John 13—17 is often referred to as the Upper Room Discourse and records Jesus’ preparing His disciples for the ministries they would have after His departure. Early in that discourse Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).
Before Jesus announces His plan to “go to prepare a place for you,” He explains that the disciples’ hearts should not be troubled and that they should believe in Him (John 14:1). Jesus then reminds the disciples that the Father had many rooms or dwellings—this would increase their confidence and calm their troubled hearts. But Jesus didn’t stop with providing them general truths about heaven and their future. “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2), He said. Earlier, Jesus had explained that the disciples would not be able to follow Him where He was going (John 13:36). He would die a criminal’s death as a substitution for sin (see John 12:32–33), and He had to face that task alone. After that, He would rise from the dead and see them again. But even after that, He would depart, leaving them to go to His Father.
When Jesus left, He wouldn’t be leaving them for no purpose. As He said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). While Jesus isn’t more specific in this context, He helps them understand that He would be working on their behalf by making a place for them in His Father’s house. They were disturbed that they wouldn’t be able to be with Him, and He comforts them by explaining how one day they would be with Him. Jesus encouraged His disciples that, even when the time came for His prediction that “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2) to be fulfilled, He would come again to take them to Himself so that they could be together again (John 14:3).
Paul later talked about this coming again in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 when he described the event that we call the rapture. Jesus will return in the clouds, receiving all to Himself who have believed in Him: they are “caught up” to Him (1 Thessalonians 4:17). The most encouraging element of that great future event is that “we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). The purpose of Jesus’ coming back for His followers isn’t simply to keep us from difficulty—we will experience plenty of that—it is so that we can be together with Him.
Jesus tells His disciples about His return so they will not be discouraged and troubled in their hearts. Paul teaches about Jesus’ return in the clouds for His people so that we will encourage one another with the truth of our future hope—that we will see Him and be with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:17). When Jesus told His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2), that was not only an encouragement for His disciples who were in the room at the time, but it is also an encouragement for you and for me. Even though we do not see Him now, we will see Him one day either when He returns at the rapture or when we die, if that comes first. Either way, we know our future—if we believe in Him, we have eternal life and we spend the future with Him. Those are encouraging words.