Comfort from the Gathering of the Bride

Scriptures: John 14:2-3
by Jacob Abshire on May 5, 2020

I can only imagine what it may have felt like to be a betrothed woman. While waiting for her husband to prepare her a home in his father’s house, she must have wondered if it would really happen. Having a husband, during these times, meant having protection, provision, and love. It was an honor to be betrothed, despite the stigma we have on it today.

So, arranged marriages were generally a good thing. It was honorable. It was a privilege to be chosen by a family. It was something that young ladies looked forward to with great hope and anticipation. So, waiting for the husband to finish the preparations and return to receive her in the marriage would have felt like a prolonged, challenging wait.

Here in the upper-room, Jesus comforts His disciples by assuring them that His departure and their waiting for Him will one day pay off. They will see the Lord face-to-face forever.

In my Father’s house are many rooms. 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.

John 14:2–3

In these two verses, the Lord teaches us how to draw comfort from trusting in Christ’s preparations. Jesus uses the phrase “prepare a place for you” twice, along with various allusions, to teach us to live as those who have hope even in times of uncertainty.

The passage emphasizes three fundamental certainties that help us draw supernatural comfort through Christ. The first certainty is the house of the Father. Wherever God is, there is infinite peace, rest, and assurance. And, the Lord wants you to know that there is room for you there.

The second certainty is the preparations of the Son. Christ, who is “the one who has the bride” (Jn. 3:29), is making ready a room for you in God’s home, as well as a room for God in your heart. He is preparing eternity for you and you for eternity in the dwelling place of God.

Now, we turn to the third certainty: the gathering of the bride. 

Let’s walk through the remaining part of this passage to see how comfort comes through certainty of the future consummation of God’s undying love. According to the text, Christ will return, receive, and reside.

The Gathering of the Bride

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “It’s not if but when.” We use it to refer to future conditions that we are certain will happen. This is because the word “if” operates in the human space of potentiality. It assumes the possibility of failure. It may or it may not happen.

This text includes a conditional statement. Christ says, “If I go and prepare a place for you” (Jn. 14:3). Is He uncertain? Is He allowing room for potential failure? Does He not know whether He will accomplish the work of preparing? The prior verse suggests to us an answer. He does know. He is certain. “I go to prepare a place for you” (Jn. 14:2). It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Christ is employing a rhetorical condition. He is sure, and He is comforting His disciples with certainty during an uncertain time. Scholars suggest that we understand the word “if” is an adverb of time, conveying when an action will be carried out, not if an action will be carried out. In fact, it might help us to remember that John is writing this gospel about 50 years after Jesus ascended into heaven. Had he not been writing a narrative, he might have written it this way:

Since Jesus has gone and prepared a place for you, He will come again and He will take you to Himself so that where He is you may be also.

When we understand this as a rhetorical condition, it turns a potential into a promise. When the condition is true, the conclusion is certain. Here, the condition is true, so the conclusion is certain. In other words, this is a sure promise. Christ will consummate the marriage by returning, receiving, and residing.

Christ will Return

The first part of the promise is that Christ will return. He says, “I will come again” (Jn. 14:3). He is departing, but His departure is temporary. He will not remain away. He is not abandoning His disciples. He will come again.

In the spirit of transparency, I’m not an eschatological specialist. In fact, end times conversations are usually the first ones I disappear from. The subject is simply not my forte. Instead of getting into the finer details, I try and keep to the main thing: Jesus will return—everything else is the icing on the cake.

Paul, however, enjoyed some good icing. After he was ejected from Thessalonica by some Jewish mobsters (1 Thess. 2:15, 17; 3:10; Acts 17:5-10), he wrote a short letter instructing the church on the afterlife, a subject with which they were strongly pessimistic. He described Jesus’ return this way:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

1 Thessalonians 4:16

The return of Christ will be a spectacular event. Paul’s description, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, resembles the way God called His people to worship in the wilderness. The sound of a loud horn would summon the camp to the house of God where they would gather before His presence. Likewise, the return of Christ will be announced by a loud command, a voice of an archangel, and a sound of a divine trumpet gathering all who belong to God.

Christ will Receive

The second part of the promise is that Christ will receive. He says, “[I] will take you to myself” (Jn. 14:3). This is an allusion to the way a bridegroom would depart for a time in order to prepare a home for His bride. Once it is prepared, he returns to her to receive her in marriage.

Scripture makes a distinction between two purposes for Jesus’ return. One is to gather His bride. The other is to wage a final war on evil (Rev. 19:11-16). Scholars disagree about the sequence of these actions, and whether they will happen simultaneously or separately. But, the Bible is explicitly clear that Jesus will return to receive His bride.

The word “take” can refer to a “taking away” or a “receiving” depending on its use. It communicates a sense of personal initiative and urgency. For instance, when Jesus was a child, His life was threatened, so God spoke to Joseph saying, “Rise and take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt” (Matt. 2:13). The word is repeatedly used in this chapter to refer to an aggressive gathering and taking alongside.

In the same sense, Jesus will return by personal initiative to aggressively take and receive all who trust in Him. As Paul continues in his teaching to the church in Thessalonica:

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

1 Thessalonians 4:17

After Christ descends from heaven, He will stop short of standing on the earth. The sounds of His arrival will summon the believers who are alive and, “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52), they will join Him in the sky as a bride to the bridegroom. He will receive us and take us with Him.

Christ will Reside

The third part of the promise is the main point. Jesus says that He will return and receive us, so “that where I am you may be also” (Jn. 14:3). Again, from the instruction of Paul to the Thessalonians, we find this idea. Those who are gathered in the air to meet the Lord “will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). Christ will reside with us and we with Him forever.

This is the thrust of the verse. The disciples are troubled by His coming departure. But, as we have seen, His coming departure guarantees His coming arrival. He is leaving temporarily. And, once He has returned, He will remain with us forever. In other words, “You will miss me temporarily, but have me eternally.”

Notice the use of verbs in this text. Jesus says, “I will come” and “I will take,” which are both future actions. To be linguistically consistent, He would say “where I will be you may be also,” but He doesn’t. Instead, He will take us to where He already is. This may be another allusion to the eternal existence of God. Jesus, who is God, is already there. It is His dwelling place.

Christ is not returning to take His bride to heaven. He is gathering His bride to receive her to Himself. To reiterate a psalm that is the heartbeat of this passage, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire beside you” (Ps. 73:25). Heaven, even with its impressionable adornments, is nothing if God is not there. Christ will return to us, receive us with Him, and take us to dwell eternally with God.

As a wife waited for her husband to receive her into his father’s house, so we wait for our husband, Jesus Christ, to receive us into the Father’s house forever. But, we shouldn’t wait as one’s without hope (1 Thess. 4:13). We know Christ will return because the condition is true—Jesus departed to prepare a place for us. Today, we live by faith. When He returns, we will live by sight.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.”

2 Corinthians 5:6–9

Since hope is true for tomorrow, why not live in hope today? Why not rest in the comfort of knowing that the preparations are as good as done? Your eternity is secure. Your husband is Christ. Your marriage is coming.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. 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.

John 14:1–3
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