A text often quoted by the defenders of the “Rapture” as proof that Jesus (before, during or after the great tribulation) will take up His congregation is John 14:2-3:
There are many dwellings in my Father's house (otherwise I would have told you), for I am going to prepare your place; and when I have gone and prepared your place, I will come again and take you to Me, that you too may be where I am.
From the whole of the Gospel of John I will show that this part of the Bible (and also the text that is bold) is not about a rapture at all. In fact, when Jesus speaks about the house of my Father, he does not speak so much about the heaven, where the believers would be taken up and brought to this place (teleported). I will explain why this is the case.
As said, John 14:2-3 can only be understood from the context of the whole Gospel of John. First, it is important to understand what Jesus, within the John Gospel, meant by the concept of the house of my Father. Second, what did Jesus mean by the phrase “when I have gone and have prepared a place for you, I will come again and take you unto me“?
1. My father’s house
John shows in the prologue of his gospel (John 1:1-18) that the Word which was with God from the beginning has become flesh and has come to dwell among men (the people of Israel) (John 1:14). The Greek word dwelling used here is the word ἐσκήνωσεν (eskēnōsen). In the Septuagint (LXX) the Greek noun σκηνή (skēnē) is used to denote the tabernacle/tent (of congregation). So what John 1:14 actually says is: “…and it has stored His tabernacle/tent among us“. John further makes it clear in the verse (v.14) that the glory was visible in the incarnate Word. John makes a strong allusion to the glory of JHWH, who descended on the tabernacle like a cloud (the Shechinah) in Exodus 40:34-48. So in the prologue John already announces that the glory of JHWH is in the Incarnate Word, and that’s why we can say that the Incarnate Word is the tabernacle/temple of JHWH. And since The Incarnate Word is the only begotten Son of Father, the author of the John Gospel indirectly says that ‘The Incarnate Word’ is also ‘my Father’s house’.
Now let us look further within the gospel where the concept of the house of my Father is used. We then come to the history that Jesus, in John 2:13-16, with the Passover in the Temple in Jerusalem, knocks over all the tables of the merchants and money changers, exclaiming, “Take all this away from here, do not make my Father’s house a selling house.”
We see here that for Jesus the temple is his Father’s house. But Jesus makes it clear in the same history that He Himself (or His body) is the temple (John 2:19-22). Although Jesus speaks indirectly about this in verse 19 (Break down this temple, and within three days I will resurrect him), it is the writer of the John Gospel who makes it clear that Jesus is talking about his own body, which will be broken down at his death on the cross and resurrected after three days. So what Jesus is doing here is to identify Himself (or His body) with the building of the temple. This doesn’t only mean that Jesus was solely the temple, but that in Him lived also the glory (the Shechinah) of JHWH.
The second time we come across the concept of ‘the house of My Father’ is in John 14:2, the text used by the followers of ‘the recording’. The question is, after the above explanation of what the author of the John Gospel meant by this term, can the term “the house of My Fathers” still mean heaven? In my opinion, this is impossible. What Jesus actually says here in John 14:2-3 is that Jesus will prepare a place for His disciples “in His body” (which is the temple and therefore the house of His Father). He will do this by tearing down this temple (to die on the cross) to resurrect after three days. Through this deed, Jesus made it possible to prepare many dwellings. In other words, through this deed, Jesus has made it possible for us to be taken up “into His Body” (the body of Christ) and participate in the glory of JHWH, through the Holy Spirit. This is the reason why the author of the Gospel of John in John 20:22 makes Easter and Pentecost fall on one day. For we read that Jesus blows upon his disciples and says to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.
Another evidence that with the house My Fathers, the body of Jesus is meant is that for the word (many) dwellings, the unusual Greek word μονή (monē) is used. It is only used twice in the gospel of John: in verse 2 and 23. The word is related to his verbal relative μενω (menō), which is used in chapter 15 and means to remain.
In John 14:23 we read:
Jesus answered and said to him, If anyone loves me, he shall keep my word, and my Father shall love him, and We shall come to him and live with him. (Literally it says: dwell/stay with him)
You're already pure because of the word I've spoken to you. Remains (verb menō) in Me, and I in you. Just as the vine cannot bear fruit of its own accord if it does not remain in the vine, so can you if you do not remain in Me (menō). I am the vine, you the ranks; he who abides in Me (menō) and I in him, he bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing at all.
