Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Will I Have a Mansion in Heaven?

What do you think of when you hear the word "mansion?" If you're anything like me, you would think of a large estate someone would have with a huge house. Maybe something like Biltmore? In fact, you would probably have in mind the first definition of "mansion" in the dictionary: "a very large, impressive, or stately residence."

But what does this have to do with Heaven? Do I get a mansion in heaven?

You probably know the verse John 14:2 by heart. And you probably learned it from the King James reading - "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's not that there is anything wrong with this reading - especially when you consider that it's from a now 400 year-old English translation (from 1611). In Webster's 1828 Dictionary, "mansion" had a more simple meaning of "Any place of residence; a house; a habitation." But today, we just don't use the term mansion for "a habitation". More modern translations refer to "mansions" in this verse as "dwelling places" (NASB/HCSB) or "rooms" (ESV/NIV) The Greek definition of the word used in this verse is here.

The problem here is with continuing to use the word "mansions" knowing good and well the definition that modern people will have in their mind for that term. The problem is furthered when you have preachers saying things like "some of the greatest mansions in heaven will be the property of unsung heroes here on earth". (Yes, a preacher I know of has said that within the past couple of months...)

Jesus says what he does in John 14:2 to let us know that we would be spending eternity with Him. He wasn't implying that he was going to make us a huge house to live in (and he certainly wasn't stating that there would be different levels of mansion-hood in Heaven!!). Rather, he was saying that he was going to prepare a room for us in the Father's house so that we could be where Jesus was as well! This is part of the hope that we find in this passage - the other being that Jesus will send us the Holy Spirit! Unfortunately, too many people still focus on the "mansion" (whether explicitly or implicitly).

I guess this seems a little random to post about this, but there are a couple of reasons I have done so. One was, of course, the horrible quote above about the "greatest mansions in heaven". Another reason was due to my stumbling on this word being used in a book published in 1937. You may have heard of it - The Hobbit. When they're discussing early in the book about how Smaug acquired his wealth we read "Then he went back and crept in through the Front Gate and routed out all the halls, and lanes, and tunnels, alleys, cellars, mansions, and passages." Reading that made me think about how we still get this verse wrong in the Church today. Clearly Tolkien wasn't referring to the dragon going through all of the huge houses under the mountain in the context of tunnels, cellars, and passages. Neither was Jesus stating that we would all have large houses in heaven! So this example just proves that as recently as 1937 "mansions" was being used to refer to rooms in popular writing.

Oh yeah, one other thing I thought of was the Audio Adrenaline song "Big House". It's a fun little song, and I'm not sure that we'll be playing football in Heaven, but they got this part right in singing "It's a big, big house with lots and lots of rooms."

What do you think?