Going Home
Tim Temple

Introduction

Probably every one of us has experienced, at one time or another, the last days of a certain time period: the last couple of weeks of a school year, the last day or two of a Spring vacation, or for many of us, the last few days or hours of the life of a loved one. If you have experienced that kind of thing, you know that that is a time that is always fraught with mixed emotions. That is the case, as we come to the last section of the Gospel of John. Chapters 13-21 of John's Gospel deal with the closing week of Jesus' life on earth. Even though it is several chapters, those chapters consist of one extended conversation with the disciples and the story of the crucifixion and the burial and the resurrection of Christ. But the bulk of that material is in that long conversation with them that prepares them for His death. The conversation is that, but it is interrupted several times by questions from the disciples and the answers by Jesus, but generally speaking, it is one long conversation. Then there is the story of the trial, death, and the resurrection of Christ.

In the course of these two scenes, we learn some of the greatest lessons of the entire book and some of the most familiar lessons. The chapter falls into four parts. In verses 1-4, Jesus makes the announcement of His departure. Then in verses 5-11, as you might expect, there is a great deal of agitation over that departure on the part of the disciples. In verses 12-26, we have the advantages of the departure. Jesus pointed out to His disciples that there would actually be some sense in which God's work would proceed even more rapidly if He did depart. Then there are some admonitions about the departure in verses 27-31.

We are not going to get all the way through this chapter in this lesson, but we want to begin thinking about it. The first thing that we want to talk about is the announcement of the departure that Jesus makes in verses 1-4. Knowing that that was going to be a surprising announcement to them, even though He has been preparing them for it gradually, He begins, in His grace and love, by giving them a brief preface to the announcement. Notice verse 1:

Preface to Jesus' Announcement

John 14

1Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

I have a friend who, whenever he gets ready to give his wife news that he thinks she is not going to be too happy to hear, says, “Now, muster all your grace. Get ready for what I am about to say to you.” I tried that once or twice after the first time I heard him do it, but it didn't work as well for me as it did for him. But he at least allowed her to get set to hear something that she probably wasn't going to like.

That is what Jesus is saying here, except that it is much more tender and loving and realistic. He says, “Let not your heart be troubled. What I am about to tell you may sound troubling to you at first, but if you will continue to believe in God, and believe in Me, you will see that all of this will come together just like it is supposed to.”

Notice that He gives them a command in the first part of the verse: “Let not your heart be troubled.” In the Greek, it is more readily recognizable as a command, but if you think about it, even in the English syntax, this would be a command, general as it is. “Let not your heart be troubled.” That is something that you can choose to do or not to do as you hear this news that you are about to hear.

Then He also reminds them of the way in which they can obey the command: “You believe in God, believe also in Me.” In the Greek text, this is written in a tense that means you already believe in God. You are in the process of believing in God. It is going on now, and you also believe in Me already.” So, we could translate this a little more literally, “Keep on believing. You believe in God. Keep on believing in Him in the light of what you are about to hear. You believe in Me. Keep on believing in Me in the light of what you are about to hear. What you are about to hear, in so many words, is not the kind of thing that you would expect God or Me to do.” Jesus said, “If you haven't been listening to Me carefully in the last few months, and you haven't picked up on the clues that I have been giving you, you may be shocked, so whatever you hear, whatever you see Me do in the next little while, keep on believing in God and keep on believing in Me.”

Think how realistic this is. There was no question that they believed in God. He was the backbone of their upbringing in Judaism, so just by having been raised in the Jewish setting they would have believed in God; but now Jesus reminds them again, as He has done many times, that He too is God. They had seen enough to believe that, but they just needed to be reminded. If they really believed in the power of God and if they really believed that Jesus was God, it would be an easy matter to not let their hearts be troubled.

That is good advice for us too. It is amazing how easy it is to forget that basic underlying fact of everything that we believe, especially in the face of an alarming situation or bad news, isn't it? When we come to some significant juncture in our life or something happens that we did not expect or something doesn't happen that we did expect or when we get bad news or shocking news, it is easy, if we don't stop and think about it, to begin to think, “What has God done? Why has God allowed this to happen? What kind of a God would let me face something like this?”

Jesus said to the disciples and He would say to us, “Keep on believing. I know this isn't what you were expecting. I know this doesn't look like something a loving God would do, but keep on believing. You believe in God; keep on believing. You believe in Me; keep on believing in Me.” That is God's message and has been God's message down through the years to many believers in many kinds of situations.

