In the Gospel of John, Jesus says on multiple occasions the following:

John 16:28 "I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."

The body of Jesus occupies space within the physical world, so we understand what it means for him to enter and leave the world, but what does it mean for him to go back to the Father? We do not take this to mean that Jesus physically ascended to the Father in a heaven that is governed by physical laws, so if the nature of Jesus' presence in heaven is not physical, how could his entering into the physical world ever meant that he left his Father's presence?

More verses of similar style:

John 13:3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;

John 16: 5 "but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’"

John 16:10 "...about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer"

This is also further complicated by another saying of Jesus that his Father did not leave him:

John 8:29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”

So what does it mean for Jesus to leave, and return to the Father? In what sense did he leave and return to the Father? And in what sense is the Father with him and in what sense did he never leave him?

  • 1
    You are asking a number of questions across a broad spectrum of doctrine and covering a number of issues regarding resurrection, ascension and divine relationships. This site examines the text of scripture in detail, hermeneutically and that is best done, text by text. Please see the Tour and the Help (below, bottom right) regarding the purpose and the function of the site. Welcome to BH.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 12, 2020 at 11:20
  • This is a metaphysical question that is unanswerable here.
    – Dottard
    Sep 12, 2020 at 11:22
  • @Dottard We are told that a cloud received Jesus as he ascended and those witnessing saw no more. I am content to pursue no further, myself. We know he shall return as he ascended and I believe that is what should be awaited. He is known, in Spirit, by those who believe in him. I agree, we can say no more.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 12, 2020 at 11:29
  • @NigelJ These are all questions relating to the lack of understanding of what it means for Jesus to have left and have returned to the Father. I am addressing just one thing.
    – RandomUser
    Sep 12, 2020 at 11:45
  • In Hebrew theology, Teshuvah (תְּשׁוּבָה) means repent / return. In Yeshua's ministry to Aramaic-speaking Yisraelites "Father" (Av, אב‎) became (Ava, אבא) referring to the God YHVH. - John 13:3 answers your question regarding the meaning of John 16:28. What would Yeshua need to repent? Thus Yeshua's spirit is returning to Heaven to be at the right-hand of the God YHVH. Sep 12, 2020 at 12:15

4 Answers 4


Jesus spoke of himself as symbolical manna from heaven and said to the Jews: “Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but my Father does give you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me.” “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and, for a fact, the bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.” “He also that feeds on me, even that one will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven.” Many Jews murmured at such sayings of Jesus, and so he surprised them still more when he said: “Does this stumble you? What, therefore, if you should behold the Son of man ascending to where he was before?”—John 6:32, 33, 38, 51, 57, 58, 61, 62.

39 Hence, later, when Jesus spoke to the unbelieving Jews about going away, he said: “You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above. You are from this world; I am not from this world.” “If God were your Father, you would love me, for from God I came forth and am here. Neither have I come of my own initiative at all, but that One sent me forth.” (John 8:23, 42) For that reason Jesus could pray to God and say in the hearing of his faithful apostles:

40 “Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world [of mankind] was. Also, I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them on account of your own name which you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are. . . . I wish that, where I am, they also may be with me, in order to behold my glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the founding of the world. “—John 17:5, 11, 24.

41 Up in heaven Jesus, as the Word or Logos, had had glory alongside his Father and had been loved by the Father. This was before the world was. The apostle John heard those words of Jesus, and so John could correctly make this comment: “He that comes from above is over all others. He that is from the earth is from the earth and speaks of things of the earth. He that comes from heaven is over all others. What he has seen and heard, of this he bears witness.” (John 3:31, 32) As the Word or Logos, he had been with God “in the beginning.”

Jesus returning to his Father/Creator does not make sense if he is the same Creator/God that he is returning to.

  • 2
    Re your final point, could also add that "bread of God" doesn't make a lot of sense if Jesus considered himself to be God. Sep 15, 2020 at 18:52

The key to understanding this is the temporal dimension. The Godhead exists in the eternal reality independent of time, outside of creation.

Genesis 1:1

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Obviously, God didn't create the heavens and the earth so that he could exist.

if the nature of Jesus' presence in heaven is not physical, how could his entering into the physical world ever meant that he left his Father's presence?

Baby Jesus existed within the temporal dimension. The physical body of Jesus was bounded by space-time. Still, there exists a spiritual connection between the Father and the Son. The difference is that the Father was not bounded by time.

So what does it mean for Jesus to leave, and return to the Father? In what sense did he leave and return to the Father?

Jesus left his resurrected body and returned to the eternal reality to be with the Father, no longer bounded by space-time.

Acts 7:55

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.


Jesus' physical resurrection is a crucial point of Christian doctrine. After the resurrection, Jesus went to be with the Father. His body was not left behind, so it's safe to assume that His presence there is physical and not simply metaphysical.

