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 Jerusalem (2 of 2)

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(Continued from yesterday)

The dimensions of the New Jerusalem are given in Rev 21:
Rev 21:16-17 The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements.

Commentators are baffled by the size of the city, as 1,500 miles would be more than the flight distance from Toronto to Havana flying south, or to Saskatoon flying west. People can’t imagine the size of one city stretching halfway across the country. This is especially when its length & width & height are equal i.e. like a cube. A square city 1,500 miles in length & width is hard enough to imagine, but 1,500 miles in height too? No building is that tall, as even Mt. Everest is only 29,029 ft. or only 5.5 miles tall, less than 0.4% of 1,500 miles. For that matter, an altitude above 100 km or 62 miles above sea level is commonly used to define outer space, & 1,500 miles is over 24 times that!

Attempts have therefore been made to make the size more “reasonable”, including:
• It is only symbolic. 1,500 miles is literally 12,000 stadia, with 1 stadion equal to approx. 600 ft. These interpreters hold that both the 12,000 witnesses sealed in each tribe & the 12,000 stadia simply mean a complete number, & do not have to be taken literally. But if all it means is a complete number, why not 1,200 stadia?
• The 1,500 miles is the circumference, not each side. This would reduce each side 375 miles, still more than the distance from Toronto to New York City. And of course a height of 375 miles would still be beyond the imagination of anything on earth.
• Some argued that the height refers to the mountain or plateau on which the city sits, not the city itself, as its walls are only 72 yards or 216 ft high. Granting this assumption for the moment, that still requires the mountain to be 1,500 miles (or at least 375 miles) high, which simply does not exist.
Basically none of these options are satisfactory.

Personally I do not find such accommodation necessary, as the current earth will be burned up & we do not need to base the new on the old as reference:
2 Pet 3:10, 12-13 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. … 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.
• 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 diameter of our moon is 2,159 miles, so 1,500 miles is just under 70% of the moon’s diameter. A cubicle city that size would provide huge mansions for all OT & NT saints that ever lived (Jn 14:2).

Why cubicle? Because the Holy of Holies, where God dwells, was cubicle:
1 Kings 6:20 The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits in length, twenty cubits in width, and twenty cubits in height, and he overlaid it with pure gold. He also overlaid the altar with cedar.
Since God dwells among His people in the New Jerusalem, its dimensions are cubicle to represent perfect symmetry.

New Jerusalem (1 of 2)

new-jerusalem-8

Q. What is the meaning of the foundation stones & dimensions of the New Jerusalem? Is it literal or symbolic?

A. The foundation stones of the New Jerusalem are described in Rev 21:
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 21:19-20 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; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.

The twelve foundation stones represent the twelve apostles, because the Church, God’s household, is built on the foundation of the apostles & prophets:
Eph 2:19-20 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,

Some commentators tried to equate the 12 precious stones with the 12 stones on the breastpiece of the high priest:
Ex 28:17-21 You shall mount on it four rows of stones; the first row shall be a row of ruby, topaz and emerald;
• and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and a diamond;
• and the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst;
• and the fourth row a beryl and an onyx and a jasper; they shall be set in gold filigree.
• The stones shall be according to the names of the sons of Israel: twelve, according to their names; they shall be like the engravings of a seal, each according to his name for the twelve tribes.(Also Ex 39:10-14)

However, while 7 stones appear on both lists (jasper, sapphire, emerald, beryl, topaz, jacinth & amethyst), the other 5 do not match:
• in Rev: chalcedony, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite & chrysoprase;
• in Ex: ruby, turquoise, diamond, agate & onyx.
The list in Rev. is in Greek while that in Ex. is in Hebrew, & scholars cannot definitively identify one with the other. More importantly, Rev 21:14 specifically indicates the names on the 12 foundation stones are those of the 12 apostles, not the 12 sons of Israel (12 tribes). I therefore believe that it is counter-productive to equate one with the other. Suffice to say that both are precious and beautiful in God’s sight.

(To be continued)

New Heaven & New Earth

foundations-of-the-earth-3

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)

foundations-of-the-heavens-1

(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)