The Point of the Announcement

Having made the preparations for the announcement of His departure, in verse 2, He gives them the actual point of the announcement. He says:

John 14

2In 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.

The bombshell of the announcement itself is in two little words in the middle of verse 2: “I go…” We will talk about the rest of the sentence in a minute, but that is the essence of the news that He wanted them to hear. The news that sounded like bad news, and at first hearing it sounded like the very worst thing that could happen, turned out to be the best news that ever took place. Graciously, he goes ahead and tells them why He is going. He says, “I go to prepare a place for you.” He is going for their good. He is going to prepare them a place in His Father's house. Then in verse 3, it gets even better than that:

John 14

3And 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.

Let's stop and think about this. These are such familiar verses, and we are going to find this true as we continue on through the book, but we need to think carefully about them as though we had never heard them before, because when something is familiar to us, it is easy to let our minds wander. It is easy not to look for the significance of what is taking place and being said.

Think how the disciples must have felt when they heard Jesus say, “I am going away.” It possibly didn't register with them, the rest of what He said. All they knew was that He was going away. What a shock that must have been and what a shattering blow. He had been hinting at it for weeks. Think of the thrills that these men had in the previous three years. Think about this: routine, everyday, normal, outdoor, he-men guys, your routine run-of-the-mill male, watching Jesus do things that they had never even imagined in some cases—walking on the water, turning water to wine, healing people, casting out demons and bringing dead people back to life.

We are so familiar with that that it is easy to overlook, but try to think about that as though you had never heard these stories. What an amazing three years, and now that is about to come to a screeching halt. They probably had begun to get used to it and thought that it was going to go on forever, but it is about to come to an end. Think about how dull life without Jesus must have seemed to them as they tried to envision what it would be like without Him, even though they had been without Him a whole lot longer than they had been with Him. With what they had come to love and appreciate and expect from Him, life would just never be the same again.

I think it was after the first world war that there was a song that said, “How you gonna keep them down on the farm when they have been to gay Paree?” How would these men ever be satisfied with life again if Jesus was going away? But wait a minute. Maybe it won't be so bad after all, because He is talking about coming back and getting them and about theirliving in mansions in Heaven.

The word mansions is a translation of a Greek word that means “dwelling places,” or “rooms which were added to a palace of an Oriental potentate.” Remember, this is an Oriental setting in which this took place. The Greek word just basically means “rooms,” but that particular word, in the context that they always heard it, had to do with additions to the palace. Of course, the traditional way that families lived in those days, including the kings, was that the son would marry, bring his bride and they would live in the family home. They would just add on to the family home. It sounds pretty rough to some of us, but in those days, it would have been acceptable and understandable and even expected. Jesus says, “What you have seen the kings do and the wealthy people do, I am going to do that for you. I am going to prepare a place in My home for you.”

I think the King James Version translators and the New King James Version translators used the word mansions to try to convey the majestic rooms that Jesus mentioned here, but the picture is one of living in the very presence of the King Himself in His own palace and having your home there, your being at home in His home. Again, that is a promise that we hear. We talk about these verses often when a person dies, but think about this for a minute. Whether they are literal mansions or not, it doesn't really matter. We will find out soon enough. We are going to like it, no matter what it is.

If Jesus Christ could create all the majestic beauties of the earth, and Colossians, chapter 1, verse 17, says that is exactly what He did, think about how beautiful His own palace must be. If He could create the Rockies, if He could create the Pacific coast, if He could create the Pacific islands, what would He do for His own home? He says, “I am going to make some rooms in My own home.”

When we have a guest coming to our own homes, we try to put things in there that we know that they would like—maybe a book or two or a magazine that we know they would like. We put out the new sheets and the freshly washed towels that we use just for guests. It is as nice as we can make it for our guests. We want it to be even nicer than a hotel room. All of that is wrapped up in the idea of Jesus telling the disciples, “I am going to prepare a place for you.”

By extension, that applies to all of us. Think about that. God has gone to the trouble to prepare a place for you and me individually to live in His home. The idea of Heaven that we generally have is of streets of mansions, but it may be that this is talking about this huge palace that will have individual rooms that are designed just for us, but all part of one big community so you don't have to say that you don't know your neighbors.

