A couple days ago I noted that I don’t see a “rapture” in 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18 and I was asked about John 14.2-3. Let me state from the beginning that while I find unity in Scripture I find diversity as well. It wouldn’t bother me if Paul presented one eschatological vision and the Fourth Gospel provided another angle. That being said, even if John differs from Paul here, I don’t see a “rapture”.
When Jesus says that he “in my Father’s house/household/dwelling place” (ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ τοῦ πατρός μου) there are many “dwelling places” (μοναὶ πολλαί εἰσιν) this says nothing of being abducted into heaven at some event called “the rapture”. It merely states that in the abode of the Father there are openings for many people.
In the context of the Gospel itself we must remember Jesus is resurrected. Jesus doesn’t “go to heaven” and the story ends. He dies and then resurrects. The physicality of resurrection shouldn’t be ignored as a framework for Jesus’ words.
Does that mean he is not speaking of going into the heavenly realm and taking his disciples with him? Not necessarily, but we should be careful to avoid picturing this as we are apt to do. Often we think of the eschatological heaven and earth as very distinct. Heaven is where we will be at the end. Earth has some temporal purpose. Yet in the Johannine Tradition the Book of Revelation depicts the marriage of heaven and earth, not the departure of earth for heaven. This doesn’t mean that John 14 is framed by the Book of Revelation, but the similarities in thought should cause us to pause. If the Book of Revelation was not written by the person(s) as the Fourth Gospel then it surely resides within the same tradition.
In the rest of John 14 the passage is about Jesus being in the Father, the Father being in Jesus, the Spirt coming and introducing the disciples into this family. Jesus will not leave the disciples orphaned (v. 18). The Spirit guarantees that the disciples will be brought into the family of God.
Does this occur at the end of the world? Does this occur in the heavenly realm separate from earth? No. If the immediate context matters, and I think it does, we should think of Jesus as saying “I go to the abode of my Father and I will bring you there as well by the Holy Spirit.” In other words, the disciples won’t leave earth, but they will be in the heavenlies, in the family of the Father, because of Christ through the Spirit.