In the high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus says that both the Father and Jesus will be in the believer, as well as the glory (which was in Jesus, as the incarnate Word). In other words: both the Father and Jesus will make dwelling place in the believers.
John 17:21-22, 24
That they may all be one, as You, Father, in Me and I in You, that they too may be in Us; that the world may believe that You have sent Me. And the glory which thou hast given me I have given them, that they may be one, as we are one... Father, that which thou hast given me, I want them also to be with me where I am, to behold the glory which thou hast given me, for thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world.
Both in John 14:23 and the use of the verb in chapter 15 point to the present experience of believers in God’s presence. Seen in its context, it cannot be otherwise that “dwellings” in John 14:2 refer to this.
2. the phrase ‘when I have gone and prepared your place, I will come again and take you unto me’.
Also point 2 can only be properly explained and understood from the context of the whole Gospel of John. For in the gospel Jesus speaks in a paradoxical way about his dying. In the conversation with Nicodemus Jesus speaks for the first time about his dying. Jesus uses the history of the people of Israel and Moses, where Moses had to hold up a (copper) snake on a rod that would bring healing for the people if they were bitten by snakes. Just as the (copper) serpent was exalted, the Son of man (Jesus) will also be exalted. Jesus uses the term exalted several times to refer to his death. When we use the term exalted, we often think of something positive. Being exalted is about the same thing that someone gets a good position, receives the honour that is due to him. But Jesus uses the term here to announce his death on the cross.
Below are the texts in which Jesus speaks about His exaltation.
Jesus therefore said, When thou hast exalted the Son of man, thou shalt see that it is I and do nothing of myself, but that I speak this, as the Father taught me.
and when I am exalted from the earth, I will draw all to Me.
Two other concepts Jesus uses in the Gospel of John are the concept of “a short time” and the concept of “the hour. Jesus uses the first to announce that He has only been among His disciples for a short time. And that they will not see him for a short time, but that they will see him again after a short time (John 16:19).
Jesus uses the term ‘the hour’ to indicate that ‘the hour’ has not yet come to be killed when the leaders of the people try to capture or kill him. But also to indicate that ‘the hour’ has come when it is time for Jesus to be ‘exalted and glorified’.
Now that we know this, we go back to the main text of John 14:2-3 and especially the phrase “when I have gone and prepared your place, I will come again and take you unto me“.
When Jesus says here when I am gone, he is referring to his dying. Through his dying, Jesus makes it possible for the Holy Spirit to come to his disciples (John 16:7). This gives them access to the place that is prepared for them in His Father’s house. In John 20:22 we actually saw that after His resurrection, Jesus returned to His disciples and took them to Himself by blowing upon them the Holy Spirit. So John 14:2-3 is symbolic language to tell the disciples that His disciples will share in eternal life after Jesus’ death and resurrection. And to participate in eternal life is to become a partaker of “the body of Christ”.
The heavenly temple?
The house of the Father could also be the heavenly temple, where Jesus shed His blood, as we can read in the Hebrew letter.
For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands, an image of the true, but into heaven itself, to appear before God for our good, and not to sacrifice himself often, as the high priest goes into the sanctuary every year with blood other than his own, for then he should have suffered often since the foundation of the world; but now, at the end of the centuries, he has appeared once, to put away sin through his sacrifice.
Through his death on the cross here on earth, Jesus entered the heavenly sanctuary to take away sin like a sacrificial lamb. So the Father’s house is heaven, isn’t it? No, this is not the correct conclusion, the Father’s house could have been the heavenly temple in John 14:2, but this is not the same as heaven. Nowhere in the Word of God is heaven compared to the Father’s house, or the house of God. Also in the O.T. when the house of God or the house of JHWH is mentioned, the temple is meant.
And even if this were the case, within the context of the Gospel of John, John 14:2-3 does not speak of the rapture of the church. Indeed, within the context it is clearly indicated that Jesus, after his passing (death on the cross), will return (after three days) to take his disciples to Himself (through the Holy Spirit), so that they too may be where He (“Jesus”) is (because the Father and Jesus has now made dwelling place in them).