Vicar Matt Doebler
Matins Devotion: May 1, 2023
"In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?"
If you have had any exposure at all to the King James translation of this verse, then you might have remember it a little differently. Instead of rooms, the King James reads “in my Father’s house are many mansions.” It appears that the King James translators were influenced by the Latin word mansiones—which simply means “resting place.” Of course, as the English language changed over time, the word mansion began to take on the more modern meaning that it still has today. This picture of heaven as a gated community full of individual palaces has influenced several generations of Christian thought in American Protestantism. As a boy, I can remember singing hymns in the Baptist church that I grew up in that made much of this suggested image. Hymns like: I’ve Got a Mansion Just Over the Hilltop. Allow me to read you a few lines:
I'm satisfied with just a cottage below A little silver and little gold But in that city where the ransomed will shine I want a gold one that's silver lined I've got a mansion just over the hilltop In that bright land where we'll never grow old And some day yonder we'll never more wander But walk on streets that are purest gold
The theological problem with this kind of thinking is that heaven becomes a place that is all about me. You sometimes hear this kind of talk—even from folks who should know better—at funerals. “Oh, I bet he is up there in heaven racing go-carts with Bubba right now!” or “I bet Grandma is baking her chocolate chip cookies for the angels.”
But Jesus isn’t teaching his disciples that one day they will be each be handed the keys to their 10,000 square foot mansion with custom cabinetry and a well-stocked wine cellar. His point as he’s about to leave his disciples is that he wants to assure them that, one day, they will be with him again.
"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."
This is how we are to think about and talk about heaven. Not as an eternity dedicated to indulging our desire for leisure, but as an eternity lived in the presence of Christ. Not so that we can live as individuals who are wrapped up in their own pursuit of pleasure, but so that we can dwell together as Christ’s sheep—part of one flock—having one Shepherd.
Whether one day you close your eyes in death or whether you hear the trumpet of God sounding the arrival of the Last Day—one thing is certain. When at last you look upon Jesus. When at last your eyes behold your crucified and risen Lord. When at last you realize the full scope of what he has done to redeem you from the power of sin, death, and the devil. In that moment, and into all eternity, you will care nothing for mansions or crowns, silver or gold, recreation or leisure. You will never get over the joy of seeing your Savior face to face and knowing that you will dwell with him in the house of the Lord forever.