Jesus says in John 14, “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 14:1–3).
This is the King James Version, familiar to many Christians, its language deeply lodged in Christian hymnody and devotional piety.
Yet this is one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible. The problem is that Jesus’ comforting words here have been seen through the lens of medieval ideas of heaven rather than in light of the Old Testament and Jesus’ other teachings.
If we examine the whole chapter carefully, what do we find? Some key points:
“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.)
“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.”
“I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus assures his apostles that in going away (through his crucifixion and death), he is accomplishing the next step in God’s plan for his kingdom to come in fullness.
This verse echoes God’s word to Israel in Exodus 23:20, “I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.” Jesus very self-consciously fulfilled all the Old Testament promises concerning himself. In Exodus, the reference was to the Promised Land. In the New Testament, in fulfillment of the promises, the Promised Land becomes the whole earth, recreated as “new heavens and new earth.”
Jesus’ words here thus mean: “I go to accomplish the next step in bringing the complete fulfillment of God’s promises of salvation and creation healed.”
A Profound Truth
John 13–16 is a tightly woven discourse and acted-out parable, capped profoundly by Jesus’ prayer in John 17. John 14:1–3 is to be seen in this context. John 14 itself has several interlinked allusions to home, dwelling, and to coming and going. For instance:
“I go to prepare a place . . . I will come again and will take you to myself ” (vs. 3)
“My Father will love [those who love me and keep my commandments], and we will come to them and make our home with them” (vs. 23).
“I am going away, and I am coming to you” (vs. 28).
In these passages, Jesus is explaining the unexplainable. Note the apostles’ many questions and baffled reactions in John 13–16. You see them struggling but often failing to get it.
Like us, the apostles were limited to spacetime categories. That explains much of their confusion. Jesus says: It’s not about when and where; it’s about who; about the relationship.
A subtext of this whole passage is John 13:7, “Later you will understand.” Note other similar passages: “Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them” (John 10:6). “As yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (John 20:9). And especially, “his disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him” (John 12:26).
The point in John 14:2–3 is not the place, but the person—Jesus Christ. The key statement is: “Where I am, there you [will] be also.” And where will Jesus be? For awhile in heaven or Paradise, but then finally and everlastingly on earth when all is made new.
John 14:1–3 is not about heaven. It is about our “dwelling place” being eternally with God—beginning now on earth and in “the heavenlies” (Eph. 1:3, 2:6) as we love him and keep his commandments; for awhile in heaven before Jesus returns; and finally in the new creation—the new earth and heaven.
Jesus does not say in verse 3, “I will take you to heaven.” He says, “I will take you to myself.” And Jesus promised to return to earth, once for all.
The point in John 14:1–3: Not the place. Rather, the Person and the relationship. In the end, Jesus establishes the perfect relationship of shalom between himself, human beings, and the whole creation. For now, Jesus “must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:21).
Thank you Howard1 You have affirmed what I have been teaching, when I get the chance.
I’m reading on mobile and cannot access the mobile menu and only see 6 lines of text because your community ad is ssricky. I cannot see what I am typing.
We agree then. I heard that preached some years ago and you fortified it.
Thank you, God Blessings.
Thanks so much, Wayne! God bless.
Could it also mean the hats that they wore in those day?
I think this is the most important scripture in the New Testament. The biggest problem with Christianity for most people is that the dogma that excludes people from heaven that don’t follow his teachings. Mark 16:16. Although the authenticity of Mark is in question by most scholars. This passage of Jesus will prepare many Rooms in my Fathers Mansion is clear to me that ALL people are excepted of all faiths and creed.
Jenny, I think you misunderstood my piece. In any case, it is clear from Scripture that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ (though it leaves open the question of how much people actually must know about him in order to be saved), and that salvation means much more than “going to heaven” (as it’s often understood). See my book, “Salvation Means Creation Healed.”
Well said Howard. This teaching was great, thanks
There are many nations on earth, and many of them haven’t heard of Jesus Christ. They worship the divine by different names and in different ways, but all recognise transcendence. Are you suggesting that the Power that moves the planets and births the stars and makes manifest all the life forms that exist is going to be small enough to exclude those who don’t use the right words or address their prayers and petitions and love and recognition to the right name? There are indeed many mansions, all of which I believe are recognised by Creation, and room in them to accommodate all.
Thank you, Kate.
In response to your question [“Are you suggesting…”] — no, I am not suggesting that.
Your belief is an example of taking scripture out of context. Scripture clearly reveals your error. You must be Born Again. That can only happen when you ask Jesus to become your Lord. Everyone is born into Satan’s Kingdom because of Adam and everyone MUST change Lords / masters. Only then can one enter into the Kingdom of God. This IS the Gospel.
I trust in the Lord.
