Jonathan Edwards: Many Mansions (Updated for Today’s Readers)—Part 2

If you missed it: Part 1

Many Mansions is a sermon by Jonathan Edwards. This version is updated for today’s readers.


 

There Are Many Mansions

 

The thought of God’s house is a tremendous and encouraging thought. As we’ve seen, God’s house is primarily heaven itself, and especially the highest heaven. Jesus informed his disciples that his plan was to go to the Father’s house, but he did not intend to leave them as orphans. His purpose was to prepare a place for them, so they could join him there. In fact, Christ has prepared various places in God’s house for all his followers. It is this idea that we will explore in this chapter.

Proposition 2:
In God’s House Are Many Mansions

In John 14:2, the English word mansions actually refers to dwelling places or seats of authority. Properly speaking, then, the mansions Jesus mentions are the living quarters or rooms where God’s people make their eternal abode. There are many such places in heaven, since it is the palace of the great King.

Let’s think about earthly palaces for a moment. In our time and place, various kings and other rulers build these fantastic houses and call them home. They are extremely large, full of big rooms and apartments. In the same way, only on a much grander scale, God’s house is a palace fit for the highest King, full of many mansion-sized rooms and apartments.

To clarify, we should understand this imagery mainly in a figurative sense. Even still, we learn many wonderful truths from the figures – truths that are to be understood in a literal sense. In the following list, I will explain what the imagery of heavenly mansions seems to be teaching us.

1. God’s house has plenty of room for large numbers of people.

The imagery of many mansions entails this literal fact; namely, heaven can easily hold vast multitudes of people. There is enough room for every person who has ever lived or ever will live!

In the Parable of the Great Banquet, the attendants brought droves of people to the feast. But one of the servants informed the master of the house, “Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room” (Luke 14:22). Indeed, there is always more room in God’s house.



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Here in this world, our public houses of worship often fill up very quickly. Sometimes we must endure overcrowding, people stuffed together. Our buildings can feel tight, small, uncomfortable, and inconvenient. But it is never like this in our heavenly Father’s house. There is always extra space in his heavenly temple.

Remember, Jesus used this information to encourage his disciples. They desperately desired to be with their Lord wherever he was. Eventually they would receive what their hearts so badly wanted. At his Father’s house, he told them, there were many mansions, which meant there was more than enough room for them. He was going there, and they would soon join him.

Now, consider this: The sheer number of dwelling places available in heaven shows us that God’s mercy must be very great! If his mercy was small, then heaven would only have a few mansions. But he graciously provides enough mercy to allow innumerable multitudes into his house – enough for everyone! Furthermore, Christ has enough merit to purchase heavenly happiness for millions and millions of people, for everyone who has ever lived or will ever live.

We can also infer that joy abounds in that glorious place. It must, since there are so many mansions there! The fountain of heaven’s happiness is more than sufficient in its supply. It can easily fill and satisfy every person who lives in God’s house. In every respect, heaven has enough happiness for all.

2. God’s house offers accommodations for all types of people.

There are many types of people in the world: powerful and small, high and low, rich and poor, wise and unwise, slave and free. Heaven can meet the needs of them all. No matter which nation a person is from or what his or her particular circumstances and conditions may be, God can provide sufficient and suitable accommodations for that person.

This is just as true for people who’ve sinned in major ways as it is for those who’ve lived relatively moral lives. It is true for weak Christians, who are still babes in Christ, and for seasoned saints, who are stronger and more mature in grace.

Heaven has the means of supplying happiness to every sort of person who listens and responds to the call of the gospel. Christ will provide a suitable place in heaven for every single person, regardless of his or her life condition. The one who comes to Christ should never fear that it will be otherwise.

This fact is implied by Jesus’ words to his disciples in our main text. After all, his disciples were in a very different condition than he was. He was their Master; they were merely his disciples. He was their Lord; they were his servants. He was their Guide; they were just followers. He was their Captain; they were his soldiers. He was the Shepherd; they were lowly sheep. He was, in a manner of speaking, the Father; they were the children. He was the glorious and holy Son of God; they were poor, sinful, and corrupt men.

As you can see, the differences between Jesus and his disciples were monumental. Yet Christ encourages them with the news that heaven had room for them, just like it did for him. After all, there were many mansions there. There was a mansion to accommodate the Lord, but also mansions to accommodate the disciples, a mansion for the head and mansions for the members, a mansion for the Son of God and mansions for those who are naturally poor, sinful, and corrupt.

In a king’s palace, the king himself dwells in a mansion or stately room. His eldest son, the heir, also resides a luxurious space. But this is not the extent of the entire palace! No, there are many other rooms and accommodations. The members of the king’s numerous household also live there with him, including all of his children, attendants, and servants.

