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John 14:18–20

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

Commentators point out that despite the words of consolation that Jesus spoke in promising to send the disciples “another Helper” (John 14:15–17), these men must have remained worried about the absence of their friend and teacher. That would explain why, in the midst of extended teaching on the Holy Spirit, Jesus assured them that He would not be leaving them as orphans but that He Himself would be coming to them (v. 18).

But what did our Lord mean in saying that He would come to His disciples? The first possibility is that the coming of which Jesus speaks in verse 18 is the coming of the Holy Spirit to dwell with His people (vv. 16–17). Now certainly, this link between the coming of the Spirit and the coming of Jesus is theologically correct when we look at the broader witness of Scripture. Paul tells us, for example, that the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Christ and that if Christ dwells within us, then “the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:9–11). There is a close connection between our reception of the Holy Spirit and our reception of Jesus. Since His ascension, our Savior makes Himself spiritually present among His people through His Spirit.

Yet, although it is theologically correct that Christ comes to His people in the coming of the Holy Spirit, many modern commentators do not believe that is what Jesus meant when He promised not to leave His disciples as orphans (John 14:18). Instead, Jesus was referring to His postresurrection appearances to the disciples. This makes good sense in light of John 14:19, which records Jesus’ statement that at His coming the world will not see Him but the disciples will. After His resurrection, Jesus did not appear to the world but only to His followers. Verse 19 also supports this interpretation. Jesus said that “because I live, you also will live.” In Scripture, our eternal life is tied to the resurrection of Jesus. He is the firstfruits of the resurrection of the dead, guaranteeing our resurrection as well (1 Cor. 15:20). On account of His resurrection, we live because He lives, so in John 14:18–19 Jesus was likely referring to His postresurrection appearances.

At His coming to the disciples, Jesus said that His disciples would also know that He is in the Father and that He is in them and they in Him (v. 20). The resurrection would confirm the truth of Jesus’ teaching and usher in the new age of the Spirit when the people of God better know who Jesus is and how He dwells within us.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Dr. R.C. Sproul, in his commentary John, notes that the indwelling of Christ in His disciples has ramifications for how we treat other believers. “If we cannot love another person for his or her own sake, we must do it for Christ’s sake, loving the person because Christ indwells him or her.” Christ dwells within our fellow church members—even the ones we find difficult to love—so we must therefore love them because we love Christ.


For Further Study
  • Ezekiel 37
  • John 11:25–26
  • Colossians 1:27; 2:11–22

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From the August 2018 Issue
Aug 2018 Issue