In the book of John, we see one of the most important teachings from Christ. In chapter 14 Jesus speaks to the uniqueness and the glory of Christianity. We need to understand this, particularly in our culture today. Many different forums all over the country and the world debate and discuss this. This leads us to another question, is there glory in a narrow gospel?
Do We Believe In A Narrow Gospel?
In John 14 we see Jesus talking to his disciples days before He’s about to go to the cross. He’s giving them comfort because he’s about to leave them. And remember, days after Jesus says these words he will be headed to the cross.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
In this verse Jesus is equating himself with God, something He does throughout the book of John. “I and the Father are one.” In John 8:58, he calls himself the “I Am,” which is the name of God from the Old Testament.
Our Perspective On Heaven
Throughout John’s gospel, we see that Jesus is not just another religious teacher on the landscape of human history; He is God in the flesh. And then, as he comforts his disciples, he says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms” (John 14:2).
Some translations might have the word “mansions.” The King James translation says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” As a result, it has become pretty common for us to talk about heaven and talk about the mansion that we’ve got waiting for us on a hill one day.
I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but that’s really not what Jesus is saying in this passage. The word he uses, “rooms,” sometimes translated as mansions, is actually used only two times like this in the entire New Testament, and the literal meaning of it is “dwelling place.”
Maybe the best way to think about heaven would not be to picture mansions or nice houses with all the things this world may have to offer. We have a tendency to think about a nice place with all the finest amenities, but a place that has all the amenities this world has to offer pales in comparison with the fact that we will be dwelling with Almighty God! There won’t be crying and there won’t be pain and there won’t be cancer, and we’ll be with him forever.
Preparing A Place
“I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). We can have a misconception about this scripture passage as well. I know sometimes when I have studied this passage, I picture Jesus, almost like he’s in the construction business. He’s working hard, getting my room together. He’s fixing the linens and he’s getting everything tidy so that when I get there it will be ready. He’s busy preparing a place for me. But in order to understand what Jesus is saying we need to look at the context of this verse.
Where is Jesus about to go to? He’s about to go to the cross. When he says, “I’m going there to prepare a place for you,” he is saying “The only way for you to get to the place where you will dwell with God the Father is if I give my life on the cross.” When he says that he is making preparations, he’s talking about his coming death on the cross.
Only One Way
Jesus goes on to say, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus was not just a religious teacher who told his followers to do certain things in order to get to heaven. At no point in this passage do you see Jesus tell his disciples, “Here is what you’ve got to do to get to heaven.” What he does say is, “I am going to make the preparations complete for you.”
Thomas responds with, “Well, how can we know where you’re going?” And Jesus says, “You’re looking at him.” “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). What does Jesus mean? This is one of the major truths that sets Jesus apart from every religious teacher in human history. He does not point us to the way, He provides the way through himself.
Every great religious leader has pointed people to the way that they think brings life. Buddha points to rules and regulations that you follow to get life. Mohammad points to the Qur’an, telling us to obey it and to do certain things in order to find life eternally. I remember traveling to India and talking with Hindus who were trying to do all kinds of things in order to find peace with the world around them. But Jesus doesn’t say, “Here is what you do”: instead, He says, “Come to me . . . You get to the Father through a relationship with Me.”
We don’t need a list of things to do in order to have salvation, to get to heaven. We need a relationship with the God of the universe through his Son, Jesus.
How Do We Share The Narrow Gospel?
How do we share the gospel with those who believe differently than we do? How do we practically share the gospel with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Animists, and Agnostics?
David will answer those questions and more during the live simulcast of the next Secret Church gathering, Friday, April 29, 2016 “A Global Gospel in a World of Religions”. The simulcast is available for full replay until May 31, 2016.
This post was adapted from a sermon by David Platt entitled “Is There Glory in a Narrow Gospel”.