“In My Father’s house are many rooms (dwelling places); if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”(John 14:2-3)
Most of my life I’ve understood this verse as being about Heaven. But recently someone pointed out to me that the phrase “my Father’s house” is used by Jesus exclusively throughout the other Gospels to refer to the Temple.For example, early on in Luke when Jesus is separated from his parents for three days they find him teaching in the Temple. When they finally find him Jesus says, “Didn’t you know I would be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-50)Also, when Jesus clears the Temple of those who sell doves he declares, “stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” (John 2:15-17)
This makes a lot of sense in context as well if we look at what Jesus is speaking to His disciples about in this section of the Gospel of John. We find it’s all about what’s going to happen next, how to prepare for the coming persecution, etc.
If Jesus is speaking about the Temple here, and not about Heaven, then we need to try to re-read this section with new eyes.
Here’s what I think Jesus is teaching His disciples:
“In My Father’s house are many rooms (dwelling places)”
Here Jesus is stating that in the Temple (which is now the Church) there is room for many people. Throughout the New Testament, the Apostles talk about “dwelling places” where we (the people of God) find rest in our Lord and Savior. For instance:
“If anyone has my words and obeys me…we will come and make our house (dwelling place) with them.” – John 14:23
The same word Jesus uses here for “house” He also uses in the passage about the “many dwelling places” in His “Father’s house.”
“Christ is the Lord over his own house, whose house we are if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” – Hebrews 3:6
So, the idea that we, the Church, are now God’s “dwelling place” is all through the New Testament.
Let’s continue to look at the rest of the passage:
“if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”
Here, I believe, Jesus is telling His disciples that He needs to go – to get out of the way – in order to make room for them (the Church) to grow as He has promised.
“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
Jesus says that if He goes away, it will make room (prepare a place) for the disciples. He also says that where He is they will be also. Where is He going? To be with the Father. And as we’ve already seen, Jesus promised that “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode (dwelling) with him.” (John 14:23)Where does God dwell? In us – His Church. His Temple. We are His “Father’s House.”
The household of God is the Church:
“I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” – (1 Timothy 3:15)
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.” – (Ephesians 2:18-20)
“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 2:4-6)
This promise of Jesus to go away in order to prepare a place for the Temple to expand into the “many rooms” or “dwelling places” was fulfilled at Pentecost when Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and preached the Gospel of the Kingdom and thousands followed Christ in that day. And this promise is still ongoing right now.
So, it may be that Jesus isn’t promising us “mansions in Heaven” after all. In fact, most of the scriptures indicate that our eternal destination is to live here, on a New Earth, and reign with Christ forever.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” – (Revelation 21:1-3)
I’m curious to hear what others think about this passage in John and whether or not you agree that Jesus is speaking about the Temple (His Church) when He speaks about His “Father’s House” in John 14.
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Keith Giles is the author of several books, including “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb”. He is also the co-host of the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Orange, CA with their two sons.