What does "in my Father's house are many rooms" mean?
"House" comes from the Greek word οἰκία (oikia), which means "a house: an inhabited edifice, a dwelling," according to the lexicon. This is referring to the kingdom of God - the spiritual realm.
"Rooms" is being translated from the Greek word μονή (monē), which means "a staying, abiding, dwelling, abode." In plural, the accepted translation is "dwelling places."
So Jesus is not referring to a physical house with rooms in it. He is speaking metaphorically about the spiritual realm - because the spiritual dimension is not perceivable with the physical eyes, nor is it fully describable by physical language.
Jesus is telling his students that the spiritual realm contains many different abodes - or regions. It is a place where there is a wide range of variation and variegatedness. There are lots of activities, and many different types of forms and relationships with the Supreme Being.
In other words, there are many different types of relationships between the living beings (us) and the Supreme Being in the spiritual realm. And each of us enjoys a unique relationship with the Supreme Being.
Next Jesus says that "I am going there to prepare a place for you." This indicates that Jesus is going to be arranging for his students' return to the spiritual realm.
How does Jesus do this? Is he talking about fluffing up some pillows for his students? Or cleaning out some of the "rooms" so they are ready for them?
Don't be ridiculous. Jesus is talking about the task of continuing to guide them to the spiritual realm. It is they who must become prepared to return to the spiritual realm. The spiritual realm is already prepared. But they must perfect their dedication to the Supreme Being by learning to love God and do His will as Jesus has taught them.
And it is questionable from the Greek that Jesus is referring to himself when he supposedly says, "If I go and prepare a place for you...." Is he saying that he might or might not do it?
As part of his role to "prepare a place for you," Jesus' teachings would essentially continue to offer guidance for their spiritual progress. If they continue to follow his instructions, they would create a place for themselves in the spiritual realm.
By following one who is dedicated to the Supreme Being, one develops their own dedication to the Supreme Being. And by following one who is intimate with the Supreme Being, one also gains an intimate relationship with God.
Jesus' intimate relationship with God was discussed elsewhere:
"And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Mark 14:62)Jesus is obviously referring to his close relationship with the Supreme Being ("Mighty One") here. To sit at someone's "right hand" doesn't mean they are just sitting around all day. This is a metaphorical phrase that refers to being someone's assistant or servant. Being someone's "right hand man" is still a common phrase used today to refer to a person who is dedicated to carrying out the wishes of the person in charge.
In order to be someone's "right hand" person, there must be two persons: The person in charge and the person who carries out the person-in-charge's wishes. Jesus indicated elsewhere that his purpose was acting on behalf of God:
"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me." (John 6:38)and
"My teaching is not my own. It comes from Him who sent me." (John 7:16)It is clear that Jesus is acting on behalf of God, and that being God's "right hand" person means to be doing God's will.
But what does "coming on the clouds of heaven" mean? Does it mean Jesus' "second coming"?
And does this have anything to do with Jesus saying to his students (above): "I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."?
As far as "coming on the clouds of heaven," this is a mistranslation. The word "coming" is translated from the Greek word, ἔρχομαι (erchomai), which means, according to the lexicon, not just "to come" but also "to appear" or "make one's appearance" - relating to being present somewhere.
Furthermore, how does a person "come" "on the clouds of heaven"? Will the "clouds of heaven" be moving in with Jesus riding them like some kind of a horseback rider?
This is a ridiculous notion, yet this is precisely what ecclesiastical sectarian teachers and those imaginative painters who have portrayed these teachings would have us believe. It is not as if a bunch of clouds will be rolling in, with Jesus standing on top of them, "riding" them.
This is simply mental speculation. In the context of "clouds of heaven," which refers to the spiritual realm, the word ἔρχομαι (erchomai) must be translated to "appear" or "being present." Jesus is obviously saying that he would be present in the spiritual realm. He would become a citizen of the spiritual realm - he would appear there and be present there, where God resides, and where the community of the spiritual world resides. Jesus would become present (make an appearance) in the spiritual realm.
Luke confirms this interpretation, as Jesus answers the same question in the same situation (during his trial) with:
"But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God." (Luke 22:69)But as to Jesus saying specifically to his students that he would be returning for them ("I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."): Yes, he is definitely saying that he will return.
But Jesus is not talking about some end of the world scenario thousands of years into the future. He is talking practically about guiding his students back to the spiritual realm during their lifetimes and specifically escorting them at the time of death - after they leave their present physical bodies. He is speaking about something that will occur within the next few decades, culminating with the death of each of his student's bodies.
