Heavenly Dwelling Places in John 14:2, 23?

Hhmm . . . I find it interesting that we interpret μονή in John 14:2 as “heavenly dwelling places” but certainly cannot do so in John 14:23 . . . maybe “the Father’s house” is the Church (cp. John 2:13–22 for a possible shift of the Father’s house away from the Temple to Christ’s Body) and the “many dwelling places” are Christians in the Church [I’m not the originator of this idea BTW, but I had not noticed the use of μονή before today]. In our eager anticipation of heaven, it is true that we devalue what God has given to us in the Church.

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  1. #1 by Michael on September 17, 2012 - 3:25 pm

    There was a paper at the Atlanta ETS on “Father’s house” being the church. I wish I had a copy (he didn’t make enough). I found, at least through listening, that his argument was unconvincing. I would like to have read it and digested it a little more. But I think v. 3 along with oikia tou patros of v. 2 forces monai to refer to “heavenly” dwelling places, even if it does not in v. 23. But for me the idea of v. 23 is the fulfillment of Jesus’ early proclamation of “the kingdom of heaven” is at hand with the indwelling Holy Spirit. So, in one sense, heaven, through the Holy Spirit, has come down and embodied the church.

    • #2 by rexhowe on September 20, 2012 - 1:58 pm


      Thanks for your comment bro! Hope this finds you well. Dr. Hall Harris actually made a reference to this concept, which he heard from a paper presented by a doctoral student at either SBL or ETS—can’t remember which one. I wonder if it was the same session that you attended?
      First, why do you feel that 14:3 demands “heavenly dwelling places”: “(a) And if I go and prepare a place for you, (b) I will come again and will take you to myself, (c) that where I am you may be also.” Could not part (a) refer to the Church? Couldn’t Jesus be preparing the Church as the “place for you”? (b) would then refer to his parousia, and (c) could refer to both the Church and his parousia? I don’t follow you on why verse 3 “forces” the “heavenly dwelling places” interpretation.
      Second, “house of the Father” is only referenced elsewhere in John’s Gospel in chapter 2. In John 2, Jesus moves the location of “the Father’s house” from the Temple in Jerusalem to the Temple of his body. Again, I don’t see the forced move to “heavenly dwelling places.”
      Lastly, I agree with you on verse 23. I think the text is asking for more consistency between the two uses of μονή.

      • #3 by mdjlrnc on September 20, 2012 - 9:00 pm

        Ok, I hope this is not too jumbled of a mess, but after wrestling with this most of the afternoon (thanks a lot!), I’m sort of in between—I think. Great questions by the way.

        Let me start in John 2. I think “the house of my father” in 2:16 only refers to the Temple. Then Jesus make’s an obscure statement about his body being the Temple. But in John’s quotation of Ps. 69, we know that Jesus felt the disgrace of the Temple’s corruption not just on behalf of his Father, but also because he was God. Then Jesus, in response to their question, said, “Destroy this temple…” I think the this is important. I don’t think Jesus is transferring the idea of “Father’s house” from the physical temple to himself. I don’t see the 2nd person of the Trinity being a dwelling place for the 1st person. Maybe this isn’t the place to try to import Trinitarian thought, but how can you keep it out? What I think he is doing is asserting his deity to the disciples, or at least leaving a hint for them to catch later: “I am God’s presence.” The Jews clearly did not get it. So I don’t think Jesus, in John 2, is “moving” the location of the Father’s house anywhere. I do think he is laying the foundation for God’s presence to be other than the physical temple.

