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Rightly Understanding God’s Word: Learning Context, Part 2, by Craig S. Keener

We often cite John 14:2-3 as a proof-text for Jesus’ future coming; conversely, we cite John 14:6 as a proof-text for salvation. But if we follow the flow of conversation, we have to be wrong about one of them. 14:2-3 declares that Jesus will bring them where He is going, but 14:6 tells us where He’s going and how we His followers will get there: He is going to the Father, and we come to the Father when we get saved through Jesus (14:6). The entire context makes this point clear. We enter the Father’s house when we become followers of Jesus Christ!

In the context of John’s entire Gospel, there is no reason to assume that the “Father’s house” refers to heaven, though it might be an allusion to the Temple (John 2:16) or to the Father’s household (John 8:35). More helpfully, Jesus goes on to explain the “dwelling-places” (NIV: “rooms”) in the following context. The Greek word for “dwelling-place” used in 14:2 occurs in only one other verse in the New Testament—in 14:23, part of Jesus’ continuing explanation of 14:2-4. “The one who loves Me will obey Me, and My Father will love that one and we will come make our ‘dwelling-place’ with that person” (14:23). The related verb appears throughout John 15:1-10: “Dwell [abide]” in Christ, and let Christ “dwell” in you. We all know that Jesus will return someday in the future, but if we read the rest of John we learn that Jesus also returned to them from the Father after His resurrection, when He gave the disciples the Spirit, peace and joy (20:19-23). This is in fact the only coming the context addresses (14:18 in the context of 14:15-27; 16:12-24).

What is the real point of John 14:2-3? It is not that Jesus will return and we will be with Him someday—true as that teaching is from other texts. It is that Jesus returned after His resurrection so Christians could have life with Him (14:18-19), that He has already brought us into His presence and that we can experience the reality of His presence this very moment and at all times.


27. A Newborn Son in Isaiah 7:14

We are familiar with the New Testament use of the virgin-born son passage as a reference to Jesus in Matthew 1:23, but most of us have never considered how Matthew came to this conclusion. Matthew does not use all his Old Testament prophecies the same way. Some of Matthew’s other Scripture texts refer in the Old Testament not to Jesus but to Israel; for instance, “out of Egypt I called My son” clearly refers to Israel’s exodus from Egypt in Hosea 11:1, but Matthew applies it to Jesus’ exodus from Egypt (Matt. 2:15). Matthew is not saying that Hosea had Jesus in mind, but he believes that he has good reason to apply Hosea’s same principle to Jesus. He seems to be saying that Jesus as the ultimate son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1) recapitulates Israel’s experiences (for instance, his forty days in the wilderness and His quotations from Deuteronomy in Matt. 4:1-11). So before we read Matthew’s application of Isaiah 7:14 into Isaiah, we must carefully examine what Isaiah 7:14 means in context. (If this exercise makes you nervous, you can skip to our conclusion, but make sure you come back and follow our discussion the whole way through.)

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2003

About the Author: Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books, including Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Baker Academic, 2011), the bestselling IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today, and commentaries on Acts, Matthew, John, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and Revelation. In addition to having written more than seventy academic articles, several booklets and more than 150 popular-level articles, Craig is is the New Testament editor (and author of most New Testament notes) for the The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. He is married to Dr. Médine Moussounga Keener, who is from the Republic of Congo, and together they have worked for ethnic reconciliation in North America and Africa. Craig and Médine wrote Impossible Love: The True Story of an African Civil War, Miracles and Hope against All Odds (Chosen, 2016) to share their story. Twitter: @keener_craig

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