John 3:13: No one has ascended into heaven, but he who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. -- World English
John 3:13 is often presented by trinitarians and others as proof that Jesus is God Almighty, since it supposedly shows that Jesus is omnipresent, and, it is claimed that such omnipresence is an incommunicable attribute of the Most High.
Taken as it reads in several translations, this would have Jesus in heaven and on earth at the same time. While such does not necessarily prove that Jesus would be omnipresent (present everywhere all at once), it would indicate that he could at least be in two places at once.
The words "ascended" and "descended are the Greek ana-bai no and kata-baino; meaning to ascend, to spring up; and to descend, to come down. The Greek words translated "except" are *Ei me*, meaning but, except, save, excluding. Jesus actually spoke these words about three years before his ascension. Therefore, we have no reason to think that he was referring to his later ascension or that even that Jesus was referring to his own ascension. Nevertheless, Jesus had previously been in heaven before he came to earth, and thus we do have reason to think that Jesus did refer to his heavenly origin. "Jehovah formed me as the beginning of his way, the first of his works of old" (Proverbs 8:22 American Standard Version Margin).
We need to consider the context, for Jesus had just stated: "If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?" (John 3:12) What Jesus is speaking of in the context is his witness concerning heavenly things. He is saying that no human has ever ascended into the spiritual heavens so that he could tell of such things, excluding the Son of Man, not because he had already ascended to where he had been before (Mark 16:19; John 6:62; 13:1; Acts 3:20,21; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 4:14; 9:24; 1 Peter 3:22), but because he had descended from the heavens -- from the presence of his Father, the only true God. (John 17:1,3) Thus no man had ever so ascended into the spiritual realm of God's presence where Jesus had been before he came to the earth, and where he returned after being raised from the dead. Jesus alone had previously been in heaven, and had descended from the heavens.
Thus, this scripture actually proves that Jesus was with his Father before earth, not that he was in two places at once. The reference to the one who descended from heaven is concerning Jesus. And then concerning mankind in general, Jesus said: "No one has ascended into heaven." This agrees with Proverbs 30:4.
Adam Clarke states in his commentary concerning John 3:13: "This seems a figurative expression for, No man hath known the mysteries of the kingdom of God; as in De 30:12; Ps 73:17; Pr 30:4; Ro 11:34. And the expression is founded upon this generally received maxim: That to be perfectly acquainted with the concerns of a place, it is necessary for a person to be on the spot. But our Lord probably spoke to correct a false notion among the Jews, viz. that Moses had ascended to heaven, in order to get the law. It is not Moses who is to be heard now, but Jesus: Moses did not ascend to heaven; but the Son of man is come down from heaven to reveal the Divine will."
Another point of concern here regarding the alleged dualism that is often attributed to Jesus. Trinitarians often like to point to the term "son of man" as representing Jesus' being as human, not his alleged being as the Most High. If the term "son of man" here refers to Jesus' human being, then this would have his human being in heaven at the same he is on earth; it would not indicate a divine being in heaven and a human being on earth as some have argued.
However, the oldest Greek MSS (the Sinaitic and the Vatican as well as many other manuscripts) omit the last four words of verse 13 with evident propriety, for although our Lord is now in heaven, he was not in heaven at the time he addressed Nicodemus. Thus many translations render this verse similar to Rotherham: "And no one hath ascended into heaven save he that out of heaven descended, The Son of Man."
In view of the above, we can see that there is nothing in John 3:13 that proves that Jesus is Jehovah, nor is there anything in this verse that proves that Jesus was existing on two planes of existence at once.
God Never Descended?
It is true the one and only true God never descended as Jesus spoke of himself. Of course, our trinitarian friends may say that God, as represented in the first person of their triune God, did not descend, but that God, as represented in their alleged second person of the trinity, did descend. Of course, this is all based on the use of human imagination to produce such assumptions.
However, the scriptures do speak of Jehovah as descending, but not in the manner of which Jesus spoke of himself as descending.
Exodus 19:18 World English Bible (WEB)
Mount Sinai, the whole of it, smoked, because Yahweh descended on it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.
Exodus 34:5 (WEB)
Yahweh descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of Yahweh.
We will also add that just being a spirit being does not mean that one is always everywhere. The angels are spirit beings, but are they always everywhere?
One has responded, using the New King James Version of John 1:13, which reads:
No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.The claim is made that this should be understood in this manner:
No one has ascended to heaven (the Son is talking about the future), but He who came down from heaven, (the Son is talking about the past) that is, the Son of Man who is heaven.(the Son is talking about the present)And we are asked, "How could the Son be on earth and be in heaven at the same time?" The assumed answer is that "the Son has dual natures, one God and one Man. His humanity might be on earth while he was speaking, but his Deity can be everywhere even in heaven."
No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven : the Son of Man. — John 3:13, New American Standard.
No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven-the Son of Man. — John 3:13, Holman Christian Standard.
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man. — John 3:13, New International Version.
And, no one, hath ascended into heaven, save he that, out of heaven, descended, – The Son of Man. — Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible.
Actually, it is the insistence that Jesus is omnipresent that leads some to imagine that Jesus was saying something that he did not say in John 3:13.
The phrase “no one has ascended to heaven” is definitely speaking of the past, not the future. Jesus was not saying that no one was to acend into heaven at any time in the future; what would be the point of his stating such? Indeed, what he was saying is that no one — no human being — had ever (in the past, not the future) ascended into heaven (in order to tell of heavenly things — John 3:12), but, rather, that there is one who came down from heaven, who can tell of heavenly things because he had been with the Father in heaven (John 17:1,3,5), and that this one who descended to tell us of these heavenly things is the Son of the Man, David.
Even most trinitarian scholars acknowledge that Jesus was speaking of the past, when he stated, “no one has ascended to heaven”.
Robertson thus stated:
There is no allusion to the Ascension which came later.
Adam Clarke stated:
Our Lord probably spoke to correct a false notion among the Jews, viz. that Moses had ascended to heaven, in order to get the law. It is not Moses who is to be heard now, but Jesus: Moses did not ascend to heaven; but the Son of man is come down from heaven to reveal the Divine will.
The phrase “which is in heaven” added to John 3:13 in many manuscripts and translations is considered by many, if not most, Bible scholars as being spurious. Many translations do not add that phrase, as seen the translations given above.
However, assuming that the added words are not spurious, some believe that John added his phrase parenthetically, not as the words of Jesus, but his own words, to show that at the time John wrote this, Jesus was in heaven. Others believe that since the earlier manuscripts do not have the phrase, that a later copyist added it to be understood parenthetically, to denote that Jesus was in heaven, not at the time Jesus spoke his words, but at the time that the copyist added the phrase.
There is no need, however, to use the spirit of human imagination so as create the idea that Jesus was in two places at once, and then to further imagine that Jesus possesses two “natures” (planes of existence? planes of sentiency? beings: Supreme Being and Human Being?) at the same time, and then further to read into the scripture that Jesus is present absolutely everywhere in the whole universe.
Jesus: Body, Soul and Spirit