Is it acceptable to refer to Jesus as the “Man upstairs”? I didn’t think it was until I took time and seriously thought about the concept. Initially, I thought this term too shoddy to use for Jesus; however, He is properly a man, now resurrected in a powerful spiritual body and sitting on His Father’s throne. Jesus is also, of course, the eternal God who was with the Father in the beginning (Jn.1. 1-2). The most frequent term Jesus used to designate Himself while on earth was, “the Son of man.” Therefore, it is acceptable to call Jesus “the Man upstairs.” Also, there are many other symbols in the bible that picture Jesus.
When the O.T. Patriarch Jacob left Beersheva to go to Padan Aram, he stopped at Bethel for the night. God appeared to Jacob in a dream that night and reaffirmed His covenant to this ancestor of Abraham:
He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. (Gen. 28.12-13) NIV
The stairway was not a ladder as in some translations. Rather, it best refers to the typical stone construction of Mideast houses. Many of the larger houses featured a stairway built into the side of the house to reach the roof. A notable example is the couple in Shunem who built a shelter for Elisha in 2 Kings 4. 9-10.
In Jacob’s vision he saw angels ascending and descending on this stairwell and named the place “Bethel,” which means the house of God. He saw the Lord at the top speaking down to him. In the N.T. however, things have changed, since the Lord speaks of the angels ascending and descending upon Himself!
He continued, “I tell all of you the solemn truth – you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (Jn.1.51) NET
What does this figurative picture of a stairway reveal? During the days of His flesh, Jesus indicated He was “the Door,” a similar concept indicating access to show that through Him the sheep would enter the fold: I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture. (Jn.10.9) NET. Also, Jesus says He is “the Way,” an additional and related term to indicate the via to access God (Jn. 14.6).
What does it mean when the bible speaks in terms such as “in Christ”? Being “in Christ” is a spatial designation indicating a relationship of some kind. This concept can be seen in Gal. 3.26-27: So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (NIV). If Christ clothes us, then we are “in Him,” in a figurative way, but nonetheless real. When we wear a suit of clothes we are in them. When Christ clothes us we are in Him. This wording of being clothed with Christ is very similar to how the Spirit of God fell upon some of the O.T. heroes, such as Samson in Judges 15.14. “The Spirit fell mightily upon him.” Also, back to Galatians 3.27, it implies the method of baptism, since sprinkling or pouring don’t adequately show enrobing as immersion.
Also, what happens to the Christian at death? 2Cor. 5. 1-10 gives the fullest description of the Christian hope:
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (NIV)
Again, figurative language is deployed to describe another reality: the temporal tent we live in on earth and our “building” in heaven. This is the physical body which decays, while the building in heaven is probably The Lord Himself, since believers only receive their spiritual bodies at Christ’s Second Coming. Some who died in Christ have been waiting nearly 2000 years for their spiritual bodies and are probably those righteous men made perfect of Heb. 12.23. The usual pattern from the N.T. narratives seems to imply that spirits want to indwell bodies. Therefore, the best accommodation seems to have our soul/spirit indwell Christ’s resurrected body in heaven just after our earthly death. When a person receives Christ, they receive this whole package of blessings.