I’ve written a lot about the “Heaven on Earth” reality on this blog.
I’ve also written a lot about our being seated with Christ in heavenly places is not merely positional, but actual, right now, not just when we die and go to heaven. Our spirit-man is in the heavenly realm now, as our soul and body are here on the earth…just like Jesus when He walked the earth.
One way I make the case that Jesus was the prototype for this dual reality is by referencing John 3:13 (NKJV -bold-type added):
“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”
When Jesus was saying this, He was standing on the earth like you and me. You can see my posts along these lines here.
I bring this up because I was recently challenged on using John 3:13 as a reference to this dual reality. The person said that a lot of the modern translations don’t include the phrase, “The Son of Man who is in heaven.”
For instance, the NASB renders John 3:13 this way, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.” (Notice that it excludes the last phrase.)
The argument for its exclusion is about 125 years old, going back to the Westcott & Hort text (WH). The reasoning was that the phrase is supposedly not in the older manuscripts, but this reasoning is no longer valid in light of more recent scholarship.
However, in order for me to show this, I will need to get a little technical, so if you don’t need to know why, or don’t care, you can skip “For the geeks” and go straight to the “For the rest of us” subheading. If you’re curious, or a Bible geek like me and want to know why this phrase should stay, by all means, read on…
For the geeks…
First, for you Greek geeks, here’s the Textus Receptus Greek (TR) of John 3:13 (what the KJV is based on)…
καὶ οὐδεὶς ἀναβέβηκεν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εἰ μὴ ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς, ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ
The part I highlighted literally reads in English, “The Son of God who is in heaven.” You can see how it’s parsed out here if you don’t read Greek.
The popular view is that the Alexandrian Codex, which WH relies heavily on, is older and therefore more accurate to the original text. This theory has been debunked in recent years.
Before I get to that, I should point out that the (4th century) Vulgate Latin translation, which predates the Alexandrian or the TR, also includes this phrase, as follows:
“And no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.”
(Et nemo ascendit in caelum, nisi qui descendit de caelo, Filius hominis, qui est in caelo)
Getting back to the main issue at hand, there’s one thing we should know about WH’s particular interpretative lens by which they decided which texts to go with (bold-type added):
“In this they [WH] followed one of the primary principles of their fledgling textual criticism, lectio brevior, sometimes taken to an extreme, as in the theory of Western non-interpolations, which has since been rejected.” (Aland, Kurt and Barbara. The Text of the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1995, p. 33)
In other words, WH’s view held that if one manuscript had a phrase that the others didn’t (like in John 3:13 in the TR), the shorter text must be the more accurate one. As the quote indicates, this extreme version of textual criticism has since been rejected.
While the WH text is excellent overall, I think we have better scholarship now. If you’re interested in this kind of lofty stuff, there’s a good book titled, “Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism” by David Allen Black.
Since WH, we’ve had 125 years of scholarship and textual discoveries. Currently, there are over 24,000 fragments (5,000 in Greek, the rest in other languages), along with complete texts of the New Testament, many dating to even earlier than the Alexandrian Codices. Scholars have constructed what is now called The Majority Text from these 24,000 fragments.
My point here is that the Majority Text version of John 3:13, which is based on older manuscripts than those in the Alexandrian Codices, and is based on agreement in 90%+ of all 24,000 sources, INCLUDES “ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ” (“the Son of Man who is in the heaven.”)
If you want to read some scholarly discussion on John 3:13, and why this phrase should be included, go here. Here’s a quote from that article that sums up their argument (bold-type added):
“The present article examines the text of John 3:13 in which the final clause, “who is in heaven” is lacking in important Greek witnesses to the text of John. It is argued on the basis of both external and internal considerations that the words were original and later were deleted to avoid saying that Jesus was simultaneously present in heaven.”
In other words, it’s possible that they deleted this phrase because their mindset couldn’t allow them to conceive that this dual reality could be true, but that’s a subject for another post. The article gives an abundance of hard scholarly evidence to support this claim.
For the rest of us…
This was the dimensional reality that Jesus walked in during His earthly ministry. This is what He told Nicodemus in John 3:13, that He was both in heaven (spirit) while on earth (body, soul).
This is the SAME reality for us today because He put us in Him when He ascended to the Father. We’re not waiting to go to heaven when we die because we’re seated there right now. The only difference is, we only see in part now (1 Cor.13:9-12).
This heavenly world we live in requires faith because we DON’T see it with our natural senses (Heb.11:3). We must get our minds in sync with what our spirit already knows, which is called renewing our mind. We do this by having our spirit receive revelation from the Holy Spirit, throwing our earthly minds down on God’s potter’s wheel (called repentance or re-formation), letting Him re-shape it to this new heavenly reality in Christ. This new way of discerning reality is was what Paul was talking about in 1 Cor.2:10-16.
Otherwise, we will resort to religious earthbound thinking, guided by humanistic philosophy and rationalization instead of divine revelation.
It’s time to upgrade our vision.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Col.3:1-4 bold-type added)