How can we find peace under pressure? Part 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. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself.” John 14:2-3a

With the rise in COVID-19 cases recently, it is no surprise that the primary complaint among people in the United States is stress. Add to this the social and political unrest along with the effects of COVID (ex. loss of jobs/income, more isolation, cancellations or postponements of vacations/travel, etc.), and you have a recipe for deep distress. We need to find relief from the constant pressure we are facing every day.

In John 14:1-6, we are learning to find peace under pressure. The first way is to focus on Christ’s promise of a peace of heart (John 14:1). Today we discover that we are to focus on CHRIST’S PROMISE OF A PREPARED PLACE IN HEAVEN (John 14:2-3a) for those who believe in Him.

Jesus said to His eleven disciples, “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.” (John 14:2). Jesus explains why His disciples can trust in Him even during His absence. The separation which would result from Jesus’ departure would not be permanent, it was only temporary: “A Jewish betrothal meant that a man and woman were legally bound in marriage. Before the actual presentation of the bride to the bridegroom, the bridegroom would busy himself preparing a place in his father’s house for the bride. Using this imagery Christ said to these men,” 1 “In My Father’s house are many mansions.”

Where is God the Father now? We know from Jesus’ model prayer that He is in heaven. Christ taught, “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Heaven is where God now resides and rules (2 Corinthians 12:1-4; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 4:1-5:14). The Bible teaches that believers in Jesus will experience heaven in three stages:

1. With Christ in the third heaven before or after the Rapture – the sudden removal of the church from the earth (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; 12:1-4; Philippians 1:21-23; I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; Revelation 4:1-5:14). At any moment the Lord Jesus could come for His church to snatch it off the earth to be with Him in the third heaven. Following the removal of the church, there will be seven years of terrible tribulation on the earth (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 6-19). At the end of the Tribulation period…

2. The Earthly Kingdom of Christ will be established when the church will return with Christ and be on the earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6).  At the end of that thousand years there will be a…

3. New Heaven and New Earth where all believers in Jesus will be with Christ for eternity (Revelation 21-22).

Jesus describes our future home as a large house in heaven where there are “many mansions” (John 14:2). The word translated “mansions” (monē) comes from the verb “to abide” (menō) which would mean an abiding place of permanent rest. This could refer to apartments or suites in God’s house. Cook shares, “The picture is of each child having a suite of rooms in the Father’s house. All will be with the Father, enjoying His hospitality and sharing His love.” 2

Jesus is referring to literal homes or dwellings that will be in the New Jerusalem which will descend from heaven to the new earth (Revelation 21-22) after the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 20:1-6). The New Jerusalem will be fifteen hundred miles high, long, and wide (Revelation 21:16). God promises that in our future home “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4). What a great source of comfort this provides for those who are deeply troubled by the death of believers today.

Christ does not have any doubts about the existence of our future home in heaven when He says, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” In the Greek language, the phrase “If it were not so” expresses that the condition is unfulfilled. In other words, if heaven were otherwise, and it is not, Jesus would have told them. Christ took for granted that there would be plenty of rooms for all the saved people in heaven.

In anticipation of their reunion with Him, Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Yes, Jesus was leaving them, but He would not forget them. He would occupy Himself preparing a real place where He and they would dwell together forever. He was going to make ready the place where He would welcome them permanently. Certainly, Jesus would not go to prepare rooms in heaven for His disciples if He did not expect that they would finally arrive there. He was sure they would make it to heaven. He would see to it.

Then Jesus says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself.” (John 14:3a). Just as the first century bridegroom in Palestine would send for his bride when all was ready, 4  so Christ would do the same when He had completed His work of preparing a place in His Father’s house for His bride, the church (cf. Ephesians 5:22-24; Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-3).

When I went on a mission trip to a province in the southern Philippines (July 2016), I went to an evacuation center where refugees lived whose homes were destroyed in the recent Muslim war. As we walked around the center, we noticed that the people were not only homeless, but they were also hopeless. After obtaining permission from a village leader to share with these seventy-five people, my translator and I told them that God loves them so much that He wants to give them a permanent home in heaven which no one can destroy nor take away from them. The people listened intently but showed no emotion as we talked about our problem that separates us from God (Rom. 3:23; 6:23) and God’s only solution through the Lord Jesus (John 14:6; I Corinthians 15:3-6)!      

