Jesus’ Prayer for Us to be With Him

May 25, 2014 / No. 3725

Dear Radio Friends,
In John 17:24-26 Jesus prays, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
What a beautiful prayer. Jesus says, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory.”
Have you ever stood at the deathbed or the grave of a loved one whom you know is a child of God? That is a very difficult thing to do. It is the end of our earthly ties. Death has come and taken one away from us. A loneliness overwhelms us. As you go through that, dear child of God, you should think of these words of Jesus, this prayer: “That they may be with me where I am.” In the death of a believer, this prayer of Jesus is answered. Psalm 116 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Why? Because in death God brings His people to be with Him in glory.
We should not be afraid of death but should see it as the doorway to heaven, as God’s servant, to bring us to glory. When you see your loved one dying, when you have to bring a child to the grave, when you are left behind as a widow, then remember, God is answering this prayer of Jesus to bring all His own to be with Him in heaven. And someday all of God’s people, all of us, will be with Him, too.
What a beautiful prayer! There is great triumph in these words of Jesus. “They all will be with Me in glory!” As believers, we should have that kind of triumph in the face of death. Like Job, in chapter 19:25-27: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” That is triumph in death.
Or, like Paul in I Corinthians 15:51-57: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed…. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?… Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Or, again, you hear this confidence of Paul in II Corinthians 5:1: “For we know [we know, he says] that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heaven.”
Or, again, in Philippians 1, he says: “I have a desire to depart and to be with the Lord, which is far better; for to me to live is Christ, but to die is gain.” There is a confidence, a certainty, a comfort that we should have as we think about death. And this prayer of Jesus, “that they may be with Me,” breathes with this certainty.
In these verses, Jesus not only finishes His high priestly prayer of chapter 17, but He also brings to a conclusion an extended discourse of comfort to His disciples that began in chapter 14:1. The disciples were troubled that Jesus was leaving them. And so He begins in chapter 14: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions:…I go to prepare a place for you,… I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” And now, four chapters later, He finishes on that same note: “Father, that they may be with me where I am.” Let us remember that Jesus prayed these words out loud in the presence of His disciples. He did it for them to hear, for us to hear. And we should be impressed with the certainty and the assurance with which He spoke.
Jesus here does not simply wish or hope or even simply request something. No, it is much more certain and sure than that. He addresses God with confidence. “Father,” He says. “Father.” When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He taught them to approach God with a childlike confidence. “Our Father which art in heaven.” And now He uses the same address to God Himself. But there is a difference. This is the difference. Jesus prays, not as an adopted child of God, but as the eternal Son of God, equal Himself in power and glory to the Father. He speaks in these verses of the eternal glory and love that He shared with the Father. He does not come to God as a beggar. He does not come uncertain. He is saying, “Father, let us bring them to glory.” That is the force of what Jesus says.
And that comes out in the words that He uses in this petition. He says, “I will that they be with me.” That is a rather strange way to make a petition. It is closer to a demand than a request. If our children would come to us and say, “I will that you give me my supper,” we would say to them, “That’s not the way to ask for things.” And nowhere in the Bible do men (and are we instructed to) pray this way to God. But when it comes to Jesus, it is quite appropriate that He put it this way, because He is expressing, as the Son, the will of the triune God—the unchanging, eternal will of God. This is the heart of God. And because it is, it cannot be changed. All that the Father has given to Christ will come to Him and will be with Him in glory eternally.
This prayer, I say, breathes with certainty. What a comfort for the believer in death.
That certainty comes out again in the grounds or the reasons that Jesus gives for why God should answer this prayer. In verse 24 He speaks of the fact that the Father has given them to Him and of God’s eternal love for Him as the Son. “For thou hast loved me from before the foundation of the world.” This is what He means, that if God would not bring His elect, those given Him, to glory, if one of them should perish, that would be the same as God breaking His love, His eternal love, to His Son. “Father,” He says, “You’ve given them to Me and You love Me. And so, You must bring them to glory.”
And then, in verse 25, He gives two more reasons for God to hear this prayer. First, God is a righteous Father. “O righteous Father,” He says. Jesus means, “I have finished the work that I had to do for them. I have kept them. I have taught them. I have done everything necessary for their salvation.” He speaks here before the cross as though it is accomplished. He says, “I have laid down my life for them. O righteous Father, their sins have been paid. Bring them to glory. Be righteous.”
And then at the end of verse 25 He appeals to the faith of His people. He says, “These have known thee, and have known that Thou hast sent Me. Father,” He is saying, “they believe. Their trust is in Me. They find all their salvation in what I have done for them. Father, bring them to glory.”
And so, this is a prayer that rings with certainty. It is closer to a pronouncement than a petition. “All that the Father has given me shall be with me where I am, to behold my glory.” Believing in Jesus, we can have assurance and confidence of a place in Father’s house of many mansions. We do not have to be afraid of death or hell.
There are two parts to Jesus’ petition here. First, “that they may be with me where I am,” and then, second, “that they may behold my glory.” You will notice that when Jesus says, “that they may be with me where I am,” He speaks in the present tense: where I am. And, again, there is confidence in the petition. At the moment He speaks these words, He is in Judea, about to be arrested and crucified. But He has in view where He will be beyond His death and resurrection—in His eternal state of glory. He means in heaven—that they may be with Me where I am. He has heaven, and bringing His people to heaven with Him, before Him as the goal and the purpose of His going to the cross.
