In John’s Gospel, Jesus refers to God’s heavenly kingdom, saying, “In my Father’s house are many rooms (μοναὶ; monaì). If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (14:2-3 ESV). Many modern readers assume that Yeshua speaks of taking believers to these “rooms” in a “rapture” to heaven. However, this assumption misses the broader context of Jesus’ words in John; rather than rapturing believers to heaven, Jesus promises to bring God’s kingdom with him from heaven, and to abide with humanity eternally on earth.
Though several English translations say that the Father’s house has many “rooms” (μοναὶ; e.g., ESV; NIV; NRSV; RSV), the underlying Greek word comes from a verb that means “to abide” (μένω; méno). Thus, a better translation would be “abiding places.” Incidentally, the King James renders μοναὶ as “mansions” which, despite their lavish connotations today, just meant “places to stay” in seventeenth-century English. Whichever way one chooses to translate the term, the important point is that Jesus’ statement about these abiding places does not denote a rapture to heaven. Part of the confusion comes in Jesus’ promise to his disciples to prepare heavenly spaces (14:2) and then to “take” them to himself (14:3). In English, this sounds like Jesus will “take away” believers from earth to heaven; however, the Greek word (παραλαμβάνω; paralambáno) never means to “take away” in John’s Gospel. In fact, it means the opposite: παραλαμβάνω indicates “receiving” someone, rather than taking away.
Helpfully, παραλαμβάνω only appears two other times in the Fourth Gospel, so it’s easy to see that it means “receive” rather than “take away.” First, παραλαμβάνω describes the Word of God coming into the world: “He came (ἔρχομαι; erchomai) to his own, and his own received (παραλαμβάνω) him not” (Jn 1:11). The term in 14:3 retains the same linguistic content, context, and connotation: Yeshua promises to “come” (ἔρχομαι; erchomai) again and “receive” (παραλαμβάνω) his followers where they are—that is, on earth. Second, just before Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate “handed him over to [the Roman soldiers] to be crucified, so they received (παραλαμβάνω) Jesus and he went out bearing his own cross” (19:16-17). The soldiers receive Jesus from Pilate; they do not take him away—to the contrary, he goes away from them! In light of John’s other usages of παραλαμβάνω, John 14:2-3 describes Jesus coming to earth and receiving his disciples there; the verses do not record a rapture to heaven.
After the initial verses of John 14, the text clarifies that Jesus’ goal is to abide with his followers on earth. The exact same word for “abiding place” (μονή; moné) in 14:2 reappears when Jesus declares, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come (ἔρχομαι; erchomai) to him and make our abiding place (μονή; moné) with him” (14:23; cf. 1 Jn 2:28). This verse explains the meaning of Jesus’ promise at the start of the chapter: ultimately, Jesus and his Father will make their home here. Revelation affirms this eschatology when John sees “a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,” so that “the dwelling place of God is with humanity” (Rev 21:2-3). In John’s Gospel, Jesus does not promise a “rapture” to heaven, but rather his permanent residence among God’s people in an eternal kingdom.