John xiv. 2.
"All our earthly journey past,
Every tear and pain gone by,
Here together met at last,
In the mansions of the sky,
Each the welcome "Come" awaits,
Conquerors over death and sin;
Lift your heads, ye golden gates,
Let the ransom'd travellers in!"
"Mansions"—"many mansions"—"a house" —"my Father's
house." How many reflections are crowded into this one brief utterance
of our gracious Redeemer! With what a homelike aspect do they invest our
every thought of Heaven! They were among His last words ; He himself was
on His way to that peaceful " homestead" of which He speaks. Let us
gather around Him, with the house of His Father in sight, and extract
some of the comfort with which His declaration is replete.
The verse speaks of Multiplicity—"many
Had He been addressing His own disciples alone, the
assurance would have been sufficient, "There will be a home for each of
you." But He is discoursing for all time. His omniscient eye
discerned at that moment the unborn myriads whom this chapter and this
verse were to console and cheer. He would, therefore, certify that there
is abundant provision made for all—patriarchs, prophets, saints,
martyrs;—from the time that righteous Abel bent alone, a solitary
redeemed saint, before the throne, the first sheaf of a mighty harvest,
until the garners be filled, and the song of the ransomed become ''as
the sound of much people, the noise of many waters, and the roar of
mighty thunderings." He is to bring "many sons unto glory." There is
grace for all—crowns for all—mansions for all! Heaven has been filling
for six thousand years, and still there is room. How different its
"recompense of reward" from worldly crowns and worldly honours! In the
earthly race "many run, but one (only) receiveth
the prize."* In heaven the competition is open to "whosoever will."
There is no jarring of interests in this loftier arena. The
glorification of one is not attained there at the expense of another's
downfall or exclusion. The mansions are many. The candidates are a
mighty multitude which no man can number. Believer! "so run that you may
The verse speaks of Permanency — they are "mansions."
The word in the original is not a tent or temporary
tabernacle, but a durable residence, never to be altered or
demolished. The most graphic of Eastern travellers thus gives a
description of tent-life, which, by contrast, affords the best
illustration of the mansion-life of heaven: "When the cold, sullen
morning dawned, and my people began to load the camels, I always felt
loth to give back to the waste this little spot of ground, that had
glowed for a while with the cheerfulness of a human dwelling. My tent
was spared to the last, but when all else was ready for the start, then
came its fall. The pegs were drawn, the canvas shivered, and in less
than a minute there was nothing that remained of my genial home, but
only a pole and a bundle."
"The tents of the East," says another, "seldom remain
long in the same place. The traveller erects his temporary abode for the
night, takes it down in the morning, and journeys onward. The shepherds
of the country are also always moving from one place to another. The
brook fails on which they relied for water, or the grass required for
the support of their flocks is consumed, and they wander on to a new
How strikingly illustrative is this of the Bible
figure, "the house of our earthly tabernacle "being dissolved" (or taken
down). The framework of mortality, like the Arab tent, is upreared for a
time, but, after subserving its temporary purpose, it is, pin by pin,
demolished, and the place that once knew it knows it no more.
Not so the ever-during mansions of our Father's
house. They are "incorruptible" and "eternal in the heavens." No fading
of brooks there! No joys withered and smitten there, like the grass of
the wilderness. "The Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed
them, and lead them to living fountains of water." Ah! it is the
saddest, the most humiliating feature of the joys of earth, that,
however pure, noble, elevating they may be at the moment, there is no
calculating on their permanency. The mind will, in spite of itself, be
haunted with the dark possibility of the ruthless invader of all
happiness coming and dashing the full cup in a thousand fragments on the
ground. In heaven no shadow of vicissitude or change can ever
enter to dim an ever-brightening future. Once within that heavenly fold,
we are in the fold for ever. On the lintels of the eternal mansion are
inscribed the words, "Ye shall go no more out." Our happiness and joy
will be as immutable and stable as everlasting love and power and
faithfulness can make them.
The verse speaks of Diversity.
There are "many mansions"—not only many in number,
but manifold in their degrees of glory. All will be happy. A halo of
unutterable bliss and glory will encircle each separate dwelling, beyond
what eye hath seen, or ear heard, or heart conceived. But as one star
differeth from another star in glory, so, also, we have reason to
believe, there will be gradations in the scale of future blessedness.
