“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.”
At the request of Mrs. W. S. Johnson, of Kingston, N. Y., we shall offer a few thoughts upon the above Scripture, which are the words of our High Priest to his disciples in one of the most trying periods of their lives. In this discourse the Savior had told them he was going away and they, then, could not follow. After having been with him three years and a half during his ministry in preaching the gospel of the kingdom, raising the dead and healing the sick, their love for him and their hope in him of the restoration of all things pertaining to national Israel were deeply seated, and his words regarding his departure from them fell upon them with mighty force, and sorrow filled their heart. He, fully understanding their grief, said, “Let not your heart be troubled.” It is understood by some that the word “troubled “does not mean sorrow or sadness, and not long ago we heard a very learned gentleman define the word “troubled “by saying, It has no reference to sorrow or sadness, if so, Jesus was asking an impossibility of the disciples; but it means, he said, Do not be troubled about my going away, it is all right, it is for the best, therefore do not be concerned about it. Job said, “Great men are not always wise,” hence are liable to mistakes as are others. In this same sermon, recorded in the sixteenth chapter of John, Jesus said, “Because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.” And after he had gone and they supposed forever, he appeared to two of them and asked, “What manner of communications are these, that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? We readily see the three words, troubled, sorrow and sad, used with reference to the same experience; therefore our conclusion is that the disciples were indeed “troubled” when Jesus told them he was going to leave them. He spoke encouragingly, however, by saying, “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.”
It seems necessary first to establish what the “Father’s house “is. If we say heaven, the question immediately follows, Was there ever a time when the realms of immortal glory were imperfect! All God-fearing people answer, No. Then the Savior did not mean that he was going to heaven to add to its glory and perfection in building mansions when he said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Moses made a tabernacle in the wilderness, in which God was worshiped in offerings and the burning of incense. Solomon built a temple and dedicated it unto the Lord. Jesus recognized this house when in the flesh, under the law, but said to the money changers, “Ye have made it a den of thieves.” The tabernacle and the temple both passed away, because they were of earthly material; hence we cannot look to either of them as “my Father’s house.” David being a prophet, and by faith seeing a house not made with hands, said, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” A house made without hands bears no mark of earthly architecture, and when this house is seen it is always recognized as the work of God. The writer of Hebrews, in contrasting between Moses and his house and Christ and his house, gives us as good a description of it as mortal man has ever had, when he said, “Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; but Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we.” This brings us to look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down, neither shall her stakes be removed nor her cords broken. Jesus said, “My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer;” not a house to pray in, but “a house of prayer,” which house is the church of God, the pillar and ground of the truth; composed of lively stones, men and women, built of God upon the rock, revelation, and shall never be overthrown, but abideth forever.
At the time Jesus uttered the words of our text the church or house of the Father was not in actual existence, but with God all things are present and in his purpose “were finished from the foundation of the world,” yet the Savior said, Upon this rock I will build my church, not yet done, but I will build it. He, seeing the house complete, said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions,” or places to be occupied.
Having now tried to establish the fact that “my Father’s house “is the church of God, we shall turn our attention to the “mansions.” What mistaken ideas many hold regarding this point, thinking that in heaven every one shall have a mansion, decorated according to their works for the Lord here, and the more the works the grander the mansion, and the fewer the works the more modest the mansion. If, as we have endeavored to show, “my Father’s house “is the church of God, the mansions will be found there. They are particularly the offices or places to be occupied therein, and each one occupies the mansion or office according to his gift. Gifts were given to men; to some were given apostles, to some prophets, to some evangelists, to some pastors and teachers, then the gift of deacons and also that of healing. These are the most prominent places in the church, but the eye, ear, hand and foot fill their respective places. “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy, according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.” The Lord hath placed each member (gift) in the body (church) as it hath pleased him, therefore each one occupies his own mansion or place in the house of God. “Were it not so, I would have told you.”
“I go to prepare a place for you.” He was then about to go to that place prophesied by Isaiah: “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation! for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” Yes, in a little while we find him in the garden, sorrowful even unto death, treading the wine-press alone, sweating, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground; his three disciples asleep, dead to his agony. He prays to his Father, “If it be possible, let this cup pass.” But it was not possible, he must prepare a place for his people, and it must be done in the appointed way. We now see him before the kings and rulers who had taken counsel against him, the Lord’s Anointed; he is spit upon and mocked, a scarlet robe is put on him and on his holy head a crown of thorns is placed. Now before Pilate he stands, where many murderers and thieves had stood to be sentenced; but how strange this sentence, never one similar before nor since: “Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.” Now he is being led as a lamb to the slaughter, but he opens not his mouth. His holy hands and feet are pierced with rugged nails, he is lifted from the earth, dying for the sins of his people. He is dead; the earth quakes, the rocks rend, the graves of many of the saints which slept are opened. He is taken down from the cross and buried, a great stone is rolled to the door of the sepulchre and sealed, and the watch is set. The third day, very early in the morning, he comes forth from the dead a conqueror; death has lost its sting, the grave its victory. The “place” is “prepared:” the church brought up from condemnation and death. The Conqueror cries, “Behold I and the children which God hath given me.” He has now returned, (I will come again) giving his disciples a lively or living hope of immortality by his resurrection from the dead. He receives them unto himself into the spiritual kingdom or house of the Father. The King reigns in righteousness and princes (apostles) rule in judgment, sitting upon thrones, judging the twelve tribes (all the elect) of Israel. He is now in the house of his Father, or in his own house, where all nations are, through his work of redemption. He is the door, the way, the truth, the life and the resurrection; no man cometh unto God except by him.
The clause, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself,” is interpreted by some as referring to the end of this material world, but a careful investigation of the chapter will perhaps convince them that it means no such thing. For instance, Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” This he did after his resurrection. “Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” Again he said, “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.” This is very different from taking men out of the world that they make their abode with the Father and the Son. Christ our blessed Lord comes now in the person of the Holy Ghost to comfort all his saints, and to guide them into all truth. His first coming was “in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin.” His second coming is in “the image of the invisible God,” without sin unto salvation, and to all who look for him he will appear. Paul says, The righteous Judge shall give a crown of righteousness to all who love his “appearing,” which is his coming again in the Spirit in the experience of each one of his children. No mortal who has experienced the forgiveness of sins will deny that Jesus has appeared to him, and it is always as the end of the law for righteousness, hence without sin unto salvation.
What an easy thing it is to forget that the church or house of God is the body of Christ, and that where the body is the Head is also, and where he is there are his children. Where is he? The Bible answers thus: “I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.”
It has been a pleasure to grant the request of our esteemed friend, Mrs. Johnson, and we hope that she as well as others may be able to glean a little here and there from the things we have tried to present in the fear of the Lord and in good will toward men. K.
Editorial – Elder H. C. Ker
Signs Of The Times
Volume 76., No. 3.
FEBRUARY 1, 1908.