After explaining that Jesus now invites everyone to believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift of everlasting life (John 3:16b), we then told them they could tell God they were now trusting in Jesus (Isa – the Muslim name for Jesus) by repeating this prayer after us. As we began to pray, we noticed that the people would not repeat the prayer aloud. Instead, they raised their hands toward heaven – something Muslims normally do when they pray to God.

I got goose bumps later when I saw a photo of them raising their hands during the prayer because I had no idea they did this while we actually prayed because my eyes were closed. After praying with them, we asked the people to raise their hands if they just trusted in Jesus (Isa) for their eternal home in heaven. My heart was filled with joy as sixty-five of the seventy-five people lifted their hands! What a thrill to be able to assure them that because of their faith in Isa, they now have everlasting life which can never be lost or taken away from them (John 6:47; 10:28-29). No one is more powerful than God so that no one can destroy or take away His home for them in heaven (John 10:28-29; 14:1-3).

Think about this! God created the universe in six 24-hour days (Genesis 1), but Jesus has been preparing our place in heaven for almost two thousand years! Remember, Jesus was the Son of a carpenter (Mark 6:3) and no doubt He was a perfect learner growing up. He would know how to build some incredible mansions in heaven. So heaven is going to be a fantastic place – a real place! We will live in mansions made of gold and walk on streets of gold (Revelation 21:18, 21). It will be an incredible place of splendor. The glory of Jesus will shine and light everything, not even a shadow exists there (Revelation 21:22-23). Jesus is the center of heaven and all praises will ring to Him. The joy shall never end there. Heaven is a place of inhabitants. It is not empty. It is filled with people who have believed in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life (John 3:5, 15-16; Revelation 21:27).

Christ said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself.” Christ assures His disciples (and us), that His separation which had so distressed them, would not be permanent. They could look forward to a blessed reunion with Jesus. One day He would come as a Bridegroom for His bride, the church, and take them to the place He had been preparing for them in heaven during His absence. His return was as certain as His departure. He would take them with Him to His Father’s house.

The phrase, “I will come again and receive you to Myself,” is not a reference to the Resurrection or the death of a believer, but to the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). At any moment, Jesus Christ could come back for His church with believers who already died to meet living believers in the clouds. This truth is intended to comfort and encourage believers whose loved ones have died in the Lord.

The fact that Jesus has been gone almost two thousand years preparing our future home in heaven leads me to believe that we cannot begin to imagine how wonderful that place will be. In America at the turn of the twentieth century, people who were poor and homeless were moved into “poorhouses.” These institutions were considered to be just about the worst place a person could live.

A doctor was visiting an elderly woman who was dying in such a home. Because of her surroundings, he was greatly surprised to hear her whisper, “Praise the Lord.” So the doctor leaned over and said to her, “How can you possibly praise God here in a poorhouse?” She responded, “That’s easy. I just keep thinking about the move into my heavenly mansion.”

The assurance that a wonderful home, the “Father’s house,” awaited her – in contrast to the depressing poorhouse – gave her cause for praise in spite of her poverty. Heaven is so glorious that human language cannot adequately describe it. Even though the apostle John described the heavenly city in Revelation 21 and 22, our finite minds fail to comprehend the full splendor of what he saw. Jesus loves us so much He is preparing a magnificent place for each of us who have trusted in Christ alone for everlasting life. The more we focus on this prepared place, the more peace we will find while living under pressure.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am so thankful that this earth is not my final home. What a wonderful place you are preparing for believers to live in the future. I cannot begin to imagine just how magnificent that place will be! Thank You for Your promise to come back again and receive me to Yourself. What a glorious day that will be when I can be with You forever in the Father’s house. Knowing that You could come back at any moment to take me to be with You in heaven, motivates me to live for You right now. The splendor of that place overshadows the darkness that is on this planet right now. In the Father’s house sin and shame will not be present. The Father’s love will overflow into every room. Death will be gone and life will abound. Hallelujah, Lord Jesus! Hallelujah! In Your matchless name I praise and pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. P J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 436.

