RETURNING by ASCENDING
BY: LLOYD ELLEFSON
In John 14:2-3 we read, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 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.”
Although these verses are very well-known, it may come as a surprise to many that heaven is not mentioned in this passage. Heaven is not a geographical place in the sky; it is a place with the Father in the Spirit! Jesus did not say that He wanted us to be in the place where He was going; He said, “that where I am, you may be also.” He wants us to be in the same spiritual place He was at the time He said that; He wants us to have the same relationship with the Father He had!
To the thief on the cross Jesus said, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” Webster’s dictionary says that paradise is a garden; it is any place or state of perfection, happiness, etc. Jesus was in that state of perfection even when He was hanging on the cross!
In the paradise of God is the throne of God, the tree of life, and a river that flows from His throne! “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev. 22:1-2) The overcomers are granted the right to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. (Rev. 2:7b)
This place is very different from the places we know. It has only one street, and the tree of life is on either side of the water that comes from the throne of God. That river is the authority of God in the Spirit. The throne of God is His seat of authority.
In John 14 Jesus promised to come again! Ever since Christ’s resurrection and ascension, people have been waiting for His coming again – and many get tired of waiting! Peter refers to this in 2 Peter 3:3-4. “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, `Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.'”
In this verse the word COMING has been translated from the Greek word PAROUSIA. However, the correct translation of PAROUSIA is not COMING but PRESENCE. The Concordant Literal has it translated correctly, and it reads, “…saying, `Where is the promise of His presence?'” People were mockingly saying that everything was continuing just as it had been from the beginning of creation. They did not see any change, so why believe the promise of His presence? The mockers could not perceive spiritual realities; they were looking for an outer change instead of a spiritual change. So they could not know the presence of the Lord.
“For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.” (vv.5-6)
What was actually destroyed? We know that the skies and earth, mountains and rivers, did not perish. The word PERISH or DESTROYED is a very strong word. In scriptural usage, “the world” does not refer to mountains, skies, oceans and rivers, because they did not perish in the days of Noah. However, a type of rule perished. At that time there were no commandments and no law, so every man did his own thing. God had not revealed Himself to them in any form – not even through the law – so they did not have any relationship with Him. Without a relationship with God, corruption is rampant. “And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.” (Gen.6:12)
“But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7) The present rule that is in the earth is being judged by fire. This is the spiritual fire John the Baptist referred to when he said that Jesus would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Malachi 4:1 throws further light on this fire. “`For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,’ says the LORD of hosts, `so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.'” This shows that this fire is spiritual. It judges the arrogant and evildoers. When our pride is burned away by the fire of the Holy Spirit, we see arrogance for what it truly is – chaff! There is no life in it!
God is reserving the rule that is in the present heavens and earth, for fire. So why are we trying to save it? Why do we get entangled in political matters? It is impossible to implement the righteousness of God through the legal channels of our government. Standards of morality cannot be enforced; they have to come from within.
We notice that there is a judgment by fire and a judgment by water. The water judgment destroyed a particular rule which was then upon the earth. It brought a separation from that rule. We also have to pass through the judgment by water. It says, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Jn.3:5)
God wants fellowship with us! To have fellowship with Him, we have to be ruled by the Spirit! Our government by the flesh has to be replaced by the government of the Spirit! This change of government takes place while we are on this earth, living in our physical body. A judgment on the mind of the flesh – the affinity, the disposition of the flesh for natural things – has to take place. Instead of battling to overcome the flesh, the judgment by fire consumes the old rule. This is basic to spiritual growth. The judgment of fire purges the inner man from his attachments and love of the world!
Our natural government by the flesh cannot inherit the things of the kingdom. The promises to natural man do not have eternal value; everything initiated and implemented by the flesh will perish. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God! Christ did not love the things of this world! He wasn’t concerned about owning property, possessing riches, exercising power over people, nor having a position in the religious hierarchy.
Jesus did not campaign against the Roman government even though it had God’s people in bondage! Instead, He concentrated on Israel – the people who said they knew God. Because they were not producing the fruit of the kingdom, it would be taken away from Israel and given to a people producing the fruit of it. (Matt. 21:43) Jesus cursed the fig tree (symbolizing Israel) because it did not have any fruit on it.
We have been called to judge this world’s system and to come out of it; we have not been called to change it. We have been called out of the rule of the flesh and the natural, and have been transferred into the kingdom of God where the rule is by the Spirit!
“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor. 2:14) Since the natural man cannot hear the Spirit, he cannot hope for an inheritance in the things of the Spirit.
