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A Real Place?
Q. Does the Bible tell us where Heaven is? Where do most Christians go when we die? Is there an actual location for heaven? Or is it a state of mind? (J.M., Mt. Vernon, WA)
A Progression of Revelation
Fun question - thanks for asking.
At first I didn't think there was an answer. But, we need to remember that "heaven" is a progression of revelation within the Bible.
Currently, God resides in heaven - which seems to exist outside of time and space as we know it. Later, God will provide us with a new heavens and earth containing the new heavenly city called the New Jerusalem. It's there that God will dwell among us.
Satan's famous "I Will" Verses
There are several verses to consider when exploring the question of where heaven is currently located. One of the most specific is found in Isaiah 14:13. This is a passage that refers to Satan's "I will" statements. Surprisingly, within those is a reference to heaven's location. Let's read it:
"But you said in your heart,
'I will ascend to heaven.
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the recesses of the
Beyond the Stars in the North
Read slowly through these statements. Because from them we can glean several facts about heaven.
1. Heaven is "up." (I will ascend to heaven).
2. Heaven is beyond the stars in outer space (above the stars).
3. Heaven is in the northern area of space (recesses of the north).
A Hole in Northermost Universe
Scientists say that there is a "hole" in the northernmost part of the universe. It's possible that heaven is beyond that - about 21 light years away from us (Balsiger 2005, 71).
Job 26:7 tells us, "He stretches out the north over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing." Some feel that the "stretched out" space in the north may contain heaven, while the rest of the verse refers to earth suspended by gravity (by itself an incredible scientific fact).
A Parallel World or Dimension
Heaven may also exist in a parallel world or dimension. Quantum physicists claim that there are many parallel universes. Furthermore, Jesus clearly stated, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). His statement may mean far more than we think.
Some biblical characters speak of the "heavens opening" before them. For example, Stephen said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56).
Peter, James and John saw Jesus transfigured into brilliant white light along with Moses and Elijah - right in front of them (Matthew 17:2-3).
Elisha told his servant not to fear the surrounding enemies because "those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Kings 6:16).
It appears that physicists are right. There is an entire multiverse and beings existing around us in the here and now. Fantastic!
In the Bible's progressive revelation the heavens are part of the universe. Isaiah 65:17 says..."I create new heavens and a new earth..." Genesis 1:1 states, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."
The two verses above refer to what we call "outer space" plus the earth. God promises to renew or recreate the original universe mentioned in Genesis 1:1 as He originally intended it prior to the Fall.
The Works of God's Hands
From Psalm 8:3-6 we can also draw some conclusions:
Verse 3 says, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained...
Verse 6 replies: "You make him (man) to rule over the works of Your hands. You have put all things under his feet..."
Grant Jeffrey notes that verse 6, "You make him to rule over the works of Your hands," refers back to verse 3 which states that the work of God's fingers includes the heavens, moon and stars. In other words, Jeffrey feels that man was originally in charge of the earth and heavens - not just the earth. This means that we were meant to rule over the universe - not just the earth!
Anyone ready to live out our very own Star Trek sagas?
To understand Heaven we need to know there are 3 "heavens" mentioned in the Bible. The first is the atmosphere around the earth where birds fly. The second refers to outer space. The third refers to that realm beyond outer space where God resides.
A Real Space-City from the 3rd. Heaven
Revelation 21:1-2 presents an incredible verse. It says, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God..."
2 Peter 3:13 adds..."we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth..."
Revelation 21:1, Genesis 1:1, Isaiah 65:17, Isaiah 66:22, and 2 Peter 3:13 apparently refer to a real, physical universe. This recreated or new universe is complete with something like an extraordinary space-city which comes down from the 3rd Heaven to land on or hover above a new earth. It may be a satellite city orbiting the new earth and providing light to its inhabitants as the sun does for us today. Consider the following verses:
"The nations will walk by its light. ... In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed..." (Revelation 21:24-25, NASB).
This space-city, which is called the "New Jerusalem," is what many Christians refer to as "Heaven."
To imagine such a thing just think of the "cloud cities" in Star Wars or the city of Atlantis flying through the galaxies in Stargate Atlantis. For Christians this is a real hope!
Our New, Friendly Galaxies
Regardless of where heaven is, we were originally meant to be good stewards over our planet earth while the heavens were created for the purpose of being lights, signs and seasons (Genesis 1:14-15).
But, God has told us we will be given new physical bodies. He has also told us that He will provide us with a new heavens and earth. So it seems likely that the new or recreated universe will include things like the Pleiades, Horsehead Nebula, black holes, super novas, stars, and all the things we identify as outer space today. But, the new universe will be far better than our current one.
"Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant"
"And he (Jesus) said to him, "Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities" (Luke 19:17, ESV). This verse does not really specify whether the cities are located on earth or on other planets.
Our job is to start preparing to rule those places Yeshua asks us to govern. These will be cities on a new earth and possibly cities sprinkled throughout outer space in the "heavens." Who knows?
Prepare to Evacuate Planet Earth
We suggest that all of us become mentally prepared to be "evacuated" from planet earth in the near future. Listen to this:
"Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air..." (1 Thess. 4:17, ESV).
The church is promised this evacuation before the terrible times of tribulation upon this present earth, possibly within one generation of 1967 or 1948 (Luke 21). This is what Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins warn about in their famous series, Left Behind. (However, this does not mean the church will be free from distress or persecutions in the present).
But, even if you do not hold to the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture of the Church, remember that we will be held accountable for actions and deeds done here on this planet. Our positions and rewards in heaven (but not our salvation) will be based upon these deeds.
Get ready for a new life in new galaxies containing a new earth with a stunning, brilliant space-city to call your home. It is there that we will have our true citizenship ..."Our citizenship is in heaven"... (Philippians 3:20).
Wherever Heaven is - in the recesses of the North where God is or in the New Jerusalem of the future where God dwells among us - that is where we truly belong. Hope to see you there!
I'm ready to go.
Please beam me up, Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Alcorn, Randy. 2004. Heaven. Wheaton, ILL: Tyndale.
Balsiger, David and Charles Sellier. 2005. The evidence for heaven. Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos.
Jeffrey, Grant. Available from:www.grantjeffrey.com.
Postscript: Jeffrey L. Mays, author of this question about heaven's location, passed away on 2/7/10. In all he contributed at least 40 terrific, thought-provoking questions to Remnant Report.
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