Read John 14:1–4; Deuteronomy 33:27a
In the heart of God’s child there is a longing, yes even a need, for the everlasting home. As he grows older and loses a devout mother, trusting sister, witness-bearing father, loyal and loving wife, etc., his attention is drawn away from the earth and fixed upon heaven. He may have preached about heaven a good many times, but when sorrow enters his own home and he begins to notice that the earthly tent-dwelling of one very dear to him is being rapidly dismantled, he cannot help becoming more heavenly-minded than formerly. What was once a sermon has become a confession of the heart. It remains a sermon, to be sure, but! it has become a better sermon than ever before.
Yes, the heavenly home is needed, for on earth nothing satisfies. There is trouble upon trouble. That, too, was the case with respect to the disciples. So on this last night before his crucifixion, being gathered with his disciples in the Upper Room, Jesus said to them (as we like to translate it):
“Let not your hearts any longer be troubled.”
The hearts of the disciples were filled with a medley of emotions. They were sad because of the gloomy prospect of Christ’s departure; ashamed because of their own demonstrated selfishness and pride; perplexed because of the prediction that one of their own number would betray the Master, that another would deny him, and that all would be ensnared because of him; and finally, they were wavering in their faith, probably thinking, “”How can one who is about to be betrayed be the Messiah?” Yet, at the same time, they love this Master. They hope against hope. So Jesus says to them:
“Continue to trust in God, also in me continue to trust.”
2. THAT HOME DESCRIBED
Jesus continues, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”
The Father’s house is really a home, for it is a place where the children of God will enjoy the most blessed and loving fellowship, as is evident from the entire context. And that, after all, is what changes a mere house into a home. I read somewhere that a little boy coming out of school ran into a house, and then ran out of it again very quickly. Someone who saw this asked him, ‘Why did you go in and then run out so quickly?” The boy replied, “I got into the wrong house. I thought it was ours. But ours is the house next door.” The man then asked him, “But is not the house which you entered and which you left so quickly just as nice as your own?” “O yes, much finer,” he replied. “Then why did you not stay there?” was the man’s final question. The child answered, ‘“Because mother is not there.”
Accordingly, the first thing which we learn about our heavenly home is that it is the house that belongs to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (“my Father’s house”); hence, surely home to him and therefore home to us. And since it is the Fathers house, we may be sure that it will be a very, very glorious place. If even here and now those who turn from darkness to light experience “things which eye saw not, and the ear heard not, and which never entered into the heart of man” ( I Corinthians 2:9), how much more applicable will that text be with respect to the home that is being prepared for us?
“We speak of the land of the blest,
A country so rich and so fair,
And oft are its glories confessed,
But what will it be to be there.”
Second, Jesus· assures us that this home is a very roomy place. Of course, heaven is a place. We need not waste much space on this. Did not Jesus ascend to heaven? And are not Jesus, Enoch, and Elijah there in the body as well as in the soul? Exactly where heaven is, is of little importance. During the last fifty years our views of the extent of the universe have expanded to such a degree that there certainly can no longer be any legitimate doubt in any man’s mind that in this vast domain which God created there is plenty of room for heaven.
Now note that Jesus says that in this one large house there are entire mansions or dwelling-places. In other words, heaven does not resemble a tenement-house, each family occupying one room perhaps. On the contrary, it is much more like a beautiful apartment-building, with ever so many completely furnished and spacious apartments or dwelling-units, and no crowding of any kind. “Plenty of room in heaven, room for me but also room for you,” is the one idea that is conveyed here. (The idea of variety, degrees of glory, though true in itself, as we have seen in an earlier Outline, is foreign to the present context.)
Third, home is the place of safety. Outside, the storm may be raging, as it actually was raging in the hearts of the disciples. Heaven is the place of perfect security,
Fourth, home is the place of rest. Think of a babe at rest in its mother’s arms, and then remember that though mother’s arms may become tired because they are after all limited in strength, God’s arms never become weary. “The eternal God is thy dwelling-place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
Fifth, home is the place of perfect understanding and love. This will become clear under the next heading (3). Elsewhere you are often misunderstood, and your motives are misconstrued, but not at home, if your home is truly a home.
Finally, home is the place of permanence. This house, be it remembered, is not a mere tent, pitched now here, then there, sure to be dismantled or even destroyed. The Father’s house-home, according to the context—is the place where one dwells forever and ever, being “at home with the Lord.”
3. THAT HOME PREPARED
“If it were not so, I would have told you, for I go to prepare a place for you. And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you .to myself (or: to be face to face with me), in order that where I am you may be also.”
The coming again is the counterpart of the going away, and refers therefore to the second coming. Jesus tells the disciples that by means of his humiliation (particularly his death on the cross) and exaltation, he is preparing a place for his disciples. It is entirely possible that much more is implied in this glorious passage than we have now stated. Who will be able to say exactly in what manner Jesus is even now preparing our place in heaven? We shall probably never know the depth and meaning of this expression until with both soul and body we shall have entered upon our life in the Paradise of God.
One point, however, is very touching. One might have expected Jesus to say, “And when I go and prepare a place for you, I come again and will take you to that place.” But our Lord actually says something which is far more comforting, namely, “I will take you to myself.” Christ’s loving presence will be that which makes the Father’s house a real home and a real heaven for the children of God. Wherever Jesus is, there too will his disciples be. They will even sit with him in his throne! Symbolical language? To be sure! All this is only a symbol. The reality will be even more glorious (see Revelation 3:12; 3:21: 14:1; 19:11, 14; 20:4).
4. THAT HOME REACHED
“And to the place where I am going you know the way,” says Jesus. He means, “You know me; I am the way.” And this statement is a veiled invitation, “Come to the Father by means of this way”; that is, “by committing yourselves entirely to me for life and for death.”
*For 8 more detailed exposition of John 14:1–4 see my New Testament Commentary, the second of the two volumes on John’s Gospel, pp. 261–266.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
A. Questions Answered in the Outline
1. Show why the heavenly home if needed.
2. Describe that home.
3. What point in the present paragraph is so very touching?
4. What is “the way” to this home?
5. In which sense is John 14:4 a veiled invitation?
B. Additional Questions
1. Does the book of Revelation supply any additional information about our home in heaven? Where, and in general, what kind of information?
2. Just what in that book, is the meaning of “the holy city new Jerusalem”?
3. Does Revelation 21:16 tell us something about the shape and the size of heaven?
4. What is the meaning of Deuteronomy 32:11, 12?
5. Does that passage (d. also Ps. 103:13, 14; Isaiah 63:9) shed any light on our future blessedness, when we shall be “at home with the Lord”?