God's House of Many Mansions

John 14:2,3
2 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. 3 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.

In the Authorised Version of the Bible the heading of this fourteenth chapter of John begins thus: "Christ comforteth his disciples with the hope of heaven." This is a sufficient illustration of the way in which the passage is wrested. It should say, "with the hope of his coming again." A modern version (Weymouth's) gives a more faithful heading, thus: "Christ's Departure and Return." The Return of Christ is the great hope, apart from which there can be no "Father's House of Many Mansions." As to heaven, God has not promised it to any man. "The heavens are the Lord's, but the earth hath he given to the children of men" (Psa. 115:16). "No man hath ascended up to heaven" (John 3:13). "David is not ascended into the heavens" (Acts 2:37).

"God is in heaven," truly, but that is "in the light which no man can approach unto" (1 Tim. 6:16). God will "dwell with" men hereafter — "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men" (Rev. 21:3). And it was this house of the Father that was the basis of Christ's promise to his disciples.

The Father's House is for the Father to dwell in. "Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all these things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:1,2). Here is the idea of God dwelling in a good man, and of a good man dwelling in God; in whom, in a sense, we all "live, and move and have our being" (Acts 17:27,28). Adam had no house, and Jesus had no house; yet this was true of both Adam and Jesus, and of Jesus in a higher sense than of Adam. A literal temple without righteous worship was a mere "den of thieves" (Jer. 7:11; Matt. 21:13), and not a true "house of God" at all. And even so Jerusalem was overthrown "like Shiloh" (Jer. 26:6), because of the wickedness of priests and people. The Lord Jesus is "the sanctuary, and the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man" (Heb. 8:2; Isa. 8:14); and when he cleansed the temple in Jerusalem, and the Jews asked him a sign of his "authority," he said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.... He spake of the temple of his body" (John 2:19,21), and the disciples remembered the saying when he was raised from the dead.

When Jesus spoke of the Father's house he adopted the word of God by Isaiah: "He shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house" (Isa. 22:22,23). This was spoken to Eliakim, but he typified the Lord Jesus, as did David; and it is the throne and kingdom of David that is in question. In Rev. 3:7, Jesus, taking up the express terms of this prophecy, describes himself to the church at Philadelphia as "he that hath the key of David," and adds, "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: even my new name" (verse 12). Thus it will be seen that this "temple of God" is to be composed of a multitude of faithful servants of Christ who shall be made immortal like him. He was "faithful as a Son over God's house," and greater than Moses, who was but "a servant" (Heb. 3:1-6). And, the apostle adds, "God's house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." So again Peter says: "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house " (1 Pet. 2:5), upon the foundation of Christ, the "chief corner-stone, elect, precious," though rejected by the "builders" of Israel (Psa. 118:22). The faithful saints are thus "built up" "into an holy temple in the Lord ... for a habitation of God through the spirit" (Eph. 2:20). And the apostles taught them "how to behave ... in the house of God, which is the church of the living God" (1 Tim. 3:15). They were "God's building" (1 Cor. 3:9), and were warned that "if any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy" (verse 17).

"Mansions".— The word mansion has come to signify chiefly a large and stately residence, for instance, The Mansion House, in London, the official residence of the Lord Mayor. But its radical idea is not grandeur, magnificence, but permanence, as opposed to temporality. It comes from the Latin manere, to remain, whence manse, a parsonage. In the Revised Version, "abiding places" is substituted for "mansions," and far more faithfully conveys the meaning of the original. The same Greek word, mone, in the singular is translated "abode" in verse 23, "If a man love me he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him." Contrast the temporal estate of sinners: "The servant (of sin) abideth not in the house for ever; but the Son abideth ever" (John 8:35). He "abideth a priest continually" (Heb. 7:3). The apostles were "pillars" (Gal. 2:9); but even they did not "abide," but "went out" in death. But Christ, being raised from the dead, "goes no more out" (Rev. 3:12); and he promises that the faithful shall be like him, immortal in the kingdom of God upon earth, for "the kingdom shall not be left to other people ... it shall stand for ever" (Dan. 2:44).

This was Daniel's inspired reference to the kingdom of Christ when "the kingdoms of this world" are become his by conquest (Rev. 11:15). In view of these things, and of the kindness of God in calling the disciples to his kingdom and glory, Christ exhorts them, saying, "Abide in me, and I in you. ... If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love" (John 15:4,10). In all these places the word for "abide," "abideth," etc., is the same as in John 14, and the passages illustrate the meaning of the term "mansions," more correctly rendered "abiding places" in the Revised Version. The promise of Christ amounts to a promise of everlasting immortal "abiding places" in the kingdom of God. He conveyed the same idea when he said, "I appoint unto you a kingdom as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel " (Luke 23:29,30).

"Prepare a Place".— Not in heaven, God's dwelling place; this is not unprepared, and there is no "place" for men there. Christ indeed ascended up to heaven, but he said to his disciples, " Whither I go ye cannot come" (John 13 : 33); and this a moment before the promise of abiding places in the Father's house. Christ "prepares a place" for his disciples, and them for their place by his high priestly mediation in "the house of God" (Heb. 3). Under God, he "builds the house" (verses 3, 4), preparing the stones for their places, and their places for them. Right hand and left hand places of honour in his kingdom depend upon ability to suffer with him, God being Judge of the worthiness. Hence Jesus said to the mother of Zebedee's children: "To sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father" (Matt. 20:23).

Peter was in danger of losing his place by denying his Lord; but Jesus said, "I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:32). To strengthen the brethren is to prepare a place for them, and them for a place in the Father's house, for the apostles were co-workers with God and Christ (1 Cor. 3:9-10 ; 1 Pet. 2:1-11). The work is according to the beautiful typical analogy of the building of Solomon's temple for which David said, "I have prepared with all my might" (1 Chron. 29:2). Gold, silver, gems, marbles, precious woods, etc., were "prepared" "in abundance" beforehand; and at last, in Solomon's days, when the place was prepared, they were silently brought together in Jerusalem, "so that there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was in building " (1 Kings 6:7).

"I will come again, and receive you unto myself".— This is the pith and marrow of Christ's promise. He will, as a "greater than Solomon," come again to Jerusalem, and manifest "the Father's house" and kingdom there. He will say to his friends, then (and not before), "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 25:31,34). And the literal "temple" he will rebuild as "an house of prayer for all nations " (Mark 11:17 ; Ezek. 43:7).

Reproduced from: The Christadelphian Shield: Papers Explanatory of Wrested Scriptures