The Father’s House: Are We There Yet?
George A. Gunn
Shasta Bible College
In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, /there /you may be also.
/Abstract: The promise in Jn 14:2-3 that Jesus will come again has been taken by many Christians as a promise of Christ’s parousia.
Seen in this way, the promise is of significant importance to the pretribulational rapture position.
Many non-dispensational scholars, however, have sought to present this promise as non-eschatological and, thus, not a promise of the rapture.
Their arguments are based both on their understanding of the context of the Upper Room Discourse and on the specific language used by Jesus in these verses.
After demonstrating the importance of this promise to the pretribulational rapture position, I will defend its eschatological interpretation by examining the history of its interpretation, the context of the saying, and the specific language employed by Jesus./
Introduction: Importance of John 14:1-3 to the Pretrib Position
I. Various Interpretations of John 14:1-3
History of the Interpretation of John 14:1-3
Exegesis of John 14:1-3
Conclusions and Implications
\\ *Introduction: Importance of John 14:1-3 to the Pretrib Position*
The rapture, though alluded to frequently in the New Testament, is really only described in detail in 3 passages: John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
One could possibly add Philippians 3:20-21, but the reference is less specific there.
Each of these passages contributes information about the event, and, taken together, we have a fairly complete description of the event.
However, the information from all 3 passages is required in order to piece together a complete picture of the rapture.
The event takes place in five distinct movements:
The Lord Jesus, along with the spirits of those believers who have died during the church age, descends from heaven to earth’s atmosphere.
The bodies of believers who have died during the church age are resurrected.
Believers who are alive at the time of the rapture are changed to receive glorified bodies.
Together, resurrected bodies of dead saints and changed living believers are caught up to the Lord in the atmosphere.
The assembled company of all believers from the entire church age, along with the Lord, accompanies the Lord on His journey from the atmosphere to His next venue.
You’ll notice that I have worded the fifth movement in such a way that it could fit the description of either a pretribulational rapture, posttribulational rapture, or other rapture-timing option relative to the tribulation.
Essentially, anyone who actually believes in a rapture could agree with this five-movement description.
What really divides the pretribulational position from the posttribulational position is the question of the “next venue” for the Lord following the rapture.
The two positions, with their five movements, can be presented diagrammatically as follows:
\\ Pretribulational Rapture:
| Heaven (the Father’s House) |
| Tribulation Period |
| Messianic Kingdom |
| 1 |
| 2 |
| 3 |
| 4 |
| 5 |
| Heaven |
| Tribulation Period |
| Messianic Kingdom |
| 1 |
| 2 |
| 3 |
| 4 |
| 5 |
Thus, though we often think of the difference between the pretribulational position and the posttribulational position as being one of /timing, /it might also be conceived as a difference in /venue.
/Posttribulationist Robert Gundry recognized the importance of venue to the pretribulation position when he stated, “… no passage concerning the rapture incorporates a return to heaven.”
As we shall see, to support his position, Gundry reinterprets John 14:1-3 so as to make it a non-eschatological promise.
It is because of this issue of venue that John 14:1-3 is so crucial to the pretribulational position.
I must disagree with E. Schuyler English when he says that, “… while the promise of John 14:3 is the first New Testament intimation of the Rapture, it cannot be said to be descriptive of it.”
Indeed, as we shall see, John 14:1-3 contains specific, detailed and vital information descriptive of the rapture.
The importance of John 14:1-3 for the pretribulation position is further seen in a recent statement by Lutheran theologian Barbara Rossing:
“I call it [dispensationalism] a theological racket,” says Barbara Rossing, an edge in her voice.
The Lutheran theologian has little patience for dispensationalism.
The basis cited for its concept of the Rapture is just as summarily dealt with.
“If you look closely at that passage [1 Thess 4:13-18], Jesus is descending from heaven,” Rossing says.
“Yes, to be sure, Paul says people will be snatched up in the air to meet Jesus, but /it never says that Jesus turns around, switches direction and goes back up to heaven for seven years/.
They have to insert that.
They have to make that up because it’s not in the text.”
Rossing, of course, was restricting her comments solely to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, as if that were the only passage dealing with the rapture.
If that were the only passage describing the rapture, she would be correct.
In fact, with the exception of John 14, no major rapture passage (1 Cor 15:51-54; Phil 3:20-21; 1 Thess 4:13-18) explicitly mentions the return to heaven.
Only John 14 specifically describes the return to heaven as the final venue of the rapture event.
Those who hold to a pretribulational rapture tend to agree that John 14:1-3 describes the rapture.
Those who do not hold to the pretribulational position generally fall into two broad categories: (1) John 14:1-3 describes the rapture but it is not pretribulational (i.e., it is either posttribulational or coincident with either an amillennial or postmillennial /parousia/), and (2) John 14:1-3 describes a non-eschatological coming of Christ (i.e.
post-resurrection, post-ascension, or some other “coming” event).
If the promise of John 14:1-3 can be shown to be an eschatological coming, I believe the issue of venue forces us to the pretribulational position.
The most crucial issues, then, that must be settled are:
Is the promise eschatological or non-eschatological?
What venue is described by the “Father’s house,” “mansions,” and the “place prepared” by Jesus.
Therefore, it is with this reminder of the importance of John 14:1-3 for the pretribulational position, that we focus our attention on this fascinating passage of Scripture.
Various Interpretations of John 14:1-3*
When it comes to John 14:1-3, the challenge confronting the interpreter of Scripture is daunting.
In the short span of three verses, differing views by major commentators on the meaning of four different expressions yield no less than seventeen different interpretations!
Following is a brief survey of these interpretations:
*Believe … believe* (p?ste?ete … p?ste?ete, /pisteuete … pisteuete/), verse 1
The verb occurs twice in this verse, the form being identical for both.
Both occurrences could be either indicative or imperative.
This gives the possibility of four different interpretations.
Though the differences are noted by most commentaries, they have little bearing on the actual meaning of this verse, at least as it pertains to our discussion of the rapture.
“You believe in God; you also believe in me.”
Indicative Followed By Imperative/.
“You believe in God; believe also in me.”
Imperative Followed By Indicative/.
“Believe in God; indeed, you believe in me.”
“Believe in God; believe also in me.”
*My Father’s House* (t? ????? t?? pat??? µ??, /tei oikia tou patros mou/), verse 2
This precise phrase does not occur elsewhere in John, though a very similar one occurs one other time in John, where it is a reference to the temple in Jerusalem (2:16).
Luke 2:49 is perhaps a similar reference to the temple, but it lacks the word “house” (either ?????, /oikos /or ????a /oikia/).
Luke 16:27 and Acts 7:20, the only other similar NT references, refer to earthly houses of human fathers.
This has given rise to at least three interpretations for the phrase in John 14:2.