Is Jesus the Carpenter Building Mansions in Heaven?

Joel Osteen's $10 million mansion near Houston, Texas
Joel Osteen’s $10 million mansion near Houston, Texas

Not if you ask Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn and all those heretic televangelists (and even some megachurch leaders). They have their gold-and-silver-laden “mansions over the hilltop,” fulfilling Jesus’ promise in John 14:2 right now, on earth.

In 1949, Ira Stanphill composed a song entitled “Mansion Over the Hilltop” that was made popular by Elvis Presley. This song is based upon the misleading translation and mistaken interpretation of Jesus’ promise in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many monai.” The King James Bible translates the Greek word monai into “mansions,” which in 1611, simply meant “dwelling-places.” Sadly, even though “mansions” has a very different meaning today, this word is still widely used in John 14:2. Obviously, the meaning of “mansion” has changed from “dwelling-place” in 1611 to “a large and impressive house” today (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).[ref]For a fuller treatment of the translation of this word, see “A ‘Mansion’ Over the Hilltop?” by Douglas K. Kutilek, © 2009.[/ref]

The word monai is the plural of mone, which means “home,” “abode,” “dwelling-place,” or “a place to stay or remain or abide” (see also John 14:23). The Latin Vulgate translates it as mansiones, from which the KJV derived mansions. These are the different translations of the John 14:2’s monai and 14:23’s mone, respectively:

Version John 14:2 John 14:23
NIV, ESV “rooms” “home”
NASB “dwelling-places” “abode”
KJV “mansions” “abode”
NKJV “mansions” (with footnote: “literally, dwellings”) “home”
HCSB “dwelling-places” “home”

The first stanza of Stanphill’s song says,

I’m satisfied with just a cottage below
A little silver and a little gold
But in that city where the ransomed will shine
I want a gold one that’s silver lined.

And the refrain begins with, “I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop.” This famous song strikes us as ironic. Some Christians say that they will be satisfied with a barong-barong in heaven, for it will be much better than a palace on earth. Still, this songwriter covets a mansion, “a gold one that’s silver lined”!

Dwelling-Places, not Mansions
One of the Apostle John’s favorite themes is God and Christ dwelling with his people. He uses two related words to emphasize this theme. The first is the verb meno, which means “to remain” or “to abide,” and is used 34 times in his Gospel and 20 times in his Epistles. The words monai in John 14:2 and mone in John 14:23 are derived from meno. Two familiar examples will suffice. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). And, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13). And not only the Father and the Son dwell in Christians, but the Spirit also, “You know [the Spirit], for he dwells [meno] with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).

The second is the verb skenoo, which means “to dwell.” The noun forms skenos and skene are the words for “tabernacle,” “tent” or “dwelling-place.” Again, here are two familiar examples. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt [skenoo] among us” (John 1:14). And, “Behold, the dwelling place [skene] of God is with man. He will dwell [skenoo] with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev 21:3).

In using these words related to “dwelling-place” and “tabernacle,” John alludes back to redemptive history in the Old Testament.

  • When the Lord instructed Moses to build the tabernacle in the wilderness, he said, “And let them make me a sanctuary [Heb shakan], that I may dwell [shakan] in their midst” (Exo 25:8). This is why Luke refers to the OT tabernacle as the “tabernacle [skene]… in the wilderness” (Acts 7:44, NIV, KJV, NASB; “tent” in ESV).
  • God’s promise to all believers in Revelation 21:3 was also his promise to Israel, “I will make my dwelling [Heb mishkan] among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (Lev 26:11-12). “The LORD, the God of Israel, has given rest to his people, and he dwells [mishkan, Grk kataskenoo] in Jerusalem forever” (1 Chr 23:25).
  • After King Solomon built the Jerusalem temple, the LORD promised, “And I will dwell [shakan] among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel” (1 Kgs 6:13).

Finally, when the LORD builds the last Temple, he declares, “And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell [shakan, Grk kataskenoo] in your midst” (Zech 2:11). Then shall Ezekiel’s prophecy be fulfilled, “My dwelling place [mishkan, Grk kataskenosis] shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Ezk 37:27).

The Final and Eternal Dwelling-Place
And this Tabernacle is finally fulfilled when Immanuel, “God with us” in Isaiah 7:14 comes in Matthew 1:23, when Jesus the Son of God was born into this world. Moreover, the Temple is Christ’s Church itself, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph 2:22). God and Christ himself will be the Temple in the new heaven and new earth, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev 21:22). Lastly, this final Temple is heaven itself, and its High Priest is Christ himself, “We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent [skene] that the Lord set up, not man” (Heb 8:1-2).

What Ira Stanphill did not imagine is that he could have had his gold- and silver-laden mansion right now, on earth. If he just lived long enough to see Joel Osteen’s $10 million mansion, Joyce Meyer’s $4 million estate and $10 million jet, and Benny Hinn’s $10 million seaside estate and private jet, that their deluded disciples built for them.

You can read the sermon I preached related to this article here.

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