"I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. Now I am going to Him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?'" (John 16:4-5)

This statement by Jesus refers to what he just told his disciples in this discussion after the 'last supper:'
"They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God." (John 16:2)
This is quite a heavy thing to tell one's followers: They will not only be ostracized: They might be murdered. And not only that, but those who want to murder them will be thinking they are actually serving God by murdering them.

For this reason, Jesus is explaining that he didn't tell this to them before because they were not in danger, because "I was with you."

What does Jesus mean by "I was with you"?

The word "with" is being translated from the Greek root μετά (meta), which refers to being together, but in the position of being behind or after. "I was" is being translated from εἰμί (eimi), which refers to existing. And "you" is being taken from σύ (sy). This means that what Jesus is actually saying something to akin to "I was after you" or "I was behind you" - which in modern English might be stated as "I had your back."

This still relates to the fact that Jesus was physically present with them, but more so that he was watching over and giving protection to his students. How did he do this? Did he carry a weapon to battle those who might threaten his disciples? No.

He protected them by virtue of his loving relationship with the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being was watching over Jesus, and thus also watching over Jesus' students.

This is an important element in the spiritual realm, just as it is in all relationships. If we have a personal loving relationship with someone, that relationship automatically extends to those that person loves. Just as in a loving marriage, the husband's love for his wife extends to the wife's parents, brothers and sisters.

In the same way, because Jesus' disciples had dedicated their lives to Jesus, the loving relationship Jesus had with God automatically extended God's personal protection to Jesus' disciples.

So what is going to change? Why is Jesus suddenly telling his disciples that they will face the hatred and even violence of those among the ecclesiastical Jewish temples?

We discussed why they hated Jesus' disciples with the previous verse. As for why Jesus was telling them now, it is clear from Jesus' statement that he is telling them because he will be leaving them.

This is made clear first by Jesus' statement: "I did not tell you this at first because I was with you." This makes it clear that there is a change coming about, from being with them (or 'having their backs' so to speak) to not being with them.

Where is Jesus going? He clearly states, in this statement, to whom he will be going:
"Now I am going to Him who sent me..."
So who is the "Him who sent me"? This is most certainly God. Jesus is returning to the spiritual world to be with his beloved, God. Jesus' physical body is going to be murdered and he will be leaving that body and returning to God in the spiritual realm. How do we know this?

How do we know that God sent Jesus? Numerous times Jesus stated that he was sent by God. Here are just a few of them:
"I stand with the Father, who sent me. (John 8:16)
"...my other witness is the Father, who sent me." (John 8:18)
"...for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but He sent me." (John 8:42)
..."the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it." (John 12:49)
"These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me." (John 14:24)
It is clear from Jesus' own words that God sent him to the physical world. Jesus - the spiritual person Jesus - took on a physical body and walked among us in order to teach the message God gave him to teach us.

Oh, but what about Jesus' physical body rising after three days? We explain this specific issue elsewhere, but we know that Jesus clearly stated that he - the spiritual person - was leaving his physical body at the time of death. We find, for example, this clear statement in Luke:
Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)
In John it clearly states:
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
We also find that when Jesus was on the cross, moments before his body died, he said to the man on the cross dying next to him:
"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
So what happened when their bodies died? Since their dead bodies were carried away to tombs, how did they get to "paradise"?

This is stated clearly in the verses above, that Jesus' "spirit" and the man's "spirit" (their spiritual selves) both left their physical bodies at the time of death and returned to God in the spiritual realm - "paradise."

We know scientifically that when we die we each leave our physical body. Millions of clinical death experiences have now been accumulated by scientists that report the patient who clinically died experienced becoming separated from the physical body. Most looked down upon the body from above. Many documented seeing things in the operating or hospital room and around the hospital they could not have seen with their closed eyes and dead bodies. They were able to see those things because they had separated from their body. Who separated from the body?

Each of us is a spiritual individual. We are not these physical bodies. These physical bodies are temporary vehicles. Just as an abalone or a sea snail will occupy a shell, the person occupies a physical body. Once the body dies, the person must leave the body.

It is clear from the verses above that Jesus - his spiritual self being referred to as his "spirit" - also left his physical body at the time of death.

It is also clear from the statements above that Jesus is explaining to his disciples that he was going to leave them at the time of death. This he makes clear with this statement:
"Now I am going to Him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?'"
So Jesus is clearly stating that he is returning to be with God. Where is that?

By definition the Supreme Being lives in the spiritual realm. But it is not as if God is limited in terms of where He is. Where ever the Supreme Being resides is the spiritual realm. And because God can expand Himself without limit, and because God's extensions and expansions - His voice and His Holy Names for example - can be present anywhere, where ever God's extensions and expansions are is also the spiritual realm. And where ever God's service is being performed is also the spiritual realm, even if that is also taking place in the physical world.

It is not as if the Supreme Being is not present in the physical world. He has certainly expanded His energies throughout the physical world. So the physical world is in fact a portion of God's spiritual realm.

But by context, the physical world is that place where its inhabitants are in illusion that God is not around. These physical bodies are set up so we cannot see God. This is because those of us in the physical world - except for those the Supreme Being sends here - are here because we wanted to be away from God. So God set up a temporary world where we could virtually ignore Him. Where we could escape from Him while we play out our self-centered desires.

So the reason Jesus is telling his disciples that he is leaving is because he will no longer be present before their physical eyes once his physical body dies. This is of course with the exception of a period of time where he will return after three days and give them some additional guidance.

But Jesus will be effectively leaving their physical presence and returning to the spiritual realm to be with his beloved, the Supreme Being. This is why he says shortly after the above statement: "I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer." (John 16:10)

You see, the spiritual realm is not a void or a place in the clouds as many imagine. The spiritual realm is a real place, with all sorts of activities - a place where each of God's children has a spiritual form and a unique relationship with God. And God also has a spiritual form. The difference is that God can expand Himself without limit. He can assume a myriad of spiritual forms, allowing each of us and our immediate spiritual families to relate with Him personally. Now that is God: The Supreme Being.

But while we are immersed within the physical world, identifying with these physical bodies, we cannot see our spiritual form. We cannot see into the spiritual realm, even though it swirls around us.

We might compare this situation to a person who is sitting in a dark movie theater, watching a movie. The gigantic screen takes over the person's vision to the point that while watching, the movie-goer can practically forget the world around them. While they are mesmerized by the movie, they don't see people eating popcorn or munching on candy right around them. They are oblivious because their focus is upon the movie - aided by the darkness of the theater, the size of the screen and the loudness of the sound system.

In the same way, because our focus is upon our temporary physical identities, we cannot see our spiritual selves, nor can we see the spiritual forms of those around us. We are mesmerized by the physical world, thinking we are these temporary physical identities.

This is of course part of the design of the Supreme Being. But the reason He set it up is because this is what we wanted. We wanted to be away from Him. We wanted to lose ourselves in a false identity so we could escape the self-less loving relationships of the spiritual realm - which revolve around loving and caring for God. In other words, we became self-centered.

Yet God doesn't want us to forget Him and our real lives forever. He knows we will only be happy when we return to the spiritual realm. This is why He sends His loving servants such as Jesus to bring us back home to Him. If we follow Jesus' teachings, we can return to our eternal loving relationship with the Supreme Being, and thus return to our eternal home in the spiritual realm.

And what was Jesus' (and Moses') most important teaching?
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)


(The NIV is utilized for Biblical quotes here. For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of John without sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus  - translated from the original Greek texts.)