In John 14:1-3, we find some very well known words from Jesus. The old King James translation of those words reads:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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 unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
This passage’s use of the word “mansions” is something that many people, especially many hymn writers, have put to great use. For example, the opening verse of the classic hymn “When We All Get To Heaven” says:
Sing the wondrous love of Jesus, Sing His mercy and His grace. In the mansions, bright and blessed, He’ll prepare for us a place.
“Victory in Jesus” is another example. The third verse of that song begins by saying:
I heard about a mansion he has built for me in glory…
There are, however, two things you need to know about the old King James translation’s use of the word “mansions.” First, John 14:2 is the translation’s one and only use of the word. Second, the Greek word the King James translates as “mansions” is mone and it literally means “a staying” or “an abiding.” As a matter of fact, in verse 23 of that same 14th chapter of John, the translation translates this exact same Greek word as “abode.” That verse says:
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
If you think about it, the idea that heaven has literally millions of mansions, one for each of history’s millions of Christians, does seem a bit odd. Is heaven nothing but row after row of mansions, all laid out in perfect grids like subdivisions on a map? Are some of the mansions bigger and nicer than others? Is the size and affluence of your mansion dependent upon how you served Jesus on earth? It’s this kind of thinking that has given rise to the wrong notion that each Christian’s mansion must be built from the materials the Christian sends on ahead as treasure in heaven. I have to admit that I’ve never understood how faith, obedience, and service somehow equate to bricks, floor tiles, and mortar in heaven.
When you understand all this, you can understand why most translations of the Bible never use the word “mansions” in relation to heaven. For example, the New American Standard, the Holman Christian Standard, and the New Revised Standard all quote Jesus as saying, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places.” The English Standard Version makes the quote, “In My Father’s house are many rooms.” The New International Version puts it, “My Father’s house has many rooms…”
You say, “But Russell, I like the sound of “mansions” better than “dwelling places” or “rooms.” Well, you say that because you are still trying to envision heaven in terms of this world. You see, homes — whether they be mansions, townhouses, apartments, condominiums, shacks, or trailers — speak of isolation. One of the reasons I live in a house is because some people get on my nerves and I don’t want to be around them. If I have a house, I can go there, lock the doors, close the curtains, and not have to be bothered with anybody. Let’s face it, that is one of the great advantages of having an earthly home.
But in heaven we will all be fully rescued from the effects of the sinful flesh. This means that we won’t get on each others’ nerves the way we do now. We really will all be one big, happy family. There will be a perfect unity among the citizens of heaven, a unity we cannot fully fathom now. We won’t need a mansion to storm off to when we get upset with somebody, because we won’t get upset with anybody. We won’t need a mansion to hide out in when we are moody, because we will never be moody.
You ask, “Does this mean that when we get to heaven we are just going to wander around aimlessly, with no particular place to call our own?” No, I wouldn’t say that. After all, Jesus did promise, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places (rooms). I go to prepare a place for you.” That’s different than saying, “My Father’s house is one gigantic dwelling place (room).” What will these dwelling places be like? I don’t pretend to know. I’m simply saying that we shouldn’t envision them as “mansions” in the way we use that word.
Of course, whatever those dwelling places are like, I want one! Even more than that, I have the promise that Jesus has prepared one for me. How can I say that with such confidence? It’s because I have done what He said to do. In verse 1 of that same 14th chapter of John, He says:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. (K.J.V.)
The Greek word translated there as “believe” is the same Greek word that is used in John 3:16, where Jesus says:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (K.J.V.)
I’m not perfect by any means, but I have believed in Jesus as my personal Savior. How about you? Have you seen yourself as a sinner in the eyes of holy God? Have you heard that Jesus (who is God the Son) voluntarily left heaven, was born to a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on a Roman cross for your sins, arose from the dead, and ascended back to heaven? And have you genuinely, legitimately, authentically believed in Him as your personal Savior?
If you have, then you have every right to fully expect that you will one day be welcomed into heaven. Never doubt that Jesus has prepared a dwelling place for you there, and never doubt that your heavenly inheritance is reserved, incorruptible, undefiled, and does not fade away (1 Peter 1:3-5). This, needless to say, should give you hope for your future, and in turn that hope should drive you to live all out for Jesus in the here and now.