Leaving to return again appears to be a meaningless thing on the surface. But if we can penetrate deeply enough into the mind of Christ to grasp the true meaning of this significant act, we will understand very well that Christ is speaking of a change that is inevitable for His plan of redemption, indeed that gives full value to His incarnation. The distressed disciples felt that His departure was a sad thing, but for Jesus it was the one great means for the right implementation of His great task.
He had just said to them: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me…and 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” (John 14:1-3). This was a precious promise. Here, a second personal coming of Christ is clearly predicted. Surely, He will come at the end of the age as is promised here. This is a glorious hope – a joyful day for which we long.
However, Christ goes further with these words of comfort. During the period between His going away in the clouds and His coming again in the clouds, what was to happen? Were they to be abandoned to themselves? Oh no. “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer, and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also…He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. But he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love Him and manifest Myself to Him…and My Father will love Him, and We will come to Him and make Our abode with Him” (verses 18-23).
Christ could not remain on earth forever as a man and spread His dominion with men over all parts of the earth. His withdrawal from His human life was as necessary as His walk in the flesh for a time. That is why He said, “It is good for you that I go.”
Thus, He refers to the necessity of a change in the administration of His spiritual office and considers it necessary to be taken away from their sight. He meant that He would come to them again in a new, namely spiritual, relationship. His going away was necessary to advance His work. It is true that He had to reconcile the world through His death here on earth, but it also remains true that He could not have continued His work from here. He would become the leader of a small crowd but never the head of a universal kingdom – the Church. For this purpose, He could not be bound to one place but had to be invisible and yet spiritually present everywhere. Thus, we have a Savior who can say, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
He wants to be with us, present in every heart that loves Him, and present as friend, helper, comforter, counselor, and leader. He is with us everywhere, even in the middle of the ocean, on the sinking ship, high in the air in an airplane, and in dark prisons. He is with us in the darkest hour of the night. He is present to comfort every afflicted one, to give us help and support in every trial and temptation. His presence is beneficial. Even if we cannot see Him with our natural eye, we may talk with Him, hear Him, walk with Him. We can be with Him even amid all our labors. Never are we separated from Him, either at home or far away, on the land and on the sea, in living and in dying. Yes, He will even be with us in the valley of the shadow of death, comforting us.
“The world will see Me no more; but you will see Me” (see verse 19). This is the relationship between Him and His followers. He is always present. “We [Christ and the Father] will come to him and make our home with him” (verse 23). “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth” (verses 16-17).
“Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). This was the experience of the Apostle Paul, and this is the relationship He maintains with every disciple who faithfully follows Him. He is present just as if we had Him physically with us. And Christ maintains His close relationship, not only with each individual, but also with His church. He is the Head, and all the members are joined together in Him. “For we are members of His body…This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:30, 32).
Christ wants to enter every heart. Sinner, won’t you open yourself to Him and let Him in? Child of God, won’t you give Him more room? Blessed is the heart that is completely open to Him, in which He has room, in which He dwells! Has He entered your heart? Only then, when Christ has made His dwelling in your heart and you see Him with your spiritual eyes, will you be able to see Him face to face with joy when He returns in the clouds.