Now I’m returning to you.
I’m saying these things in the world’s hearing
So my people can experience
My joy completed in them.
I gave them your word;
The godless world hated them because of it,
Because they didn’t join the world’s ways,
Just as I didn’t join the world’s ways.
I’m not asking that you take them out of the world
But that you guard them from the Evil One.
They are no more defined by the world
Than I am defined by the world.
Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth;
Your word is consecrating truth.
In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world,
I give them a mission in the world.
I’m consecrating myself for their sakes
So they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission. ~ John 17:13-19, MSG
Isn’t it wonderful that Father God’s grand design for Christ Jesus is now a good and finished work—a real, absolute, and unchangeable reality? He performed every part of the mission God had assigned to Him, and, in doing so, He pleased, praised, and glorified God. As a result, His finished work earned Him the right to return into Heaven to His Glory, to His Throne, and in His place of Honor, which is at the right hand of God.
Backing up just a little, in John 17:13-19, Christ Jesus’ mission on Earth is about to be completed, and that is why for protection purposes our Lord is turning over to our Heavenly Father His initial followers, as well as future disciples—all the believers who have received regeneration, salvation, and the Word of God—so that Father God can preserve them (keep them in perfect or purified condition—sanctify them), while they remain in this world. It is just like a good Shepherd to put the care and preservation of His sheep before His own safety and care, even though He is much aware of the immediacy of the Cross, and even though He knows the horrible death He’d have to face before He would be able to leave this world and return to the safety and purity of Heaven. It is exactly this knowledge that has Christ Jesus tenderly praying to Father God on behalf of ALL of His disciples, but specifically for His contemporary followers.
In His prayer, Christ Jesus isn’t asking Father God to translate these disciples right then and there, like in the manner of Enoch and Elijah, nor is He asking Father God to allow them to bypass earthly afflictions and sorrows by experiencing death in its common form. The Lord doesn’t pray for them to be taken out of this world right then and there, because He has GREAT work for them to do. If they were to be taken off of this Earth, there would be no one left behind to preach the Gospel of Christ so that sinners might be reborn and saved. Then too, if His present disciples were to be removed off the Earth at that time, there also would not be anyone left to encourage and edify the remaining saints (Mary the mother of Jesus, the other Mary’s, and other friends and followers of Christ Jesus, who later were in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost). Once again, Christ Jesus Himself is about to be crucified, resurrected, and raptured into Heaven. Thus, it is in His interest (for Christ Jesus’ legacy; everything He has handed down to His disciples) that His original followers should live on the Earth for a little bit longer, primarily so that, in addition to their Gospel preaching, their holy and righteous empowered and disciplined lifestyle also would be glorifying Father God and Christ Jesus, as well as witnessing to Father God’s unregenerate, unsaved chosen people and to the world’s lost souls.
Therefore, instead of praying for His disciples’ immediate removal, Christ Jesus expresses His concern for their safety and care, and by extension ours (meaning all of us who, after being reborn, saved by Grace, and justified, like the first-century disciples, would be left behind in this cold world to continue the Lord’s work). Since Christ Jesus knew that He soon would be crucified and that shortly after His resurrection would be leaving this Earth (would be raptured), He wanted to make sure that His current left-behind followers would have everything they needed to survive and thrive in this sin-sick world—a malignant world that would hate all of His followers just because they have accepted Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, and have accepted His Word as the absolute Divine Truth.
This knowledge is why the Lord wasn’t praying that His present-day disciples, nor His 21st-century followers, never would have to know afflictions, sorrows, exclusion, rejection, storms of controversies, adversity, or that they, nor we, never would be vilified, slandered, rebuked, reviled, abandoned, forgotten, or pushed aside, and so forth. There is no doubt that Christ Jesus also knew that these listed sufferings, which He Himself experienced, would be part and parcel of the Christian experience.
So then, for the Christian experience reason, the above stated hurts and sufferings, which are NOT the Tribulation Period’s Wrath of God but rather the centuries of persecutions committed by mankind, are precisely why the Lord knew that in order for His disciples, then and now, to be able to combat this world’s Evil and avoid sinning they all would have to be sanctified so that they would be able to continue to honor His legacy—continue to be holy and righteous saints who would pass on to future generations of believers His Gospel and His discipleship (His Word, teachings, and the good works He performed), until the end of the Age of Grace. Thus, just like the first-century disciples/believers had to receive the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power before they could be mighty witnesses for Christ Jesus—before they could begin their mission of finishing what He had begun, which is the Great Commission (cf. Acts 1:8; see also Matthew 28:16-20)—we today also must receive the Lord’s prayed for sanctification.
This Holy Spirit-assigned process is the necessary infilling (Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues) that will guarantee we eventually will become Christlike and then, like Him, will be raptured off of this Earth, when our mission here is finished. Our removal at that time will mean that we are officially in the Lord’s rest, enjoying our eternal life with Christ Jesus in Heaven, without ever having to go through the prophesied Tribulation Period.
Praise the Lord! Sanctify us, right now, Holy Spirit! AMEN.
~ from Faith and Wisdom: A Rhema Word in a Dry and Thirsty Land (2006); edited