Because he is speaking of the time of death of their physical body, Jesus is speaking of their "last day." When the body dies, the person leaves the body. At that point, each of us will go to our next destination, depending upon our consciousness and life's activities. Those who dedicate their lives to following Jesus' teachings will be guided back to the spiritual realm by Jesus. Those who have used their lives otherwise - will go to an according destination.
This is the obligation and glory of the representative of God, whom God sends to the physical world to bring us back to Him. God's representative will instruct students during their physical lifetimes, and after they leave their bodies at the time of death, those students who followed those instructions will be guided back to the spiritual realm by God's representative. This is the process.
This is a natural process. Suppose we were invited to a party by a friend, and we didn't know anyone else in the party nor the person giving the party. Would we be accepted into the party walking in alone? No. They would think we were crashing the party. Rather, our friend who invited us would need to introduce us around. He would escort us into the party and introduce us to the host/owner of the house and some of the other people at the party. Once this occurred, we'd be accepted into the party.
It is no different in the spiritual realm, although the process is a very personal one, and requires not only invitations, but introductions. The citizenship of the spiritual realm is based upon each person having a loving relationship with the Supreme Person. To gain entry into the spiritual realm thus means we have to be introduced to the Supreme Being and develop a relationship with Him; and this introduction is made by the Spiritual Teacher - God's representative. This is why having a personal Spiritual Teacher is so important. Not just to learn something. But to be introduced to God in a personal way.
Just consider if we wanted to be introduced to the President of the United States on a personal basis. How could we even get to him by ourselves? There is no way, unless we are introduced to him by someone who is already his friend. When a friend of the President introduces us to the President, a personal relationship with the President is possible. We still have to develop that personal relationship, but the friend of the President gives us the opportunity.
The same process works with the Supreme Being. God is a Person, and God is all about relationships. The entire spiritual realm is all about relationships - of love and loving service. This is why we are each wandering around the physical world looking for love. We are yearning for love because our spiritual selves are from the spiritual realm - where loving relationships abound, and each of us has a lost loving relationship with the Supreme Being.
So we have to be re-introduced to Him by someone who is currently engaging in a personal relationship with the Supreme Being. We have to be escorted in. We have to be guided back. This is the same thing as "preparing a place" for us in the spiritual realm.
It is critical to understand that Jesus is speaking to his disciples, who have been following his instructions carefully. He is speaking to them intimately, because he knows his body will be murdered soon and he will be leaving them physically and returning to the spiritual realm.
He says, "to be with me that you also may be where I am." This is not an institutional situation. Jesus is talking to his disciples personally, about guiding each of them back to the spiritual realm. He wants his close disciples to know that if they continue to follow his instructions, then he will continue to be with them. He will continue to help guide them back.
To better understand how this works, let's use an analogy. Let's say that there is a classroom of students in a driver's education course, and the students each sit down at a desk an turn on a computer. They open a driving program on the computer, and the program asks them to pick a virtual computer icon. The program has a steering wheel, a virtual road, and all the feeling of being in a car driving. The student then begins to "drive" inside the program, using the keyboard to operate the steering wheel, accelerator and brakes.
Some of the students do well at this program and others do not. As they each operate the program, most continue to crash their virtual cars in the program, and their icons get hurt and die sometimes. But they must continue to replay the program until they learn to drive.
Some of the students play close attention to not only the rules of the road in the program, but also listen to the teacher. The class teacher can walk around the classroom and look over the shoulders of a student as they drive the computer program, and can give them some hints on how to steer better or not go so fast or something. These students are apt to perfect their driving within the computer program and be able to pass the course easily because they took the guidance of the teacher.
Jesus is describing a similar process. We are each spiritual beings who are operating these virtual physical bodies within a virtual plane of the physical world. It is as though we are sitting at a computer playing a computer program. At any time, we can shut off the computer and leave the computer program. This is like death. The spiritual being can leave the virtual physical world - because these physical bodies are not us. They are machines we drive just as a computer operator operates a computer.
If we decide to return home to the Supreme Being, He will guide us - through the teachings of His representative and from within in the form of the Holy Spirit. Should we follow that guidance, and come to love the Supreme Being, a place will also be prepared for each of us in the spiritual realm.
We can thus offer a more appropriate translation to this verse by Jesus:
My Lord’s house has many regions – if there weren’t I would have told you, because I depart to help prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will escort you myself so that you may be there with me. And you will know the path to where I am going." (John 14:2-4)