Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Heavenly Mansions - Really!?

“Don't let this throw you. You trust God, don't you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home.” John 14:2 The Message 

My objective here is not to denigrate the reality of the blessing of a final heavenly abode, but to stress the immediacy of a life after death that has begun the moment the Holy Spirit enters the heart of the elect as a pledge of the present reality of the abiding presence of the Father and the Son.

“In addition, he has put his seal [of ownership] on us and has given us the Spirit as his guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 1:22 GOD’S WORD  ‘Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"’ Galatians 4:6 

The Question - And the Answer

This question was asked of the Son: “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” John 14:22.  The nature of the query clearly indicates the expectation of a present reality and precedes the High Priestly Prayer: “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours;...” John 17:9  Once again the actuality of the present hope is anticipated.  

Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. John 14:23  Note that this says that He will come to us, not that we will go to Him. And our love for God is the result of the a priori never-failing love of God: “We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 

This answer can be nothing less than a definitive response elaborating on the great expanse of John 14:2: “My Father's home is designed to accommodate all of you. If there were not room for everyone, I would have told you that. I am going to make arrangements for your arrival.” The Voice  Yet, unless the wrong conclusion is drawn, we must assert that the place of arrival is the abiding presence of the Father, not merely a celestial imaginative existence.  Although a blessed hope its reality can only exist in the realms of the imagination, escaping all limited and misconstrued attempts to give it definition by the use of temporal finite means. 

The is Plenty of Room - Not Rooms

The noun in 14:2 unfortunately often distorted as mansions, but better represented as ‘a great expanse’ is derived from the verb used also in 14:23 - “‘mone’ - to abide or dwell.”  These are the only two places this word is used in the New Testament.  And having its root in a verb the dynamic reality here cannot be eclipsed by a static misconception. 

Albeit with a begrudging awareness of the use of the word mansion and a tilt toward a celestial application the following from John Calvin is helpful: “In my Father's house are many dwellings. As the absence of Christ was a cause of grief, he declares that he does not, go away in such a. manner as to remain separate from them, since there is room for them also in the heavenly kingdom. For it was proper that he should remove the suspicion from their minds, that, when Christ ascended to the Father, he left his disciples on earth without taking any farther notice of them. This passage has been erroneously interpreted in another sense, as if Christ taught that there are various degrees of honor in the heavenly kingdom; for he says, that the mansions are many, not that they are different or unlike, but that there are enough of them for a great number of persons; as if he had said, that there is room not only for himself, but also for all his disciples. Christ did not ascend to heaven in a private capacity, to dwell there alone, but rather that it might be the common inheritance of all the godly, and that in this way the Head might be united to his members.” 

In a slight manner of caveat to the above: As W. E. Vine so appropriately puts it, “There is nothing in the word (mone) to indicate separate compartments;...”  “and so room for all,” declares the JFB Bible Commentary.

The Place - My Father and your Father

The Son was about to return to the place from which He had come - the presence of the Father. Only this time, as a result of His sprinkled blood, there would be room for many more. Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.” John 13:36 A better translation of the concluding phrase here would be: ‘but afterward thou shalt follow me.' Young’s Literal  After redemption had been made complete the glorified Son would throw open the curtain into the Presence of the Father for all that had believed as a result of His Word.  "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” John 17:6 

The place to which He was going was the place He had occupied from all eternity: “because I go to the Father.” John 14:12.  He was to take them into the Fatherhood of God - heretofore a largely unknown concept in Judaism - no longer behind a veil or up there somewhere, but near and close.  The issue here addressed by the Savior is one of present relationship, not futuristic real estate. May He grant us an abhorrence of any such denigration. 

He stepped back into the Presence of the Father, but he did not step back the same way he stepped forth.  For now he is not only able to say My Father, but your Father as well: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  John 20:17 One who was and is fully one of us has prepared the way into Father’s presence: “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Son of His love” Eph. 1:6. 

Here - Not There

An oft neglected version of a verse from Amazing Grace expresses this hope that is real and present, not abstract and remote:

When we've been here ten thousand years...
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise...
then when we've first begun.

A friend of mine wrote in regard to this interpretation: “I'm down with being here! He is here. Wherever He is I'm interested in that.”

This verse was not written by John Newton but was added by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her great transformational literary work “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”  It had been passed down orally in African American communities for at least 50 years. It was originally one of between 50 to 70 verses of a song titled "Jerusalem, My Happy Home." 

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’”  Revelation 21:2-3 ESV

In conclusion from the commentator Philip E Hughes: “The Lamb is the great bridegroom with whom his bride the church is now united in a state of everlasting blessedness. The saints are the vibrant components of the new Jerusalem in the same way as they are the living stones that form the spiritual temple of which the incarnate Son is himself the chief cornerstone.”