"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:18)

Where is Jesus going?

Jesus is preparing his followers for the impending death of his physical body. The phrase "leave you" clearly indicates that Jesus is leaving. Where is he going?
"I am going to the Father" (John 14:12)
"The Father" as confirmed by so many other verses, is the Supreme Being.

Since Jesus is "going" somewhere where he currently is not, a place where God is, he obviously is not God, as some proclaim.

But how will Jesus be leaving them and go to "the Father"?

Some portray that Jesus' physical body ascended up into the heavens. This is despite the fact that thousands of onlookers saw that Jesus' physical body died on the cross, and his body was examined and concluded to be dead before being taken to a tomb.

Why did Jesus say he 'will not leave you as orphans'?

The Greek word translated to "orphans" is ὀρφανός. This word can mean someone who is "orphaned." But according to Strong's lexicon, the primary meaning and use of this word here is "of those bereft of a teacher, guide, guardian."

In other words, Jesus is not referring to their being part of a physical family here. He is not referring to some parents dying and leaving his followers orphaned.

Jesus is speaking of the possibility that they will be left without guidance, since Jesus will be leaving them.

Yes, having a spiritual guide is important. This is the purport of Jesus' statement.

But Jesus is saying that they will not be left alone. He is saying that he will make the arrangements that will assure them they will continue to be guided.

Jesus defined this guidance in his previous statement:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
This means that ultimately, Jesus' guidance is the guidance of God. God is providing guidance through his representative Jesus, and also through the Holy Spirit - His personal expansion.

Didn't Jesus "rise from the dead"?

In order to support this speculation that Jesus' physical body - despite it having died on the cross - ascended up to heaven, some have put forth a speculative theory that after three days of "death," Jesus' body rose from the dead.

(We should note that Jesus' death is said to have occurred on Friday and his re-appearance happened on Sunday. That would be two days later, not three.)  

This theory is said to be supported by the various events that took place around the tomb. This is despite the fact that out of the four Gospels, there are three different stories of the tomb and subsequent appearance:

- In Matthew, Mary Magdalene and 'the other Mary' went to the tomb and found it closed. Then an earthquake came and an angel rolled back the stone and sat on it. The angel said: "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." (Matt. 28:5)

- In Mark, 'Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome' went to the tomb and found the tomb already open and a young man sitting in the tomb wearing a white robe, who told them: "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here." (Mark 16:6)

- In Luke, 'the women' went to the tomb and found the tomb open and did not find Jesus' body. They suddenly saw two men in gleaming clothes standing beside them. They said: "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5)

- In John, Mary Magdalene went alone to the tomb and found the stone had been 'removed from the entrance.' She didn't see any angels. Instead, she ran to Peter and another disciple and told them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" (John 20:2)

When they all arrived back at the tomb, they saw the linen and burial cloths Jesus' body had been wrapped in. The others went home, leaving Mary crying at the tomb. Then she 'saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.' They asked her why she was crying. Then she 'turned around' and saw Jesus standing there, 'but did not realize that it was Jesus.'

So was it three women, two women or Mary Magdalene alone who went to the tomb? Did they find the tomb opened or closed? Did they find an angel, two angels, or no one there? Did an angel sit on the stone or were they sitting in the tomb? Did one angel appear alone or were there two angels there? Did Jesus appear at the tomb or later when they were walking?

The one common theme of all four portrayals is that Jesus' physical body was put in a temporary tomb donated by Joseph. This indicates that Jesus' body had to be moved eventually.

We must ask - besides the four dramatically different versions of the state of the tomb, the appearance of angels, and how they found Jesus' body missing: Why Mary did not 'realize that it was Jesus' when she had spent so much time - apparently years - following him? Why wouldn't she recognize him?

Other verses are consistent - that Jesus was not recognized by Mary nor his other disciples after his body died:
Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. (Mark 16:12)
Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:15-16)
These and other verses clearly indicate that Jesus was no longer occupying his physical body. Why? Because they did not recognize him. If he was in his physical body, they would have immediately recognized him when he appeared to them.

What does Luke's angel mean?

We must clearly understand the meaning of the angel in Luke:
"Why do you look for the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5)
Looking for "the living among the dead" indicates that "among the dead" means that place where physical bodies lie dead - meaning a tomb. It also clearly indicates that Jesus was no longer associated with his physical body - which was dead.

