In John 14, we find Jesus at the last supper with His disciples (upper room pictured above), and He is giving them the last lesson that He will give them before the cross. Jesus has, in chapter 13, showing them what it means to serve one another as He had demonstrated what a leader in the church should look like, and now He shifts gears and begins to talk about His second coming or what we can eschatology. Jesus tells them that I am going away, but I will come again. For us who have been in church for a while, this makes perfect scents, but to the disciples, this was a foreign thing of looking at the end-times because the culture did not see Heaven the way we see Heaven. There were two major eschatological items that the disciples would have been privy to at the time.
The Roman Eschatology was centered around Caesar. For most of history, the Roman Empire was a republic and run by the Senate. About sixty years before Jesus, a man by the name of Gaius Julius Caesar changed all that. He was the commander of the army and came into Rome and took over and declared himself Emperor. He also declared that he was a deity and therefore could not be questioned. He was assassinated, but the damage was done. His son Gaius Octavius took over after winning a civil war and renamed himself, Augustus Caesar. The title Augustus means “son of god.” The state then required that people worship Caesar and promised that Caesar would bring prosperity and peace. So, for the Roman world, they were saying that Heaven or a form of it had come to earth with Caesar’s rise.
The Jewish Eschatology was much different in that the Jews did not teach of a going away to Heaven but rather that God Himself would come to earth and rule and that the nation of Israel would rule with Him. The Jews of the day believe that the Messiah would come and free them from the Roman oppression, and He would bring the kingdom of God down to earth, and the Temple would be the center of all worship.
So, when Jesus says that I am going away and I will return, it was so foreign to the disciples who believed that Jesus was the Messiah and were thinking that He was about to take over the world. We can even see that this mindset was a part of the early church in some ways in that they believed that Jesus would return before the end of the first century and establish His kingdom forever. Before we start thinking how crazy they were to believe those things, we have to realize that most of the Western world has a misunderstanding of eschatology. We have looked at the second coming of Jesus as the great escape where we will leave this terrible place and go somewhere else that is perfect. And though I do not want to get into a rapture debate, we do have to realize that Jesus is coming to this earth to rule it for a thousand years, and the saints will be there with Him. There are a lot of misconceptions about what Heaven will look like and what is going to happen.
One misconception is that when Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions,” many people think they will live in some big mansion in Heaven. The truth is that in Greek, that word is monē, and it means “dwelling place or space.” So, what Jesus is saying is that there is room for you and me in God’s house. I think that Jesus is talking less about a material house and more about the fact that we will be in the presence of God, and He has created a place for us to dwell in His presence forever. Jesus says to the disciples, “I go way, but if I go, I will come again, that where I am there, you may also be.” To me, this is one of the greatest eschatology statements in all the Bible. In this statement, we find Heaven. Now I know it is not talking about golden streets and jasper walls, but it talks about what Heaven is, not a place but a person. Heaven is not the material things, but what makes it Heaven is the presence of God, being in the presence of Jesus. So, wherever He is, that is where Heaven will be for us. When we can see Him face to face, and when we take on the new body and know that we will forever live in the presence of Jesus. That is what Heaven is all about. This is the concept of Heaven for the early church. Paul taught us that the kingdom of God came to earth when Jesus arose from the grave and that we are living in the kingdom, but as Jesus said, there is coming a day when Jesus will return for His own. As Christians, we have to realize two things. One, we live in the kingdom of God now, we are not one day going to enter the kingdom, but we live in the kingdom and have access to everything that implies. Second, there is coming a day when Jesus will return, and He is coming for a spotless bride, not a spotless world. On that day, the kingdom of God will be complete, and Jesus will establish His kingdom on earth forever.
We must be ready for the coming of the Lord. When we look for His coming, it brings joy to our hearts, and it causes us to live in Hope. When we believe in the coming of Jesus, it causes us to have an urgency to go out and win people to Jesus. As believers, we can never get to the place we ignore or forget that this world is not our home, but there is a day when Jesus will return for us.