2. W. Robert Cook, The Theology of John (Chicago: Moody, 1979), pp. 229-230.

3. ei de mē is a second class condition which expresses that the condition is unfulfilled – see Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 248.

4. Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, pg. 436.

Frequently asked questions about eternal rewards

The Bible teaches that during the seven-year Tribulation period (Rev. 6-19), Christians will give an account for all their work for Christ in heaven (Rev. 4:1-4). While Christians will never be judged to determine their eternal destiny since they already have eternal life (John 5:24), they will face another kind of judgment to determine what if any rewards they will receive in Christ’s eternal Kingdom. In Revelation 4:4, 10-11, “the twenty-four elders” represent faithful (overcoming) believers in heaven who possess “crowns” (rewards) received at the Judgment Seat of Christ and will rule with Christ in His coming Kingdom (cf. 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:10b, 2:26-27; 3:5a, 3:11, 21). This Judgment is to motivate Christians to be faithful disciples who obey the Word of God. This is called the Judgment Seat of Christ.

God wants to reward all Christians for their faithfulness to Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ. “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10). Paul was motivated to live a life that pleased the Lord knowing that he would appear before Christ at the Judgment Seat in the future to determine what if any rewards he would receive (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 4:5; 9:24-27; Revelation 22:12).

Every Christian must appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ to answer to Jesus for the “good” and “bad” (kakos means worthless, wicked, and evil) things he has done since becoming a Christian. Is this scary for you to think about? Certainly! Even the apostle Paul was afraid to face the Judgment Seat of Christ. He writes, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11). Why would Paul fear the Judgment Seat of Christ? He was afraid of the possibility that his life will be revealed as one wasted and spent in selfishness rather than in devotion and obedience to Christ. Selfish living and wasted opportunities will bring more regrets when Jesus evaluates a believer’s life than most of us care to think about. Knowing this should be sufficient motivation for God’s people to aim to please the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24).

Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about eternal rewards and their corresponding answers:

Q: Won’t all believers be equally rewarded according to Matthew 20:1-16?

A: The point of Matthew 20:1-16 is that all Christians will be rewarded equally for faithful service to Christ. What this means is that the person who faithfully served Christ for the one day he was a Christian will be equally rewarded with someone who served Christ faithfully for eighty years. The amount of time you were a Christian before death or the Rapture does not limit the amount of rewards you will receive, assuming that you wholeheartedly served the Lord during that time. Other passages of Scripture indicate that there will be varying degrees of reward in eternity (Matt. 16:27; Luke 19:11-26; I Cor. 3:8; Rev. 22:12) because each believer will be “rewarded according to his works.” This means that rewards will vary according to varying degrees of good works among believers.

Q: Won’t varying degrees of reward promote jealousy among believers in Christ’s eternal kingdom?

A: Jealousy will not exist among believers in the Lord Jesus’ eternal kingdom because sin will not exist there. Glorified believers will never be jealous because they will never sin (I Cor. 15: 42-57; Phil. 3:20-21; I John 3:1-3). Contentment will characterize their lives in eternity. Therefore, they will be satisfied with what the Lord awards them at the Judgment Seat of Christ. For example, will believers be jealous of the Lord Jesus who will rule over the entire world and possess the wealth of the universe? Will we be jealous of King David who will serve as Jesus’s right-hand man as the prince over the nation of Israel (Ezek. 34:23-24)? Will the apostles be jealous of David who will have more authority than them? Will the citizens of Israel be jealous of the Twelve apostles who will rule over the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28-29)? No, because everyone in Christ’s eternal kingdom will be content. However, they may have regret or shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ if they fail to rule with Christ or they rule to a lesser degree because they squandered the opportunities they were given to serve Christ more in their lifetime (cf. Matt. 22:11-13; 25:24-30; 2 Peter 1:5-11; I John 2:28).

