John 14:1-3 and the Rapture (Part 1)


Many American Christians have been raised in a church culture that stresses that Jesus will return to “rapture” or snatch away “the church” before the Great Tribulation. They believe “the church” is a different people than ethnic Israel, with a complementary but distinct future.1 Because this great tribulation is “a time of trouble for Jacob” (Jer 30:7), it is not for “the church.” Therefore, the rapture is the point where “the church” slips out the door just before this tribulation begins.

They believe this rapture will involve (a) resurrection of all believers who died since Pentecost, and (b) a simultaneous snatching away of all believers still alive, all to (c) meet the Lord in the air for transport to heaven while tribulation rages here. Later, Jesus will return from heaven with “the church” to end this great tribulation—this is the second coming.

This is part of a “pre-tribulational” (i.e., Jesus will return before the tribulation), and “premillennial” (i.e., Jesus will establish His kingdom to trigger the millennium) framework called dispensationalism.

Many of these Christians point to John 14:1-3 as proof of the rapture of “the church.” This article will consider what Jesus says at John 14:1-3. First, we’ll examine the entire context of Jesus’ farewell talk at Jn 13:33 to 16:33. Second, we’ll examine four common interpretations about what Jesus said at Jn 14:1-3. Third, we’ll propose a solution.

1: The long convo—Jesus says goodbye

It’s silly to interpret something without context. You watch a video clip of something that looks terrible, but the whole clip shows it in it’s true light. It’s the same with the bible. So, to get what Jesus says at John 14:1-3, we must consider everything He says during a very long talk after the last supper.

Here’s the outline—and this is “kind of a big deal” because Jesus constantly talks about different ways in which He’ll “come back” and reunite them to the Father. Skip this if you want, but you might want to refer to it later.

  • Jn 13:33-35: Jesus’ announcement about His physical departure, and therefore the necessity of brotherly love as the mark of the true Christian community
    • Jn 13:36 - 14:4: Dialogue on Peter’s question.
      • Believers must trust Jesus. He will physically return to the Father’s personal presence, and eventually bring believers into His Father’s presence, too. Yet, they already know “the way”!
    • Jn 14:5-7: Dialogue on Thomas’ question.
      • Believers are, in a real sense, in the Father’s presence right now by means of trusting in Jesus’ Good News—He is “the way” to the Father’s “house.”
    • Jn 14:8-21: Dialogue on Philip’s implicit question.
      • Jesus and the Father mutually indwell one another, and this is why when you “see” one you “see” the other. Jesus must return to the Father’s presence to direct His campaign against the kingdom of darkness from on high. Meanwhile, He sends believers the Holy Spirit so we aren’t left as orphans. Jesus will reveal Himself to (i.e., be “seen” by) those who love the Father, by means of the Spirit.
    • Jn 14:22-31: Dialogue on Judas (not Iscariot’s) question
      • Jesus will only show Himself to those who love Him, which means those who obey His teaching. The Spirit, through whom Jesus is “with us,” brings believers peace and teaches them. Jesus warns the disciples about all this beforehand, so they’re prepared for the day.
  • Jn 15-16: Jesus and the disciples “walk and talk” on the streets of Jerusalem
    • Jn 15:1-25: Be sure to stick with Jesus.
      • Fruit is the mark of a true Jesus follower, and the defining fruit is brotherly love.
    • Jn 15:26 – 16:15: The work of the Spirit in the New Covenant.
      • Jesus must physically return to the Father and “pass the baton” (as it were) to the Spirit. He will be their Advocate and teacher, and so they’ll be able to endure.
    • Jn 16:16-28: Jesus on His resurrection reunion.
      • The disciples will see Him “after a little while,” (Jn 16:16) and then their grief will turn to joy (Jn 16:20, 22). At that time, Jesus will speak plainly to them about the Father (Jn 16:25).
    • Jn 16:29-33: Farewell address ends

1a: The mic drop—Jesus says goodbye (vv. 13:33-35)

Our passage opens after Judas has bolted from the Last Supper and fled into the night. He’s on his way to betray Jesus to the Jewish authorities (Jn 13:27-30).

Jesus, perhaps taking a deep breath as He sees the walls closing in on Him, explains that both He and God will be “glorified” by what’s about to happen. It’s so certain that Jesus speaks as if His arrest, torture, and execution are already a done deal: “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him” (Jn 13:31). The word “glorify” here is a churchy term, and it means to be held in honor, or clothed in splendor.2 Basically, Jesus will be honored triumphantly,3 and so too will God.

Jesus then explains: “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come” (Jn 13:33).

