Many people in an attempt to prove a rapture will often cite the NIV translation of John 14:3, “Take you” as a proof that we will rise up to meet Jesus. First off, that would be cool and I am hoping for that. But, I have to be honest to the Text and only teach what the Bible, in proper context, acutely says from actual word meanings inductive analysis, especially what did that term(s) mean to a first century Jew and Roman. What we do not what to do is disrespect God and His Word by seeking, “what I want it to mean for me.” Because we will then, draw wrong conclusions and as Bible teachers lead people astray. What we want to do is appropriate and effectual applications from the Text of God’s most holy Word, then grow ourselves and the people that God gives to disciple deeper to His heart and true Truth for His glory.
So what is going on in John 14?
The NIV states, “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.” Verse 3
The NASB states, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
The Greek word is “paralambano” it is a verb meaning “to take to,” as to take with one’s self, to join an associate or a companion (from Kittel’s “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” the definitive work in this matter).
Remember context, this was Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” where He gives His most passionate and important instructions to His Disciples and us. He was facing betrayal and He turns to His Disciples to comfort them and says; do not be afraid or troubled! Trust in God; trust in Me. He then gives them a picture of hope by showing them a glimpse of what Heaven will be like. He is giving us a picture of the greatest carrot on a stick for us, Heaven, is that inheritance God is promising us beyond our scope of understanding. How incredibly wondrous this must be; our place and security is in Heaven to come and our joy can then be declared and lived out.
He was imparting one of His most important messages, to trust in God. He was giving a call to a personal relationship-unity with conviction with Himself, The Christ. “Trust” is a command to step up to faith, our response to the call of God with conviction in Him through times of danger and fear. Jesus wants us to grasp a picture of a righteous person’s proper dependence upon Jesus as He is exemplified. That He is our Sanctuary; He is the Eternal God on whom we can rely and not only give our life to, but also live our life for (2 Sam. 2:3; Isa. 8:17; 28:16; Psalm 118:22; Isa. 8:14-18; 28:16; John 13:36; Heb. 2:13).
In addition, Jesus was communing the importance to the pursuit of righteousness as like with one journeys through the wilderness of the tough times of waiting and confusion-even suffering. He is giving us a beacon and we are to focus on Christ. That he is Truth in this context means He fulfills the Law and teachings of the Old Testament. That He is Life, there is no existence without Him and there is no salvation without His atonement, redemption, and grace. Christians were first called “the Way” (Ex. 16:33; Lev. 10:2; 16; Num. 17:5; Matt. 7:14; John 1:1-4, 14; 3:16-18; 5:26, 33; 11:25-26; 18:37; Acts 4:12; 9:2; 19:9, 23; Rom. 10:14-15; Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 10:19-20;1 John 5:12).
Consequently, “to take” means a call to join our Companion because He is Lord, and referring that Jesus is our only way, the gate and stairway to Heaven; there is no other way to God except through Him. The real intended meaning was about the resurrection of the dead leads to a new life, our life after death that Jesus is able to provide by His death and resurrection. This passage has nothing to do with a rapture, it is all about Christ and we are to focus on Him not trends, trivialities or speculations.
With the context of heaven, this can also refer to the Second Coming or the new age of the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. But, moreover, this is about Jesus as our Rescuer and Redeemer; He took on our human nature but without our sinfulness, and remained pure to pay the debt for our sins. In the process, His human nature voluntarily became lower than the angels, but as Fully God He is superior to them in essence, power, purpose, and distinction (Rom. 1:4; Heb. 1:1-4; 2: 7, 14-15).
Yet, this passage has been greatly abused by many so-called pastors who read it out of context and inserted their own feelings as truth. Rather, this is an invitation to radical faith. Jesus is saying we can trust in Him totally and completely with all we have now and for our future. Because, He is not just preparing a place for us in eternity, He is preparing us for eternity too! What we go through is not just about sin in an unfair world, it is the building up of faith and being that display a beacon to a dimly lit world that needs His Light.
Keep in mind, that the study of eschatology can be important, but, compared to issues such as prayer, Bible study, who Christ is, basic doctrine, faith development, living in the Spirit, and growing in character and service to our neighbors and people in need, it really is not that important for us to know or to teach! It is OK to disagree with non essential doctrine, as long as we do not divide over it!