Q: How can there be any sense of regret or shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ since the Bible says there will be no more sorrow or pain in heaven (Rev. 21:4)?

A: The Judgment Seat of Christ will most likely take place during the Tribulation (Rev. 4-19) which is over a 1,000 years before the eternal state begins (Rev. 21-22). So the believer’s sense of regret and shame will be temporary and pass away by the start of the New Heaven and Earth (Rev. 21:4).

Q: How long will rewards last?

A: Some Bible students think rewards will be given back to Jesus immediately after they are received. They base this on Revelation 4:10-11. Revelation 4:10-11 does not teach that believers will have to return their rewards back to Christ immediately after receiving them. Notice the word “whenever” in verse 9. The crown-casting in verse 10 is repeated again and again and again. Every time the living creatures say, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:8b), the twenty-four elders cast their crowns before the throne. And according to Rev. 4:8b, the living creatures or angels “do not rest day or night…” Casting crowns is an ongoing event throughout eternity. Others insist that our rewards will only last as long as the Millennium, referring to Revelation 20:4-6 where faithful believers will rule for a 1,000 years with Christ. But nothing in this passage suggests that ruling with Christ and other rewards are limited to the Millennium. Instead, the emphasis of the New Testament is that rewards are “imperishable” (I Cor. 9:25) and never fade away (Matt. 6:19-21; I Peter 1:4). If our rewards lasted only a few seconds or even 1,000 years, they would be “perishable.”

The Book of Revelation makes it clear that Christ’s rewards will last beyond the Millennium. Revelation 21 speaks of kings ruling on the earth and honoring Jesus with their rewards (Rev. 21:24, 26). Revelation 22:14 says overcoming Christians will be rewarded with the right to the tree of life and special entrance into the New Jerusalem, both of which will not be on the earth until after the Millennium.

Q: Is it selfish to seek eternal rewards?

A: No, because Jesus commands us to lay up treasure in heaven and not on earth (Matt. 6:19-21). Why? Because wherever our treasure happens to be, that’s where our hearts will be focused. And God wants our hearts to be focused on heaven and that is why we are commanded to invest in heavenly rewards. God knows better than we do what will motivate our hearts for Him. Certainly rewards play a significant role in this. It is actually selfish not to obey God’s command to pursue eternal rewards. Plus, a Christian cannot afford to be selfish in nature, for to do so would disqualify him or her for the eternal reward he or she seeks. Pursuing eternal rewards is one of the strongest motivations for an unselfish and merciful lifestyle (James 2:1-13)!

Q: Do Revelation 2:11 and 3:5 speak of rewards or salvation?

A: The apostle John writes, “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:11) and “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev. 3:5). These two verses use a figure of speech called litotes which makes a positive affirmation by denying its opposite. For example, a mother may say to her children, “If you do your chores, you won’t regret it.” In other words, their reward will be the opposite of regret. Throughout Revelation 2-3, John has been addressing rewards to overcoming Christians. So Jesus is saying that the rewards of faithful Christians will be the opposite of being hurt by the second death or losing an eternal name! It will include wearing special white garments (Rev 3:4-5), ruling with Christ (Rev 2:26-27; 3:21), eating the fruit of the tree of life (Rev 2:7), eating hidden manna (Rev 2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (Rev 2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:14).

This does not mean if Christians do not overcome, they will be hurt by the second death or lose their eternal name. For example, if I said, “All mothers are women,” that does not mean that the opposite is true, that all women are mothers. There are women who are not mothers. Likewise, the opposite of our verse is not true. God will not allow the non-overcoming believer to be hurt by the second death or have his or her name blotted out from the Book of Life! Once a person has everlasting life by believing in Jesus, it can never be taken away or lost (cf. John 6:37-39; 10:28-29; Rom. 8:38-39; 2 Tim. 2:13; 1 John 5:12-13).

By focusing on the Judgment Seat of Christ, Christians will develop a desire to please God rather than people. Because Christ is first in the life of a disciple and could come back at any moment, a disciple should seek to win as many people to Christ as possible and become more like the Judge who will evaluate his or her life at the Judgment Seat.