        So what about 14:3? You/the paper writer/Dr. Harris raise some really great questions. If 14:3a refers to the church, then Jesus’ going (I think) refers to the cross, as the preparation was the taking of sin so that humans could be cleansed (Eph 5:26) and then indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Does that make sense? The other possibility could be his ascension as a precursor to sending to the Holy Spirit. But that doesn’t really seem like “preparing a place.” But then again, I’ve never understood what Jesus was doing in heaven all this time anyway in “preparing a place.” Is he physically building our dwelling places, and that’s what is taking so long? I suppose that could get comical: “Hey, Jesus, add on another room; there was another conversion today!” Then ceasing evangelism would usher in the return. So, no, that’s probably not it. 🙂

        So if going = cross/forgiveness, then wouldn’t “come again” = resurrection? So how did the resurrection bring them to himself? It was a promise that they would be resurrected as well, but I would say Pentecost and the indwelling Holy Spirit was what brought the church into God’s presence. And that was, in a technical, Trinitarian way, the Holy Spirit’s coming, not Jesus’ coming. So in that sense, I have a hard time seeing 14:3a referring to the cross and 14:3b referring to the parousia—unless…

        we think about it in this way?
        14:3a “If I go and prepare a place for you” = If I make that great effort to go to the cross to secure your place in a) the church or b) heaven (either could work here)
        14:3b “I will come again and take you to myself” = Why would I not come back for you?(which seems to imply the parousia, however we take 14:3a)
        14:3c “That where I am, you may be also.” = 1) So we can be together forever in heaven or 2) so we can be together in the church (Christ = head, we = body).

        I am more comfortable with that idea, but now what about 14:2?

        Can monai = Christians? I still don’t think that is the case, but I now am less inclined to think “heavenly.” Instead of Christians, I think monai probably refers to the wide expanse—spaciousness, if you will—of the kingdom of God (earthly or heavenly if we believe in the perseverance of the saints). In other words, the physical Temple was limited in size—there were only so many rooms that Herod could build, but the Father’s house (God’s presence) has unlimited space. Ok, maybe John 2 does inform this passage. 🙂

        So, here’s a paraphrase: In God’s presence, there is room for lots of people. But if this were not true, I would have told you because I am going to die to prepare a place for you. And if I’m willing to die to prepare a place for you, I will certainly return to get you so that together we will be in the Father’s presence.

        I hope that made at least a semblance of sense. My thoughts were interrupted by an elders’ meeting!

      • #4 by Michael on September 20, 2012 - 9:08 pm

        Sorry, if I confused you. I forgot that I was logged in to our family blog. That long reply is still me. 🙂 But that’s not as bad as what I did Wednesday. I tutor some high school kids, and I sent out an e-mail meant for them to the whole church!

  2. #5 by rexhowe on September 20, 2012 - 11:30 pm

    Bahaha Michael! So good to hear from you bro. I was a bit confused there for a second. Regarding the Trinitarian thought, I’ll have to think more on this; however, my initial thought is that the Temple in Jerusalem was for God presence and glory to reside, not necessarily God himself nor a certain member of the Trinity. In John 2, the presence and glory of God is fully present in Jesus as John 1:14–18 makes very clear, I think. The presence and glory of God is not at the Temple in Jerusalem and had not been for quite some time. Thus, Jesus is right; and so is John (2:21–22). Jesus himself had become the new Temple. Later in the NT, the language of the Church (i.e., Christ’s Body) being the Temple (i.e., where God’s presence and glory resides) is consistently revealed (Ephesians 2:11–22; 1 Peter 2:4ff.).

    Thus, I take the “preparing a place” to refer to the building up of the Church that followed after Christ’s ascension and after the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. That is, what Christ is doing now is interceding for and remaining present with His Body as he builds it through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    You’re closing paraphrase and “think about it in this way” comments were right on . . . in my opinion (because my opinion is so very valuable!). Thanks for the dialogue on this Michael. It’s always good for iron to sharpen iron. I’ll think more on the Trinitarian implications.

    How’s the family? And pastoral ministry?


    • #6 by Michael on September 21, 2012 - 6:25 pm

      Yes, good to dialogue. We are doing well, enjoying NC greatly and still learning lots each week about pastoral ministry. Just when it seems I’ve got something figured out…

      But we love the people we get to be with each week, and they are kind and gracious to us. Would not trade what we are doing or where we are.

      Hope your family is doing well as well as the kids at Scofield. We miss it as do our kids. Thankfully they have made friends here who are encouraging.

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