I’d like to take a brief break from my study of Ephesians 4 and look at a different text for a different reason. I recently blogged about my disbelief in the Rapture, and I also tried to exegete two important Rapture passages: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Matthew 24:36-41. A friend of mine, who is having his own journey of faith with the Rapture, asked me about John 14:2-3, which is another famous Rapture passage.
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
These words of Jesus are a small but crucial portion of the tender and bittersweet Last Supper scene in the Gospel of John. Jesus is trying to comfort the disciples by painting a vision of what life will be like after The End. These words are, indeed, very comforting in that they assure us that Jesus will return for us someday.
The Rapture adherent sees in this text the basic structure of the Rapture event: Jesus comes back after an indeterminate period of time and takes us back with him where he came from. Whatever else happens can’t be determined from this text, but it is a very important piece of the puzzle.
But, rather than being an explanation of the timeline of the end times, this is marital language. In those days, before the wedding day, the bridegroom would build a house next to (or, more likely, an addition on) his parents’ house for he and his bride to live in. This could take any amount of time, which heightened the suspense of his return. He would come for his bride only after he had finished building their house. Jesus is saying, essentially, “I am the bridegroom and you, and all who believe because of your testimony, are the bride. I’m going away now to get everything ready so that, when I come back, we can have a wedding.”
This language might be a bit odd to us, and it may have been odd to the disciples, too. But they knew their Bibles, and the knew the stories of Sinai and Hosea and Isaiah. They knew what Jesus was getting at here: This is God consummating the covenant promise of Sinai (and redeeming the wrecked love story of Hosea) through Jesus and the reconstituted Israel, represented by these twelve disciples. (Twelve disciples = Twelve tribes.) God is saying, “What I have always intended to do—betroth humanity to myself—I am now doing through my Son, and all who believe in him are the beneficiaries. They will become my bride.” Jesus is using contemporary, marital customs to describe cosmic redemption. He is saying, this is a marriage—a marriage for which the marriage between a man and a woman is but a shadow—and I will come again some day to claim my bride.
Now here’s the really amazing part: What is “my Father’s house”? That’s the temple. But Jesus isn’t going back to the temple in Jerusalem, he’s going back to the temple in Heaven, of which the Jerusalem temple is a crumbling replica hastily built in miniature. But we also find out, from Paul, that the new temple is not a building at all—it’s us. We are the temple of God. And when you pick up the subtle hints in the book of Revelation (think marital language, building on this very passage) you see that the New Jerusalem is not really a huge golden city hurtling through space until it finally lands on planet earth—no, it’s us. We are the New Jerusalem. And as the Jerusalem temple is to Heaven’s temple, so the Church is to the New Jerusalem. In other words, the place that Jesus is going to prepare for us…is us—the fully redeemed, renewed, recreated, resurrected people of God. That is what Jesus is at work preparing even now.
Jesus has gone to his “Father’s house”, not to make us mansions in heaven, but to make us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, a Bride fit for himself. If there is rapture it is because there will be everlasting joy when Jesus presents us—fully and completely ourselves as we were always meant to be—to himself in the fullness of eternal communion and glory. So yes, there will be rapture. But not the rapture of escape from trial and tribulation. Rather, there will be the rapture of the fullness of joy at our becoming a bride worthy, because he has made us so, of the King of kings and Lord of lords.