(This article is based upon my book, The Coming Kingdom of God: A Reference Guide to the Second Coming of Christ.)
The Bible says in John 14:2-3 that Jesus is preparing a place for us. The “place” Jesus is preparing actually comprises two phases to God’s master plan of redemption. First, it is a literal and physical new heavens and new earth that are every bit as real as our present heaven and earth. Second, it is a new and exponentially improved physical, spiritual, and eternal body.
Let’s look at the full promise in John:
Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions [dwelling places]; 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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.John 14:1-3
I prefer to place the promises of John 14:2-3 within the context of God’s full revelation of what He shared with us regarding His Father’s house, His preparation of a place for us, and Him returning to receive us unto Himself. This allows us the benefit of a more complete understanding of the John 14:1-2 promises.
Let’s look at the three-part promise of John 14:1-2.
1. “In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions”
The use of the word “mansions” has come under scorn recently by those who correctly point out that it is more linguistically literal to interpret the Greek word, mone, from which we get mansions, as “abode” or “dwelling places.”
I understand the desire for exactness. It is good to be exact. But I have noticed something whenever I hear this linguistic correction, and it’s not good. Linguistic exactness is chosen over biblically conceptual accuracy. It is a mistake when we rightly translate the word and then define it in a way that it diminishes the biblical concept of that word.
For instance, the more literal use of abode or dwelling place instead of mansion is usually followed by a non-biblical narrative that belittles or scorns the idea of mansions in heaven. The underlying tone is that mansions are bad, but abodes and dwelling places are good.
(Here’s a related article: Should We Seek Treasure In Heaven?)
The idea is that mansions, with its earthly connotations of opulence, grandeur, and personal space, are identified with being carnal, fleshly, unspiritual. Mansions are, therefore, identified with the ungodly pursuit of this world’s stuff.
Whereas, abodes and dwelling places are nondescript and can be anything–even a shack or a sleeping bag under the bridge. And in the minds of many, this is spiritual.
This being noted, I still can’t simply sweep under the carpet the truth that the more linguistically accurate word really is either abode or dwelling place.
Is Jesus Really Preparing Mansions for Us?
So why do the older Bible translations use mansions? It is because they were trying to use the Bible’s revelation of God and all He has told us of the world to come to give a clearer picture to the reader of the magnitude of the terms abode or dwelling place. A magnitude you don’t get from abode or dwelling place.
Now it’s fair to ask by what authority did the translators do this? I mean you can’t just arbitrarily use mansion instead of abode or dwelling place. Can you?
Well, let’s see whether the translators are being arbitrary.
The Dilemma of Abodes or Dwelling Places Vs Mansions
Honestly, as I stated above, abode and dwelling place tell you almost nothing if you use the terms alone. The world’s most lavish home is an abode and dwelling place. But so is the world’s most filthy, violent, rat-infested prison.
So, if John 14:2-3 is translated for linguistic accuracy at the expense of conceptual accuracy, we are left with each person interpreting the promises according to his or her own experience.
Here’s what I mean.
In the absence of biblically conceptual help from the translators, the rich and poor saint naturally interpret the promise of an abode or dwelling place by their own experience. The rich person gets a mansion; the poor person gets a shack.
We know this is a reasonable assumption because it makes no sense for the rich to believe Christ would offer him less than he has. So he has the benefit of logic to get him closer to conceptual accuracy of the promises in John 14:1-2.
Logic alone, however, doesn’t help the poor get closer to a biblical concept of what these promises include because his experience of poverty would lead him in the opposite direction of the fabulous riches of the kingdom to come.
This is the danger of private interpretation of the word of God, and why we are told to stay away from it:
But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation…2 Peter 1:20
Interpreting Scriptures in isolation from the rest of the word of God almost always lead to a deficient understanding, error, or false doctrine.
Is It Proper for Translators to Interpret John 14:2-3 as Mansions Instead of Abodes or Dwelling Places?
Bible translators seek to lessen the weakness of interpreting John 14:2-3 solely by their nondescript terms of abodes or dwelling places by looking at all the Bible says of these abodes and dwelling places. They then try to cram as much of the richness of the collective biblical definition into one word.
The result is mansion.
Personally, although no single word (or a million words!) can describe the greatness of God’s promises, I believe this collective biblical translation is far better than the silo, nondescript use of abodes or dwelling places. I mean, again, what in the world is an abode? Or a dwelling place?
We must understand the number one purpose of a Bible translator is to make the word of God understandable to readers of other languages, and to do so with as much linguistic accuracy as possible–without compromising understanding.
It is not linguistic accuracy or conceptual accuracy. It is both. That is why Bible translators use a variety of methods to translate the Bible. They know that if people don’t understand their translation, no matter how exact it may be, they have wasted their time.
Why Scorn the Use of Mansion Instead of Abodes or Dwelling Places?
Now about criticizing the use of mansion over abode and dwelling places.
I do not believe the traditional use of the word mansion instead of abode or dwelling place deviates one bit from the magnitude and conceptual truth of the Lord’s promise in John 14:2-3.
But okay, I give in. The Greek word mone is not literally mansion. It’s abode or dwelling place. Now let me ask you, What kind of abode or dwelling places do we think are in the Father’s house?
Some have offered these dwelling places are akin to apartments. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this. An apartment? Where does that come from?
How can we read explicit details of our new home in Revelation 21 and 22 and come up with an apartment building? And this after seeing the New Jerusalem? A city with streets of gold, gates of pearl, foundations of precious stones, and is the capital of the new heavens and new earth?