3. God’s house was constructed with large numbers of people in mind.

In the beginning when God built heaven, he intended it to be an everlasting home for a vast, innumerable multitude. God’s plan from eternity was to save these particular souls. So in his design plan of heaven, all of these people were on his mind. Accordingly, Heaven is a spacious house, able to hold them all. Taking the myriads of his children into consideration, our Lord prepared his palace to accommodate the crowd. Jesus once said:

Matthew 25:34 Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Notice that the kingdom is prepared for you. That is, God designed it with his people in mind. We also read about the enormous size of the multitude who will gather there:

Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes.

If this was the number of people God intended to bring into his home, then clearly he built the house accordingly. Heaven is spacious enough to conveniently contain the entire multitude.

Large families do the same thing. Out of necessity they build sizable homes with many rooms. Likewise, a king’s palace is built big, with plenty of apartments, in order to provide ample space for his large court and many attendants. A public worship house is also constructed so that it can accommodate enough seats for a large congregation. Similarly, the heavenly Father’s house has plenty of room.

4. The Father’s house has various types of seats with varying degrees of dignity, honor, and happiness.

When Jesus said, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions,” he was teaching that God has prepared different places or seats for people depending on their particular circumstances. Heaven was designed with many seats, each placed on a certain level of dignity and honor. The intention was to provide various people with various degrees of blessing. Some are called to sit in higher places than others. Some are called to a more advanced position of dignity than others.

Now to be clear, every mansion in heaven has an exceedingly high level of dignity and honor, yet some more than others. A king’s palace again serves as a very good illustration of this truth. Every room in the palace is magnificent, since it is the palace of a great king, but some are more honorable, stately, and costly than others. It depends on the dignity of the person who lives in the room.

Obviously, the king’s chamber is the place of greatest dignity, since the king himself resides there. His son, the heir to the crown, also has a place of extremely high honor. Then the other children of the king have their dignified quarters. After these there are places for the attendants and high level officers in the household. Next, there is a room for the manager of the house, another for the chamberlain, and still others for the lower level officers. And finally, there is a place for the servants.

We see another variation of this principle when we observe Solomon’s Temple. It too had a number of different rooms with differing degrees of honor and dignity. Of course, the Holy of Holies was the most important of these. This was the place of God’s immediate presence, housing the Ark of the Covenant. Only the high priest was allowed to enter that exclusive and sacred space. Next, there was another room called the Holy Place, where the other priests were allowed to enter. Beyond that, there was the inner court – the Levites were permitted to enter there. This area also had many chambers (or mansions), built as lodging rooms for the priests. Further out, there was the court of Israel, where the Jewish people were permitted to gather. Finally, we read of the court of the Gentiles, where those who were called “Proselytes at the Gate” might enter.

The principle is clear – there are various places of greater and lesser dignity and honor for the various types of people.

We see a similar picture of this in our day. In our houses of worship designed for Christian assemblies, there are many seats with various degrees of honor and dignity. There is a seat for all in the house of God, but the seats are arranged for people from the greatest to the least, each in their proper place.

However, we should not take this point in a strict, literal sense. Jesus was not saying that in heaven, every saint would have a certain seat, room, or abode, and that he must ever be fixed in that place. In fact, the Scriptures were not designed to inform us much at all about the external circumstances of heaven. Rather, we should understand Christ’s words in a spiritual sense. The Bible speaks abundantly about the various degrees of honor and glory in heaven, and people will be placed in those seats accordingly. The illustrations of the temple, the king’s palace, and our earthly house of worship simply help our imaginations grasp this idea.

So, for example, in heaven some seats will be nearer to God’s throne than other seats. Some will even sit right next to Christ in glory, as Jesus taught:

Matthew 20:23 To sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.

There is no doubt that Christ has respect for these various degrees of glory. This is clear from what he told his disciples after he’d informed them that he was departing. Sorrow filled their hearts, and they did not want him to go. But he let them know about the many mansions, or seats of authority, in the Father’s house. His place has the greatest dignity and honor, since he is the Head of the Church and their elder brother. But wonderful places were reserved for them too, his disciples and younger brethren.

Let me mention something else probably implied by Jesus’ words to the disciples. Not only did he speak of various degrees of dignity, but also of different vocational types. That is, each person in heaven would be given a certain type of work or employment, and it might look very different from someone else’s. Now, we know what people in heaven will be doing generally speaking, but the specifics of each person’s calling is a mystery.

Perhaps God will call one person to be subservient in order to promote the happiness of another. However, he will certainly call everyone to serve others in some way. Some may hold various offices, while plenty of other roles will be available for the rest to fill.

We shouldn’t be surprised at this arrangement. This is, after all, the way God arranged his church on earth, and this is how he expects congregations to operate. As Scripture teaches, God has set each person in the body as it pleases him – one person functions as an eye, another as an ear, another the head, and so on.

Of course, on this point I am speculating. God has not revealed the specifics of how this arrangement will work in heaven. It is something for us to consider, but I will not insist with certainty how it will be, since God has not expressly given us the details. Instead, I will move on to apply what we have learned directly to our lives. This will be my goal in the next section.

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