Heavenly Mansions

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.

3. Homes
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.

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New Jerusalem I

Q. Rev 21 describes the New Jerusalem. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

This seems to imply that not everyone will live inside the city and that ranks (kings) and nations still exist in the new world. If there are gates, there must be people going in and out of the city. Maybe the new Jerusalem is not where all believers will be. Any views on this?

A. Although I favor literal interpretation in general, you need to know the OT background to interpret properly. Rev. 21:24-27 draws upon the imagery in several passages:
Is 60:3 “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
• Is 60:5 “Then you will see and be radiant, and your heart will thrill and rejoice; Because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you, the wealth of the nations will come to you.
• Is 60:11 “Your gates will be open continually; They will not be closed day or night, so that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession.
• Is 52:1 Awake, awake, clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion; Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; For the uncircumcised and the unclean will no longer come into you.
• Joel 3:17 Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain. So Jerusalem will be holy, and strangers will pass through it no more.

First, the nations and kings are those who obey God, not those in rebellion and were destroyed:
Rev 16:19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.
• Rev 19:19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.

Second, the gates will not be shut, but open continually. But notice who can enter:
• Nothing impure.
• Not the shameful or deceitful i.e. sinners.
• Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life i.e. saved. Rev 20:15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
• Not the uncircumcised and the unclean i.e. the unrepentant. Circumcision here refers to the heart, by the Spirit (Rom 2:29).
• Not strangers i.e. not those to whom the Lord declares, “I never knew you”.

The unsaved will be in the lake of fire. So taken together I believe “entering the city” is figurative of “being saved”, and does not mean living outside the city and physically entering it.

New Heaven & New Earth

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Q. I tend to take the foundations of heaven & the earth physically because the Bible mentioned that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, unless new heaven and new earth means another dimension closer to God’s.

A. Yes the Bible referred to new heaven(s) & a new earth in two passages:
2 Pet 3:11 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
• Rev 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.

The new heaven and new earth are physical, because the new Jerusalem & its foundation stones are physical:
Rev 21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
• Rev 21:19 The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald;

But while the first heaven & first earth are physical, that does not automatically mean their “foundations” are physical. Go over the 7 appearances of the term “foundations of the earth” in the Bible again. Insert your physical interpretation, say the tectonic plates on which the continents rest, & see if it would fit e.g.
Ps 82:5 They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken – They (kings & judges) walk about in darkness; the tectonic plates are shaken. What does the former have to do with the latter?
Prov 8:29 When He set for the sea its boundary So that the water would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth – So that the water (the sea) would not transgress God’s command, when He marked out the tectonic plates. But much of the tectonic plates are submerged under the sea. They don’t set the boundary or shore line!
Try substituting “tectonic plates” for “foundations of the earth” in the other 5 occurrences:
https://rayliu1.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/foundations-of-heaven-earth-1-of-2/
While a physical interpretation could fit Isa 24:18 or 51:13, it wouldn’t fit the others. Remember, unlike a figurative interpretation which could be different depending on the context, a literal interpretation has to be consistent in all the passages. That just would not do. That’s why I said the meaning is figurative. Think it through carefully.

Foundations of Heaven & Earth (2 of 2)

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(Continued from yesterday)

The term “foundations of heaven” appears only once in the NASB:
2 Sam 22:8 “Then the earth shook and quaked, The foundations of heaven were trembling And were shaken, because He was angry.

There is a similar expression “foundations of the world”, which appears twice in the NASB:
2 Sam 22:16 “Then the channels of the sea appeared, The foundations of the world were laid bare By the rebuke of the LORD, At the blast of the breath of His nostrils.
• Ps 18:15 Then the channels of water appeared, And the foundations of the world were laid bare At Your rebuke, O LORD, At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.

The context of 2 Sam 22 is David’s song of praise after his victory over the Philistines. There is a parallel account in Ps 18 (compare 2 Sam 2:22:2-51 to Ps 18:2-50). Basically 22:8 speaks of God hearing David’s cry & coming to rescue him from his enemies, accompanied by thunder. The foundations of the world passages seem to recall God delivering the Israelites by taking them across the Red Sea on dry ground. It does not necessarily refer to physical foundations.

Finally, why heaven & heavens? Ordinarily we refer to heaven as where God dwells, but the Bible actually describes three heavens:

1. Ps 8:8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. This is the sky, the atmosphere.
2. Deut 17:3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded. This is the starry heaven.
3. 2 Co 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. This is the heaven of heavens (Deut 10:14; 1 Kgs 8:27; Ps 115:16, 148:4), the abode of God.

Context decides which heaven we mean. Judaism, Islam & popular culture refer to 7th heaven, but there is no biblical basis for that.

Foundations of Heaven & Earth (1 of 2)

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Q. Isa 48:13 My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens …
2 Sam 22:8 “Then the earth shook and quaked, The foundations of heaven were trembling and were shaken, because He was angry.
Does the Bible tell us what are the foundations of the earth and the foundations of heaven? Why heaven and heavens? (singular and plural)

A. It appears you’ve quoted the NIV for Isa 48:13 but the NASB for 2 Sam 22:8. For consistency I will use the more literal NASB throughout. The term “foundations of the earth” appears 7 times in the NASB, as follows:

Ps 82:5 They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken.
• Prov 8:29 When He set for the sea its boundary So that the water would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth;
• Isa 24:18 Then it will be that he who flees the report of disaster will fall into the pit, And he who climbs out of the pit will be caught in the snare; For the windows above are opened, and the foundations of the earth shake.
• Isa 40:21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
• Isa 51:13 That you have forgotten the LORD your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth, That you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, As he makes ready to destroy? But where is the fury of the oppressor?
• Jer 31:37 Thus says the LORD, “If the heavens above can be measured And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,” declares the LORD.
• Micah 6:2 “Listen, you mountains, to the indictment of the LORD, And you enduring foundations of the earth, Because the LORD has a case against His people; Even with Israel He will dispute.