Now, what is heaven? There are many different ideas that people have about what heaven is. Most of them are very earthly. A person describes heaven in terms of what he likes here on the earth. If he likes golf, that is what he hopes heaven will be. If he likes shopping or horseback riding, that is what heaven will be for him. And so heaven is viewed by most as the best of what you enjoy in this life. Maybe a slight improvement because some of the difficulties of life will be gone.
Is that a proper view of heaven? No, it is not. And thank God that it is not. Heaven is portrayed in Scripture as the indescribable. It is something beyond our experience. Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither has anyone ever been able even to imagine the things that God has in store for those who love Him. The essence, the heart, the joy, the pleasure of heaven is described by Jesus here in the words “that they may be with me.” That is what heaven will be: to be with Jesus. Heaven is not, first, deliverance from suffering. It is not the pearly gates and the streets of gold. But, that they may be with Me.
That’s heaven—to be with Jesus, to enjoy covenant life and communion with Him in perfection. Death, all by itself, is a very lonely state. Cemeteries are very lonely places. Hell is even more lonely. But in heaven, the covenant Christ will bring us to be with Him. Revelation 21: “God himself shall be with them and be their God, and they shall be his people.” That is heaven—to be with Jesus.
That is why heaven can only be for believers. I suspect that there are people, many of them, who will say, “If that’s all heaven is, to be with Jesus, then I’m not interested. I have a lot more fun without Jesus.” It is only if you believe in Jesus today and love Him in this life, that you will be with Him in heaven. And if you do not believe, and if you do not love Him, you will spend eternity without Him in the suffering of hell.
I want to make a point of this. I want to emphasize it because today there is a crazy notion about, one that has become quite popular, that everyone is going to be in heaven in the end, that hell will be empty because God’s love wins. God’s love is supposed to be so strong that no one will be in hell. You know what that message is? It is a crafty lie of the devil that comes from hell itself. Satan does not want us to think that hell is real. It is a message that tells people that they do not need to believe the gospel and they do not need to trust in Jesus for salvation. It is a lie that tells people that they are OK where they are at—that they do not need to repent of their sins, that they do not need to put their faith in Christ. And it denies the whole gospel of the cross and the death and the suffering of Christ for sin. You do not need the Savior. You are OK, because God’s love will win in the end and everybody will be in heaven.
No, Jesus says heaven is to be with Him. If you do not want Him in your life today, you will not have Him in life eternal. Heaven is for all those whom the Father has given to Jesus (v. 24). Heaven is for all those who heard and believed on the Son. Heaven is reserved for believers only. Heaven is secured by Jesus’ death for God’s elect alone. And hell, the Bible tells us, the lake of fire, the place of eternal suffering, is reserved, it is prepared by a just God, for all who refuse to obey the gospel and will not repent of their sins and believe and trust in Jesus alone for salvation. Hell is real. And if you are not a believer, you ought to be terrified of death because it will bring you before God the Judge and lead you to the eternal lake of fire.
And so Jesus’ prayer for believers is “that they may be with me.”
Then the second part of His request is: “that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me.” What is that glory? Jesus does not mean His inherent glory as the eternal Son of God. Only God can see that glory and live. He does not mean, either, the glory that He displayed on earth during His ministry, which the disciples beheld. Nor does He mean His glory that He shows in and through us by our godly living. Rather, He refers to the glory of His exaltation: “which thou hast given me.” The glory that the apostle Paul saw on the Damascus road, and that John saw by vision in Revelation 1. The glory spoken of in Philippians 2: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.” And when Jesus says, “that they may behold my glory,” He means that His people will not only see but also partake in and reflect His glory in themselves perfectly. It will not be simply that we will see Him. But when we see Him, we shall be like Him.
That is Jesus’ desire and prayer for His people: “Father, that they may be with me.” And in just a few hours, God answered that prayer. You remember Jesus on the cross and the words of the converted thief. He says to Jesus, “Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” And Jesus’ answer is: “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
What was the experience of that sinner who died with the confession on his lips? Words fail to say it, do they not? We know a little of what it is to be with Christ. We have a taste of that already now. There are high points in our lives when we walk close to the Lord and enjoy His presence and love. But the fullness of it is yet to come. That is what we wait for. This is our hope—to be with the Lord. This will be our eternal privilege—to be with Christ. This is what we will do in heaven—we will behold His glory. And, looking on Him, we will be like Him. John says, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” He means, it is not exactly clear to us what our glory will be in heaven. But, he continues, “We know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).
What a blessed day. Not only when Christ shall come, but blessed day also when I shall go to be with Him. If you have that hope today, then you will be filled with love for Christ today. John, in I John 3:3, continues: “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
Dear believer, when you die, you will be with Christ. You will see Christ. You will be like Christ. Remember that today. You are bought with a price. Sanctify the Lord God in your heart. Let the love of Christ dwell in you richly to make you like Him already today.
Let us pray.
Lord, give us to see Thy glory and the glory of Thy Son Jesus Christ so that we may persevere in hope and holiness till the day when we shall be with Him and become like Him. Lord Jesus, come, come quickly. Amen.