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 14:2-3 (KJV)
We’ve all heard this passage before. Many of us know and love our future heavenly mansions. We imagine them as big and spacious, filled with gold and silver, the essence of luxury. Only one problem: Jesus never promised that we will have mansions.
The KJV was translated in the early 1600s. At this time, the word “mansion” didn’t carry any meaning of a large or fancy building. It basically just meant a place to stay. This could range in meaning from essentially a hotel room to an apartment to any house. The Greek word from which “mansion” was translated, monai, also has this meaning. See how these verses are translated in two modern translations:
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.
John 14:2-3 (NIV)
There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you. And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too.
John 14:2-3 (NET)
See what I mean? Now, this doesn’t rule out the possibility that we will each have a decked out house in the new creation, but Jesus didn’t say so. Fortunately, we know that our Father is truly a good father, and that He will provide for us good living conditions when the world is made new. Still, either way our future home may not be the point of these verses. Here is what the NET Bible notes have to say:
Most interpreters have understood the reference to my Father’s house as a reference to heaven, and the dwelling places (μονή, monh) as the permanent residences of believers there. This seems consistent with the vocabulary and the context, where in v. 3 Jesus speaks of coming again to take the disciples to himself. However, the phrase in my Father’s house was used previously in the Fourth Gospel in 2:16 to refer to the temple in Jerusalem. The author in 2:19-22 then reinterpreted the temple as Jesus’ body, which was to be destroyed in death and then rebuilt in resurrection after three days. Even more suggestive is the statement by Jesus in 8:35, “Now the slave does not remain (μένω, menw) in the household forever, but the son remains (μένω) forever.” If in the imagery of the Fourth Gospel the phrase in my Father’s house is ultimately a reference to Jesus’ body, the relationship of μονή to μένω suggests the permanent relationship of the believer to Jesus and the Father as an adopted son who remains in the household forever. In this case the “dwelling place” is “in” Jesus himself, where he is, whether in heaven or on earth. The statement in v. 3, “I will come again and receive you to myself,” then refers not just to the parousia, but also to Jesus’ postresurrection return to the disciples in his glorified state, when by virtue of his death on their behalf they may enter into union with him and with the Father as adopted sons. Needless to say, this bears numerous similarities to Pauline theology, especially the concepts of adoption as sons and being “in Christ” which are prominent in passages like Eph 1. It is also important to note, however, the emphasis in the Fourth Gospel itself on the present reality of eternal life (John 5:24, 7:38-39, etc.) and the possibility of worshiping the Father “in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24) in the present age. There is a sense in which it is possible to say that the future reality is present now. See further J. McCaffrey, The House With Many Rooms (AnBib 114).
Amen to being in Christ!