Where is Jesus going? Clearly, it’s back to the Father’s side in heaven (cp. Jn 17:1ff). Now, heaven is not a physical location “up there” in the clouds. Satellites go “up there.” Manned space missions go “up there.” Heaven is not in outer space—it’s best understood as a different dimension where God dwells.4 It’s the place from which Jesus came (Jn 3:13; 17:1f) and to which He returned at His ascension: “he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence” (Heb 9:24). It’s the place where God dwells (“Our Father in heaven …” Mt 6:4). It’s the place where believer’s inheritances are kept for them (1 Pet 1:4-5; cp. Mt 6:20). Heaven is God’s throne room (Mt 5:34). Perhaps, then, we should see “the kingdom of heaven” as meaning something like “the kingdom of God’s presence” which has “come near” in Jesus (Mk 1:15)—His reign.

Because heaven in our context is God’s holy presence, then we should remember that God is not a stationary rock—He moves. In fact, the Christian story ends with this declaration: “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them,” (Rev 21:3). The story moves from (a) crude representations of God’s throne room under the figures of the tabernacle (Ex 25:9), to (b) the New Testament explanation that these figures taught us in advance about Christ’s sacrifice (Heb 9:1 – 10:18), and finally (c) to Father and Son sharing a throne here on earth, in a new creation (Rev 21:1 – 22:5).

The Apostle John sees “the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev 22:12). The celestial city represents the pure community of God’s presence just as Babylon is the community of evil and wickedness (Rev 17-18), and one day it will no longer be just “the Jerusalem that is above” (Gal 4:26)—it will be here. No longer will our citizenship in “Mount Zion … the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb 12:22) be an abstraction that we can’t see and touch—it will be here.

More than a place, this “heaven” here on earth is also a state of being. There are no tears, no pain, no sorrow, no sin— “nothing impure will ever enter it … no longer will there be any curse,” (Rev 21:27; 22:3). “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev 21:4). One writer says: “Heaven is the life willed for us originally in creation by God the Father, lived for us by the Son, and finally enabled by the Spirit.”5 Isaiah speaks of a “new heavens and a new earth” with very physical and earthly descriptions of perfect fellowship in an ideal society (Isa 65:17-25). No old age, no infant mortality, endless crops of plenty, satisfaction from work, blessedness from the Lord, perfect fellowship with Him and each other—it’s all there.

Belinda Carlisle was right—“heaven” will indeed be a place on earth, because heaven is God’s personal presence which brings blessedness and community with Him. This is why the Apostle Peter, casting his mind on promises like these, wrote: “… in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13).

God has long promised to re-create the fellowship and community our first parents ruined (Zech 2:10; Ezek 48:35), and by the end of the story He will have made good on that promise. This means that “heaven” is not static. New York City doesn’t move, nor does London—but “heaven” does, because “heaven” is where the Lord is.

So, what does Jesus mean in John 13:33 when He says: “Where I am going, you cannot come?” He means (a) that He’s soon returning to the Father’s personal presence (“I am coming to you now …” Jn 17:3), and that (b) the disciples cannot yet come with Him. Why not? Because they’re still alive, and so will remain here. To be absent from the physical body is to be physically present with the Lord in that other place (2 Cor 5:8). But, for now, we who are alive must wait.

1b: Convo on Peter’s question (vv. 13:36 to 14:4)

Peter and the others then ignore Jesus’ urgent pleas for them to show love to one another (Jn 13:34-35), and instead press Him about His departure (Jn 13:36-37)—what’s that all about?

Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

How could He leave? What’s going on? Where is He going? After an incredulous aside to Peter (Jn 13:38), Jesus murmurs some comforting words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (Jn 14:1). The word might be better translated as trust (not “believe”), but the point is that Jesus’ departure is not an abandonment.

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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 (John 14:2-4).6

This “house” is figurative imagery to express the place where the Father lives—i.e., His personal presence.7 This is why Jesus referred to the temple, that grand and living object lesson, as “my Father’s house” (Lk 2:49; Jn 2:16)—because the Father lived inside.8 This is why the Apostle Paul says the Christian community is God’s “house” (1 Cor 3:6; 1 Tim 3:15)—because God’s Spirit dwells in our midst. It’s why the writer of the letter to the Hebrews explained “we are his house” (Heb 3:6). The temple is God’s “house” (Ps 69:9, cp. Jn 2:17; Lk 19:46).

But “my Father’s house” is not a physical structure anchored to a particular place. God does not live at 777 Eternity Drive. Instead, “my Father’s house” is a figurative reference to God’s personal presence. In the same way, the real throne room in heaven to which Jesus returns is “my Father’s house” because God is there.

