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. John 14:3 (KJV)
The IF's of John 13-14
The phrase in question depends on the larger context of the passage to be properly understood:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 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. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. - John 14:2-4
After the washing of the disciples' feet, Jesus begins this discourse dealing with the disciples' doubt and uncertainty over where Jesus is going. The IF of 14:3 is a continuation of this discourse, mirroring others before and after (13:14,17,32,35, 14:2,3,7,14,15), and in each case is used as a logical operator, to prove either the faithfulness of Christ or the faithfulness of the disciples. Each of Christ's own if's follows an affirmation or promise.
I'd really recommend opening up the larger passage and have a read for yourself, and mark out all the if statements to see what they're doing. In this case, Christ says directly:
- In my Father's house are many mansions
- If it were not so, I would not have told you
- I will go to prepare a place for you
- If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again.
The if is used to strengthen the previous statement, and engages with the disciples' doubt by reasoning things out. The affirmation/promise is the key thing it hinges on, and so the if itself really becomes a promise: 'Trust my words, trust what I'm telling you - because if what I have just said is true, then there are important implications.' For the disciples in this passage, they still have doubts and uncertainties about what Jesus is telling them, but when they become witnesses to his death and resurrection, suddenly that IF becomes active - because indeed Christ has gone to prepare a place, and so we know with certainty he is coming again!
Similar devices are used throughout the scriptures, and operate as promises, designed to resolve doubts, not create them - when we know their condition is fulfilled, we have security in the outcome:
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" - 2 Cor 5:17
"If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31
"if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord', and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." - Rom 10:9
The Holy Apostles loved Christ deeply (John 21:15-17), and were therefore understandably troubled (John 14:1) when He announced to them the news of His sudden departure (John 13:36-37). To calm their upset spirits, Christ walks them through the options, exploring all alternatives. If He were to stay with them, and not “go”, then they would obviously be glad – this is self-evident from the surrounding context, and does not need be explicitly spelled out. However, even if He were to depart from them (for reasons which might seem obvious now, but which, at that particular time, were shrouded in mist), even in this apparently sad and frightening situation, even then there is still no need for worrying, since they will soon be reunited again (John 14:3) – and not just that there is no need to worry, but there is an actual reason for joy (John 14:28) !