Christians affirm that Jesus was fully divine and fully human. As part of being fully human Jesus had and retains a human body. Jesus was raised bodily from the grave and remains forever incarnate; forever man-for-God on our behalf. After the resurrection Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father where he now resides. OK, so far so orthodox.
Here is the problem (and it is a well known one): If Jesus retains a human body that (presumably) occupies physical space then Jesus must still be occupying physical space. So where is he? Would we discover Jesus in heaven if we flew up far enough in a space rocket in the right direction for?
Most of us feel that it is very misguided to seek to hunt out where in our universe Jesus's body is currently located. We think that it is not currently anywhere in our physical universe. But if Jesus has a physical body, as Christians claim, then one suspects (though I am open to correction) that it must occupy space. So where is it?
Here is my crazy idea:
What if, instead of asking where Jesus went to after the ascension, we ask when Jesus went to.
What if God the Father relocated Jesus to the eschatological future. The body of Jesus would then be located in the past and in the future but not in the present. Thus Jesus' body would occupy space but not, from our perspective, currently. For now let us suppose that moving Jesus to the future is metaphysically do-able.
Well that solves one problem but it creates some others
(1) The NT speaks of the current reign of Christ from heaven 'until' the end of the age which implies that Jesus' reign in heaven is happening in the present and not in the future .
Thoughts:1. This is a major problem for my suggestion and is probably enough to kill it. But perhaps not ...
2. One may - with a bit of imagination - construe the 'present' work of Christ in heaven as work that (from our perspective) he will do in the future renewed creation on behalf of what is, from his perspective, the past. So his intercessions to the Father for us are, from our perspective, yet to happen. Nevertheless - the prayers that Christ will pray for us are the prayers that inspire the Father to answer those prayers in our present. So God answers Christ's prayers before he prays them but only because Christ will pray them. I think that an intelligible account of this suggestion can be given. However, I must confess that finding it a little cumbersome.
3. Perhaps the future reign of Christ is a present reality for us through the mediation of the eschatological Spirit. So we can still speak of Christ as ruling now and being exalted now. The basis of that rule and exaltation (the life, death and resurrection of Jesus) is indeed past and its final fulfilment is guaranteed. The Spirit makes that rule break into our present experience.
(2) Does my suggestion commit us to the view that Jesus does not currently exist and, if so, what are the implications of that?
Thoughts:1. Classical Christian theology maintains an a-temporal view of divine existence and so God can be thought to exist without having to exist in the past, present or future. God, on the classical view, is not 'in' time at all. He exists timelessly. Now the divine Logos (God the Son), in classical theology, also exists timelessly and relates to past, present and future in the same way. The Son is as 'present' right now as he is at any other point in time. Of course, the Logos is incarnate in time and so on this suggestion he does not in a literal sense currently exist in that form. However, we must qualify this bold statement as follows: there is no discontinuity in the incarnate life of Jesus. It is not that Jesus - the Logos incarnate - existed, then ceased to exist, but will some day exist again. No. From Jesus' perspective there is no discontinuity at all. He was incarnate in our past and was transported instantaneously to our future but his existence was not disrupted in the process. The Logos-incarnate was not dis-incarnate for a time.
2. Christians are used to the idea that Jesus is not currently on earth and yet can still be present on earth through the mediation of the Holy Spirit. The same could apply with my suggestion. Jesus' eschatological presence can be mediated to the church in the present through the work of the Spirit. The Spirit enables us to taste the coming reign of Christ right now.
Do I think I am right? No, but the idea is worth thinking about. Cor - doing theology on the hoof is flipping risky so please don't burn me! Just kindly correct me.