A Mansion Over the Hilltop

by Roby Ellis

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know (John 14:1-4, KJV).

After a recent hospital visit, I found a tract that had been left in the elevator which quoted this passage of Scripture and raised the question, “Do you want a mansion?” In the paragraphs that followed there was a discussion regarding the difficulties of obtaining even a humble home here on earth. There are stacks of papers to be singed, insurance to secure, not to mention the endless payment of taxes and years of indebtedness. The suggestion of the writer was, however, that there is an enormous, fully furnished mansion waiting for each of us in heaven and that it is completely free of charge. The only thing one needs to do in order to obtain this luxurious home—says the author—is to name Jesus as your Savior “in the best way you know how.” I have no idea how many people have read this tract and accepted its conclusion, but it is my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them that they will discover the truth about salvation before it is too late.

The truth of the matter is that there is a mansion waiting for the faithful in heaven, although it is not the kind of dwelling that many people are anticipating. The word “mansion” meant something quite different in 1611 (when the King James Version was first translated) than it does today. When we hear this word, we think of a massive, luxurious home. In the days of King James I, however, this word simply meant a dwelling or abode (Merriam-Webster). The Greek word (mone) appears only once more in the entire NT. This occurrence actually comes later in this same chapter, when Jesus said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (vs. 23, emp. added.). This should not be considered an inconsistency in the translation, because “abode” and “mansion” were synonymous terms in the Elizabethan times. The English Standard Version puts it this way: “In my Father’s house are many rooms.” Some might be disappointed to learn that the “mansion over the hilltop” of which we sing is not what we thought it was, but we shouldn’t be! After all, what physical dwelling place could possibly compare to an everlasting abode with the Father and the Son!

What does one have to do to secure this wonderful habitation with God? The author of the tract I have mentioned suggests that one pray to God for the gift of salvation, but he offers not one Scripture to support such a method of salvation because no such Scripture exists. As a matter of fact, the Bible tells us repeatedly that God’s ears are not open to the prayers of those who are living in sin (Proverbs 28:9; Isaiah 59:1-2; 1 Peter 3:12). Saul’s prayers—though surely earnest—could not wash away one of his numerous sins; this could only be accomplished by the blood of Christ (Revelation 1:5) through baptism in His name (Acts 22:16).

If you want a “mansion” in heaven, don’t listen to what men say about how to obtain it. Listen instead to the words of the only man who has ever come from heaven to earth, the one who went to prepare a place for the faithful. Jesus did not tell His disciples to pray to obtain this habitation. He told them, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), and Jesus has commanded faith (John 8:24), confession (Matthew 10:32), repentance (Luke 13:3), baptism (Mark 16:16), and lifelong fidelity (Revelation 2:10). If you want to live eternally with Him, keep His commandments!

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