Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself: that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1-3)
To many Christians, this portion of the scripture is well known. Here Jesus clearly shows us His intention of taking us to heaven one day. It seems Jesus is right now building that place for us in heaven, with pearly gates and golden streets. But is this what Jesus had in mind? The purpose of this article is to see what Jesus meant, and to show that God's salvation is even greater than we had supposed.
What is God's House?
Jesus spoke of the Father's house. In the Old Testament times, God's house was His temple in Jerusalem. There God spoke to His people and dwelt among them. The priests had to offer blood sacrifices in order to approach the holy God who dwelt within the temple's holiest place. In Acts 7, Stephen gave a wonderful summary of the history of God's people, which reached its peak with the building of God's house:
But Solomon built Him a house. Yet the Most High does not dwell in that which is made with hands; even as the prophet says, Heaven is my throne, and the earth is a footstool for my feet. What kind of house will you build for Me, says the Lord, or what is the place of My rest? (Acts 7:47-49).
In the Old Testament times, God's house was physical, made by hands. However, with the coming of Jesus Christ, God's true intention was revealed. The New Testament unveils God's intention to dwell not just among man, but within man. The physical stones of the temple were just a picture of the New Testament reality in Christ.
First, Jesus Himself, the Son of God, was the real temple of God. He embodied God (Col. 2:9) and was even God Himself (John 1:1).
Jesus answered and said to them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then the Jews said, This temple was built in 46 years, and you will raise it up in three days? But He spoke of the temple of His body. (John 2:19-21)
Second, through His death and resurrection, this temple was enlarged to include His church, which is His Body, composed of all His believers. This church is the dwelling place of God today on earth, and the only house Jesus is building. Please consider all these verses:
I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (Matt. 16:18)
The household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Tim. 3:15)
You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)
For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor. 3:9, 16)
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Eph. 2:19-22)
What are the Many Mansions?
The word translated "mansions" in the King James version of John 14:2 is the Greek word "mone." This word simply means "abode" or "dwelling place." The same Greek form is used in verse 23, but there it is translated "abode."
Jesus answered and said to him, If anyone loves me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and we will come and make an abode with him. (John 14:23)
Consider how strange it would sound if we translated that word "abode" as "mansion." We have seen how that God's house today is the church, composed of individual believers in Christ. Each believer is an abode of the Holy Spirit, and is thus a dwelling place of God. Jesus said, "In my Father's house [meaning the church] are many abodes [individual believers]." There is no thought here of a mansion in heaven that He will build for us.
"I go to prepare a place for you"
To many this phrase means that Jesus went to heaven where He is now building us a heavenly mansion. But if Jesus is building His church on the earth, what does this phrase refer to? From the context of the passage, we can see that Jesus was referring not to His going to heaven, but rather to His death and resurrection. He went into death and rose again to prepare a place for us.
First, by means of Christ's death on the cross, we sinners were cleansed by His blood. God could not indwell us until He did this. This was the first part of Jesus' preparation to make us the house of God.
Second, by means of His resurrection, Christ became the life-giving Spirit to indwell us. This was His preparation so that He could indwell us.
The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.(1 Cor. 15:45)
And the Lord is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17)
The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (John 14:27)
By His death and resurrection, Jesus has truly prepared a place for us. This place is nothing less than the mutual abode of God and man. Man's place is God. God's place is man. Through Christ's preparation we can dwell in each other. This is far superior to dwelling in a heavenly mansion.
"That where I am you also may be"
Jesus made the goal of His preparation very clear: He wants us to be where He is. Please note that Jesus did not say "where I will be" but rather "where I am." Where was Jesus when He spoke this? He makes it very clear in the following verse:
Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. (John 14:11)
Jesus was a man who dwelt in God. God was His abode. Likewise, God the Father dwelt in Him. Jesus was the Father's abode. They mutually indwelt each other in a marvelous and mysterious fellowship. This is what set Jesus apart from every man who had ever lived. Jesus was not merely a good man. He was a God-man. And His desire was that we would be where He was, enjoying a life mingled with God.
In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. (John 14:20)
The mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:26-27)
From these verses we can appreciate that God's eternal goal is not merely to bring us to a heavenly mansion some day. Rather, God's goal is to make us that mansion. At the end of the Bible we read:
Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them. (Rev. 21:3)
This is the New Jerusalem, not a physical place, but a composition of all God's chosen people who have become God's dwelling place. Hence it is also called the Bride of the Lamb (Rev. 21:9), for it is composed of all those who love Jesus, our Bridegroom.
The significance of this is profound. If our hope is just to be taken away to a place someday, our life on earth loses much of its meaning. But if Christ can dwell in us today, and we enjoy His wonderful presence within our heart, our life becomes heaven on earth. No wonder Jesus began John 14 by saying "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me." The life we live is full of troubles. Disappointments and sufferings abound. Within we struggle with the flesh of sin, and without the world tempts us. But by the indwelling Christ, we can be freed from both. Even the outward sufferings work out for us an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17). Christ can make us a temple of God, even building us together with other believers to be a corporate house of God.
As Stephen said in Acts 7, God desires a house. This has been His eternal aim. As humans, we are homeless wanderers without Christ. God too is longing for His place of rest. Both God and man become satisfied in this mutual abode. Have you entered in?
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)