Did Jesus Christ promise believers that upon their deaths, they would receive mansions in heaven?
Jesus told His disciples, “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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
Some claim that “My Father’s house” refers to heaven. That Jesus was going to prepare a place there for the disciples—and, by extension, for all believers. But by examining Christ’s words and their context, we will see that He meant something quite different!
A primary key to unlocking Jesus’ intent lies with His conclusion: “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
Don’t be misled by the relatively recent doctrine of the rapture. The Bible does not teach that Jesus’ second coming is only a “grab and go” to snatch the saints off to heaven. Everything prophesied in the Old Testament and reiterated in the New Testament affirms that when He comes, He stays.
Read these unmistakable prophecies regarding Christ’s second coming: “Behold, the day of the LORD is coming … And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives … Thus the LORD my God will come, and all the saints with You … And the LORD shall be King over all the earth” (Zechariah 14:1, 4, 5, 9, emphasis added throughout).
Angels echoed Zechariah’s words as the disciples watched the resurrected Christ rise in the sky. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
The entire Bible is rich with assurances that Christ (the Messiah) will return to the earth to reign over the Kingdom of God. Read more of them in “Where Will Jesus Return?” Although widely embraced by much of today’s Christianity, the rapture wasn’t taught until the early 19th century. See “Did Jesus Teach the Rapture?” and “Left Behind: The Truth” to discover what the Bible says, and what it doesn’t say, about Jesus’ return.
Now let’s look at the meaning of “My Father’s house.”
My Father’s house
When Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions,” many assume that Jesus was telling His disciples that God the Father has a magnificent home in heaven that has many mansions—places of dwelling—and that He [Jesus] was going to heaven to prepare a place of dwelling there for each of His followers.
Closely connected with this belief is the mistaken assumption that heaven is the ultimate destination of the saints—that when believers die, they immediately go to heaven. To the contrary, Scripture consistently teaches that after faithful Christians die, they will sleep in their graves until Christ returns and then be resurrected to immortal life to rule with Christ in the Kingdom of God on the earth.
(If this is new to you, perhaps you have not fully studied what the Bible says. “What Is Heaven?” brings together the relevant scriptures, so that you can prove what the Bible teaches.)
My Father’s house—a reference to the temple
The phrase “My Father’s house” is found only two times in the New Testament (John 2:16; 14:2). On both occasions John is quoting Jesus. The first usage shows that Jesus was clearly referring to the temple that stood at that time in Jerusalem.
His first use of the phrase occurred when He visited the temple at the first Passover of His earthly ministry. Jesus shocked the unscrupulous merchants who were conducting business there. With the crack of a whip, He drove out the animals being sold and “poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.” As He did this, He said, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (John 2:15-16).
No one could possibly misunderstand Christ’s meaning on this occasion! Clearly, “My Father’s house” was the temple. The disciples were as stunned as the merchants were by Jesus’ actions. It was an extraordinary and significant incident.
John wrote that the disciples were reminded of the messianic prophecy: “Zeal for Your house has eaten me up” (Psalm 69:9).
Considering all this, it seems logical that “My Father’s house” in John 14:2 also referred to the temple. But were there “mansions” in the temple? Actually, there were!
Mansions in the temple?
Mansion in today’s English implies a magnificent home. However, its original meaning was much simpler: just a home, dwelling or an abode (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary). Translators of the King James Version (in 1611) chose this word because at that time it closely reflected the meaning of the original Greek word in John 14:2, which is mone. The New Revised Standard Version translates it as “dwelling places,” and the New International Version and the English Standard Version translate it as “rooms.”
The same word is translated as “home” in John 14:23: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
There were a number of apartments or living quarters built into the walls of Solomon’s temple. Priests and Levites lived in them; they also used them as offices and storage facilities. Here are some Old Testament references to them:
- 2 Kings 23:11 speaks of King Josiah removing idolatrous images that were “at the entrance to the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathan-Melech, the officer who was in the court.”
- 1 Chronicles 9:33 tells of temple “singers, heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites, who lodged in the chambers.”
- 1 Chronicles 9:26 tells of storage facilities: “For in this trusted office were four chief gatekeepers; they were Levites. And they had charge over the chambers and treasuries of the house of God.”
- 2 Chronicles 31:11-12 records that King “Hezekiah commanded them to prepare rooms in the house of the LORD, and they prepared them.” These chambers were for storing “the offerings, the tithes, and the dedicated things.”
- Jeremiah 35:4: “I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door.”
- Jeremiah 36:10: “Then Baruch read from the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe.”
The temple in Christ’s day also had such rooms. Jesus’ disciples would have been familiar with these living quarters (dwelling places or abodes) in the temple. As such, it appears that Jesus had the temple in mind when He again spoke of “His Father’s house” in John 14:2.
My Father’s house—in heaven
As our High Priest in heaven, He is determining where each of us—according to our faithfulness to Him, our talents and our abilities—can best be used in those future plans (Hebrews 9:11).At the same time, Christ did say, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2), and He did return to heaven just as He had previously told His disciples. “Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’” (John 13:33).
So, does God have a house/temple in heaven? The scriptural indications are that He does.
The book of Hebrews explains that Jesus is now “a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man” and that the tabernacle erected by Moses served as a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:2, 5). Furthermore, we are told that Jesus is now “seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (verse 1).
Additional passages confirm that God has a throne in heaven. Notice a few of these:
- “Then Micaiah said, ‘Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left’” (1 Kings 22:19).
- “The LORD is in His holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men” (Psalm 11:4).
- “The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19).
- “Thus says the LORD: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?’” (Isaiah 66:1).
Jesus’ work in heaven
Now let’s consider what Jesus’ words “I go to prepare a place for you” mean.
