In my Father's house are many mansions
What lies beyond death?
The Hindu might claim reincarnation. The Muslim seeks a paradise, with Allah conspicuous by his absence. The atheist asserts there is nothing. What is the Christian hope?
In words that are read out at funerals the world over, Jesus says this:
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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.” (John 14:1-3)
First let’s examine two phrases that can send people on wild goose chases of interpretation. The word for “mansions” is difficult to translate. It occurs only one other time in the Bible – in this very chapter: “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.” (John 14:23) Perhaps, therefore, it’s best to understand verse 2 as something like “In my Father’s household, there are many abodes.” Jesus’ point is not about the architecture of our eternal habitation (extensions necessitated after every conversion!) . He is telling us about the roominess of the Father’s household. Always space for more!
The other phrase that can give the wrong impression is in verse 3: “I go and prepare a place.” This does not refer to some celestial renovations Jesus has to make before our rooms are ready. What prepares our place is not a team of angelic property developers. No, it is the going of Jesus that prepares our place. Jesus is speaking of the cross. His departure is His death on Calvary. That’s what secures our place.
So now that we have cleared the ground, what do we positively learn about our eternal hope? Just this: our hope is Christ Himself: “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (v3)
Here is the whole purpose of Christ’s coming. He is the One who was “with God in the beginning” (John 1:2). The Greek puts it more literally that Christ was towards the Father from eternity. He faces His Father and is ever drawn to Him, seeing His face (John 6:46) and resting in His bosom (John 1:18).
What then is salvation? It is being drawn by the Spirit of God into the Son of God, that He might bring us to where He is. As He prays in John 17:24
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
Eternal life is something that begins the minute we trust Christ, but it will be consummated in face-to-face fullness when we see Him. This destiny is to be with Jesus and therefore to participate in His life of loving fellowship with the Father and by the Spirit.
What will that look like? Well John 13 has given us a picture of it…
It was a good meal, good friends, good wine. People were relaxing around the table. One man seemed even more relaxed than the rest. We are told,
Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved… He then lying on Jesus’ breast [asked him a question] (John 13:23-25)
Here, we assume, is John himself – the author of this Gospel. As he tells the story he remembers leaning back against Jesus. Hearing His heart-beat. Listening to His breathing. John was one of the younger if not the youngest disciple. And he calls himself “the beloved disciple.” Clearly he felt completely at ease with Jesus – leaning back on his chest. Jesus had just washed their feet, He was teaching them about His Father and because it was Passover they would have been singing hymns around the dinner table. We can imagine, throughout, Jesus’ arm around His young friend as John leant back on Jesus.
John knew he could find rest, peace and welcome in the bosom of Jesus. And Jesus is the One who has eternal rest, peace and welcome in the bosom of the Father. Those few minutes around the dinner table are a picture of our everlasting hope. Those beloved of Jesus are invited into His arms as He rests secure in the Father’s.
No other view of the afterlife comes close to the personal hope of the Christian. Other religions may go into detail about the pleasures of paradise, but for Christians the focus is different. Christ is our life and He is our hope. Whatever else the future holds, this is the heart of it – warm, personal, feasting joy in the company of Christ, the Heavenly Bridegroom. Therefore, “Let not your heart be troubled”
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