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; NKJV).”
Jesus spoke of the Lord’s house prior to His death. He said to the apostles, “Let not your hearts 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; ESV).”
The Father’s house, spoken of by both David and Christ, seems an obvious reference to heaven: that eternal home where God dwells. Though Jesus used the analogy of rooms to describe the house of God, we should not think of God’s house as a physical place.
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).”
Though the Bible sometimes spoke of the temple in Jerusalem as the House of God, it was never more than a representation of the Lord’s true celestial home. 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)
Moreover when David wrote, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” it is clear that David had in mind a place he would ascend to after he had left this mortal coil. A place with far more permanence than the tabernacle or the temple built by his son. That temple was destroyed, and the one after it. Nobody lived there forever.
Today, in the religious world, men sometimes 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 Paul, through inspiration, 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; ESV)?”
These passages, and others like them, teach the doctrine that those who have obeyed the Gospel have become part of God’s household, members of His divine family. Further, we understand that at the end of time, He will gather His household home, bringing them to where He is.
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; NKJV).”
In the Father’s house there are many rooms being prepared. Because of the love of God, we dare to ask, “Is one of those rooms being prepared for me?”
If you have obeyed the Gospel, the answer is, “Yes!” You are part of the Lord’s family, a part of His household.
If you are not yet a part of God’s family, but want to learn more about how His house, the church of Christ invites you to worship and study with us, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise if you have any questions or comments, we invite you to share them with us at chapelhillchurchofchrist.org
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.