Jenny, no one is excepted. All are ACCEPTED. The Greek Orthodox very literal translation would be
I am the safe way that leads to heaven, I am the absolute and pure truth, which enlightens every man for salvation, I am the life and the giver of eternal life for all believers. No one can come to the Father to enjoy eternal life, except through me.
Not really the same as the Roman Catholic interpretation of the Greek. Personally I do prefer Jesus as THE LIGHT also from enlightenment, rather than LIFE, because I personally have seen the LIGHT. Mansion used to be the name of a room, so the old translation is outdated. In my Father’s house are many ROOMS is correct.
DO you mean ACCEPTED?
Sorry, I am not clear what your question is, Alan.
You are so right about the meaning of salvation, many mansions,and what the holy spirit is telling us all. Yes he is coming back just like he said. And its very sooner than we all think. Good news. Thank you for your true understanding.
Thanks for this commentary. I dug into May scripture about life death afterlife & abodes several years ago after my mother’s death to get a more biblical perspective than the ‘gospel of going to heaven at death’ so often preached, especially at funerals. I believe it’s not as much about where, but with whose family, God’s. Encompassing our welcoming His glorious return, reigning with Him on earth, and dwelling with God & the Lamb forever. It’s about Family.
Thank you very much, Carl.
Well said Howard. This teaching was great, thanks
Thank you, Robin Peace and grace, Howard
The scope of this wonderful insight of relationship and Jesus preparations, is confirmed with John 14.16. His sending of the Holy Spirit “Whom shall dwell with us forever.”
Thank you! I had a question “what does mansions mean in the scriptures” so I looked up the definition, then I wanted to try and confirm it and I thought it was interesting that a mansion was a room, now it makes more sense when he says he has mansions in his house. Haha, anyways, thanks for the insights!
Yes, thanks. Think of it as “plenty of space in God’s lodging house!” (In the 1600s, a “mansion” was a room. A “manse” was a pastor’s house.)
In the Old Testament, the Jewish Temple was the place where God dwell, or rather the place where God’s glory dwelt. Jesus, after driving out the money changers, quoting both Isaiah and Jeremiah, said, My Father’s House shall be called a house of prayer for all nations, how dare you make it a den of thieves. They asked by what authority He did those things, and He answered, Destroy this Temple and I will raise it up in three days. He was alluding to the fact that new His own Body had become the House of God, for in Him all the fullness of God dwells. John tells us that the Spirit could not be poured out because Jesus had not yet been glorified, which is a reference to His death and resurrection. Through His death and resurrection, He prepared a place for believers. He could now breath His Spirit into us, making us part of His Body, the Temple. And so through faith, now WE become part of the House of God. We are the Temple of Christ’s Body, which is God’s House. The “many” dwelling places, or mansions, are the Living Stones in the Temple, believers in whom God dwells by the Spirit. The Church is built of the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone. In Him the whole building is fit together and rises to become a dwelling place for God through the Spirit. We are the Living Stones that Christ is using to build His Body, the Church. The word wrongly translated a “mansion” means, dwelling, abode, an abiding, and Jesus used this same word when He told the disciples to remain, or abide in Him, and He in them. Both Timothy and Paul tell us that the Church is now the House of God. Just as our living on earth does not make the earth our House, so God living in heaven does not make heaven His House. His House is the Church, which will be consummated in the heavenly City, the new Jerusalem. Jesus said that “At that day,” meaning the day that He comes to receive them unto Himself, that they would know that He was in the Father and the Father was in them , and they in Him. It is talking about a mutual indwelling.
Amen!!!!!!! I agree to the above, after the veil was torned HIS PRESENCE depart (destroy this temple) and in 3 days enter in a new temple and after HIS resurrection the evening JESUS enter the place where the desiples gather and he blew on them and say receive the HOLY SPIRIT….. GOD moved into HIS new temple… Many dwelling places.. JESUS promised them ME an my FATHER wil come and dwell with you… Be Blessed.
Excellent commentary on John 14:2-3. Thank you. I’ve been thinking about John 14 along with 1 Thessalonians 4 and thinking about what F.F. Bruce said. He saw both passages teaching the same future but I believe he may have been a little weak on “My Father’s House” perhaps meaning heaven. You hit the nail on the head. God bless you.
Thank you, Sir.
In home country a song was composed with verse 2 of John 14.
“In my father’s house, there are many mansions there. In my father’s house, in my father’s house. In my father’s house there are many mansions there. In my father’s house ABOVE.
I’ve been wandering if Jesus had started a construction site in heaven.
God bless you for this eye opening article.
Thank you very much, Oladipo!
Hello…this was awesome and I appreciate very much the breakdown. I truly misinterpreted this scripture. Take care and God bless!!!
Thanks so much, Odessia! I am glad you found this.
May God help us understand and faithfully apply his Word.