Christ is dealing with the spiritual man, the new creation man! We have been born spiritually, and are now being taught by the Spirit! The truth judges us and refines us! It is the spiritual fire that judges all the lies and deception we thought were truth.
We hear a lot about the rapture that is to take people up into the sky. They want to be ascended into Christ – but they want it physically instead of spiritually! Hasn’t Christ come again in the Holy Spirit? It says that the Lord is the Spirit! (2 Cor. 3:17) His coming ascends us spiritually – and there is no other way to ascend except together with Him! We have been buried with Him in baptism, and we have been raised together with Him! He has seated us with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus! (Rom.6:4; Eph.2:6)
Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Our witness consists of testifying to who He is, and what He has accomplished. The disciples could not be His witnesses before they had received the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit to give them understanding, they could not correctly manifest Christ! That is why they were to wait for the Holy Spirit!
In spite of this admonition, people still try to be witnesses in their natural knowledge and self-effort. They inject their own ideas and interpretations in their analysis of the scriptures. They read their own intentions into the scriptures, while some just take the scriptures literally. They do not realize that God’s words are spiritual, and therefore have to be received spiritually. Unless they receive revelation knowledge of who Jesus Christ is, their nature has not been changed, so they cannot be true witnesses.
Knowing what the scriptures say, is not revelation. People have read and studied the scriptures, and thought they understood them, but they didn’t! Understanding does not come from within man, nor by analysis, deletion or insertion of our ideas. Natural thinking results in arguments concerning who God is, what happened to Adam and Eve, how sin came into the world, whether death is the result of sin, whether marriage is optional, etc. Distortion of spiritual things comes through natural thinking.
A certain level of understanding can be gained by comparing scriptures with scriptures, but the Holy Spirit still has to reveal their spiritual meaning to us. Scriptures are not to be interpreted by man; understanding can only come by revelation from God. Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…” (Luke 24:45) Jesus Christ came to bring understanding!
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:13) Though the Holy Spirit is one with God, He does not draw attention to Himself, nor does He say or do anything of His own initiative.
“He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (v.14) Jesus never advertised Himself, never wanted others to take notice of Him, never asked anyone to praise Him, and always gave all the glory to God! Just as Jesus did nothing on His own initiative, so the Holy Spirit does nothing on His own initiative. There is a parallel here. The relationship Jesus had to the Father is the same as the Spirit’s relationship to Jesus. Just as Christ Jesus brought us the nature of the Father, so the Holy Spirit brings us the nature of Christ! It is an unadulterated pathway to God.
Back to Acts 1:9-11. “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, `Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.'”
These men knew that the disciples were looking up as though they were expecting Jesus to come down from heaven again. The disciples only knew the Jesus who had walked with them in Galilee. Christ had left the glory that He had with the Father in order to become a man. Since He is spirit, His manifestation in the flesh was not His true being. His true essence was veiled by His body of flesh, and the flesh placed restrictions on Him.
The disciples knew that body, but they did not know the Christ. That body had died. For the disciples to know that Jesus was resurrected, they had to see Him in a form that was recognizable to them. That is why Jesus appeared to them. That is the only way they would be able to see Him now. But after He was resurrected He did not have the same form – He had to appear to them in a form they could recognize. The angel said that He would appear in the same way as they saw Him go up. Does that mean we will see Him coming back by going up? Coming down is not the same as going up.
Eph. 4:8-10 gives us further light on this matter. “Therefore it says, `When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.'” How did Jesus lead captivity captive? By coming down to earth or by ascending? Before leading the captives out, He had to go to the place where they were; then He could lead them out.
Let me clarify this. In our natural mental image, we see Jesus as a physical human being, going down into the earth, finding some souls there, releasing them from their captivity, and taking them up. However, in spiritual understanding we see Jesus as truth and life, descending into death, error and misunderstanding, and releasing men from their carnal minds, and ascending them into the Spirit’s teaching about spiritual realities. This isn’t so far-fetched, is it? Jesus is not descending today – for He has already descended. He came down into the depths of man, took on flesh, and identified with our sin. That has already been accomplished!
However, there is still work that has to be accomplished. We have to be brought out of our error, death, and wrong ideas of God! As He brings us into the revelation that is in God, we are released from our wrong ideas and are ascended into Christ. Since He is leading us, we are ascended together with Him! When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive.
Let’s look at some of the wrong natural ideas we have had about the cross of Jesus Christ. We have been taught that the cross did not come in the life of Jesus until He had finished His earthly ministry; that it is the liberating agency of all mankind, and that it only consists of the sufferings He endured when He was crucified.
