Heaven. There are probably as many ideas and mental images of it as there are people who believe in it.
To some, heaven is a physical place, an actual dot on the map. The Elysian Fields of Greek mythology were supposedly located on the western edge of the earth, while the Greek gods were believed to live on Mount Olympus. To the ancient Greeks, as Belinda Carlisle would say, “Heaven is a place on earth.”
To others, such as Buddhists, the final stage of “heaven” was not so much a physical place as it was a mental one — nirvana, or enlightenment. In the words of American philosopher Wayne Dyer, “Heaven is a state of mind.”
As for the western world, we’ve probably all imagined heaven as a palace in the sky made entirely of clouds. It might not be how you truly believe heaven to be, but let’s be honest, you’ve pictured it that way.
But what does the Bible say about heaven? Where is it? And what is it like?
Well, for starters, the Bible doesn’t teach any of the theories previously mentioned.
Now, I’m not saying that heaven isn’t built on fluffy white clouds, but the Bible also doesn’t say it is. What the Bible does say is that heaven is a physical place, rather than a “state of mind,” and that it’s not somewhere on earth, or at least not completely.
According to the Bible, just as Jesus was a real, physical person, heaven is a real place to which he ascended. The Bible does not spell out exactly what heaven is like, but we can get an idea of it from some of its descriptions. Jesus describes it as a home (his Father’s home), “with more than enough room,” where he is “preparing a place.” (John 14:1-6)
Now, I personally don’t think Jesus meant that literally (at least not completely) — I imagine there’s a whole lot more to heaven than a large home. But whether it’s a metaphor or not, it paints a heartwarming image; heaven is a home, a welcoming place, with plenty of room for everyone. If you’ve ever shared the tight quarters of a dorm room or apartment, or perhaps grew up in a small house with a large family, that last part probably sounds appealing. As for who is in heaven right now, I can’t say for certain, except that Jesus is there, and he’s preparing the place for our arrival.
So if heaven is an actual place, where is it? Obviously, it’s not at the top of a mountain or floating on clouds as people may have once believed. One theory I rather like is that heaven is part of another dimension — not in the science fiction sense of “dimension,” where one could step through a portal and end up in a completely different world, but in a similar sense as one-dimensional or three-dimensional. In this sense, heaven wouldn’t be something completely separate from our world, or a physical place to which we could walk (or fly), but more like another layer to our world, something we can’t perceive, but that can still interact with us.
It’s just a theory, but I think it’s an interesting one.
Of course, if heaven is another dimension layered over ours, could that make it a place on earth? Well, yes, no, and possibly. The short answer is “I don’t know.” The long answer that we don’t have time to properly discuss is “yes and no simultaneously.” Although Jesus frequently talks about entering the Kingdom of Heaven in a future sense, by saying things such as that he’s preparing it for us, when asked by the Pharisees, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus responds by saying, “the Kingdom of God is already among you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
However, while heaven isn’t necessarily on earth yet, the Bible predicts a time when it will be. Although our afterlife is eternal, heaven in its current form isn’t necessarily. Revelation 21:1,3-4 says, 1“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He 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.’”
So whether heaven is another dimension to our world, or something else entirely, it is a real place where Jesus is preparing for our arrival. And although heaven isn’t a physical place on earth right now, we can look forward to a day when it will be, when we enjoy resurrected bodies and we can live in perfect community with God the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and each other.
Do you believe heaven is an actual place, or do you find yourself thinking of it more as a “state of mind”?
What do you think of the idea that heaven, or the spiritual world, is another dimension?
How can we prepare ourselves and strive for heaven while we are living on earth? How can we live like the Kingdom of God is already here, as Jesus says?
Heavenly Father, we know your home is more complex than a castle in the clouds, and that it is more real than a state of mind. We thank you, Jesus, for welcoming us into your home and for preparing a way for us by bearing the cost of our sins. We live in anticipation of the day when heaven and earth are one, and we can spend eternity in perfect relationship with you. Please give us the strength, wisdom, and determination we need to faithfully strive and accomplish your will until that day arrives. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
This post was written by Payton Lechner, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.
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