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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 56 – John 14:1-3

Our final destination

Well perhaps not quite the final one – let me explain. But first the verses. Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Jesus is clearly talking about where we are eventually going. He recognizes that the apostles are a very troubled and worried bunch. They had expected a great event in which they would have been the heroes of their nation but, instead, it seems that Jesus actually expects to die and that they will be left in a leaderless state. Leaderless, that is, except for Peter and he doesn’t seem to have shown any great leadership abilities. He has been best at speaking out of turn and saying the wrong thing!

Jesus is now talking about ‘rooms’ or ‘dwelling places’ in his Father’s house, which is clearly in heaven. Sorry, but I don’t find that a very attractive image. It seems to suggest that we will all end up in a small bed-sitting room in some giant residential block like a student’s residence. Perhaps if Jesus had been talking in our 21st century he would have chosen a different picture to tell us what heaven will be like. I don’t know what you think of. My suggestion would be that he would have said something like ‘in my Father’s team there are many vacancies. There will be an active role for each and every one of you playing attack or defence as your abilities may suggest.’ That way we are talking of something active, outside and, above all, in the immediate presence of the team captain, Jesus.

Actually the idea of a near relationship to the Lord is included in the house and rooms image. In John’s Gospel the idea of close proximity with the Lord is sometimes included in the image of somewhere to live (‘he dwelt among us’, ‘building a temple’,’ the gate’). So the ‘place that Jesus will prepare’ is a place that will bring us into close relationship with the Father.

And where is this place? It really isn’t very clearly defined. It sounds as though it is in heaven but the unanimous opinion of the New Testament writers is that our final destination is not heaven but the New Earth. Thus Paul says “the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. … For the creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8: 19, 21) Peter says “we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3: 13) John of Patmos talks about seeing “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. …. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,” (Revelation 21: 1, 2).

All of which is very puzzling. The renewed earth seems in some remarkable way to be involved in our final destination, but so does heaven. One day we shall find out and our puzzles will all be resolved. We just mustn’t get too impatient.

For the moment we simply have to take to heart the clear intention of Jesus for his disciples and therefore for us. However troubled, anxious, frightened, worried or ill we may be we have the sure promise of the Lord that there is a future for us, that Jesus knows what it is even if we don’t, and he has prepared a place for us. Furthermore he will one day return, to us here on earth, or to us wherever we may be in the life after this one and that he will take us to that final destination where we shall be in close relationship to him, our Saviour, and to the Father who originally chose us, called us and acknowledged that we, you and I, are his people.

No one has a greater future than you have – if you are one of the people Jesus recognises as his!

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