“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is the Son of Man who is in heaven” (John 3:13).
Jesus knows about Heaven.
He should. He’s a native.
When He speaks of Heavenly things, everyone else on the field should retire and every mouth be closed. No one else carries the credentials Jesus does regarding the divine.
I wonder if people have ever considered the width and breadth and depth of this statement, given by our Lord to Nicodemus.
John MacArthur said, “This verse contradicts other religious systems’ claims to special revelation from God. Jesus insisted that no one has ascended to heaven in such a way as to return and talk about heavenly things (cf.2 Cor. 12:1-4). Only He had His permanent abode in heaven prior to His incarnation and therefore, only He has the true knowledge regarding heavenly wisdom (cf. Proverbs 30:4).”
Question: Didn’t other biblical characters go to heaven? Didn’t Enoch? And Elijah? And on the Mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus met with Moses and Elijah, weren’t they from Heaven? Aren’t the “dead in Christ” at home with the Lord?
Answer: Heaven seems to be a huge place. (smile please) So, perhaps in saying no one had been there except the One who came from there, referring to Himself, Jesus meant no one had yet entered the Holy of Holies itself. The throneroom of the Godhead. Only He.
Think of Heaven as a huge city, which the Bible does, of course. And think of the dwelling place of God as the palace. And then, there is the Throneroom, the inner sanctum of the palace.
Scripture speaks of heaven in at least three ways: the sky above us, the universe around us, and the remote and holy dwellingplace of the Lord and the host of heaven.
Even so, we would err, I imagine, in devoting too much time to reflecting on the various heavens or what portion of heaven Jesus meant. These are unknowable. The point He was making to Nicodemus that day should take our attention:
One and only One has been to Heaven and come back to tell us about it.
Jesus is our authority on Heaven.
He’s a native.
When He speaks of Heaven, He speaks of His hometown.
Therefore, we ought to listen. As He said to Nicodemus, “We speak about what we know.”
Jesus taught as One having authority for good reason: He had it.
“…the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29).
The usual practice in preaching, we’re told, was to cite authorities. “Rabbi Ezra said thus-and-so. However, Prophet Elihu said this.” However, Jesus’ preaching contained a lot of “But I say unto you” (see Matthew 5 for starters).
The matter of Jesus’ authority was a big deal for His audiences, as it should have been. “By what right do you do this?” they said when He cleansed the temple (the point of their asking, “What sign do you show to us, since you do these things?” They were asking for His credentials.).
“By what authority are you doing these things?” asked the chief priests and elders of the people. “Who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23ff.) And when they refused to walk by the light they had–that is, to acknowledge Truth as it stared them in the face–He said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Those who come to argue will find no help from Him.
However, we know the answer to their question. We know that “Jesus is Lord.”
God has highly exalted Him. God has given Him “the” name above every name. God has set a time when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9ff.)
How, someone asks, does God give authority to God? In the same way “The Lord says to my Lord,” as Jesus said in Matthew 22:44. In other words, some truths are beyond us. Just accept them and go on.
Jesus said, “All authority in Heaven and earth has been given to me. Go ye therefore….” (Matthew 28:18ff.)
So, there it is. You and I must deal with it, because Scripture gives it and goes forward without arguing the point.
John Bisagno says, “Jesus Christ is everything God the Father has to say about Himself.”
We join with the Apostle Thomas and bow before Him, saying, “Jesus–my Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
Why Jesus’ authority is all-important
The Lord said to Nicodemus in that iconic third chapter of John, “If you don’t believe when I speak to you of earthly things, how will you believe when I speak of the heavenly?”
That’s the point: He is speaking to us of things we do not know, cannot prove, and on which everything hangs.
He has promised eternal life to all who believe in Him.
He has promised that He will sit on the throne and judge the nations.
He has promised that all who believe in Him will never die.
He has made promises that are quite literally “out of this world.”
So, His authority–by what right He says such things–is critical.
When Peter stood at Pentecost to deliver the goods to the crowds in the streets, the Holy Spirit–who had written that sermon! (see Matthew 10:19-20)–said:
“This Jesus God has raised up…. Therefore, being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.”
“Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:32ff).
Many an unbeliever has begrudgingly confessed that they reject the authority of Jesus because to accept it would require them to change the way they are living, and they have no intention of doing so. The ramifications of Jesus’ authority are indeed far-reaching.
We’re told that the earliest confession of faith in the Church was a simple “Jesus is Lord.” That makes sense, because in those three words, we have said it all.