Are we really getting a mansion in Heaven?

 

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4) (NIV) 

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. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. (KJV).  

Ok, this one may hurt a little bit. But knowing the context is critical in understanding a verse, but so is the original language of a text, in this case Greek, since it was written in Greek. So, because of that, I have provided 2 versions of the same text of John 14:1-4. The first is the New International Version, (NIV) and the other, is the classic King James Version (KJV). If you look at the KJV it translates the word rooms as mansions. And that is the word many Christians historically have used it. I have even heard ole time saints sing about the mansions they will have in heaven when they see Jesus. And as much as I love the saints, is that the context of this verse? Well, let’s see! 

If you look at the NIV version, it translates the word as rooms. Well if you research the word in the original Greek, the word rooms in a better translation then mansions. Because the word translated in the Greek actually means, dwelling places or a side room attached the main room or house if you will. So, “rooms” is the better translation there, not that the KJV got it wrong but in the 1600’s mansions meant something different than what it does today, more on that in a moment.  So, once we understand that language the text reads, Jesus is preparing a place for us because in His Father’s house there are many dwelling places! So, why was the word translated as mansions in the first place?  

“Many mansions.” In King James’ day, a “mansion” was a room, not a huge, fancy house. Today most translations say “many dwelling places” (NRSV), or “plenty of room,” as the TNIV helpfully puts it. Jesus’ central meaning is this: There is plenty of room with God. (It apparently has not troubled many Christians that “In my Father’s house are many mansions” is nonsensical as “mansion” is popularly understood.)[i] So mansion is not a huge fancy house as we understand it today but a side room, or dwelling place. In the 1600’s the word mansion meant side room or dwelling place, not the fancy house we think today. Ok, are you with me so far? OK, good, because it’s about to get real!  

So, what is meant by the Father’s house then? Well, glad you asked, because one translation is: “My father’s house.” This does not mean heaven. Heaven is not mentioned once in the whole chapter. What then is the “Father’s house”? 

Jesus speaks out of the context of the whole Old Testament revelation. In the older Testament, the Lord’s “house” or “dwelling place” is an immensely rich idea. It essentially means the place or places where God’s presence is manifest. Often in the Psalms God’s “house” or “dwelling” is the temple in Jerusalem. Other times it refers to the whole creation, or even the whole universe. Some Psalms describe God himself as our “dwelling place” (Ps 90:1, 91:9). The point is: God’s “house” or “dwelling place” is wherever God is and wherever his presence is made evident and his will is done. Jesus assumes this in many of his discourses. The meaning of John 14:2 is, “There is plenty of room with God.”[1] (Emphasis Mine).  

Another interpretation of my Father’s house is the dwelling place of where God is. So, after the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, where is the dwelling place of the presence of God? You guessed it, we are! How do we know? Corinthians 6 tells us, Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spiritwho is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies. (1 Cor 6:19-20).  

So where is the Father’s house now? It’s in you, if you have been born again and a member of God’s household! So where is the dwelling place or room, or mansion now? It’s in you! By the Power of the Holy Spirit. This makes total sense also when we read further in John 14 when Jesus speaks of the coming Holy Spirit. Jesus says, 

 “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our homewith them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:23-27).  

Interestingly enough, the word home there in verse 23, is the same Greek word Jesus used for dwelling place earlier in the beginning of the chapter. So, if you were to carry over the mansion or room word Jesus is saying He and the Father will make our mansion with them, meaning or dwelling place or room with them. Right after Jesus says that, Jesus speaks of the coming Holy Spirit. So, one interpretation, and I happened to agree with is: Jesus will make His room and the Father as well, will make there dwelling place with us when the Holy Spirit comes and lives inside of us! If this is correct, then this verse is not talking about heaven at all, but a point in time on the earth when the believer gets saved and the Holy Spirit comes in and dwells on the inside of us. Sorry, if that messed with your theology or killed your mansion in heaven, smile, but yeah, that might be what the verse is talking about, and if so, we have been using this verse wrongly for years.  

This interpretation makes sense because we know Jesus is preparing His disciples here in John 14 for His present death coming up. So, Jesus preparing a place for us is speaking of His present death and future resurrection and then ascending to Heaven and being at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us. After that, in Acts 2, at the Day of Pentecost, He sends the Holy Spirit to indwell all believers. I like the way one guy concludes it: 

 “So, sorry, there are no mansions in the sky. Just a much richer expression in the new creation of what we experience now, by our life in the Spirit. Right now, we are at home with the Father and the Son and the Spirit. And there’s plenty of room for everyone, from every tribe, nation and tongue”[2] (emphasis mine).   

So, no matter which interpretation you use, (the room is where God is, or we now contain the presence of God or house or room that God dwells via the Holy Spirit) either way, mansion does not mean fancy house in the sky. Anyway, that’s a lot so I’ll stop here for today. Blessings!  


[1] Ibid.  

[2] Internet. Mike Raiter is the Director of the Centre for Biblical Preaching in Melbourne. https://au.thegospelcoalition.org/article/mansions-sky-rethinking-john-142/Mansions in the Sky? Rethinking John 14:2.  


[i] Howard Snyder, Internet. Professor in Manchester England. https://www.seedbed.com/fathers-house-many-mansions/Father’s House-Many Mansions.  

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