I have lived in my neighborhood for about a year and a half, and I think that I have met all of the neighbors, but I don't know them at all, and they don't know me. Some of them tell me that they have seen the commercials that we have on television about our television program, but I meet very few people who see the program. I meet a lot of people who say they see the commercials, but I don't know those people. I know them enough to wave to them when they come down the street, but Heaven is going to be a place where we all live in the same place together. It won't be a matter of having neighbors in the mansion next door; but it may be that all of us are together in God's house in rooms that have been added for us as members of the family.

He Will Receive Us to Himself

Even though the disciples may now be beginning to understand the purpose of His departure, Jesus goes still further in verses 3-4. He gives them some pacification about the announcement. It probably sounds a little bit better to them than it did when He first started, but He still knows that they are going to need something more. So, He says in verse 3:

John 14

3And 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.
4And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

If they could believe that He was going to go away and prepare things and get things ready, they could just as readily believe that He was going to come back. This is helpful for us because we have the historical record of the fact that He went away. The Scripture tells us very clearly all about the way that He went and how He looked when He went up. Within six weeks of this little conversation, these disciples would see Him go up into Heaven, physically rising up in the clouds. Jesus designs this promise in verses 3-4 so that when they see Him go into the clouds, they can remember that He said, “If I go, I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go I will come again and receive you unto myself, and there you may be also.” Every time that they thought about the ascension of Christ, they hopefully would also think about the fact that He would come back and get them.

Notice how personal that return will be: “I will come again and receive you unto myself…” I think that we would all agree that if we could be personally present with Jesus, it wouldn't really matter where we were. Think about how personal that is when He says, “…to myself.” There are going to be a lot of glories in Heaven, a lot of wonderful things that our minds can only begin to comprehend. In fact, Paul tells us in Romans that we can't really comprehend what God has prepared for us in Heaven. But to the extent that we can comprehend that, it is fascinating to think of all that we are going to enjoy.

Notice what Jesus says: The major characteristic of it is that He will gather us to Himself. Oh, there will be the golden street and the twelve fruit trees that bear all kinds of fruit in their seasons lining the street, and there will be the throne room of God with lightning around it, and all of those things that the Bible tells us about in various places about Heaven. There will be no more tears, no more crying, no more sickness, no more sorrow—all those things that the Bible touches on that are still only a glimpse of what it will be—but more important than any of that is that we will be with Him.

He will take us to Himself. It is the vision conjured up in our mind when we think about ourselves as a little child crawling up in our daddy's lap or our granddaddy's lap and being comforted by him: “I will receive you to Myself.” So what does it matter if they are palaces or rooms in a mansion? What does it matter what we will do all day? The main thing is, out of which everything else stems, He will receive us to Himself.

I hope that you can get that picture. That is an extremely important concept that Jesus tells the disciples and records for us. This personal return of Jesus happens every time a believer dies. Did you know that? Jesus did eventually come back and get these disciples and take them to be with Himself, but not all at one time. He came and got different ones of them at different times, but He kept His promise to them.

I always try to point out that the story of Lazarus and the rich man, which Jesus told in Luke, chapter 16, is not a parable. It is a story. If you study the characteristics of parables, that story that Jesus told doesn't fit the characteristics of parables; it fits the characteristics of an historical story that Jesus told. I believe that that story in Luke, chapter 16, actually took place. It is the story of the rich man who is dining sumptuously every day and the poor man who ate the scraps off his table. It says that when the poor man died, angels came and took him into Abraham's Bosom, which was the Old Testament form of Heaven. Since the rest of the story has all the characteristics of a literal story, I think that is literal too. I think that very probably what Jesus was telling there in Luke, chapter 16, is that when believers die, angels come and carry them into Heaven.

I have never seen the angels, but I will tell you that I have been present with people who were dying and thought they saw the angels. My dad used to tell about his own father seeing Jesus as he was dying. My dad believed that he really did see Jesus. I have been present when a godly, older woman was dying, and in the last thirty minutes of her life, she said she saw angels in the hospital room with her family and with me. I believed it, and her son and daughter-in-law did, too.

I think there is a great possiblity from that story that what Jesus is saying was that that happens every time a believer dies. The angels come and carry them to Heaven, but this passage seems to indicate that Jesus himself comes and escorts believers into Heaven. Immediately someone may say, “How can that be? The world is such a big place. Jesus would have to be like Santa Claus, trying to be everywhere at once.” I don't know how that would work, but I think it is more possible for Jesus than for Santa Claus. He is God. He can do that. He may have been speaking figuratively here. On the other hand, remember, He was giving these men comfort about this shattering news that they were hearing, and He said, “I will come again and receive you unto Myself.” So it is very possible, and I think very probable, that Jesus Himself comes and escorts believers who die into His presence in Heaven.

