Scripture taken spiritually, not literally
Jesus spoke in the scriptural terms of his time and made excellent use of the "father's house" consisting of many mansions.
The image is not of a massive fortress or cathedral with separate "mansion" apses, but of an abode where all dwell.
found himself in the presence of the abode of God in Genesis immediately upon awakening from his dream. "Surely the Lord is
in this place: and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place: This is none other than the house
of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
Jacob was awake, alive and breathing earthly air and was suddenly struck with
the realization, (epiphany for my type) that the abode of God (to which Jesus referred as the kingdom) is here, is now, and
we are already a part of it.
David confirms Jacob's understanding with the assurance that "Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
David was not comforted
because he believed he would suffer in guilt and regret all the days of his life consoled by an abstraction of post-mortal
dwelling with God forever - forgiven - an end result is promised to all of us. David expressed his own powerful awareness
of the presence of God in the here and now as one who had known God on an extremely intimate basis over his lifetime. He knew
God is actively known in each person’s here and now and had no need to be buttressed or comforted by biblical wordage
that had yet to be written.
The Psalmist in # 84 makes the affirmation that mortal life as a "doorkeeper in the house
of my God" is preferable to a life of dwelling "in the tents of wickedness" which certainly will not be present after death.
Again, the abode of God is here, on earth and in the present moment.
Proverbs advises us on how to build our homes
in harmony with the abode of God in this earthly environment. "Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it
is established. And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches."
When Isaiah was
into calling Israel to repentance, he justified Jacob's understanding of what the house of God is and Jacob's own life of
living within God's earthly abode. In fact, he preceded his approval of Jacob with a statement about gnat-strainers and camel-swallowers.
the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off: That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare
for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of naught.
Therefore thus saith the Lord, who
redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale."
Isaiah makes a promise to all who can find God's abode and join it on earth, regardless of their race or religion. "Neither
let the son of the stranger , that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from
his people: neither let the eunuch say, behold I am a dry tree.
For thus sayeth the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep
my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house
and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall
not be cut off."
Isaiah is trying to call humanity to repentance and effect immediate change and not doing it by promising
something abstract in a future after mortal death.
God reminded the Jews in Babylon where his abode remained. Jeremiah
told them. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to
be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon. Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they
may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there and not diminished.
And seek the peace of the city wither
I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace."
responding to those who labeled him Beelzebub, understanding what they were after (in using tactics not unlike what we see
from the marriage of politics and religion in this country), described life for those who forgot that the here and now is
God's abode. "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city of house divided against itself
shall not stand...."
Mark writes that Jesus reminded his listeners of living in the here and now abode of God. "Watch
ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh..."
In Luke, in parable, Jesus spoke about those
in denial who would not come to the house of a lord because they apparently did not understand where God's abode really is,
"Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the
There was still room in God's abode so the lord added "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them
to come in, that my house may be filled."
Jesus is saying that for all people, the here and now is where God's abode
is found and that God does not have bouncers and ID-checkers to keep non-worthy folks out. The words Jesus puts into the "lord's"
mouth are strong and powerful - expressing God's passion and compassion for humanity.
Which brings us to the marvelous
"In my Father's house are many mansions" (which I have actually heard as a beautiful musical piece with lyrics following the
actual verses.) Again, limiting the image of the abode of God as a future abstract reward for unrelenting suffering and prolonged
endurance is only a part of the meal. We ought not to leave so much on the table untouched.