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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Father's House

FATHER’S HOUSE (οἰκία τοῦ πατρός μου).—The name applied by Jesus in John 14:2 to the eternal home, whither He goes to prepare a place for His disciples. To their fear lest they might never rejoin Him after the impending separation, He answers that in His Father’s house there are many abodes (μοναί)—a place, therefore, for every one who believes in Him. See art. Mansion.

The expression occurs twice elsewhere in the Gospels, with reference to the Temple, and in both cases bears an emphatic meaning: (a) In Luke 2:49 the words ἐν τοῖς τοῦ τατρός μου, although capable of the translation ‘about my Father’s business’ (as in Authorized Version), are more properly rendered ‘in my Father’s house’ ( Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885). This rendering is supported by the context. See Business. The first recorded utterance of Jesus has an all-important bearing on the question of the development of His Messianic consciousness. His visit to the Temple, in the dawn of manhood, awakened in Him the sense of a peculiarly close relation to God, whom He recognized henceforth as His Father. (b) In John 2:16 the words which appear in the Synoptic narrative as a quotation from the OT (‘It is written, My house shall be called,’ etc.) are given as a direct saying of Jesus, ‘Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.’ The Speaker thus declares by what authority He cleanses the Temple. As Son of God He has the right of ordering His Father’s house and casting out the intruders who have dishonoured it.

The ‘Father’s house’ of John 14:2 has been explained (on the analogy of the above passages) as the heavenly Temple, of which the Temple at Jerusalem was the earthly type (cf. Isaiah 6:1, Hebrews 9). Apart, however, from the particular difficulty that a temple could hardly be described as a place of μοναί, the whole tone of the passage demands a simpler explanation. Jesus thinks of the ‘house’ as a home, to which He is Himself returning, and in which He will be reunited at last with His disciples. The expression ‘Father’s house’ has already been used implicitly with this larger meaning in John 8:35 ‘The servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the Son abideth for ever.’

Theologically, the passage John 14:2 f. marks a departure from the prevailing type of Johannine thought. It withdraws into the future that communion with Christ and participation in His eternal life which are elsewhere regarded as present realities. It further identifies the παρονσία with the coming of Christ to the believer in the hour of death (John 14:3), not (as in the sequel of the discourse) with His abiding spiritual presence. The divergence, however, does not necessarily involve a contradiction. While maintaining that Life is given in the present, St. John looks to a future in which it will become fully manifest (cf. John 5:28-29, John 6:39 etc.). For the believer, as for Christ Himself, death is the transition to a larger ‘glory.’

The allusion to the ‘Father’s house’ is obviously figurative, and we cannot even infer from it that St. John conceives of the future world under forms of space. Such a conception seems, indeed, to be debarred by the great declaration (John 4:24) of the spiritual nature of God. The essential thought in the saying is simply that the believer will enter after death into that perfect communion with God which is impossible under the conditions of this world. In more than one Synoptic passage this communion is described by Jesus under the imagery of a feast (Matthew 26:29; Matthew 8:11, Luke 14:15 ff.). This image is replaced in the Fourth Gospel by the less vivid but more adequate one of a perpetual sojourn with the Father in His house. But in both cases the image is only the vehicle, necessarily imperfect, of the spiritual idea, that the crowning blessedness of the believer will consist in nearness to God and perfect fellowship with Him.

This main idea is combined, in the Johannine passage, with several others which serve to render it more complete and definite: (1) The communion with God is mediated by Christ, who is Himself the Son, and therefore has the right to bring His chosen friends into His Father’s house (cf. John 8:35-36; John 17:24). (2) It will be a lasting communion, not fitful and interrupted like that which is granted to us in the present. Those who were formerly servants will ‘abide in the house for ever,’ like the Son Himself. They will not be strangers, tarrying for an hour but will have μοναί appointed to them—fixed places which they can call their own. (3) The emphasis on the ‘many mansions’ would seem to suggest that the perfect communion with God does not involve a mere absorption in Him. Each life will maintain its own identity and receive its separate fulfilment. Jesus will be the same in the higher world as He was in this, and the disciples likewise will find themselves again, and resume their fellowship with each other and with Him. A certain resemblance can thus be traced between the thought of this passage and that of St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:1-4. The Apostle anticipates for each believer ‘a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,’ which will take the place of the ‘earthly house of this tabernacle.’ The saying in the Gospel declares that there will be room for all these separate mansions within the one ‘Father’s house.’

Literature.—The various commentaries on St. John’s Gospel, in loco, e.g. Holtzmann, Loisy, Weiss, Bugge, Calmes, Godet; Schrenck, Die johann. Anschauung vom Leben (1898), p. 157 f.; Grill, Entstehung des vierten Evangeliums (1902), p. 360, etc.; Titius, Die johann. Anschauung der Seligkeit (1900), ch. vi.; Ker, Sermons, ii. 247; Maclaren, Holy of Holies, 12.

E. F. Scott.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Father's House'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/f/fathers-house.html. 1906-1918.

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