In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself. (John 14:2-3)
Very consoling passage. But also very interesting.
The oldest manuscripts of Sacred Scripture which we possess do not have any punctuation. They don’t even have any spaces between the words.
So sometimes the punctuation we read in our English-language Bibles involves some interpretation on the part of the person who added the punctuation marks.
Did the Lord ask a rhetorical question? “Would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?”
Or did He actually make a statement: “If there were no places prepared, I would have told you as much.” Next sentence: “I go to prepare a place for you.”
Depends on which English translation of the Bible you read.
Now, the moral of the story is not that we don’t have places prepared in heaven. On other occasions, the Lord referred to ‘places prepared by my Father.’ And He Himself, the incarnate Son, makes these places ready by: 1) ascending bodily to heaven Himself, 2) praying for us there, 3) pouring out the Holy Spirit so that we can be united with Him by faith as we make our way on earth, and 4) uniting us with Him fully in the end.
So there’s no question about the places, the preparation of them, or the preparation of us for them. The point of fussing about the punctuation of this verse is simply to highlight the fact that it is impossible to receive the Word of God written in Scripture without the help of other people.
All of us are a long way off from being able to understand big sheets of paper covered with Greek letters, with no punctuation or spaces between the words. And even if we knew Koine Greek well enough to read these pages, we would quickly see that a lot of passages can be rendered into English with significantly different meanings—without one way or the other being more “correct.”
This is not to say that the New Testament offers us no clear, unambiguous teaching. To the contrary, the cumulative message of the Scriptures is crystal clear: “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.”
But actually to get this message, each of us individually relies on the help of a lot of other people. The most accurate collective name for all these other people, taken together, is: The Church.