Many people today regard John 14 as our Saviour’s promise of heaven to His disciples. I wonder whether the AV (“Authorized Version” also known as “the King James”) translation of μοναι as “mansions” is a main factor. Interestingly, the AV translates the same word (in the singular) as “abode” in verse 23. I won’t say that “mansions” is a mistranslation in verse 2, for in the 17th century, “mansion” was a synonym for “abode” or “dwelling.” Webster’s dictionary gives “abode” or “dwelling” as the “archaic” meaning of “mansion.” However, “mansions” won’t do for our day, for the word now means “a large and impressive house.”
The expression “father’s house” in the AV, occurs 4 times in the New Testament. Clearly the other 3 times do not refer to heaven. In one of them Jesus uses “my father’s house” in reference to the temple. In each of the other two, the house of a human father is denoted. In the Old Testament the phrase “father’s house” occurs 58 times in the AV, none of which refers to heaven. Most of them refer to some person’s household, as they do in Hebrews 3: 5,6 in the AV:
The writer to the Hebrews seems to indicate that the disciples of Christ or Christians collectively form the household of Christ. Since the Son of God is the exact imprint of the Father’s essence (Heb 1:3), could Christ’s household also be called the Father’s household? This is exactly what I think Jesus was talking about when He said, “In my Father’s household there are many dwellings.” There is a special dwelling place for every disciple of Jesus in His Father’s household, that is, in “the Assembly of God” as it is called elsewhere, or as later Christians called it “the Church of God.”
When we begin reading John 14, with the understanding that God’s people comprise “God’s house,” then the chapter takes on a completely different meaning. Or it can also be thought of as a building in the figurative sense (1 Cor 3:9,10). Each person has his own special place in that building as a living stone, built into a “spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5)
Let’s examine John 14 with this is mind. Here is my personal translation with my commentary:
1 Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.
2 In my Father’s household, there are many dwellings. Otherwise, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you?
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again and will receive you to myself, that where I am, you may be also.
After Jesus was resurrected, He became “a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45). Then He began to build His assembly (Matt 16:18). This is the way in which He would come again and receive His disciples to Himself, for the Body of Christ is called “Christ” in some contexts (e.g. 1 Cor 12:12), for Christ is the head of the many-membered body. He would dwell in the Body as the head, so that where He is (in His Body of Assembly) there his disciples would be (after His resurrection).
4 And you know the way where I am going.
5 Thomas says to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?
6 Jesus says to him, “I am the way, and the reality, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The disciples should have understood that Jesus was going to establish His Body, His Assembly, and they should have understood the way to become part of that Assembly. But they didn’t understand Him. Then He indicated that the way into His Assembly, the Father’s House, was through Him alone. He is the way into that House; He is the reality of His Assembly; He is the life of His Assembly. No one can come to God except through the Son.
*7 If you had been getting to know me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you are getting to know him and have become acquainted with him.
8 Philip says to him, “Lord show us the Father and we shall be satisfied.”
9 Jesus says to him, “Am I so long a time with you, and you do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. So how can you say, “Show us the Father?”
10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? I don’t speak from myself the words that I tell you. Rather it is the Father remaining in me who does his works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me. But if not, believe because of the works themselves.
12 Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever entrusts [himself] to me, will do greater [than] these, because I am going to the Father,
13 and whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, in order that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If ever you ask anything in my name, I will do it. *
Since Jesus is another, exactly like His Father in His nature (God is Love), who has the same intentions, characteristics, and purposes, then to know Him is to know the Father. If I show you a photo of myself, and then a copy of that photo, you might say “It’s the same photo!” Yes, in one sense, it’s the same, but in another sense it’s different—in the sense that it is numerically different. Even though Jesus is Another exacly like the Father, He is not the Father, but another divine Individual.
15 If ever you love me, you will keep my commandments.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate, that may be with you permanently,
17 the spirit of truth which the world cannot receive, because the world does not view nor perceive him. You perceive him, because him remains with you and will be in you.
Again Jesus indicated the importance of keeping his commandments, as He does at the end of John 7. It is part of being His disciple, of becoming part of the Father’s House. Then He is going to send another advocate, His spirit, His extended Person, and the Person of the Father. Together the Father and the Son would dwell in the Assembly. Though the Father and the Son essentially dwell in Heaven, they can extend their Persons anywhere in the Universe, but especially into the Assembly of God and of Christ, and that extension is their spirit.
18 I will not leave you as orphans. I am coming to you.
In this context, Jesus refers to His coming into His Body, into the Assembly which He would build. This is NOT a denial of His personal coming at the end of the age. It’s just that He is not speaking of that coming here, but of His coming through His spirit into His Assembly, and forming His House, His Body.
19 Yet a little, and the world no longer views me, but you view me. Because I live, you will live also.
20 In that day, you will understand that I am in my father, and you in me, and I in you.
When Jesus died, the world no longer saw Him. As far as they were concerned, He was dead and gone forever. But when He came through his spirit to His disciples, they continued to “see” Him, that is, experience Him. We are alive spiritually because He lives! We are in Christ and Christ is in us.
21 He who has my commandments and keeps them, he is the one who loves me. Now he who loves me will be loved by my father, and I will love him and will show myself to him.
22 Judas (not Iscariot) says to him, “Lord, what has happened that you are about to show yourself to us and not to the world?
23 Jesus responded by saying, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our dwelling with him.”
Those who keep Jesus’ commandments (Matt 5, 6, and 7) are the ones to whom Christ comes though His spirit, His extended Person. He would in this way show Himself to His disciples. After His resurrection, when Jesus began to build His Assembly, He and the Father, in spirit, came to His disciples and made their dwelling (μονη) permanently with them. This presence of the Father and the Son in Christians is known as “the holy spirit.”
24 He who does not love me does not keep my sayings. Also, the word which you hear is not mine, but that of the Father who sent me.
25 These things I have spoken to you while I still remain with you.
26 Now the advocate, the holy spirit, which the father will send in my name, that one will teach everything to you, and remind you of everything which I told you.
Here Jesus speaks again of the holy spirit, almost as if he were another person. But remember that Jesus said the spirit could not come unless He first departed. Why would that be? I suggest that while Jesus lived on earth as a man, his spirit was confined to his body. But after his resurrection, He became “a life-giving spirit”, that is, the holy spirit.
27 Well-being I leave to you; well-being I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, not let it be fearful.
28 You heard that I told you I am going and coming to you. If you had been loving me, you would have rejoiced that I am going to the father, because the father is greater than I.
Jesus encourages his disciples not to worry or be fearful. Again He reminds them that He is going from this present life and coming to them again through his spirit.