Revelation 4: 1-2
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.
Job 22: 12-14
‘Is not God in the heights of heaven?
And see how lofty are the highest stars!
Yet you say, “What does God know?
Does he judge through such darkness?
Thick clouds veil him, so he does not see us
as he goes about in the vaulted heavens.”
Isaiah 24: 21
In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below.
The first question I want to answer today is: WHERE IS HEAVEN?
The Bible mentions heaven hundreds of times, in different ways, and in different contexts and forms. The very first verse of the Bible says this:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1: 1)
So the universe that God made has two distinct realms - one is the heavens and the other is the earth.
The earth is easy enough for us to figure out since we live on it. Heaven is a bit more complicated.
When you ask most people where heaven is they say – it’s up there. Heaven is like a distant galaxy up in the clouds. Beyond outer space. When the first Russian astronauts went into space they sarcastically joked that they now had proof there was no God because they couldn’t find Him up there.
Actually, sometimes when the bible talks about the heaven it is just referring to the skies above us.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Ps 19:1)
But most of the time that’s not what it means when it talks about heaven.
Heaven is simply this – it is the invisible, spiritual dimension in which God exists.
The Bible teaches that as well as the three dimensional physical world, there’s also another dimension, an invisible spiritual world. We only think in terms of what we can see, hear and touch – and think that’s all there is. But the reality is that there is also a whole other dimension which we can’t see or touch physically. It is a spiritual world and it exists all around us. In John 4 Jesus says to the woman at the well:
“God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in Truth.”
God is Spirit. God is not a physical being – God is a spiritual being. Yet he was able to speak and the world was made.
So the simplest way to understand it is that Heaven is the dimension in which God exists. Ecclesiastes 5:2 says this:
“God is in heaven and you are on earth...”
Psalm 115:16 says:
“The highest heavens belong to the LORD,
but the earth he has given to man.”
From what we read in Scripture it would seem that there are at least 2 different dimensions to Heaven. There’s the Heavens which is all around us. This is the invisible realm where Satan and his demons exist along with God’s good angels. In other words, created, spiritual beings inhabit the heavenly dimension all around us. Here they battle and contend with each other and affect what happens on earth.
In Daniel 10: 13 we read that an angel tells Daniel why he has been delayed in responding to Daniel’s prayers:
“But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.”
He’s telling Daniel there are different ranks, levels and even geographical regions assigned to spiritual beings, just as there are among humans.
We saw this in Rev 12:7:
“Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.”
And Paul says this in Ephesians 6: 12:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
So around us all the time, there is this invisible realm, inhabited by spiritual beings. Many belong to God and are here to serve God, to protect us and to fight for us. But others are against God and against us as His church, and have the mission to steal, kill and destroy all that is good and Godly.
Then, I believe, there is another region of the Heavens, and this is the region in which God Himself is enthroned, with Jesus at His right hand in glory, and only those who belong to Him have access there.
This is sometimes called the Third Heaven.
In 2 Cor 12:2-3, Paul is talking about himself when he says this:
“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows. And I know that this man…was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.”
So Paul has this supernatural experience, this revelation, where he is transported spiritually right into the very presence of God. Notice how he struggles to put words on it. But he also calls it paradise, which we’ll see next week is significant – because what does Jesus say to the thief on the cross: Today you will be with me in paradise.
So we have this Third Heaven, which is also known as Paradise, which is the realm of heaven where God inhabits, and only those whom he permits have access there. Those who belong to Him.
In Is 66:1, God says:
"Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool…”
So when Jesus came to earth it was not so much a case of him stepping from up there to down here – but rather a case of him stepping across from the heavenly realm of God, of perfect paradise, where he enjoyed infinite glory and unhindered access to His Father – He stooped, he lowered himself, he humbled himself, to inhabit an earthly body and come and live among us. God came to earth, Jesus bridged the gulf between the invisible and the visible worlds. In Christ, in the incarnation which we celebrate at Christmas, heaven came to earth.