Also, we will not be "in Heaven" forever. God will create a new Heaven and a New earth where we will live. Physical objects will presumably be there as well.

The assumption that being in God's presence excludes physical matter does not appear to be founded in the New Testament.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    May 30, 2022 at 14:14

What does Jesus mean by saying that he is returning to his Father?

Jesus never said he was 'returning' or 'going back' to his Father.

There are no words in the original text of Jesus 'returning' or 'going back'. These additions advance an idea the text does not endorse or intend. See John 16:5,28, 13:1,3, 20:17, 14:28 for these additions - obviously each translation will vary.

John 20:17 should read like this,

Jesus said to her, "Stop clinging to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.'"

One might presume, depending on the theology, that 'returning' is implied. That response indicates a willingness to read into the text that which is consistently missing in every text about Jesus' ascension.

The Father was never not with Jesus in spirit. Jesus mission, opposing and conquering the epitome of evil, required constant support from the Father. As a man, Jesus had no super-powers; he said often he could do or say nothing of himself. John 5:30, 19, 8:28. Also Matt 9:8, Acts 10:38, Acts 2:22, John 9:3

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father abiding in me does His works. John 14:10

It must be said that as Jesus was without sin, the relationship with his Father was of a nature we can barely imagine. As Jesus said, I and the Father are one - the idea of 'one essence/substance' or similar idea is not a biblical one. As the verses below show, it is explained as being one in mind and purpose - and that we too, may be so 'at one' with God.

Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. John 17:11

that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, v21

In fact these verses strongly refute such an idea as, 'one substance' - it is a human construct not biblically supported.

He offered to his disciples this same connection that enabled him to finish the course,

"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; John 14:16

and then, to clarify what he meant, identifying himself and the Father...

John 14:23 "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.


There are several expressions about, 'coming from heaven' or, 'from the Father'. We are not meant to take these literally, as if they are implying travelling from heaven or was in heaven to begin with.

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me. John 6:38

What sort of 'eternal Son' has a differing will to his eternal Father - especially if they are of, 'one substance'?

This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, that anyone may eat of it and not die. John 6:50, (58)

The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 1 Cor 15:47

How could the mortal 'man' Jesus be 'in heaven' with the Father before his change to spirit life?

The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men? Mk 11:30

John answered, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 3:27

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father James 1:17

As can be readily seen, it's easy to interpret the words, without seeing the overall context of these expressions. Certainly Jesus is/was not OF this world. This world of corruption and sin is not the world Jesus is from - he is from God and holiness - heavenly - not worldly.

He said of the disciples, 'they are not of this world' John 17:16 Yet or course, they were born in sin on earth and were earthly - but now they are OF heaven because they are God's - just as Jesus was God's.

Anything OF God is heavenly, even if it's just 'bread', serving a holy purpose, just as Jesus and John did with their lives too.

Jesus - according to the text, didn't 'return' as he was never there to begin with. Only once exalted to the Father is he actually with the Father. Remember Jesus is still flesh and bones - he is not a spirit, he can only be in one place at a time! (Luke 24:39)

The Father was never not with Jesus in spirit - the Father sent Jesus the holy spirit, how can they be apart?

When Jesus departed to be with the Father, he was 'taken up', or 'carried', 'lifted' - not something that one does of oneself. Even here as Jesus being born of the spirit, made immortal, waited on the Father to lift him up! Mk 16:19, Acts 1:9, Luke 24:51 Just as he waited on the Father to raise him from the dead. Finally, he was able to sit by God's side - glorious, victorious, King of Kings.

  • 1
    εξηλθον παρα του πατρος και εληλυθα εις τον κοσμον παλιν αφιημι τον κοσμον και πορευομαι προς τον πατερα John 16:28. YLT I came forth from the Father, and have come to the world; again I leave the world, and go on unto the Father.' I have come ... I leave ... and I go.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 12, 2020 at 14:06
  • 1
    The concept of 'go back' and 'return' is explicit in the three verbs. This is sheer logic.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 12, 2020 at 14:39
  • 4
    -1 καὶ ὅτι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθεν καὶ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ὑπάγει - "and that from God He came forth and to the God He is going." Unless you believe there are multiple Gods "returning" is exactly what is said. If you believe in multiple Gods, He is still returning to τὸν θεὸν, in context God who He came from. Sep 12, 2020 at 15:46
  • 1
    The word back and/or the particle re- are implicit, rather than explicit, in the text: but that's hardly a noteworthy observation.
    – Lucian
    Sep 12, 2020 at 17:50
  • 2
    @curiousdannii my expression was, There are many un-inspired additions. Ramping it up with 'forgeries' is unwarranted. With so many downvotes and no substantiation to explain why I'm incorrect is also unwarranted.
    – Steve
    Sep 13, 2020 at 5:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.