Where is heaven? What is heaven? Is it a place? Is it a condition of life? Is it a different dimension of living? Is it far away or close at hand? These are all legitimate questions which deserve open and honest answers.
If God is in heaven, then we ought to know something about heaven. If He is our Father and heaven is His natural environment, we should understand what that realm is really like.
Actually, in the Scriptures, heaven is used to describe three rather distinct and different realms.
- The earth’s atmosphere–the envelope of air that surrounds the planet, conditions our climate, and sustains life. The formation of clouds, the precipitation of rain or hail or snow, the water vapour that provides mist and dew and frost, all are regarded as coming from heaven.
- The outer space–sun, moon, stars, and sky. It is used for the unending realm of stellar constellations that circle through the night in majestic movements. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19: 1-2, 6)
- A definite place, a heavenly country, a New Jerusalem, a home prepared especially for God’s children.
The Word of God says our Father is in heaven. Does this mean He can be in the earth’s atmosphere? Yes. Does it imply that He can occupy outer space? Yes. Does He inhabit the realm of the righteous? Yes. For God is a Spirit, able to be present anywhere and everywhere.
The air I breathe, charged with oxygen to energize my body, the water I drink to maintain my body metabolism, the food I eat to sustain my strength–where do they all originate? Are they not gifts from God, my Father? “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
If we cannot see and sense and know the presence of our Father in the simple splendour of the earth’s atmosphere around us, then how can we hope to know Him in some more mystical or superspiritual way? He is everywhere present! He makes Himself apparent to us in a dozen different dimensions of daily contacts. It has been well said that the true measure of any man’s spirituality is the degree to which he can detect God in the most simple events around him. There is such a thing as moving quietly and humbly through life, keenly aware and conscious of the fact that we are walking with God our Father.
This third heaven is more than just merely a place; it also provides an entirely new dimension of living. It is a state in which God’s children are set free from the cloying constrictions and limitations of their earthly life.
- We are free from the assaults of Satan.
- We are free from the strain of separation
- We are free from tears of anguish, despair, and frustration
- We are free from death.
- We are free from the sorrow that is occasioned by regrets and remorse.
- We are free from pain.
- Gone are the barriers and divisions which divide God’s people.
- Time will be no more. Gone will be the sense of desperate urgency, of being crowded by the calendar. In its place will be the peace of a quiet and unhurried life.
- There is no need for the night, sleep, and restoration.
- Free from misunderstanding.
- Free from the contamination of our thoughts.
- No longer be any deceit, falsehood, lies, or dishonesty.
- Sin is no longer at work.
- Our satisfaction shall be complete and continuous.
- Absolute love, honesty, goodwill, and righteousness make up the life in heaven.
- Absolute justice and fairness.
- All the work we do there will have special significance and deep meaning for it will be divine.
- There we shall see our heavenly Father face to face.
- It is a realm of victory. It is the place of rest.
Finally, if Christ resides within my heart, by His Spirit, then there should be a foretaste, at least, of heaven in my life down here. “Our Father, who is in heaven,” is also in my heart. To know this is to know a new dimension to life. To sense the presence and person of God our Father within is to have set our feet on the highway to heaven.
In Luke 17: 20-21, Jesus was asked where was the Kingdom of God. His reply was “It is within you.” Once God’s sovereignty has been established in any human heart, the establishment of an environment that resembles heaven follows within that life.
An excerpt from A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer by W. Phillip Keller