In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you... John 14:2, KJV
When I travel overseas, going to a place I’ve never visited, I’m always curious. I want to know what it’s like, what people wear there, what we are going to do when we get there, what’s the weather like, what are the customs and what are people like who live there. There are only two ways to find out: read the travel books, look it up online, or talk to someone who has been there.
When it comes to life after death, there is only one absolutely credible source. His name is Jesus Christ. When people realize that death is on the horizon, they don’t mince words; they go to the heart of the issue. With the cross on the horizon, Jesus talked candidly about His death and what lay beyond. He said, “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. And 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” (John 14:2-3, KJV).
Differing from Mohammed or the Buddha, Jesus told the disciples that He had come from heaven, and that He was going back to the Father. He spoke of all this candidly, and as a matter-of-fact sort of thing.
The word which Jesus used to describe this place which we call heaven was a Greek word, topos. A study of that word in the Bible indicates that writers never used it to describe a make-believe, fantasy “pie-in-the-sky-in-the-sweet-by-and-by” sort of place. Our English word topography comes from the same source. To my knowledge, the word always referred to an actual, literal place.
On numerous occasions I have visited Bethlehem, bowing low to enter the Church of the Nativity, going down the narrow stair case to a lower floor where a silver 14- pointed star marks the probable place or grotto where Jesus was born. That precise spot is a measurable distance from where you are listening at this very moment.
Galilee, where Jesus spent much of the time during His earthly ministry, is a beautiful place. The synagogue built in the third century on the site of the synagogue where Jesus read the Scriptures long ago is an actual geographic site. So, when Jesus, in the week of the Passover, talked about heaven, He used language which the disciples would identify with an actual geographic place.
In the Upper Room, with the cross on the horizon, Jesus told the disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them so that where He would be, they, too would be as well. He said, “Where I am, there you may be also.” If you can accept the fact that even now Jesus is in the presence of His father, that’s where we, too, will be when we cross heaven’s threshold. “Heaven,” said Harry Ironside, “is Jesus, spelled out in large letters.
“But I’ve never been there,” you may say. There are many places in the world I’ve never been, but that, of course, doesn’t mean they are not real. So is it with heaven.
And what kind of a place is this? John, the Apostle whom Jesus loved, who could be described as Jesus’ best friend, had a vision, and he described heaven in terms of what is there and what is not there. You can read about this in Revelation 21 and 22. It is defined by both what’s there and what’s not there. Find out for yourself. C. S. Lewis once wrote, “It is since Christians have ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” Think about it.
Resource reading: John 14:1-15