This is the type of thinking that imagines the throne of God to be a vinyl La-Z-Boy recliner, and the marriage supper of the Lamb to be a 45-minute affair at a sandwich shop.
Let’s not get sidetracked by mansion versus dwelling place. We know from the extravagant love of the Lord and the fascinating details of the New Jerusalem that God hasn’t expended such extreme effort to save us only to stick us in an apartment building or a modest shack in a heavenly ghetto!
Mansion is far more conceptually accurate than abode or dwelling place.
2. “I Go To Prepare A Place for You”
We need to enlarge our thinking to include all God has said to us of the place He is preparing for us. As I mentioned early in this article, the place is actually places. We know this by considering everything the Bible says about what God is preparing, and not limiting ourselves to only what John 14:2-3 mentions.
Again, it is a mistake to interpret Scriptures in isolation from the rest of the Bible.
The First Place Jesus Is Preparing For Us Is A New Heaven And New Earth
Brother and sister, listen to me.
You and I as New Testament believers, and being almost exclusively Gentiles, we are tempted to read John 14:2-3 as though Jesus was introducing totally new truth to the apostles when He promised them a “place.”
This is not true.
They understood that His promises were in the larger context of the eternal Messianic kingdom that was already promised to them in the Old Testament. What was new to them was not the future Messianic kingdom, but His future return to receive them.
One of the promises of the Old Testament that describes the place Jesus is preparing for us is here:
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing, and her people for gladness.Isaiah 65:17-18
Here is the New Testament equivalent of the the Lord’s promise to prepare a place for us:
But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.2 Peter 3:13
So, you see, there is soooooooo much more to the biblical concept of abodes and dwelling places. Abodes and dwelling places are nondescript and dull words incapable of exciting the imagination and inspiring hope. But what of new heavens and a new earth? That’s a tad bit more exciting than an abode or dwelling place.
Finally, on this point, Paul told us concerning this promised place:
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.1 Corinthians 15:50
You recall how in the beginning God created the first earth and heaven for Adam and Eve? He’s doing it again for you and I. That’s what is meant by “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:3).
What you can’t get out of that single verse, but can get from the rest of the Bible, is that just as Adam and Eve were given bodies appropriate for His Genesis creation of the old earth, we are given bodies appropriate for His Revelation creation of the new earth.
That is the topic of the next section: our new body. Or we could say, our new place.
The Second Place Jesus Is Preparing For Us Is A New Body
It is an astounding fact that the redemption of our body at the resurrection of the dead is not a topic of much discussion among the saints. Nonetheless, it is a foundational biblical doctrine. We may go farther than this. It is the foundational truth of the Bible.
You say, what about grace and faith?
The answer is if there is no resurrection, grace and faith are worthless–at least as far as salvation is concerned. Do my words sound too strong? I got them from the apostle Paul:
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith is also vain.
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.1 Corinthians 15:12-14, 16-17
The Redemption of Our Body
Paul says this concerning our new body, our new place, that Jesus is preparing for us:
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffer the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.Romans 8:22-23
Paul poetically describes the fallen state of the creation and its restoration, which includes new heavens, a new earth, and new bodies for us–the redemption of our body.
The next passage points to thrilling details of the powers and qualities of your new abode, dwelling place, and body:
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?”1 Corinthians 15:35
Is that something you’d like to know, too? What kind of abode or dwelling place Jesus is preparing for you? Here’s the answer:
It is sown [dies] a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown [dies] in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown [dies] in weakness, it is raised in power; it is [dies] sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.1 Corinthians 15:42-44
Most of this is self-explanatory. Our same body that dies will be raised imperishable. It will be glorious, powerful, and…spiritual. I need to comment on that last quality.
Please note that it will be a spiritual body and not a spirit body. The words have similar sounds, but that’s where the similarity ends.
A spiritual body means it is a physical body that no longer is predisposed to evil. Instead, it now naturally is inclined to righteousness. In other words, it’s spiritual.
On the other hand, a spirit body is not a physical body. It is a body with spirit substance, but no physical substance. It can’t be touched. Neither can it touch or experience the physical world.
Our new abode, or body, is a spiritual and physical body created to enjoy our new dwelling place, the new earth.
3. “I Will Come Again And Receive You To Myself”
We will receive the abodes and dwelling places Jesus promised when He returns. For more about His coming, read Why I Believe Jesus Is Coming Back Soon.
This coming again is known as the second coming of Christ. According to Jude 14-15, the prophet Enoch preached the second coming of Christ early in the days of the book of Genesis 5:18-24. That passage is not as well known as its famous counterpart:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first [this is the resurrection of the just]. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus shall we ever be with the Lord.1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
Are you ready for His coming? If not, get ready!
Turn to the Lord with all your heart. Repent of your sins and believe the gospel. The eternal God, Jesus Christ, came to earth in the flesh to die on the cross for your sins. He rose again from the dead and will return to earth to reward the righteous and punish the wicked.
Ask Him for mercy. Live a life of obedience to Him the rest of your days, and you will be ready. Then, you too, can look forward to the place Jesus is preparing for us.
- Will We Rule With Christ?
- Jesus Knows When He Will Return
- We Know Exactly When Jesus Will Return In Power And Glory
- We Can Know The General Time Of The Lord’s Sudden Return
- Can Jesus Return Before The Gospel Is Preached To The Whole World?
- Does The Bible Say We Will Get A New Body?
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