We’ve seen that there is no physical house, and there are no real rooms. These are metaphors. Jesus is saying that He won’t abandon them. Adopting the imagery of a friendly innkeeper, Jesus promises that He’s leaving to prepare “rooms” for each one of them in the Father’s personal presence (i.e., “my Father’s house”). And one day Jesus will come back and bring them face to face with God so they can all be there with Him together. In fact,9 they already know how to get to the Father’s house themselves (Jn 14:4).

We’ll continue our look at Jesus’ farewell talk in the next article.


1 See Charles Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1953), ch. 7. Ryrie’s book should be titled The Basis of the Dispensational Faith, because premillennialism is not necessarily dispensationalism.

C. I. Scofield wrote: “Comparing, then, what is said in Scripture concerning Israel and the Church, he finds that in origin, calling, promise, worship, principles of conduct, and future destiny—all is contrast,” (Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (reprint; Philadelphia: Philadelphia School of the Bible, 1921), p. 11). Scofield’s student, Lewis S. Chafer, lists 24 contrasts between Israel and the Church (Systematic Theology, vol. 4 (reprint; Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1976), ch. 3)!

2 See BDAG, s.v., sense 2; LSJ, s.v., sense 2.

3Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “glory (v.1), sense 1,” July 2023,

4 See (a) Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), pp. 1125-1133, (b) Alvah Hovey, Biblical Eschatology (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1888), pp. 156-160.

5 Thomas Oden, Life in the Spirit: Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (San Francisco, HarperCollins, 1992), p. 460.

6 The Greek here is pretty straightforward. Any mysteries in this verse aren’t hidden here: Gk: ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ τοῦ πατρός μου μοναὶ πολλαί εἰσιν εἰ δὲ (emphasis) μή, εἶπον ἂν ὑμῖν ὅτι πορεύομαι ἑτοιμάσαι τόπον ὑμῖν; καὶ (additive) ἐὰν πορευθῶ καὶ ἑτοιμάσω τόπον ὑμῖν, πάλιν ἔρχομαι καὶ παραλήμψομαι ὑμᾶς πρὸς ἐμαυτόν, ἵνα (purpose + subjunctive) ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ καὶ (adjunctive) ὑμεῖς ἦτε (subjunctive = paired with ἵνα) καὶ (emphasis) ὅπου (obj. gen.) [ἐγὼ] ὑπάγω οἴδατε (intensive perfect) τὴν ὁδόν (direct obj.).

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. Surely, if this weren’t true, would I have told you all that I am leaving to prepare a place for you? And, if I am leaving to prepare a place for you all, I will come again and take you along with me, so that you will also be where I am. In fact, you already know the way to the place I am going.”

7BDAG, s.v., sense 1b.

8 Although God never indwelt the second temple, you get the point.

9 The NIV drops the conjunction in the phrase: καὶ ὅπου ἐγὼ ὑπάγω οἴδατε τὴν ὁδόν. The conjunction is likely ascensive or perhaps emphatic—the result is the same; the previous thought is focused and further developed.


These verses are not major verses for a pre-Trib rapture position. They do, however, fit very well within the pre-Trib position. The problem with non-dispensational theology is not the rapture but the subjective hermeneutics of non-dispensational theology.

Wally Morris
Huntington, IN

Wally, I understand what you’re saying. However, many Christians nonetheless cite it in support. Jon Pratt also highlighted it as one of his three key texts for that perspective in the dispensationalism book Central Seminary put out recently.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

I would use John 14:1-3 as support verses as well but not as key verses. The verses are too general to be key verses but do fit within the pre-Trib position.

Wally Morris
Huntington, IN

Ohh no, there will be rooms. One for fundamentalist so that they can separate from evangelicals, one for charismatics to get as loud and as crazy as they can. One room for those who belive in drums and another one for those who do not believe in drums.....

You're right! We'll have to separate the right kind of Christians from the wrong kind of Christians.

BTW, I've heard John 14 used to support the rapture numerous times. John R. Rice used to preach that the "falling away" of II Thessalonians 2 was the rapture.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Hearing someone preach the rapture from John 14 is not the same as dispensational theologians using the text as a major support passage. Nor is John 14 the only passage for the pre-Trib rapture position.

As far as rooms: I'm sure there will be a room for tongue-in-cheek SI posters to make each other laugh.

Wally Morris
Huntington, IN

The third article will interact with the dispensational arguments from Jn 14. It’s a popular passage for theologians. Again, Jon Pratt, the NT guy at Central, used it in his defense of the pre-trib rapture in the book Central Seminary recently put out.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Some Rapturists see the rapture everywhere. Enoch. Noah. Elijah. I'm waiting for the Olivet Discourse to be addressed.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

I have a lengthly article on Mt 24 which I may serialize here.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.