Q. John 14:2 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. Since the mansions are already there in heaven, why did Jesus say “I go to prepare a place”? and Why will there be a need for a new heaven and new earth?
A. I will give you the common interpretations, plus my opinion.
1. Mansions or Rooms
• NKJV Jn 14:2 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.
• NIV Jn 14:2 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?
• ESV Jn 14:2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
This carries the idea of many buildings with lots of rooms, one for each believer. Some commentators refer to the New Jerusalem in Rev 21, with pearly gates and foundations of precious stones. I do not think this is the correct interpretation as our resurrection bodies are not “natural” but spiritual (1 Co 15:42-44). We will not need physical rooms to rest.
2. Resurrection Bodies
The English word “mansions” translates the Greek word mone, which literally means:
• a staying, dwelling, abiding, abode
• to make an (one’s) abode
• metaphorically of God the Holy Spirit indwelling believers.
Mone appears 3 times in 2 verses in the NT:
• NASB Jn 14:2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places (twice); if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
• NASB Jn 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
Therefore other commentators take this to mean Jesus is going to prepare an imperishable, glorified, powerful, spiritual body (1 Co 15:42-44) for us. This is possible, but does not fit the context. Jn 14:1 begins with Jesus comforting His disciples. Jn 14:4-6 ends with Jesus stating “I AM the way”. Nowhere is the resurrection body in sight in the immediate context.
Still other commentators look at the cultural background in Jesus’ days. Extended families live in and around the patriarch’s home, which is the center of the community. So what Jesus was saying is “there is plenty of room to accommodate all of you, to live together as a loving, tight-knit family.”
• Amplified Jn 14:2 In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places (homes). If it were not so, I would have told you; for I am going away to prepare a place for you.
• Living Bible Jn 14:2 There are many homes up there where my Father lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming. When everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am. If this weren’t so, I would tell you plainly.
In this interpretation, Jesus was not going away to prepare a physical place, nor a resurrection body, but a home where the family of God dwells together. In general I interpret literally, but allow room for figurative language. I think this fits the context in John 14 about oneness with the Father better, and is my own view.
A new heaven and a new earth is needed because the old heavens and earth will be judged and destroyed:
• 2 Pet 3:10-13 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
The old heaven and earth were created “good” (Gen 1), but sin brought corruption and futility, and they need to be set free:
• Rom 8:20-22 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
Hope this explanation helps.