In connection with Christ’s promise in John 14:2, the Bible speaks of the preparation of the Kingdom of God and New Jerusalem.
- Speaking of the time after He returns to earth and when people will be judged, Jesus said, “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’” (Matthew 25:34, emphasis added throughout).
- After Jesus’ millennial reign and after every human has had a full opportunity to understand God’s way, choose whether to live that way and be judged for his or her decision, John saw in vision a new city coming down from heaven. “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2).
In His teachings Jesus often expanded upon various biblical Psalms, and He may well have been doing that in John 14. Notice this millennial prophecy found in Psalm 65:4: “Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You, that he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, of Your holy temple.”
The Contemporary English Version has: “You bless your chosen ones, and you invite them to live near you in your temple. We will enjoy your house, the sacred temple.”
So, Jesus’ message to His disciples was consistent with both the Old and New Testament Scriptures. As our High Priest in heaven, He is determining where each of us—according to our faithfulness to Him, our talents and our abilities—can best be used in those future plans (Hebrews 9:11).
Places in the Kingdom—not merely dwellings, but also thrones
Jesus had spoken of the reward His disciples would eventually receive on several earlier occasions. On one instance, Peter, speaking on behalf of the 12 apostles, essentially asked Jesus, “What’s in it for us, after we’ve given up so much to be Your followers?” Jesus’ reply at that time:
“Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28).
This was too much for them to take in at that time. There would be a resurrection, a return to life after dying. That in itself was a marvelous concept! But more than that, the new life would be eternal—without end. They would be spirit, not physical beings. They would never again be subject to aging, injury, disease or death.
Every aspect of Jesus’ words defied imagination! It is no wonder that Christ needed to repeat the promise shortly before His death. Indeed, it would be years before the disciples grasped its full implication.
The disciples believed that Jesus was the Christ (the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew Messiah) and that, as such, He was the future “King of Israel” (John 1:49). But here He was promising them that they, too, would be kings with Him in the Kingdom of God after He would return and establish this government over the entire earth.
The purpose of Christ’s comments was to encourage His disciples about the wonderful responsibilities He had in store for them.The promise of ruling in important positions of responsibility in the coming Kingdom of God applies to all saints when Christ returns! The parable of the 10 minas in Luke 19:11-27 speaks of faithful servants ruling over cities and Revelation 5:10 speaks of the saints ruling as kings and priests upon the earth. Similarly, Paul wrote: “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him [Christ]” (2 Timothy 2:12). For additional study on this point, see “Born to Be a King.”
The time when the 12 apostles and other faithful followers of Jesus will receive their positions in God’s Kingdom is when Jesus returns to earth.
When Jesus returns, the saints will rise from their graves, be changed into spirit and ascend in the air to meet Him, but Christ will then continue His descent to earth and alight on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 15:50-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Zechariah 14:1, 4). At this time Jesus and His faithful followers, each with the responsibility Jesus has determined for him or her, will establish the Kingdom of God upon the earth (Revelation 22:12).
New Jerusalem—the Father comes to earth
After the Millennium and God’s plan of salvation for mankind come to an end, a new heaven and a new earth will replace the ones currently in existence (Revelation 21:1). New Jerusalem will then come “down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (verse 2).
Daniel prophesied that the Kingdom of God would “stand forever” (Daniel 2:44), and New Jerusalem will be a continuation of the Kingdom of God when Jesus Christ “delivers the kingdom to God the Father” (1 Corinthians 15:24).
As for the city’s dimensions, “the city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs [about 1,400 miles, according to Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible]. Its length, breadth, and height are equal” (Revelation 21:16). An immense city of this size would certainly have room for all of God’s faithful people.
Revelation 3:12 says, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God.”
Of course, in New Jerusalem there is no separate temple (structure), “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Revelation 21:22).
What is truly astounding about New Jerusalem is that God the Father will come here and dwell with His faithful people (verse 3). Believers are not going to heaven; God the Father is coming down from heaven to dwell with His people in this holy city.
“In My Father’s house there are many mansions” meaning
Thus far we have clearly seen that in John 14:2-3, Jesus was not telling His disciples that He was going to heaven to prepare places for them that they would receive at death. So what was the meaning of His words, and why did He speak of the physical temple having many mansions or rooms?
Jesus spoke these words to His disciples on the evening prior to His crucifixion. They were undoubtedly quite anxious about the future.
The disciples were bewildered and discouraged because Jesus had told them that He was going away (John 13:33), that He would be killed (12:32-33), that one of the Twelve would betray Him (13:21), that Peter would deny Him three times (verse 38) and that they would all be scattered after His arrest (Matthew 26:31).
The purpose of Christ’s comments was to encourage His disciples about the wonderful responsibilities He had in store for them. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me,” He said (John 14:1). He was going away to make preparations for their future, and He would return to receive them to Himself.
As for referencing the temple and its many mansions (rooms), the refurbishing of the second temple (also called Herod’s Temple) in Jerusalem was the premier building project taking place at that time.
Only a short time earlier the disciples had visited the “buildings of the temple” and seen the massive stones that had been used for the Temple Mount (Mark 13:1; Matthew 24:1). With this visit to the temple freshly in mind, Jesus likened the abodes in the physical temple to the responsibilities and positions of leadership His faithful followers would be given in His Kingdom at His return to earth.
In short, Jesus was encouraging His disciples that they would have responsibilities in the Kingdom that He was preparing them for and that they would receive this promise when He returned to earth. As Jesus said, “And behold I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12).
The implications of His teaching are important for us as well. Jesus was saying that in His Father’s Kingdom there is a place for each of us if we will respond to God’s loving guidance and commands.
Study more about this wonderful coming Kingdom in our free booklet The Mystery of the Kingdom.