A Muslim friend of mine (MCT) sent me the following syllogism:
Premise 1 – Jesus said in John 16:10 , he is going to the father and he will not be seen again.
Premise 2 – Jesus warned us that after his ascension many will appear in his name for misleading and deceiving as shown in Luke 21:8.
Conclusion: Therefore believing Jesus coming before the resurrection day is going into trap of Satan. [by this he means that the risen Lord Jesus Christ whom Christians believe in, is a “fake Jesus”, not the Jesus who was born of Mary]
If you are still a bit confused, let me explain more fully what MCT is meaning, and then I will show that he is mistaken, and has come to a false conclusion.
From Premise 1, MCT concludes that the words of Jesus Christ in John 16:10 mean that after going to the cross, Jesus went to the Father (I’m not clear if he believes Jesus died or not), and would not be seen again; not in resurrection by the disciples; and not on the Damascus Rd by a certain Saul of Tarsus; nor in a vision by John on Patmos.
If this is true, then who did these disciples see. Enter Premise 2, and Jesus Christ’s warning in Luke 21:8 that many will come saying “I am Christ”, but they will be false Christs, and therefore those disciples and us Christians have been falling into Satan’s trap.
However, the conclusion of the previous paragraph is false, because Premise 1 is false. Let’s look at the immediate context in which the verse is found, and then the wider context of chapter 16 as a whole.
Immediate Context – verses 5-11
“But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, ‘Whither goest thou?’ But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and you see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.John 16:5-11
I’m surprised that my friend would want to use this section of Holy Scripture, for it is thoroughly trinitarian. Firstly, in verse 10 itself, the Lord Jesus refers to “my Father”, thereby implying that He is ‘Son’. And as Son, He has the authority to send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to continue His own work in His absence. This is the focus of the paragraph.
I understand that Muslims typically like to assert that the Comforter is their prophet, but this is nonsense. John 14:17 explicitly states that the Comforter is ‘the Spirit of truth’ who is personal, cannot be seen, dwells in the disciples of Jesus to comfort them (v18), teach them and ‘bring all things to their remembrance’ (v26). The prophet of Islam doesn’t come along for another 600 plus years, so he couldn’t possibly have dwelt in the disciples of Jesus, let alone comfort them, teach them, or remind them of Jesus’ teachings. Further, I’m sure every Muslim would say that their prophet was seen, unless you want to accept that all the stories of Muhammad are inventions of a later time, which could be a real possibility, but that’s another subject. Back to our passage.
Work of the Holy Spirit
The point of this section is that while the Lord Jesus is (and has been from ch.13) telling His disciples that He is about to ‘depart out of this world into the Father’ (13:1), He wants to encourage them that they will not be left alone, and the work Christ has started will continue.
Central to this encouragement, as we have already mentioned, is the coming of the Holy Spirit. Here we learn that when the Spirit comes He will continue the work of Christ, reproving the world of the divine righteous standard. There seems to be an almost seamless transition – the Son leaves and the Spirit comes – and this is exactly what the eyewitness testimony describes in Acts 1 and 2.
Let me clarify this point further. The going of Christ is ‘to the Father’, and does not refer to Christ’s departing in death, nor does it have any connection to the cross, but as ch.13:32,33 shows clearly, these references to Christ’s going to the Father refer to Christ’s post-resurrection exaltation into heaven itself, and it is from this moment that He will be seen no more.
Note also that the immediate context speaks to the reproving of a sinful world through the Holy Spirit coming into the world. And as we’ve already said, this is being promised because Jesus Christ is going to physically leave the world, and will no longer be able to reprove the world through His own presence in it.
Therefore, when Christ speaks about seeing Him no more, it is to His physical appearance in the world that Christ is primarily referring. Let us not stretch the claim of Christ – “you see me no more” – beyond what He intended. It is not an absolute claim, but allows for individuals to have visions of the exalted Christ in heaven. What Jesus is saying is that you will see me no more on the earth.
Wider Context of Chapter 16
Death and Resurrection
From verses 16-24, the Lord Jesus then moves the discussion from His final departure at His ascension, to the more immediate departure in death and subsequent appearance to His disciples in resurrection.
‘A little while, and you shall not see me: and again, a little while, and you shall see me … you shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and you shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy … you now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.’v16, v20, v22
If the argument of MCT was true, and v10 – ‘you see me no more’ – was absolute, ruling out any post-resurrection appearance of Jesus, then you would be left with a contradiction in less than 2 minutes, for verse 22 is very clear: ‘I will see you again’.
You might ask whether Jesus could here be referring to His Second Coming, but the parable that Jesus tells rules this out, and shows that He is referring to His resurrection.
From the Womb, From the Tomb
The parable tells of the pain and sorrow of labour as a woman gives birth. That labour is but for ‘a little while’, with the hardship immediately transcended by an abundant joy as the mother sees her baby.
It truly is a miracle to see that tiny bundle of life emerging from the darkness of the womb, but how much greater is the miracle of the Lord Jesus, who rose from among the dead, emerging out of the darkness of the tomb, in the power of an endless life.
What joy filled the hearts of His disciples as they saw Him alive (Matt 28:8, John 20:20, Luke 24:52). The sorrow of the little while gone forever.
Of course, the truth of Christ’s resurrection from the dead is not just reliant upon this parable, but on three very clear occasions prior to His arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus spoke plainly and prophesied that He would rise from the dead the third day (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34). Therefore, to deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, is to say that all along Jesus was a false prophet.
Is this the position you want to adopt?
Deity of Christ
The chapter concludes with the Lord Jesus returning in His discussion to His post-resurrection ascension and exaltation ‘to the Father’, and in doing so He establishes His deity once again.
‘For the Father himself loveth you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.’v27,28
In verse 27, the word ‘from’ is the Greek preposition παρα (para) which intensifies the meaning of the phrase to ‘I came out from closely alongside God’. It bears the idea of closeness with, indicating two distinct persons, but when we come to verse 28, the Lord Jesus goes a step further claiming unity with the Father. In English we have the same word ‘from’, but the Greek preposition this time is εκ (ek), which has the meaning of from out of: He ‘came forth from out of the Father’. In other words, Jesus is saying He is One with the Father in essence.
We can see that this is how the disciples of Jesus interpreted what He said, for they replied: “Now are we sure that thou knowest all things” (v30). Essentially they are saying, ‘now we know that You are God’.
To this the Lord Jesus replies: “do you now believe?” (v31), and I would conclude by asking you the same question: do you now believe that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal Son of the living God? Do you believe He came from the Father, died for sins, rose again and has ascended back to the Father?
MCT claims that it was this so-called fake Jesus who appeared after the cross that began to claim to be God, but we have seen that it is the very same One, whose words MCT was happy to quote, that just shortly later, within minutes, makes these claims, and challenges His disciples to believe in His deity, and enjoy the Father’s love.
I pray you will too.