But Christ’s sufferings began even before He came to this earth, for He was a Lamb slain from the disruption of the world! Christ was in the prophets, but the people did not honor Him as Christ the Son of God! It was a sacrifice for Him to be in the prophets. He was rejected from the time Adam and Eve sinned! After He was manifested in the flesh, His life continued to be a sacrifice.
The cross of Jesus encompasses all the rejection, heartaches and pain He endured. Jesus was a living sacrifice! His whole life was a sacrifice! Leaving the glory of His Father was a sacrifice; living with people who rejected Him and His testimony was a sacrifice! It was difficult for Him to be in the flesh, and to be taken into the hands of men. It was difficult for Him to see how God was being totally misjudged and to see God’s people under a wrong rule! He marveled at their unbelief! By saying, “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me,” the whole nation was indicted.
Jesus was the Lamb slain from the disruption of the world, but the physical cross only came at the end of His earthly ministry. The fruit of that sacrifice was displayed and manifested at the cross, but it didn’t come to us until the Holy Spirit came. In order to really understand what Jesus accomplished on the cross, we need to be taught by the Holy Spirit.
We may wonder what Christ is doing today, because on the cross He said, “It is finished.” At that time He was still on the cross, and He had not yet ascended to the Father. What had He finished then? He had finished descending – He had finished His identification with natural man. His ascension did not bring God down into man, but man up into God.
His ascension does not refer to going to a geographical heaven, but to a spiritual consciousness or awareness. The soul of Christ ransoms us from our carnal minds and earthly ideas. When He ascended on high He led captivity captive and gave gifts to men.
Jesus has always been the Son of God. It was not the things He did that made Him the Son of God, but they emphasized this fact. Everything Jesus did, He did as the Son of Man – a corporate man – and for all mankind. He called Himself the Son of Man. “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He…” (John 8:28) The fact is that Jesus lived and died, was buried and resurrected in His identification with humanity, even though He was the Son of God. His identification and manifestation of who God was, was in the image of man – first in the image of a fleshly man and now in the image of a spiritual man.
The two corporate men in the scriptures are Adam, the first man, and Christ, the second man. Adam is the earthy man, and Christ is the spiritual man. In Adam all die, and in Christ all are made alive. So if we want to become spiritual sons of God, we have to be freed from Adam and be placed into Christ.
“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” (John 8: 28-29) Jesus was put on the cross because of His identification as the Son of Man.
Let’s look at John 12: 28-29. Jesus prayed, “`Father, glorify Your name.’ Then a voice came out of heaven: `I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, `An angel has spoken to Him.'” Only Christ understood what was spoken! Unless we have Christ’s Spirit, we can’t understand. Natural man cannot hear the Spirit of God. Jesus could hear and understand what the Father said, but the people thought that it thundered. Jesus came to crucify the Adamic man who cannot hear and obey God. He raises up a new man who can hear and receive revelation!
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.” (Heb.1:1-2a) God speaks to us through His Son because He is life and truth. Paul said that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor. 3:6) We are to walk in the newness of life, not in the deadness of the letter; we are to serve in newness of the Spirit, not in oldness of the letter. (Rom. 6:4;7:6) This tells us that we can’t live in the deadness of the letter – we have to hear beyond that – beyond a literal interpretation of the Bible.
Continuing in John 12 we read, “…This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (vv.30b-31) Jesus said that the judgment of the world was in effect at that time – and it has been continuing ever since. God’s judgment is not confined to a great white throne judgment at the end of time. We have so many concepts which are wrong.
Jesus said, “For not even the Father judges any one, but He has given all judgment to the Son.” (Jn.5:22) All judgment is given to the Son. It also says that the saints will judge the world. (1 Cor.6:2) So the world is being judged by the saints, the body of Christ. Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world is cast out.” (Jn.12:31) This judgment takes place upon the world that is NOW. God is a consuming fire! We are baptized by the Holy Spirit and by fire! His fire of truth judges and destroys all the lies, deceit and misconceptions of the world.
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (Jn. 5:31-32) The Greek word HUPSOO means to EXALT, and HUPERUPSOO means to EXALT HIGHLY. In this passage it has been translated LIFTED UP. When Christ is exalted out of the earth, He is exalted out of our carnal thinking. People are drawn to Him when He comes to us in the Spirit, and His life is exalted in us! When Christ rules in the lives of Christians, the ruler of this world is cast out.