The allusion in our verse is evidently to the
different courts of the Jewish temple. These were diverse in name and
character. The outer and inner court, the court of the Gentiles, the
courts of the priests, the Holy of Holies. All these were consecrated as
portions of the same "House of the Lord." The lowliest Israelite was
within sight of the altar, and within hearing of the high priest's
benediction. But there were some courts more hallowed and glorious than
others—their sacredness increasing the nearer the worshipper approached
the place where dwelt the mystic Shekinah. It will be the same with the
many mansions of the heavenly temple. All the vast multitude in the new
Jerusalem will be within range of the benediction of the great High
Priest, and as such they must be blessed. But there will be inner
courts and enclosures of greater honour and glory. The more intense and
exalted his love and devotedness on earth, the nearer will the believer
be permitted to approach the Holiest of all, the nearer admission will
he have to the Father's presence, and receive the more distinguishing
badges of the Father's love. There will be one mansion for him whose
pound hath gained five pounds, and another mansion for him whose pound
hath gained ten pounds. Each, too, will be apportioned according to some
earthly antecedents. There will be the special mansion of the martyr,
who was borne from his earthly tent in his chariot of fire. There
will be the special mansion of the missionary, who surrendered
home, ease, worldly honour, in his noble embassy, and stood alone and
unbefriended on Pagan shores, witnessing for a despised Saviour. There
will be the mansion for the minister of Christ, who boldly proclaimed
the message of life and death. There will be the mansion for the
Sabbath-school teacher, who toiled to bring youthful trophies to the
foot of the cross. There will be the mansion for the pining sufferer,
who glorified God by patience and unmurmuring resignation. For the
child, that fell on earth a withered blossom, whose tent was taken down
while it was yet day, but reconstructed into a building of God eternal
in the heavens. There will be a mansion for the old veteran of the
cross, the champion in a hundred battles of the faith, and for the
youthful soldier, who was only buckling on his armour when summoned from
the earthly struggle.
The least in the kingdom, I repeat, will have a
blessedness to the full—a glory and a joy which leaves no void or
vacuum. As in the terrestrial, so in the celestial firmament. Though
every planet circling round the Sun of Deity will shine with a borrowed
splendour, yet the larger the planet, and the nearer its orbit is to its
grand centre, the greater will be its radiance and glory. Though every
flower will in itself be perfect, reflecting the lovely hues and tints
of heaven, yet they will be of diverse form and colour. Some will
diffuse a sweeter fragrance, or cluster in larger and richer groups than
others. But all, large and small, the saint a hundred years old and the
child translated in infancy, will (notwithstanding this diversity) have
the same quality of bliss. The planet at the outskirts of the
heavenly sphere and that nearest the centre will be bathed in one and
the same rays of ineffable glory.
But while the verse speaks of Diversity, it
speaks also of Unity.
There will be diversity in unity, and unity in
diversity. The Church triumphant is one house. The Church on
earth, alas ! is a house divided against itself—church divided against
church— Christian against Christian. Nominally the children of one
Father, but dwelling in separate tabernacles. One saying, "I am of
Paul," and another, "I of Apollos." Nominally pilgrims on one road,
traversing the same wilderness, but each keeping his own peculiar and
separate pathway, journeying on often with no look of kindly recognition
exchanged, as if they were aliens and foreigners, instead of brethren
and sisters in a common Lord.
But in yonder bright and happy home, discord,
division, separation will be known no more. Once within that sacred
portal, the exclamation will pass from tongue to tongue, ''What! so long
together on the pilgrimage, and maintaining a cold and chilling reserve
and alienation! Alas! is it only now we are to begin to know what we
should have known ages ago, 'how good and how pleasant a thing it is for
brethren to dwell together in unity!'"
Ye who are mourning over these sad estrangements in
the Church of God, rejoice at this glorious prospect. All shall be
one then! One house—one home—one Father—one
Elder-brother—-one motive for praise—one theme for eternal song—a
united Church under its one glorious and glorified Head!
Then add to this—the verse speaks of Safety.
Where can a child be so safe as in his Father's
house? Trials, buffetings, discouragements, un-kindness he may
experience elsewhere, here at least he is safe and happy.
What music is there even on earth in that word
"home!" The garner of happiness—the haunt of tender affections—the
cherisher of bright hope —the hallowed spot where the spent spirit's
weary wing folds itself to rest—the glad retreat in the dark and cloudy
day. What must be the home of heaven? With what surpassing tenderness
does that one word invest these many mansions, "My Father's
house!" and how does it link us to the Saviour, when He thus addresses
each heavenward and homeward bound pilgrim—"My Father and your
Father, my God and your God !"
To enter heaven, the dwelling-place of the great
Jehovah—to be ushered into the presence-chamber of the High and Lofty
One who inhabiteth eternity ! There might be much to awe and overwhelm
the spirit in such a contemplation. But this beauteous home-word
divests it of all its awful-ness, and invests it with all that is
winning and captivating. Each believer in the prospect of these bright
mansions, may, without irreverence, adopt the words of his great
Redeemer, and say, "If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said I
go unto 'my Father.'"