The other angels also described Jesus' having risen, but did any indicate that his dead physical body came alive? Does "risen" from the Greek ἐγείρω (egeirō), mean his body has awakened from the dead? Certainly, according to the lexicon, the word can mean "to arouse, cause to rise" and so on. But what is "rising"? Is it the physical body, or is it the spiritual self, rising up out of the body?

It is clear from Jesus' many teachings relating the importance of spiritual life over the physical world, that Jesus' "rising from the dead" was actually Jesus' spirit-person rising out of his physical body.

Is this how Jesus would be leaving?

And this is the means for Jesus to be "leaving" his students. He would be leaving his physical body, and traveling back to the spiritual realm, that realm where the Supreme Being resides personally.

This is also why Jesus prayed aloud, as his body was dying on the cross:
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)
This clearly indicates that Jesus' spirit - his spiritual self - was what was leaving - "rising" - and "going to the Father."

The fact that Jesus is also assuring his disciples that he will not "leave you as orphans" and that he will "come to you" clearly indicates that while Jesus will certainly be leaving his physical body and returning to the spiritual realm, he would remain accessible to his students as they continued to serve him and work on his behalf.

He not only will be accessible, but he will "come to" them. This indicates, as did Jesus' appearance before them after his physical body was grotesquely murdered on the cross, that as God's agent and representative, Jesus has the authority and the ability to travel between the spiritual realm and the physical world in order to continue to guide his students as needed.

It is also clear from his previous statement that Jesus would also be initiating God's Holy Spirit to guide them:
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth." (John 14:16-17)
This indicates a relationship between Jesus and the Supreme Being - and God's extension, the Holy Spirit. 

Otherwise, we'd be denying the personal relationship of love that exists between Jesus and the Supreme Being. This would be an insult to both to deny either's separate existence.

Rather, the reason that Jesus - as God's loving servant and representative - and the Supreme Being via His extension of the Holy Spirit - will both be there to guide them is because there is a difference between their guidance.

Does God teach us through the Holy Spirit?

God sends His representative to show us how by example and through their teachings, we can come to know and love the Supreme Being. God's representative shows us how, so we can follow in their footsteps as best we can.

The Supreme Being - via His extension the Holy Spirit - also offers guidance. But this guidance occurs through our developing a loving relationship with Him. We each have an intimate innate relationship with the Supreme Being - one that is delicate. He is the ultimate object of our affection and our need for a beloved and soul mate. And as we follow the teachings of the spiritual teacher, we gradually re-develop that relationship with the Supreme Being.

The spiritual teacher is not put aside in this reuniting with God, however. They are always there for us, and because he also enjoys a unique loving relationship with God, we gain entrance into that relationship, and it opens up our own relationship as well.

We might compare this with a close friend who introduces us to their friend. We don't meet the new friend and then dodge the friend who introduced us. We may be establishing a personal relationship with our new friend, but it never excludes our friend who introduced us - who is also their friend.

This is what Jesus is doing with his followers. He is introducing them to God and offering to continue to guide them.

Re-establishing our relationship with the Supreme Being is not so easy. And should it be? What if our best friend for years cursed us and broke up with us and ignored us for years, and then suddenly wanted to come back? Would we let them back immediately?

Certainly not, because we would not want a repeat of what happened before. We would want them to be serious about being our friend again. Thus we would take things slowly. We would allow our relationship to slowly redevelop, as the trust and commitment grow between us.

This is not that different with God. While God is all-powerful, He is also tender and soft. He doesn't want a frivolous relationship with us. He wants us to be committed to a permanent loving relationship with Him. If we don't want this kind of relationship with Him, then fine. He will accommodate that. But He won't be as available to us. He is not a lap dog that we can just call on whenever it is convenient to us.

This means in order to redevelop our real loving relationship with the Supreme Being, we must be sincere. We must be real. We can't fake it. We can't pretend to love Him just so we can live a life of luxury or get some goodies. We can't pretend to love Him in order to impress others and expect there will be a relationship. Love is when someone commits themselves. Love is caring about the other person more than we care about ourselves. We cannot fake that.

God's representative guides followers with practical tools that help make them more sincere, and more serious about returning to our relationship with the Supreme Being. This means practical instructions. These will include regular prayer to God, making offerings to the Supreme Being, praising God by glorifying His Holy Names, reading scripture and seeing how others committed their lives to God.

As God's representative, Jesus' teachings guided his followers to develop a consciousness of love of God and love of others. This effectively allows the soul to reignite our natural loving relationship with the Supreme Being.

This is why Jesus' most important instruction was:
“ ‘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 and Deut. 6:5)