While you may be thinking of a literal, physical foundation, the Bible uses this term more figuratively:
• Ps 82:5 – In context God addresses kings & judges as “gods” who know & understand nothing. So the “foundations” or world order under their rule are shaken.
• Prov 8:29 – God’s work in creation is compared to the construction of a building. It is pictorial language.
• Isa 24:18 – The shaking of the foundations refers to earthquakes
• Isa 40:21 – “from the foundations of the earth” means “since the earth was founded” i.e. since the beginning of creation
• Isa 51:13 – Poetic description of God as Maker or Creator
• Jer 31:37 – A promise that God will not completely cast off Israel, similar to the Lord’s “it is easier for heaven & earth to pass away” in Lk 16:17
• Micah 6:2 – Here God is depicted as prosecutor bringing charges against Israel & calling inanimate objects (mountains & foundations) as witnesses because they are enduring or lasting.

Although I believe in a literal interpretation as far as possible, I also believe the Bible uses figurative language and we need not always push for a literal physical explanation.

(To be continued)

Knowledge of Good and Evil (2 of 2)

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(Continued from yesterday)

I think the figurative meaning fits the serpent’s temptation better, because if the literal meaning was meant, why should Adam and Eve’s desire to know good from evil be a sin? Isn’t moral knowledge good? When Solomon asked God for wisdom to discern between good and evil, wasn’t God pleased? Isn’t the ability to discern good and evil for the mature? So why would God punish Adam and Eve for desiring a good thing? The problem is not with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil itself. There is nothing inherently bad about the tree. God could have used any tree to test Adam – whether he will trust and obey God.

However, if the figurative meaning was intended, then the serpent’s suggestion makes sense:
Gen 2:17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.
• Gen 3:5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
• Gen 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; …

The serpent insinuated that God had an ulterior motive in forbidding them to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil – to prevent them from knowing all things and become omniscient like God. The sin is in disobeying God and believing in Satan, the very sin of pride Satan himself committed:
Isa 14:14 I will make myself like the Most High;
• Ezk 28:2 Because your heart is lifted up and you have said, ‘I am a god, … although you make your heart like the heart of God;
• Ezk 28:6 Because you have made your heart like the heart of God;
• Ezk 28:9 Will you still say, “I am a god”;

Prior to Gen 3:6 Adam and Eve knew good and evil only cognitively. They knew to obey God is good and to disobey is evil, and the consequence is death or alienation from God. After they ate they knew it experientially. They became aware that they were naked. Previously the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (Gen 2:25); now they are ashamed and covered themselves up.

Lastly, what does Gen 3:22 mean – Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil”? God could not have meant Adam and Eve had become omniscient like Him and knew everything. They are creatures and will forever be finite, and could not possibly have infinite knowledge, i.e. become omniscient. Never! The serpent was dead wrong. I believe the literal meaning was intended and God simply meant Adam became like Him in the sense of being able to discern good from evil. Unfortunately of his own free-will he refused good and chose evil. Some commentators added that God might be stating this in a mocking tone i.e. the man has become like one of Us – NOT! but we have no way of ascertaining whether this is the case as the text did not say.

Knowledge of Good and Evil (1 of 2)

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Q. What is the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 2:17? What did the serpent (Satan) say it is in Genesis 3:5? In Genesis 3:7, after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they realized they were naked and felt ashamed, this is not knowing good and evil. What did God mean in Genesis 3:22 ?

A. This is a good question, missed by many Christians. There are two levels of meaning. First, the literal. The knowledge of good and evil is moral knowledge to discern, to refuse evil and choose good, based on the following:

Discern good and evil:
2 Sam 14:17 Then your maidservant said, ‘Please let the word of my lord the king be comforting, for as the angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern good and evil. And may the LORD your God be with you.’
• 1 Kgs 3:9 So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
• Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Knowledge of good or evil:
Deut 1:39 Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.
• Isa 7:15-16 He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.

Second, the figurative. Good and evil is a figure of speech, an antithesis, a contrast of two things which are direct opposites. Biblical writers use two extremes to represent everything in between. A well-known example is Rom 8:38-39 For I am convinced that:
• neither death, nor life, i.e. all physical beings;
• nor angels, nor principalities, i.e. all spiritual beings;
• nor things present, nor things to come, i.e. all time;
• nor powers, i.e. all forms of power;
• nor height, nor depth, i.e. all space;
• nor any other created thing, a catch-all phrase;
will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here Paul used 10 things, including 4 pairs of antithesis, to indicate that nothing will be able to separate us from God’s love. Everything is included, with no exceptions. In Gen 3, good and evil is used as antithesis to represent all things in between; knowledge of good and evil therefore means all knowledge i.e. omniscience.

(To be continued)