Humanity has been enslaved by lies, and these lies have become its refuge. Since it doesn’t have truth, it can’t leave its lies; it has nothing else to cling to. It is like those who want to leave a church doctrine or sect, but are afraid to do so until they have something better to replace it. They need a refuge – something to cling to!
When God moves in us, we will move spiritually! He is our sure foundation! We can rely on Him! We can hold on to Him! He enables us to abandon everything that pertains to this earth! Jesus said that we should forsake all and follow Him. If we have abandoned everything, we have nothing to lose! If we have abandoned our pet theories and doctrines, we can receive truth! If we are receiving what the Lord says, we will not receive the deception that is resident in man. John, in his epistles, emphasizes the importance of living in truth!
The truth is that Christ Jesus has descended, for His presence is with us in the Spirit! Since he is here, we do not need to wait for Him to come down. He has come to us in the Holy Spirit, and He is ascending us into His revelation knowledge of the Father and into His relationship with the Father!
Some Questions and Answers:
Q: What is resurrection?
A: In Adam we are dead in our trespasses and sins; in Christ we are made alive. This transition from the death in Adam to the life in Christ – is resurrection. That is the only way we can get out of Adam! Christ has crucified the Adamic man, and in Christ we are made a new creation.
Q: How are we ascended?
A: When Christ, the resurrection, is working in us, we ascend into everything that Christ is! This ascension causes our earthy ideas of spiritual realities to be cast out. This is the process by which Christ is exalted out of the earth – our carnal thinking.
Q: What does the verse, “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the ecclesia,” mean?
A: The ecclesia is the body of Christ – the called-out ones. Those who hear the Spirit obey Him and separate themselves from wrong spiritual associations! Spiritual associations are the beliefs, thoughts, attitudes, ideas, ideals and practices with which we align ourselves. Wrong spiritual associations can be found in the world and in denominations.
It says, “To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna…” (Rev. 2:17) This does not refer to the visible manna that was gathered by the Israelites in the wilderness. It is hidden manna. Jesus said that unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we can’t have any part of Him! Why? Because He is life, truth and understanding! His blood symbolizes His soul. He gives us food that sustains true life! Living in His life overcomes everything that is not life, truth and understanding!
“…and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” Those who hear the Spirit will receive knowledge which only come to them in the understanding of the Spirit. This is due to the intimate relationship they have with Christ.
Q: How did the Urim and Thummim work?
A: We are not told how they worked. Urim means lights, and Thummim means perfection. The high priest typified Christ. He wore the breastplate of judgment in which the Urim and Thummim were put, over his heart. It symbolized that true light is needed to bring perfect judgment. Christ is the light and He has perfect judgment. David also used the Urim and Thummim to get answers from God.
Q: When does judgment take place?
A: Judgment is going on today; it takes place all the time – not only after death. Christ is today; He is truth and truth judges the lies and deception humanity thinks is truth. The problem is that people don’t receive God’s judgment. God has judged man to be dead in his sin nature! Therefore man needs to be resurrected!
In Rev. 1-3 the various churches are judged. Notice that all judgment is related to who Christ is. Every messenger who comes to the churches, begins his message with a confession which is linked to what John saw in chapter one! They relate to the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand; to the One who was dead and has come to life; to the One who holds the sharp two-edged sword; to the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire and feet as burnished bronze; to the One who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars; to the One who is holy and true; to the One who has the key of David; to the faithful and true Witness!
The number seven symbolizes completeness. There are seven candlesticks, seven days in creation and seven Spirits of God. Seven measures of light or understanding brought us into the rest of God, or into a cognizance of God’s nature. (Genesis 1) They produce our growth in God. In our spiritual growth we learn to know who God is and who we are in Him. Every new insight we gain, judges our old understanding.
Notice that the One who walked in the midst of the lampstands laid His right hand on John. This is the hand that held the seven stars – and the seven stars are the angels or messengers of the seven churches. What is the significance of that? By doing this, He is placing the authority of the seven Spirits of God onto the servants of the church, so that the church might be edified through them. We are participants in this. The light of Christ Jesus will take away the darkness that is resident in natural man!
I have been impressed with the fact that the lampstands are in the ecclesia! He said, “I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place – unless you repent.” To people who call themselves Christians, He said, “If you don’t repent I’ll take away your lampstand.” We cannot receive truth without repenting of believing the lie. Truth is light, so without repentance darkness creeps in again, and the lie becomes their truth. Therefore they may not even realize that their lampstand has been taken away!
God bless you. Amen.
RETURNING by ASCENDING [Lloyd Ellefson] 1