John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may abide with you forever, John 14:17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, because He abides with you and shall be in you (English Majority Text).
I have a few more thoughts concerning the question of who Jesus was referring to when he spoke of the “Counselor” (translated “Helper” in the above version); but the previous article was already so long that I didn’t think I should prolong it any longer.
There are objections which might be made to my exposition of Jesus’ prophecy. Despite all I wrote, it would seem to be obvious that Jesus wasn’t talking about a human messenger because he said that the world cannot receive [Him], because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. Since the world could see a human messenger, but this messenger can’t be seen by the world, then Jesus must haved been talking about a non-human spirit (or Spirit).
Let me answer that objection by referring to the the ministry of that holy and truthful spirit, Jesus Christ, as John (or whoever else may have written this Gospel account) presented it. In John chapter 1, it was written that when the “true light” (referring to Jesus) had come into the world, Joh 1:10 He was in the world, and the world came to be through Him, and the world did not know Him. Joh 1:11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. Here was a situation where God’s messenger was in the world, and could be physically seen by the world and “his own”; yet they nevertheless did not receive or know him. Why not? If it’s the inability to physically see the coming “helper” which prevents the world from receiving or knowing him, what prevented the world and “his own” from receiving and knowing Jesus Christ, whom they certainly could physically see? The answer is that even though the physical eye could see him, they still were unable to “see” or “perceive” him.
Both in the Bible and the Qur’an, the concept of “seeing” someone or something frequently goes much deeper than being able to perceive with the physical eye. For instance, “Mark” records a story about a situation when the disciples of Jesus had forgotten to bring along bread to eat. So when Jesus warned them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod, they decided it must be a subtle reprimand for forgetting to bring bread. Mark 8:17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Mark 8:18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? Mark 8:19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” Mark 8:20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” Mark 8:21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (English Standard Version)
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah recorded a message from the LORD concerning the people of Israel of his day: Isa 6:9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.‘ Isa 6:10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” Even though they had eyes, they still could not “see” the things of God, and the truth of Isaiah’s message (and the messages of the other prophets). It is “seeing” with ‘the eyes of the soul’ which is far more important than seeing with the physical eyes; and the Israelites of Isaiah’s day (except for “a very small remnant”) were totally lacking in such ‘soul sight’.
Jesus referred to this passage from Isaiah to say that the Israelites of his day – particularly the religious leaders – were just as lacking in such ‘soul sight’. Mat 13:13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Mat 13:14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. Mat 13:15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ Mat 13:16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Note in this statement, Jesus makes the same contrast which he made with regard to the coming “helper”: between most of his hearers (whose eyes were closed so that they could not see), and the disciples (who did see).
The Gospel of John also referred to this Isaiah passage to refer to Jesus’ generation: John 12:37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, John 12:38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” John 12:39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, John 12:40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”
On another occasion recorded by John, Jesus responded to a question by his disciple Philip: Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me? (John 14:9).
The Qur’an also speaks of unbelievers as being people whose eyes cannot see the truth the Prophet brought: (2:6) As to those who reject Faith, it is the same to them whether thou warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe. (2:7) Allah hath set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they (incur) (Yusuf Ali version). And as another example, speaking about Muhammad’s (peace to him and his family) exhortations to the idolaters, it is said in 7:198: If thou callest them to guidance, they hear not. Thou wilt see them looking at thee, but they see not.
I submit that it is precisely this “soul” seeing and knowing to which Jesus was referring in John 14:16 and 17 – And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him – because He abides with you and shall be in you. I punctuated the verses a little bit differently, because I believe the ending phrase (because He abides with you and shall be in you) refers back to the ending of verse 16 (so that He may abide with you forever). I believe that the statement that the “helper” abides “forever” with believers, and is “in” them, refers not to an abiding physical presence (just as the “seeing” and “knowing” were not physical) but to the fact that the message he brought would continue “eternally” with them uncorrupted and entire, and it would be “internalized” by the believeing hearers and readers. The preservation of the message given to Muhammad was guaranteed by God: We have without doubt sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption) (Qur’an 15:9). This promise has been strictly performed, so that as I understand it, the original document in which all of the verses of the Qur’an were compiled still exists; and all copies are meticulously compared to make sure they are exactly correct in every word – and even every letter. Many Muslims memorize the entire Qur’an, and all believers attempt to take the message to heart even though they may not have memorized it. In this way, the prophet and his message remain with the believers “forever”.
Unfortunately, the Gospel message of Jesus Christ has not been so carefully preserved. The “New Testament” that we have today has so many errors in it that one frequently cannot tell what is true and what is false. And the message even of those erring records has been so corrupted by the “Church” that it is in many respects practically unrecognizable. Jesus knew this would happen, so he said of the coming “helper”: But the helper, the holy spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
One other objection to my understanding of the “Counselor” is that John 14:17 (quoted at the beginning of this article) uses the present tense to say that the “Counslor/Helper” abides with you – while seeming to make a contrast with that by using the future tense to say that he shall be in you. If the “helper” was presently “with” them, then obviously it could not be Muhammad! Yet, if the “helper” was presently with them, that would contradict the statements of Jesus that this “helper” would not come until after he (Jesus) had departed and gone to the Father. The whole point of Jesus’ statements was that another messenger would be sent to them after he went away in order to carry on and complete his ministry. The “helper” would tell them truths that they were presently unable to “bear”, and would remind them of what Jesus had taught at a time when that knowledge (or a lot of it) had been forgotten. To say that the messenger was presently with them and they knew him would completely contradict his whole point.
I believe there are two possible ways of understanding this statement that “he abides with you”. One possibility is that John (or whoever wrote the Gospel account) was “grammatically challenged” with regard to the Greek language – since it was not his native language – and just simply got his tenses mixed up. Perhaps Jesus said in Aramaic that he will abide with you and be in you, but John used the wrong tense of the Greek verb “abide”.
The other possibility would be that John didn’t make a mistake, but used the present tense in a “futuristic” sense. The New Testament books were written in the common ordinary Greek (called “koine”), not in the classical Greek of scholars. I know that in “common” English we frequently mix up the tenses of verbs, using the present tense to refer to past actions and words. For instance, in telling someone of something that happened last week, I might say “so Jack comes to me and says…” instead of the “correct” statement, “Jack came to me and said…” Perhaps John was using the present tense similarly to refer to a future event, as if to say “when he comes, he abides with you and will in fact be in you”.
I can’t say which of those interpretations is correct – though it seems more likely to me that John just got his Greek tenses confused. However there is no doubt that the whole point of what Jesus said excludes the idea that the “helper” was with them at the time he was speaking.
So as my previous article showed, the “Counselor” or “Helper” passages in John refer to a human messenger to follow Jesus Christ who would carry on and complete Jesus’ mission. Because people sinned by not believing Jesus’ message, and Jesus would no longer be present to convince the world of righteousness, God would send another messenger to call people to faith and righteousness. And as this article shows, what would appear to completely militate against the “counselor” being a human messenger is actually easily understood in keeping with the teachings of the Bible itself. As Jesus’ hearers did not “see”, “perceive”, “understand” and “know” him despite the fact that they could see him with their eyes and hear him with their ears; so “the world” would not be able to “see”, “know” and “receive” the coming messenger (Muhammad) despite the fact that he would dwell among them and be physically visible to them.