When we think of a person going to heaven our immediate picture is of someone going up beyond the clouds and the sky. The Jews talked about the three heavens as being the first heaven where the birds fly, the second heaven where the sun, moon and stars are and the third heaven where God dwells. Some unbelievers have made fun of the belief in heaven because the astronauts have gone far into the skies and still haven’t seen heaven, nor has it been spotted by the Hubble telescope. When Jesus left this world to go back to heaven to sit down at the right hand of God the disciples saw ascend into heaven. When Stephen was being stoned to death he looked up into heaven and saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand. So does that all mean that heaven is up in the skies far above the Sun, moon and stars?
Where does God live? We were told by Jesus to pray “Our Father in heaven, holy is your name.” When Jesus is pictured coming again for his people he is descending from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God. He is bringing with him the spirits of the ones who died in Christ and he brings with him all the holy angels. It is certainly true that God is in heaven, but not only in heaven. He is everywhere at the same time. He never leaves nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus could both say he was going to prepare a place for us when he left this world and promise that he would be with us always even to the end of the earth (John 14:1-3; Matthew 28:20).
So, where is heaven? When Peter was taking about the end of the world he said that when Jesus came it would be like a thief in the night and the heavens and earth would melt with fervent heat. The earth and the works of the earth will be burned up and God will bring us a new heaven and a new earth wherein righteousness will dwell. (2 Peter 3:10-13) The heaven we will inhabit in the end will be the new heaven and new earth made ready for our living forever with him.
But where is heaven? In Revelation 19:6-8 there is a picture of a wedding feast. Jesus Christ is taking his bride the church and they are getting married. She is wearing fine linen, bright and clean, and the linen is the righteousness of the saints. In the last part of Revelation 20 there is a picture of the judgment. Then Revelation 21 opens with these words, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
Because of the picture of heaven coming down out of heaven to give us the new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells many have decided that heaven will be on this earth after the earth has been cleaned from all the sin that has filled it from the time of Adam. I’m not certain that the picture given by John was intended to be taken literally or whether it is just another visual aid to try to help us have some grasp of what heaven is like. If it is true that heaven will be on a renovated and cleaned earth it will be fine with me. The place where it is won’t affect the beauty, the wonder, and the presence of God and all the redeemed of all the ages being there.
Where is heaven? Heaven, like God is in a completely different realm than the one we are in. We are in a world bound up by time and sequence. God and His dwelling are timeless. That is the reason one day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. We are challenged by God to make the most of every opportunity because opportunities come and go. But in the heavenly realm time won’t affect anything. The past, the present and the future come together as one.
Many of the science fiction movies and television shows of our time picture the moving from one realm of being to another. Years ago most of us were introduced to such a thought when the show “The Twilight Zone” was on TV. While I’m not into science fiction, these shows do give a visual aid to help us grasp the idea of heaven being in a whole different sphere. It isn’t about the place. There is no map of the universe on which you can pinpoint heaven. But Jesus could pass from that sphere to this earth to be bound in by time for 33 years and then he returned to that sphere with God the Father. Angels are allowed to move back and forth from one realm to the other. On the Mount of Transfiguration Moses and Elijah moved from the realm of heaven back to the earth to visit with Jesus and talk about his upcoming death. Then they moved back into the heavenly realm. When Stephen looked up and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God he was being allowed by God to see into a whole different sphere to the place where he was going.
Heaven is close enough that one can pass from this life in one moment and the next moment be in the realm of heaven. It is close enough that God has often sent His angel to bring some message or carry out some action that was important for his plan. He came to tell Mary she would have a son and Joseph that his wife had been true to him and the baby she was expecting was from God. He came to comfort Jesus both when the temptations were completed and when Jesus was going through Gethsemane. He came to carry Lazarus home to glory when he died.
Where is heaven? It is where God, Christ and the redeemed are waiting for the day when the Lord will come again to take all the redeemed home with him. It is where our redeemed loved ones await our homecoming with great anticipation. It is where Jesus is getting everything ready for us to dwell with him forever and ever. My GPS won’t get me there. But my Lord and Savior has paved the way through his own blood to bring us there. Don’t miss it for anything!