God is Preparing Us for Heaven and Heaven for Us

All of that taken together tells us what death is. It is that time when Jesus has our room ready in Heaven. That is when He comes. The overall context of the New Testament indicates that during the time between when we come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and He comes back to get us, He is getting things ready for us in Heaven. I think it also would imply that He is getting us ready. You know the Christian life is partially to get us ready to enjoy Heaven. The tests that God puts us through, the events that He allows to come into our lives, our reactions to those things, and our growing trust in Him are all designed to equip us to enjoy Heaven more fully.

They have purposes here on earth, too, but let me tell you something. The better you come to know Jesus Christ during your life here on this earth, the more you come to love Him and trust Him and depend on Him, the more you are going to enjoy Heaven. That just makes sense from a human standpoint. You know that when you are going to visit someone that you have known and loved deeply, you look forward to that visit. You don't have any qualms about that visit, but when you are going to visit somebody that you don't know very well—maybe your Mother-in-law's house for the first time—it is not nearly as enjoyable as the tenth or twentieth visit if everything develops in the marriage like we like to see it develop. What I am saying is when we go to be with someone that we know and love, we enjoy it immeasurably more than to go and visit with someone we don't know very well. That in itself is a reason to live a life that is close to Jesus Christ while we are on this earth, because it is going to make Heaven that much more enjoyable. I think that is part of God's timing.

I have said this before, but I admit it again. God's timing in death is, for me, one of the hardest things to understand. I do not understand why God sometimes takes little babies to Heaven, why, from the human side of it, families have to go through that. Equally, I do not understand why He lets elderly people linger sometimes in great suffering for long periods of time. I don't understand that, but it is not my responsibility to understand that. I don't have to defend God about that. I don't have to explain it, but I think a part of God's timing has to do with this promise right here: “When I go and prepare you a place, I will come again and receive you unto Myself.” It has something to do with His getting Heaven ready for us. And that is just the fringe that my human mind can comprehend; but it is hard to understand aspects of death. The death of any loved one is difficult, but some are more difficult than others to understand. I am convinced that it is wrapped up in some way with His getting Heaven ready for us and getting us ready for Heaven.

Incidentally, let me say that this has a tremendous bearing on the whole concept of euthanasia that is staring us in the face. I heard this past week that a recent court decision by the ninth U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the right to euthanasia. It can still be overturned by the Supreme Court, but this was an overturn of a previous decision, and this overturn affirms the right to euthanasia under certain conditions. That decision was drawn heavily on the Roe versus Wade decision which affirms the right to abortion. You see evil begets evil. Evil gives a platform on which to build further evil. Jesus said, “When I have your place ready, I will come back and receive you unto Myself.” Jesus is the one who decides when death takes place.

That is not something that human beings are allowed to decide, no matter how difficult that decision may seem to be. No matter how difficult waiting on Jesus to make that decision may be, the Word of God makes unequivocally clear here and in several other places that it is God Who appoints the time of death; He decides the time of death. It is an important doctrine for us to know in what is going on in our world today and what may very likely continue to get worse and worse.

Coming back to our text, I want to point out that in addition to this personal return for each one of us, which Jesus does at the time of our death, I Thessalonians, chapter 4, verses 13-18, tells us that He will return for a whole group of living believers. When His overall program is done and He is ready for that, there will be people living on earth who will not go through death. Christ will appear in the air and catch us up to be with Himself. At that point in time, the bodies of those who have died before that point in time will come out of the graves and join their spirits which are in Heaven, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

When you think about it, this concept of Jesus' returning for us is what gives life its true meaning. It is not just a passing mention. One out of every twenty verses in the New Testament says something about the Lord's return. In one way or another, every twenty verses or so refer to the return of Christ. Because of these promises, the only thing that should trouble a believer is the personal sin that comes into our lives, and God has promised that that is already forgiven. Our fellowship with Him will be restored as we acknowledge that sin, and someday He will even deliver us from that personal sin. That is what Paul refers to in Ephesians, chapter 1, verse 18, as the hope of our calling . What is it that kept Paul going through all of the difficulties he went through and all of the rejection that he suffered? He said, “What keeps me going is the knowledge that someday I will be in the presence of Jesus, that He is going to receive me unto Himself.”

