8:28-29
"If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." John 10:37-38
"For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me." John 12:49-50
"In the first book, O The-oph'ilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen." Acts 1:1-2
Jesus reference to ascending and descending was made in reference to speaking of heavenly things, of heavenly realities. What Christ was saying is that he could speak of heavenly secrets, of heavenly matters since he is the only One who originates from heaven itself and came down from there to reveal these unseen mysteries to mankind.
Putting it another way, Jesus was saying that no one went into heaven and came down from there so as to make known the unseen heavenly realities. Elijah and Enoch did not come down after ascending from heaven. Only Christ could speak from personal experience and therefore convey these eternal realities since he comes from heaven, from the very presence of God himself:
"No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known." John 1:18
"For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me;" John 6:38
"Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before?" John 6:62
"He said to them, You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he." John 8:23-24
"Jesus said to them, If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me." John 8:42
"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God," John 13:3
"for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father." John 16:27-28
"Thus it is written, The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven." 1 Corinthians 15:45-49
Jesus, in John 3:13, was essentially responding to a series of rhetorical questions posed by an inspired writer centuries before Christs advent:
"The words of Agur son of Jakeh of Massa. The man says to Ith'i-el, to Ith'i-el and Ucal: Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One. Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son's name? Surely you know!" Proverbs 30:1-4
Agur pleads ignorance regarding the Divine nature, that he is a man who cannot fathom eternal realities. In order to highlight just how ignorant humans are about the nature and acts of God he poses a series of questions which no man, apart from revelation, can answer. That is why it is the Son, the very One whom Agur mentions, who has to come down centuries later in order to make known these incomprehensible truths.
In fact, this wasnt the first time that Christ had descended from heaven. There is ample evidence demonstrating that all throughout the OT period Christ would descend to appear to the people of God and ascend back:
"I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ." 1 Corinthians 10:1-4
Paul says that Christ was there during the Exodus to nourish and provide for Moses and the Israelites!
The main difference with Christs descent during the NT period is that it was only at this point that he took on flesh and became an actual human being:
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." John 1:14
Moreover, it isnt a coincidence that it isnt until Christ has come down from heaven that other individuals were then given the grace of ascending into heaven, and returning back to the earthly realms, so as to get a glimpse of its incomprehensible realities:
"I must boast; there is nothing to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven -- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise -- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows -- and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter." 2 Corinthians 12:1-4
"After this I looked, and lo, in heaven an open door! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, Come up hither, and I will show you what must take place after this. At once I was in the Spirit, and lo, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne! And he who sat there appeared like jasper and carnelian, and round the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald. Round the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clad in white garments, with golden crowns upon their heads. From the throne issue flashes of lightning, and voices and peals of thunder, and before the throne burn seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God; and before the throne there is as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And round the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all round and within, and day and night they never cease to sing, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you did create all things, and by your will they existed and were created." Revelation 4:1-11
It is also not coincidental that Elijah comes down and appears to a select few only after Christs advent:
"And he said to them, Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power. And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Eli'jah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli'jah. For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, This is my beloved Son; listen to him. And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only." Mark 9:1-8
Here, Elijah appears and speaks to Christ in the presence of three disciples.
Because Jesus has come down to reveal God to man, there is no need for us to try and ascend to heaven in order to access God's truth. Christ has brought Gods Word near to us so that we can know and live by it:
"Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: 'The man who does these things will live by them.' But the righteousness that is by faith says: 'Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?" (that is, to bring Christ down) or "Who will descend into the deep?"' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? 'The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,' that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, 'Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.' For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile-the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" Romans 10:6-13
Another reason for Christ's descent was so that he could conquer death and thereby merit the riches of God's gifts so as to freely bestow them upon the Church:
"But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, 'When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.' (In saying, 'He ascended,' what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." Ephesians 4:7-16
We conclude our paper in the words of the risen and exalted Christ:
"All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Luke 10:22
A Series of Answers to Common Questions
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