In what sense did Jesus descend/come from heaven?
As with many things about Jesus (and the bible in general), we must be certain to grasp what is literal and what is figurative.
Did he literally come from 'heaven' to earth to be born as a child? No.
First, we should clarify who Jesus is so that the following comments make sense.
Jesus is the human son born to Mary by the power of God's spirit in her to conceive. Before his birth/conception he was not.
Jesus before his birth was one thing only. A prophecy
- the logos is the source of Jesus. The word, will, wisdom of God.
1 John 1:1 states clearly, apart from the confusion John 1:1-3 has caused because of a fussed over translation/interpretation which somehow makes the logos a 'person'.1 John 1:1 is explored more here.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
Luke 1:35, ‘He (Jesus) will be holy, and called the son of God’.
This makes Jesus sinless as sin is passed through the fathers - from Adam. Rom 5
There is no need to construct a pre-existence to arrive at some state of prior holiness. He is a man, who is holy/without sin and this qualifies him to be the perfect sacrifice - the lamb of God.
1 Pet 1:18-20 you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.
God knew Jesus was going to come - He knew what he would have to do. Who else but God and the heavenly folk could 'foreknow'? He is not foreknown by men.
We see from the next verses, coming down, sent etc does not require a literal understanding.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow.James 1:17
John 6:38 ‘For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.’
Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. John 6:32
There came a man who was sent from God. His name was John. John 1:6
Jesus was not of this world - why? Because he was without sin. That's it! Jesus told the disciples they too were not of this world. Why? Because they were his, therefore without sin leading to death - forgiven in grace and the sacrifice that would cover them - just as it covered the saints of OT retrospectively.
They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. John 17:5
We are drawn to conclude Jesus 'Came from Heaven' literally as there are several verses from John with,
- But now I am going back to the Father who sent me 16:5
- I came from the Father... now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father." v 28
- his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. 13:1
- he had come from God and would return to God
- I am returning to him who is my Father 20:17
- I am going back to the Father 14:28
There is no words in the Gr. text for returning or going back. They are all additions. Why did they add these expressions? To propagate the theory that Jesus is more than a holy man - he had to be made out to be God too! These are not the clumsy additions of a careless scribe, but intentional efforts to rewrite the text with a bias.
How was Jesus from heaven?
Jesus, while on earth in the flesh, was the presence of God - the Immanuel. This does not make him God, but is the representative of God. Nothing in this world is 'of' God in a representative sense like Jesus was - holy sinless, beyond reproach in all things. The prophets, the tabernacle, temple were also representative, but they were only shadows of the one to come.
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made by hands and is not a part of this creation. Heb 9:11
Not part of creation? No, this creation is corrupted and under the law of sin and death - as high priest, Jesus is not - not anymore. Rom 6:9
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him. Acts 10:38
His mission was to be as God on earth - if you have seen me, you have seen the Father. Of course this has little to do with 'seeing' with the eyes. This is about knowing the Father in ways not previously possible. He is invisible after all, so the point is seeing with the heart and mind who God is, through the example, life and works of His son.
if you knew Me, you would know My Father also. John 8:19
Jesus is indeed heavenly - being of God, as a human son, and sent, as a servant to God to transform, through his death, creation into a living and eternal glory of God.
There are many ways to discover that Jesus is not God. For those with eyes and hearts to see, the bible is filled with such instruction. And as 'not God', he certainly did not literally descend from heaven to become the son of God.
We see in other answers lines like, "Jesus, the Son of God, descended from the Father in heaven, by taking on human flesh." No bible verse speaks this. The 'logos' became flesh, not Jesus. The unswerving need to speak a traditional dogma not remotely representing biblical truth is quite bewildering.