Mankind often ponders the existence of heaven. Some see heaven as an all encompassing, spiritual realm that co-exists with the physical world. Others perceive that heaven has a physical location. For example: ancient Egyptians believed that a physical heaven existed in the dark, void of space that was far beyond the realm of stars and galaxies. On the other side of the argument, stand the Buddhist who believe that heaven exist as an illusionary reality.
What do Christians believe? Is heaven only a spiritual realm or does heaven have a physical location?
This article is intended to be fun. I am not writing to sway minds. This is merely a location of heaven that I see in scripture. I will be quick with the writing, throwing out only a few scriptures and leaving the reasoning to you as educated readers. To paraphrase words that Pastor Zack likes to use: If you will read quickly, we can be done in only a few moments.
Where is heaven?
As a Christian, we must turn to scripture for an answer to this question. But first, let us examine a proper understanding of the word “heaven” as it is applied in the bible. Hebrew text uses only one word to represent three distinct places, each place being termed heaven or heavens. Only the context of the conversation makes clear which place the word describes. It is arranged as follows:
- The first heaven is the atmosphere that encloses the earth. This is the air we breathe, the place where birds fly, and the reason that wind can move the leaves of trees. This first heaven reaches upward until it encounters the division between atmosphere and space, a place that is commonly described as the stratosphere.
- The second heaven is that which encompasses the stratosphere, the universe, and all of knowable outer space. The second heaven is the realm wherein all of the celestial bodies revolve. One might say that earth stands as a celestial body. Therefore the first heaven exists in many forms on many planets. In dealing with this, you must understand that even if the earth is perhaps not in the physical center of the universe, God has ordained it the spiritual center of creation. Therefore a right understanding of physical and spiritual location applications must begin by accepting that the earth is the focal point of reference. This means that there is only one first heaven, and that all of the second heaven extends outward and away from the earth.
- The third heaven is clearly identified as the realm of God. The apostle Paul establishes this truth in the book of 2-Corinthians, chapter 12. He tells us of a man who was “caught up into the third heaven”, later identified also as “paradise”. If you remember your bible, you know that Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would join him that very day in “paradise”, meaning the third heaven.
Yet Paul is not the only one who speaks of a trip to heaven. Let us step into a place outside of time and ask one of the first beings who ever went to heaven, “Where is heaven?”
For this we look into the words of Satan as are recorded in the book of Isaiah.
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High,” (Isaiah 14:12-14).
Notice six points:
- Satan has been to heaven. He could not fall from heaven if he was not in heaven.
- The ground (meaning the earth) is beneath heaven. How else can one be cut down to the ground?
- From the perspective of standing upon the ground (earth), heaven is up. Paul also confirmed this when he wrote of being “caught up into third heaven”.
- The stars are beneath heaven. Lucifer seeks to establish a throne in heaven, above the stars of God. [I understand the double meaning that can be applied to the “stars of God”, yet we always first apply scripture in a literal sense, and then in a spiritual sense.]
- Heaven is above the clouds. This means that it extends beyond the first heaven.
- Heaven in located in the sides of the north.
We see then a pattern. Heaven is up, above the clouds, above the stars, and to the north. Yet you may say that other scripture does not confirm this talk of direction. I will not argue that. There are some who make inferences based upon what is not written. Though I count such deductions erroneous in nature, herein is an example.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus speaks of men coming from the east and the west to sit down in heaven with Abraham. Now if they are coming from the east and the west, some argue, they are heading toward the center. We need now only prove that they shall also be coming from the south. Other scripture handles just that issue, yet to imply that the lack of the word “north” gives evidence that all will be heading north is to miss other key verses. In Luke 13:29 we are told that they shall come from north, south, east, and west. Thus it is an error to make a deduction based upon the fact that one or two verses leave out the word “north”.
There are others who will argue that the Son of man shall come from the east as is written in Matthew 24:27. This brings forth the question of definition: what means the literal interpretation of that verse? Since it lacks any confirmation from other scriptures, the likening unto lightning coming from the east may be a simple figure of speech.
It is only in Isaiah that I find a clear mention of heaven being in the north. There is much evidence that heaven is beyond the place where the celestial bodies resolve, above the clouds, and not on earth.
The door is open for any discussion that this thought may evoke. Let us always remember that the greatest importance is that of loss souls being drawn to Jesus. Perhaps this content will spur some to dig deeper, look for greater answers, and in so doing come to a full knowledge of the power of Jesus Christ to change lives.
If you are loss, and without Christ as Lord and Savior, the question is not about where heaven is located, it is about Jesus, and your readiness to meet him.