by Chuck LaMattina of Grace Ministry International.
14. The Hebrew idiom of coming from heaven or being sent by God. There are verses in the gospel of John that seem to say that Jesus Christ literally came to earth from heaven.
“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:13) [The best Greek texts omit the last phrase, “who is in heaven.”]
“For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33)
In the verses above, Jesus Christ employs a Hebrew idiom where those things which are a blessing and good and holy are said to have come from God in heaven. For example the apostle James wrote,
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17
And in John’s gospel the people state that the manna God provided for Israel in the wilderness came from heaven.
“Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” (John 6:31) [see also Exodus 16:4]
Every good and perfect gift does not literally come down from heaven, nor did the manna. We all understand this. This is simply a figure of speech called an idiom informing us that the manna that was eaten in the wilderness was provided by God, and the blessings we receive, even if they come through people or events, ultimately come from God. The verses in John’s gospel about Jesus coming from heaven need to be understood in the same way as we understand how the manna came and how we receive every good gift.
In a similar idiom, there are verses that state that Jesus Christ was “sent” from God. For example, the Lord Jesus said,
“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34)
How are we to understand this? Did Jesus literally descend from heaven to the earth? No, the Lord was sent by God in the same way that God sent John the Baptist.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” (John 1:6)
Neither John nor the Lord Jesus Christ came directly out of heaven to the earth. They simply were commissioned by God for the work they were called to do. Christians are sent ones too. Jesus Christ declared,
“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18)
Jesus Christ was sent into the world by God with His blessing and a ministry. We are sent into the world in this very same manner.