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Home > Fathers of the Church > Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine) > Tractate 68

Tractate 68 (John 14:1-3)

1. We acknowledge, beloved brethren, that we are owing you, and ought now to repay, what was left over for consideration, how we can understand that there is no real mutual contrariety between these two statements, namely, that after saying, In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you, that I go to prepare a place for you;— where He makes it clear enough that He said so to them for the very reason that there are many mansions there already, and there is no need of preparing any; — the Lord again says: And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. How is it that He goes and prepares a place, if there are many mansions already? If there were not such, He would have said, I go to prepare. Or if the place has still to be prepared, would He not then also properly have said, I go to prepare? Are these mansions in existence already, and yet needing still to be prepared? For if they were not in existence, He would have said, I go to prepare. And yet, because their present state of existence is such as still to stand in need of preparation, He does not go to prepare them in the same sense as they already exist; but if He go and prepare them as they shall be hereafter, He will come again and receive His own to Himself: that where He is, there they may be also. How then are there mansions in the Father's house, and these not different ones but the same, which already exist in a sense in which they can admit of no preparation, and yet do not exist, inasmuch as they are still to be prepared? How are we to think of this, but in the same way as the prophet, who also declares of God, that He has [already] made that which is yet to be. For he says not, Who will make what is yet to be, but, Who has made what is yet to be. Therefore He has both made such things and is yet to make them. For they have not been made at all if He has not made them; nor will they ever be if He make them not Himself. He has made them therefore in the way of fore-ordaining them; He has yet to make them in the way of actual elaboration. Just as the Gospel plainly intimates when He chose His disciples, that is to say, at the time of His calling them; Luke 6:13 and yet the apostle says, He chose us before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4 to wit, by predestination, not by actual calling. And whom He did predestinate, them He also called; Romans 8:30 He has chosen by predestination before the foundation of the world, He chooses by calling before its close. And so also has He prepared those mansions, and is still preparing them and He who has already made the things which are yet to be, is now preparing, not different ones, but the very mansions He has already prepared: what He has prepared in predestination, He is preparing by actual working. Already, therefore, they are, as respects predestination; if it were not so, He would have said, I will go and prepare, that is, I will predestinate. But because they are not yet in a state of practical preparedness, He says, And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself.

2. But He is in a certain sense preparing the dwellings by preparing for them the dwellers. As, for instance, when He said, In my Father's house are many dwellings, what else can we suppose the house of God to mean but the temple of God? And what that is, ask the apostle, and he will reply, For the temple of God is holy, which [temple] you are. 1 Corinthians 3:17 This is also the kingdom of God, which the Son is yet to deliver up to the Father; and hence the same apostle says, Christ, the beginning, and then they that are Christ's in His presence; then [comes] the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 that is, those whom He has redeemed by His blood, He shall then have delivered up to stand before His Father's face. This is that kingdom of heaven whereof it is said, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man who sowed good seed in his field. But the good seed are the children of the kingdom; and although now they are mingled with tares, at the end the King Himself shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The kingdom will shine forth in the kingdom when [those that are] the kingdom shall have reached the kingdom; just as we now pray when we say, Your kingdom come. Matthew 6:10 Even now, therefore, already is the kingdom called, but only as yet being called together. For if it were not now called, it could not be then said, They shall gather out of His kingdom everything that offends. But the realm is not yet reigning. Accordingly it is already so far the kingdom, that when all offenses shall have been gathered out of it, it shall then attain to sovereignty, so as to possess not merely the name of a kingdom, but also the power of government. For it is to this kingdom, standing then at the right hand, that it shall be said in the end, Come, you blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom; Matthew 25:34 that is, you who were the kingdom, but without the power to rule, come and reign; that what you formerly were only in hope, you may now have the power to be in reality. This house of God, therefore, this temple of God, this kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven, is as yet in the process of building, of construction, of preparation, of assembling. In it there will be mansions, even as the Lord is now preparing them; in it there are such already, even as the Lord has already ordained them.

3. But why is it that He went away to make such preparation, when, as it is certainly we ourselves that are the subjects in need of preparation, His doing so will be hindered by leaving us behind? I explain it, Lord, as I can: it was surely this You signified by the preparation of those mansions, that the just ought to live by faith. Romans 1:17 For he who is sojourning at a distance from the Lord has need to be living by faith, because by this we are prepared for beholding His countenance. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 For blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; Matthew 5:8 and He purifies their hearts by faith. Acts 15:9 The former we find in the Gospel, the latter in the Acts of the Apostles. But the faith by which those who are yet to see God have their hearts purified, while sojourning at a distance here, believes what it does not see; for if there is sight, there is no longer faith. Merit is accumulating now to the believer, and then the reward is paid into the hand of the beholder. Let the Lord then go and prepare us a place; let Him go, that He may not be seen; and let Him remain concealed, that faith may be exercised. For then is the place preparing, if it is by faith we are living. Let the believing in that place be desired, that the place desired may itself be possessed; the longing of love is the preparation of the mansion. Prepare thus, Lord, what You are preparing; for You are preparing us for Yourself, and Yourself for us, inasmuch as You are preparing a place both for Yourself in us, and for us in You. For You have said, Abide in me, and I in you. As far as each one has been a partaker of You, some less, some more, such will be the diversity of rewards in proportion to the diversity of merits; such will be the multitude of mansions to suit the inequalities among their inmates; but all of them, none the less, eternally living, and endlessly blessed. Why is it that You go away? Why is it You come again? If I understand You aright, Thou withdrawest not Yourself either from the place You go from, or from the place You come from: You go away by becoming invisible, You come by again becoming manifest to our eyes. But unless You remain to direct us how we may still be advancing in goodness of life, how will the place be prepared where we shall be able to dwell in the fullness of joy? Let what we have said suffice on the words which have been read from the Gospel as far as I will come again, and receive you to myself. But the meaning of what follows, That where I am, there ye may be also; and whither I go ye know, and the way ye know, we shall be in a better condition— after the question put by the disciple, that follows, and which we also may be putting, as it were, through him— for hearing, and more suitably situated for making the subject of our discourse.

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Source. Translated by John Gibb. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1701068.htm>.

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