Second Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 10, and Romans, chapter 14, verse 10, say that when we do get to Heaven, we will face a judgment of all of the things that we have done on this earth, and at least a part of the reason for that judgment will be to reveal the good things that we have done. In fact, Jesus said, in another place, that if we even give a cup of cold water to someone motivated by serving the Lord, we will be rewarded for that. Can you imagine that? God not only is going to save us and allow us to live in Heaven for all eternity; He is going to reward us for the things that we have done in His name to please Him and to honor Him. That is what should motivate us to keep going and should motivate us to keep going when nobody else understands why we do what we do—more importantly in our world, why we don't do what we don't do.

I am learning more and more as in the last fifteen to eighteen months God has been drilling me and teaching me more and more about this living solely to please Him—making every decision based on what will please Him and being obedient to things that He has specifically said in Scripture and trying to be obedient to the principles that He has given us. Living a life of purity of heart, pleasing to Him and letting the chips fall where they may is what the Christian life is supposed to be about. I have spent many years in my life, and I am not alone in this, letting the world decide how I am going to live. It is not usually a deliberate thing. We just move through life doing what everybody else does, doing what comes naturally. That is not the Christian life. Walking with the Lord is walking to please Him and walking in a conscious awareness of His presence with us, walking in obedience to Him, choosing and sometimes making hard choices to obey Him rather than to just do things that come naturally.

We Will Someday Be In His Presence

All of that sets the stage for the fact that someday we will be in His presence. Verse 4 says:

John 14

4And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

By this time, they should have known where He was going, and they did know the way to it. He had talked over and over again about going back to His Father and the fact that He was from Heaven and that He would be going back to Heaven, and they should have by this time known the way. They may have been standing just outside the circle when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus and said, “Whoever believes in Me will have everlasting life,” and they had heard Him tell the woman at the well in Samaria how she could have true religion, not just the religion of her forefathers. They had observed that. He had told them these things, and He is going to tell them some more before He actually leaves. We have that knowledge, too. We know where He went, and we know the way to get there.

Let me ask you, do you know where He went? Do you know who He is? Do you know where He came from? Most importantly, have you believed in Him? You know where He went. Do you know the way for you to get there? That way is the very simple truth—believing in Him. Jesus, when He said to Nicodemus, “Whoever believes in Me,” meant not just that He was alive, but to believe in everything that He stands for.

We talk about a company having a name. Sometimes when people sell their company, they get a certain amount of the sale price for the good will that the company has established. The name of the company is more than just what is on the sign. The name of the company is everything that that company has stood for through all the years. Proverbs says that a good name is better than great riches. That doesn't mean just that when everybody else is having silly names, you have a good name. We all know that a good name has to do with everything that our life is about. That is what Jesus meant when He said to Nicodemus, “Believe in Me…” He meant, “I am the Son of God. I am the sacrifice for your sins,” and all those things that the Scripture tells us about Jesus. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved,” Paul said to the Philippian jailor. “Whoever believes in Me,” Jesus said, “will have everlasting life.”

In a few minutes, we are going to have a baptismal service in which some people are going to give a testimony to the fact that they have believed in Jesus Christ, and I can think of no better time than this to emphasize the truth of what they will be giving testimony to—the fact that Jesus Christ died for their sins and your sins and my sins and that He was buried. We will picture that by burying these people in baptism. He rose from the dead to validate the fact that His death was effective, that our sins were paid for. That is the sign that God gave us that He had accepted the sacrifice. As we have seen in this passage, He is coming back to take us to Heaven; yes, to take us to mansions; yes, to take us to the beautiful throne room of God; yes, to take us to Himself to let us live with Him throughout eternity.

Conclusion

If you have never trusted Jesus Christ, there is no better time to do it than right now. You do not have to walk down an aisle, but this is a personal transaction between you and God. Right now, wherever you are in the privacy of your own heart, you can say, “Yes, I do believe that Jesus died for my sins, and I accept His offer of eternal life because of what He did in paying for my sins on the Cross. God will forgive my sins because of what Jesus did.”

Just in the privacy of your own heart, tell God something like that—that concept, but put it in your own words if you want to. I trust that those of us who know Christ as Savior will look forward, maybe soon, to when He will come back and receive us to Himself.


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