Here is a thorough, God-inspired explanation of a greatly misunderstood text. Did Jesus say Christians go to heaven? MANY people today believe Jesus told His disciples that Christians will spend eternity in mansions in heaven. They quote His words in John 14:1-4.
Did Jesus really say that our reward is a mansion in heaven? Let's see.
What Is the Father's House? In His Father's house, Jesus said plainly, there were many "mansions." If it had not been true, He said, He would have told us. The Greek word translated "mansion" means in more modern English, room a place of staying, an abode, a chamber. So in the Father's house there were a number of rooms or chambers.
But what is the Father's house? What does the Bible declare the Father's house to be?
When in the temple, Jesus said to the Jews who were selling doves and cattle therein: "Make not my FATHER'S HOUSE an house of merchandise." (John 2:16) Here is the simple Bible definition of the Father's house. It was the temple which stood in Jesus' day at Jerusalem. Luke 19:46 and Isaiah 56:7 mention the same thing.
But did the temple have many "mansions" or rooms and chambers in it?
Certainly. In turning to Jeremiah 35:2, we read this: "Speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers." In the fourth verse of the same chapter, we notice that different chambers were for persons of different rank. Hanan, a man of God, had his chamber or room "by the chamber of the princes... which was above the chamber of... the keeper of the door." So the various chambers or "mansions" corresponded to the ranks of the persons residing in them. Each room of the temple, the Father's house, not only designated the residence of each official, but also indicated his position or office, whether he was a doorkeeper or prince.
Even the Bible commentator, Adam Clark, notes in his commentary: "Our Lord alludes here to the temple, which was called the house of God, in the precincts of which there were a great number of chambers." See also I Kings 6:5; Ezra 8:29 and Jeremiah 36:10.
No where does the Bible call heaven the Father's house. Heaven is never said to have "mansions." The ancient tabernacle had two compartments, the inner, called the Holy of Holies, being an exact picture of the throne of God — of heaven, itself. It had no mansions. Read Hebrews 8:5 and 9:1-7 to see exactly what the pattern of heaven is like.
No, Jesus was not referring to heaven, but to the temple, long since destroyed, which was called the house of God. The temple was a type of the House of Israel, of the Kingdom of Israel under the Old Covenant. It is also a physical type of the spiritual temple, the family or Kingdom of God. (Heb. 3:6; I Peter 2:5)
What Is the Place Prepared? Now we should consider the remainder of Jesus' conversation with the disciples. He said: "I go to prepare a place for you." We learn from other scriptures that Jesus did go to heaven, to the right hand of the Father, where He now acts as our High Priest. (Heb. 9.11)
While functioning in this office for us, Jesus is obviously preparing a place for each of us as He promised the disciples. Now notice this carefully: the preparation of each place is occurring in heaven, but Jesus did not say that the places were a part of heaven. A wife may prepare her meals in the kitchen, but the meals are not a part of the kitchen.
Since heaven, the place of Gods throne, does not have abodes or mansions, just what are the "places" that are being prepared? Does the Bible give any texts telling us what is being prepared?
There are only two texts in the Bible which tell us what is being prepared. The first is in Matthew 25:34. Here Christ said: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom, prepared for you from the foundation of the world." The other text is in Revelation 21:2: "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."
The Bible says the only places that are prepared are the Kingdom of God and the new Jerusalem. Since it is the kingdom and the holy city that are finally prepared for us all, then what Jesus is preparing for each of us must be our own position in the kingdom and the new Jerusalem.
Now it's plain why Christ alluded to the temple as an example of the Kingdom of God and of the new Jerusalem. The temple had rooms which served as offices for the various residents holding different ranks. In the same way, each of us will have our own personal place in the holy city, in accordance with how well we use the talents God has given us in this life. The more we overcome in this life, the more honorable will be our place in the new Jerusalem and the greater will be our office of responsibility in the kingdom.
Revelation 21:2 plainly proves that the holy city is one of the two things that Jesus is preparing now in heaven. It is prepared by God. Both God the Father and His Son have been fashioning it, since what ever the Father does, the Son does likewise. (John 5 :19) Since the city comes down out of heaven fully prepared, then it must have been prepared in heaven, just as Jesus said He would do. Notice, too, that the city comes out of heaven. It does not say that we go to heaven.
Now let's understand what the Bible says about the kingdom which is in preparation in heaven, and which will come to earth. Jesus returned to heaven to receive the kingdom. (Luke 19:12) He must be preparing it while acting in the office of High Priest. Since the kingdom is prepared for all of us to inherit, then the particular place Christ is preparing for each of us must be our own position or office in that kingdom. Place means position, office, rank, as well as geographical location. Our place or position in the government of God will depend on the office we hold. Christ has first place, as He is king of kings. We shall all have secondary places, lesser positions under Him.
The kingdom of God is the government of God, the members of which are to be horn of God. Being born of God makes the entire kingdom, then, the family of God. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5) That is why Jesus used the ancient temple as a physical type of the spiritual family or kingdom of God.
Now it is becoming obvious why our place or position in Gods government has had to be prepared in heaven by Jesus. We could not receive the Holy Spirit, the only means by which we can enter the kingdom. until Christ ascended. (John 16:7) Christ prepares our place or position in the kingdom by being our High Priest, interceding for us and by giving us the Spirit of God. The places or positions, the responsibilities of office are being prepared by training us human beings to fill those offices. Jesus, as our High Priest, has been calling, justifying and perfecting each of us for His kingdom so that when the kingdom of God comes to this earth (Mat. 6:10), each position or place in it will be fully prepared by having one of us fill that particular office. If Christ were not High Priest in heaven, the kingdom would not be prepared, it would have none to fill its offices.
"I Will Come Again" Although Christ had to go to heaven he said: "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." Here is Jesus' own promise that He is coming again! Notice, it does not say anywhere in these verses that we go to heaven. It says just the opposite.
Jesus will return from heaven in clouds. We are going to meet Him in the air. (I Thess. 4:15-17) At that time Jesus will give us our place or position in the kingdom, according to how well we do with what we have been given. Some of us are going to have a smaller reward or responsibility because we have not grown spiritually as we ought. Study the parable in Luke 19:12-27.
Having received our responsibilities, we shall descend with Jesus to the Mount of Olives that same day. It is that same day that Christ comes to earth, not returns to heaven. (Zechariah 14:4) He is coming to set up the kingdom on the earth! Since we inherit the kingdom, we, too, will be on this earth, not heaven.
So Christians are not going to heaven after all. We are to be with Jesus here on this earth — "that where I am, there ye may be also." We shall be ruling with Christ over the nations. (Rev. 20:4) And after that, the new Jerusalem comes down out of heaven — it does not say we go to heaven but it comes down out of heaven — to the new earth. Even the Father Himself will dwell among us here on the new earth where we shall live and reign forever. (Rev. 22:3-5)
No wonder Jesus said the meek shall inherit this earth. (Mat. 5:5) The righteous are never to be removed from this earth. (Pro. 10:30)