“In my Father’s Home there are many dwellings. If it had not been so, I should have told you, for I am going to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2, Positive Infinity New Testament.
“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, KJV.
On a recent trip back home to Palm Beach, my wife and I were privileged to spend time with Joyce Reingold, publisher of the Palm Beach Daily News. Joyce is a gracious and delightful person, and her blog PB Upd8 is a lot of fun for me to read. I deal with many serious issues on this site and tend to get carried away with all of them. Somehow, reading about the feral cats and fighting off taking a nap at the Brazilian Court (which is a great place to eat, BTW) is a nice relief from a familiar place.
That familiarity evidently comes through better than I thought, because she pegged me as a “real Palm Beacher.” But if there’s one thing I learned while growing up in Palm Beach, it’s that money has its limits in its ability to bring happiness or even to solve life’s problems. And, no matter how much of it you have, you can still blow it all and end up broke, which some of my classmates managed to do. That realisation is one reason why I ventured away from the island, but unfortunately I ended up finding out that the hard lessons I learned in Palm Beach weren’t appreciated elsewhere.
The business about the mansions in John 14:2 is a prime example of that lack of appreciation.
The original Greek indicates “dwelling places,” as the first translation indicates. And, in Tyndale’s and King James’ men’s day, the term “mansion” was a fair translation of that. But as time went by, the word “mansion” came to mean a large and richly ornamented house, something like you would expect in Palm Beach. (Not all houses in Palm Beach are mansions by any stretch, and most people would be shocked at the tiny patch of real estate that homes there are situated on.) As a result of this, many of our ministers have taken to describing our heavenly destination in decidedly extravagant terms.
In the middle of all of this celestial ostentation, someone wrote a song about there being “cabins in heaven.” In the 1970’s, the “Jesus Music” artist Pat Terry sang about checking into his mansion and getting his sleeping bag unrolled. For him, heaven would be an extended camping trip, which is certainly paradise for a “good ol’ boy” from Smyrna, GA (and even possibly for someone like Sarah Palin.)
But some preachers are never happy, and such concepts have been routinely attacked as showing their adherents’ “lack of faith.” According to these people, it is sinful for us to be satisfied with a cabin; according to them, our heavenly homes will make Mar-a-Lago look like a lean-to. (In all fairness, I’ve never heard one refer directly to Mar-a-Lago, but this only shows me who is really in the know and who isn’t.)
But it gets worse: not only do they ply their audiences with inferior hermeneutics, but also they inspire us (implicitly or otherwise) to go out and attempt to replicate such a “dwelling place” on this earth. Our place in heaven was paid in full by the precious blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but here on earth such things are had on credit, be they actual homes or churches extravagantly decked out to resemble the heavenlies, or at least our inferior concept of them. Such inspiration has led too many believers and churches to saddle themselves with enormous obligations to fulfil an unbiblical mandate encouraged by people who should know better. And now, our collapsing economy is calling bluffs and notes everywhere.
The truth is that anything on this earth–the “mansions” we build, our churches, the “tree of life,” even Palm Beach–is at best a pale reflection of what those who are the Lamb’s will see and experience in heaven. Irrespective of how wonderful our dwelling places in heaven will be, chances are we won’t be spending much time in them. They’ll hardly be pieds à terre (a good socialite term with no real meaning on the other side) as we spend time in the best place of all–in God’s presence, where words will fail us as we become lost in the one who died for us so that we wouldn’t have to.
Under these circumstances, a cabin will be more than adequate.