Peace in Christ,
With all these explanations – do the mansions in my father’s house mean heaven or Jerusalem when Jesus returns? If it means Jerusalem – then where do we go when we die?
Hi, Josie — Thanks for the question!
I believe Jesus is here talking about heaven — that is, being in the very presence of God from the time we die until the General Resurrection and Jesus’ return to earth, bringing the new and restored heaven and earth — the final, flourishing New Creation in which all true Jesus followers will participate.
I might sound crazy but heaven and the heavenlies we usually refer to as looking upwards towards them. Whether they exist in a separate realm or a physical place that with technology we can attempt to gain access to like the tower of babel. For some reason I’ve always felt that when the Lord Jesus said in my father kingdom are many mansions I’ve always just had this weird gut feeling that there are so many things that God hasn’t told us yet (man’s wisdom is foolishness to God right?) So who’s to say that he’s never stopped creating. Ppl are born every minute so yeah sure he’s still being the amazing loving gifting creater I’ve come to know him as but what if planets in the the heavenly body of space ARE in fact the mansions he was referring to?? The Bible also says that no eye has seen no ear has heard what the Lord has in store. So looking at creation as a whole and how beautiful and amazing just all around jaw dropping it all is I can’t even imagine what he has planned for us who truly love him. Also if starts especially the ones that rotate around us the Bible claims them to be entities that chose to leave their first estate!!!… like hmmm I don’t know I wouldn’t be surprised when even at the age of like 5 years old sometimes I would look up at the sky knowing in my heart there was a much much higher power than me who was love literally and gave me peace and wanted me to never fear anything ever. Anyways yeah when I would look up although others inhabit the earth to I still got the feeling deep in my heart most likely at the same time God was dwelling there and stopping by to say high momentarily I would honestly feel like all of this all of creation was made just for me… so to have a planet fresh healthy and untouched and made by someone who knows me better than I know myself I really don’t think is to far fetched. Doesn’t the Bible say anything is possible for those who believe. That’s part of my testimony as a matter of fact that God’s invisible present bent the laws of physics right before my eyes and by doing exactly what I had ever so nicely asked him to do. Boy has my life ever been the same. I will ppl if they only knew what they were missing and that even while they’re naked and about to shower they’re carrying a heavy invisible ball and chain and super super heavy weights on their shoulders and then I tell them I can show you how to remove them and make your body feel brand spanking new from top to bottom. The enemy will try and tell you it’s all in your head but you know deep down there’s no way lol. Oh man praise the Lord Jesus Christ the most high and he who for only he knows the reason he chose to step in between me and the beast and save my life when I so didn’t deserve it. Ppl ask “you actually believe in God” I say those two things I said above and then I say yes I do how can you NOT believe in God look around you. Anyways sorry for the ramble and thanks for listening/reading if you stayed until the end. God bless you and your family and your territory. May you know abundance like Jesus wants us to.
Thank you, Zach!
Thanks so much, Zach.
Today 3Mar23 this very passage of scripture came to me as to what Jesus meant by “in my father’s house are many mansions”. My spiritual journey is guiding me to understand the presence of the Father living within us here on earth. Thank you for clarifying the meaning and I totally agree.
You are welcome! Thanks!
I googled the “many mansions” verse today, and I greatly appreciate your insights and scripture references. However, I believe the image Jesus presented for his disciples to think upon is that of a groom leaving his betrothed to go prepare a place in his father’s house. The groom would return after completing his work to take his bride to live with him and his family. Please, share your thoughts.
Yes, well put! Thanks.
I alwayys had trouble connecting Paul,s letter to 2nd Thessalonians and John 14 as i believe the preetribers make there foundation on,but your explaing of 14 makes Pauls our gathering together clear,Thanky you. He is Lord,
Thanks, Kevin! Much appreciated.
When prayerfully considering Hebrews 3:1-6 you get context, a much clearer picture of God’s new covenant house in which there is ample room for all whom the Lord our God may call (whose names were written in the Lambs Book of Life before the foundation of the world); each one of God’s people become one of the rooms in His house in which he dwells eternally; and if you want to continue to attribute a westernized natural application to the term mansion you have to consider the fact that those He called He justified through Christ and those He justified He glorified steadily bringing them into the fulness of the stature of Christ (getting those rooms cleaned up and made ready for His eternal in-dwelling) (like a mansion) especially when you consider Philippians 1:6 and Galatians 3:20; we will ultimately be transformed (Romans 12:1-2) back into the state we were in prior to the fall in the garden; He is coming back for a church without spot or wrinkle; the old man is dead and the new man is being raised to walk in newness of life; also consider Philippians 3:13-14; all this has to be quickened and spiritually discerned; if I’m going to have someone very special and very important coming over to dwell here at my (or in my) house I’m going to start cooperating with the Holy Spirit to get it ready and looking like a mansion; I agree with the writer of the original author of the article (Howard);