So I was browsing through Keener’s work Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today(Baker Academic, 2001) and came across an interesting section in his chapter ‘Recognizing the Spirit’s Voice.’ I want to know what you all think. Here is the section quoted in full:
Jesus promises his disciples his continuing presence after his departure. After Jesus uses his coming death for us as the new standard of love that believers should follow (John 13:31-38), he addresses the next inevitable issue: He must go away. But he assures his anxious disciples that though he is going away to the Father, he will return to them again (14:3, 18, 23).
We often read the first few lines of John 14 as a promise of Jesus’ second coming, but although Jesus promises the second coming in other passages in John, that is probably not what the promise of John 14:2-3 means. In this passage, Jesus assures his disciples that he is going to the Father’s house to prepare a place for them among the many dwellings there (14:2; KJV’s “mansions” mistranslations, based on Latin Vulgate). He promises that he will return to them and that they will be with him forever in his Father’s house. It is not surprising if we are unsure what Jesus was talking about, for even Jesus’ original disciples were confused (14:5)! The context, however, goes on to clarify Jesus’ point.
First, Jesus explains what he means by his coming again. In this context, he means he will come to his disciples after the resurrection (14:16-20; 16:16; 20-22). At that time he will give them his Spirit, through whom they will experience his presence and resurrection life (14:16-17, 19; 20:22). Second, Jesus explains what he means by the “dwellings” in the Father’s house: our current dwelling in God’s presence. The noun I translate here as “dwellings” appears only one other time in the entire New Testament – later in this [same] passage, where Jesus expands on the information he has already given his disciples about dwellings. Through the Spirit, Jesus and the Father will come and make their dwelling within each disciple (14:23), thus making them temples of the Lord (the Father’s house). The term dwell, or abide, which is the verb form of dwelling, appears several times in John 15, where Jesus talks about dwelling with us and we with him (15:4-7, 9-10).
Further, Jesus’ disciples did not understand what he said, so his explanation to them instructs us well. When Jesus noted that they already knew where he was going and how he would get there, on confused disciple protested, “Lord, we do not even know where you are going; how can we know the way to get there?” Jesus replied that he was going where the Father was, and Jesus was the way the disciples would get there (14:6; see also 16:28). But when do the disciples get to the Father through Jesus?
John 14:6 is talking about salvation; we come to the Father through Jesus when we become believers in Jesus. This being the case, Jesus’ earlier words in 14:2-3 must also speak of a relationship beginning at conversion. When we come to the Father through Jesus, we become his dwelling by the Spirit he has given us. If John 14:6 refers to salvation (and it does), then the question it answers (how do we get where you are going?) cannot merely refer to the second coming of Jesus that we look for in the future.
So, I guess “I go to prepare a place for you so that you may be where I am” in John 14 doesn’t just mean Jesus will come back to Earth to take us back to heaven to be with him there forever. Instead, because the Temple of God is not a building but now the People of God, WE are God’s dwelling places and so with him in our hearts we are with him forever! How does this sit with you all? Tell me what you think about what Keener is saying.