David, concludes the 23rd Psalm thusly, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)
Jesus spoke of the Lord’s house prior to His death. He said to the apostles, “Let not your heart be troubled. You 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.” (John 14:1-2)
The Father’s house, as spoken of by both David and Christ, is an obvious reference to heaven, that eternal home where God dwells, and in both the Old and New Testaments there is the promise that men may dwell within, eternally.
Though Jesus used the analogy of rooms to describe the house of God, we should not think of this house as a physical place. Likewise, though the Old Testament sometimes spoke of the Temple in Jerusalem as the house of God, it is clear that David had in mind a place he could ascend to after he had left this mortal coil. God is Spirit (cf. John 4:24a). Thus the apostle Paul reasoned with the Athenian philosophers, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man.” (Acts 17:24; ESV) Solomon, who built the first temple in Jerusalem understood the inadequacies of a physical place as the dwelling place for an almighty, spiritual Creator.
Thus, when Solomon dedicated the temple, he prayed, ““But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27; ESV)
Sometimes men get caught up with the buildings they build here on earth, thinking that with such God will be impressed. But no stain glass windows, gold gilding, or vaulted arches can approach the wonders of God’s own Creation. Nor are they sufficient to reflect His true glory and majesty.
It is telling that as we seek to understand the house of God better, the New Testament points us not to a place, but to people.
The Corinthians were taught, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Writing to Timothy, the apostle admonished the young preacher, “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14-15; ESV)
The term translated “household,” is also properly rendered as “house,” showing the connection between the dwelling place and the people that live within. The word church is also most properly rendered as “assembly,” a collection of people. That is, the Scripture literally says that the “house” of God, here on earth, is the “assembly” of God’s people, that body of individuals we call the church of God.
Clearly, both David and Christ, when they spoke of the house of God, spoke of it as a place where one would go following death, yet at the same time we should not discount this connection between the place and the people that dwell there.
The Ephesians, in having their salvation described were told, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19; NKJV) Peter likewise correlates the household of God with those who have obeyed the Gospel, saying, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)
It seems reasonable, with such passages, in consideration of the promises of God, to understand the Scriptures to teach the easily understood doctrine that those who have obeyed the Gospel have become part of God’s household, members of His divine family, and that, at the end of time, He will gather His household home.
Thus do the Scriptures say, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:1a, 2)
In the Father’s house there are many rooms being prepared. The question we should ask ourselves is this, “Is one of those rooms being prepared for me?” If you have obeyed the Gospel, the answer is, “Yes!”
If you would like to be a part of God’s household, the church of Christ invites you to worship and study with us, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.