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Didn’t Jesus go to heaven to prepare a place for us?

Didn’t Jesus go to heaven to prepare a place for us?
Text in question: John 14:1, 2

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 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.”

Proof text: John 14:3

A common sentiment heard at funerals, spoken in an effort to bring peace to the hearts of those left behind, is that the departed loved one has gone on to be with Jesus and is now enjoying the afterlife in the heavenly paradise, looking down upon us. When the person presiding over the funeral uses Scripture to support this claim of immediate life after death, he often uses a handful of verses. One of those is the passage in question from John 14.

Jesus did, indeed, promise that He left the earth to go and prepare a place for those who would eventually follow Him to heaven. On that point, the Scriptures are unmistakably clear. As Christians, we are right to find comfort in that promise. The Creator God, the Savior of the universe, has promised us that one day we will live with Him in a place He prepared especially for us. What better outcome can we hope for?

The theological problem these two verses pose surrounds the question of when, exactly, we get to inherit these places the Savior is preparing for us. The time frame commonly presented at funerals is immediate; that the deceased person has gone immediately to heaven to receive that promised new home. The verses, however, do not expressly state this. It is an assumption on our part.

If we add the verse following right after the text in question, verse 3, the entire passage paints a different picture of life after death. It now reads:

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1–3).

With this additional verse, we no longer have to guess or assume when our eternal inheritance will occur. Jesus tells us quite plainly that He “will come again” to take us there.

The difference is important. If we immediately inherit this prize when we die, our disembodied souls go to heaven to join Jesus. However, if we inherit the prize when Christ returns, we go nowhere at death. Christ comes to get us at the second coming. The power to reach heaven remains with Jesus, not with us.

There are some Bible texts that pose legitimate difficulties for Bible students. What a shame when we make problematic texts out of easy ones like these! To understand Christ’s message regarding the place in heaven He is preparing for us, we need only read His entire statement.

*All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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