A Question I Was Asked:

What Does "Many Mansions" Really Mean?

John 14:2 says, in the King James Version, "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." The NIV has this, "My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?" In the NASB it says, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you." The Common English Bible has it, "My Father's house has room to spare. If that weren't the case, would I have told you that I'm going to prepare a place for you?" Aren't these variations confusing? Which is the best version?

UK Apologetics Reply:

No, I'm not convinced that this is confusing; for me, it is helpful. Translating from one language to another is frequently not an exact science. Sometimes to get the best sense in English a word has to be added or some other slight change needs to occur. For me, these slight variations confirm how dilligent the translators were. 'Mansions' is from the Greek word which is usually transliterated as 'mone' or 'monay'. It is word G3438 in theStrong's Concordance system. It refers to a dwelling place, or abode. Maybe neither 'mansions' nor 'rooms' are ideal, because the sense is 'assured residence,' or 'assured home.' The Barnes Bible Commentary says of this word:

'The word rendered 'mansions' means either the act of dwelling in any place (John 14:23, "we will make our abode with him"), or it means the place where one dwells. It is taken from the verb to remain, and signifies the place where one dwells or remains. It is applied by the Greek writers to the tents or temporary habitations which soldiers pitch in their marches. It denotes a dwelling of less permanency than the word house. It is commonly understood as affirming that in heaven there is ample room to receive all who will come; that therefore the disciples might be sure that they would not be excluded.'

I think this is a very good and sensible comment about this Greek word.

Jesus is certainly not telling us that Heaven has small compartmentalised spaces, or that we will have little flats in which to live. In the culture of that time, a 'father's house' was where the extended family would live, with rooms often being added on as the family grew larger through the processes of birth and marriage. So Jesus was giving an illustration of a loving, tight, family community where one's place is always assured. Christ is saying that He is preparing a place for us in Heaven where we will dwell with God in close communion with Him, He is also assuring us that there will always be room in Heaven for all whom God calls to salvation. This is an assurance of the Christian's eternal place in Heaven.

Peter the Apostle expresses all of this very well in his first epistle:

3. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4. and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5. who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Robin A. Brace. March 17th, 2016.