Would that we oftener realised heaven as such, and,
amid earth's troubles and vicissitudes and sorrows, were led to regard
every new trial, every new epoch of existence, every returning week and
month and anniversary, as fresh chimes of celestial music floating from
the towers of glory, and sounding in our ears, "Nearer home, nearer
home!" Our Lord has taught us, while we "desire" in our daily prayer "a
better country," to make it a filial aspiration, "Our Father,
which art in heaven, thy kingdom come." Heaven, in the noblest
sense, is "the Church in the House."
The verse still further speaks of Honour.
It speaks of admission into God's presence, and to
stand in that presence in the relation of children to a father. Even to
be laid, like Lazarus, at the portals of heaven, and fed with the crumbs
falling from the table, would have been more than what, as sinners, we
deserve. What will it be to be "within the house," honoured with
a place at the "King's own banquet!
There are two Greek words used in the New Testament
to describe the believer's relation to God. Both are significant. The
former literally means a slave, and such His redeemed child
really is. He is the willing slave of righteousness, "bought with a
price" by a gracious Master. He feels it to be alike his highest honour
and obligation to be called "the servant of God." The other word,
though translated by the same term (servant), has a higher meaning. It
has rather reference to the believer's heavenly calling. It speaks of
His lofty designation and employment in His Father's house, when He
becomes a "ministering one." His earthly service is over, ''Henceforth I
call you not servants, but friends."
"In my Father's House!" "Yes," said a dying
believer, as he quoted these words, "Our Lord tells me, You have been an
out-door servant long enough, I will now make you an in-door servant,
and take you out of the wind and rain to give you a glorified body and
better wages and a better mansion, "What a wondrous transition
from the clay tenement to the everlasting mansions ! Well may the poet
exclaim, apostrophising the emancipated spirit:—
"O change! O wondrous change!
Burst are the prison bars—
This moment there—so low,
In mortal prayer—and now,
Beyond the stars!
"O change! stupendous change!
There lies the senseless clod—
The soul from bondage breaks,
The new immortal awakes,
Awakes with God !"
Finally, the verse tells us that all these wondrous
home-mansions Jesus has gone to make ready for us.
"I go to prepare a place for you." Nay, more, He
confers them as a right. He speaks as the "Heir of all things." Observe,
it is not "your Father's house," but "my Father's house." "As the
Son of the everlasting God," He seems to say, "I am not ashamed to call
you brethren, and for my sake He will not be ashamed to own and welcome
you as sons and daughters. My name, as 'the Beloved of the Father,' and
my work, as the surety Redeemer, will form a passport and title to every
room in these paternal halls! "
The value of a gift is enhanced by the character and
worth of the donor. The gift of an earthly sovereign would be highly
prized. Here is a gift bestowed by the "Prince of the kings of the
earth," purchased by blood and toil and agony. These blood-bought
mansions form the crown and consummation of all His other gifts. " This
is the gift that God has given us, eternal life, and that
life is in His Son." "Everything else that He 'did and taught and
suffered,' had a reference to the opening of the kingdom of heaven to
all believers. His coming from heaven was to shew heaven to
us. His going again there was to prepare a place for us. His
sitting at the right hand of God is to promote our interest in heaven.
His coming in judgment is to take us back with Him to it."
If He be gone to prepare this place for us, be it
ours to endeavour to be prepared for the place, seeking every returning
morning to have our tent pitched "a day's march nearer home," nearer the
house of our Father. "Yet a little while, and he that shall come, will
come, and will not tarry." "He will not stay," says Goodwin, "a minute
longer than needs must. He tarries only till He hath, throughout all
ages, by His intercession, prepared every room for each saint, that He
may entertain them altogether, and have them all about Him."
And shall we pause to ask where is that glorious home
? Where these sparkling waters, these palms ever green, these robes ever
bright? Does the spirit at the hour of death wing its arrowy flight to
some distant province of creation? Or may heaven be some mysterious
impalpable spirit-world around us? Though we hear no gush of the crystal
waters, and gaze on no city of the crystal sea, may it not be that
angel-wings are hovering over us, and that it is only these dull senses
of ours that hide from us the celestial vision?
But what though we can descry no dim outline of the
everlasting hills? What though we look in vain for the lights gleaming
in the distant windows of these "many mansions?" It is enough to know
that One has gone to prepare them for us. And when
completed, His voice will be heard, saying, ''Come, for all things are
ready!" "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the
kingdom of their Father."