John 14:2 records Jesus’ reassurance that there would be a place for all believers in Heaven. “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?”
Are these literal rooms? Will we live in actual mansions? And is the number of rooms we receive an indication of our heavenly status? A helpful start is to trace Jesus’ words back to the Greek.
In Jesus’ Words
Mike Raiter writes, “The KJV word rendered as ‘mansion’ is mone, which most modern versions translate more accurately and prosaically as ‘place.’ It simply means ‘room’ or ‘dwelling place’.” Our home in heaven might not be a palace. Moreover, as Raiter says, Jesus is talking about never leaving his disciples; about dwelling with those who obey God. “We will come to them and make our home with them.”
In John 1:23, Jesus uses the word “mone” once more to mean “home.” According to Raiter, Jesus later uses the verb form of mone, which is “meno” meaning “remain or abide.” Jesus “encourages his disciples to ‘remain in me’ and assures them that he will also remain in them.”
Jesus speaks of “dwelling with his disciples now — in this new age, about to be inaugurated by his death, resurrection and the gift of the Spirit.” Jesus has promised to live in relationship with his people, just as the Father, Son, and Spirit live together.
“Home” is wherever Jesus is. Christians abide with Christ at all times even now, in the Spirit. In his article, “What is Heaven,” Ed Jarret refers to the parables of Matthew 13. “Rather than describing a future abode of believers, they describe heaven as a present reality. A kingdom that is growing; one that is worth all we have; and impacted by unbelievers.”
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matthew 13:33). John Gill wrote that “to be ‘leavened’ by the Gospel, is to be evangelized by it, to be brought into the life and liberty of it.” There is life and liberty in having the promise of heaven ahead of us.
What about the Many Rooms?
But what do heavenly dwellings look like? Middle Eastern homes “often included many built on additions where extended family members lived. The idea of the Father’s house with plenty of room being prepared for His children would have [...] resonated well with Jesus’ hearers.” The experience for householders in many other cultures, during Jesus’ time and now, is similarly family-oriented and crowded.
By way of contrast, many 21st century Western Christians are accustomed to their own space: To each person owning or renting a home; children with their own rooms; households featuring separate rooms for eating, watching TV, storage, office work, and more. In Western Culture, the individual is preeminent. “Self” is raised above everything else. “Self” is the monarch of a kingdom of one.
On the other hand, to be hidden in Christ with God (Colossians 3:3) is to be filled with his Spirit, with his kingdom. “My Father’s house has room to spare. If that weren't the case, would I have told you that I'm going to prepare a place for you?” (CEB). This version of John 14:2 depicts God’s kingdom, our future home, as a place that is never too crowded to accommodate more believers, but it does not suggest we each get a room to ourselves.
There will be space for everyone, but its dimensions and decor are not described. We might live in our own rooms, our own homes, on mats in a circle, or in tents resting peg-to-peg. Perhaps heaven is like the Great Hall in a medieval castle where everyone slept together in one palace, including the King.
While the most important residents of the medieval Great Hall were separated from others by a curtain, Christians are not and will not be separated from God by anything. The curtain is torn, and God dwells in Christians today.
Priestly and Portable
In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you (HCSB).
There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? (MSG).
Jesus alludes to the temple, what Jesus’ audience considered to be “my Father’s house.” While the Message calls it a “house,” the Holman Christian Standard Bible refers to “My Father’s Home” which is familiar; familial.
You are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:22).
Christians are the temple, united as a family by their common bond in Christ, not by their current location or time in history. The earth is where they live, but it is not their home. The Father’s house/temple has many rooms. Jesus did not explain if these were personal quarters, or if they were rooms for performing service for the king. Sewing. Composing music. Cooking etc.
So, the “house” or “temple” is one kingdom, yet its many saints are already like so many “rooms” within the temple. Before dwelling in heaven, Christians represent the kingdom here in the ways they serve the body and reach out to the lost. The temple is a mobile home. Christ brought the kingdom to individuals; he did not sit in the temple waiting for people to come to him. He came (and he comes) to people whose lives are a wreck.
Think of the Samaritan woman. He brought her straight into the safety of the central courtyard with its Living Water, a drink of welcome and belonging. Christians are commanded to throw open the temple doors and invite the spiritually homeless and thirsty into God’s midst, while Christ is away preparing their permanent home.
What about Heavenly Status?
Does it matter if we receive our own mansion when we die, or a room within a mansion, or the biggest, fanciest type of room? For Christians, the veil is removed, and why would we want to be separated from our God or our brothers and sisters? The sin that makes relationships difficult will be finished with.
The Christian family, installed in the Kingdom for eternity, will be perfect. We will not wrestle with pride, greed, or fear. We will not yearn for self-indulgent pleasures. Our primary focus will be what it should have been on earth, but what our sinful nature often distracted us from: The glory of God.
As for our status in heaven, God says the “first will be last and the last will be first” (Matthew 20:16). Those who experienced the worst types of suffering will know the greatest honor in heaven. The men and women who loved the Lord but also enjoyed privilege and honor will not be dishonored, but they will give their place to the impoverished faithful.
Yet, when the Lord returns, he will “gather the people of Israel “and “be proved holy through them in the sight of the nations. Then they will live in their own land [...] in safety and will build houses and plant vineyards; they will live in safety when I inflict punishment on all their neighbors who maligned them” (Ezekiel 28:24-26).
He does not suggest a class-based rescue in this verse; no reversal of fortunes. God emphasizes the positives: Holiness, validation, safety, inheritance. If we want to know how privileged we are, we need only recognize this contrast: God’s people made safe versus their enemies, who will endure God’s punishment.
In heaven, the room we are assigned will not matter: We are welcome through the doors into Jesus’ presence for all time. When the disciples became excited by their authority over sickness and demons in Jesus’ name, their Messiah urged them “do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)
We have victory over sin, over death, and this is the truth for those who trust in Jesus for salvation; however, even more amazing is who we are in Christ, not where. The room or set of rooms or the mansion or shack or tent where we reside in his presence will not represent us: Our faces will reflect the glory of the holy God who is in our midst and who calls us to a home we can scarcely imagine.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.