“Some glad morning when this life is over I'll fly away; To a home on God's celestial shore I'll fly away.”
Oftentimes our interpretations of heaven are juxtaposed with death. We are socialised to believe that we must first die before we can experience heaven. However, this belief system is a fallacy and the notion of heaven needs to be interrogated.
We cannot fathom things of the spiritual realm with our naked human eyes. Our mental capacity to identify matters of spirituality is finite; nevertheless, we serve an infinite God.
In the book of Isaiah 55:8-9, it says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” These two verses of scripture in Isaiah are critical in providing answers to the physical presence of heaven. Where heaven is located has always baffled man since time immemorial. There are those who argue that heaven is a state of being. Heaven is a physical place and as such one cannot use the global positioning system (GPS) to locate heaven, or hell, for that matter.
Over the years our understanding of where heaven is located has changed. For many of us a philosophical or scientific explanation to this perpetual question is always a safe response. However, in answering this question we must use our spiritual lenses in order to discern spiritual matters. Is heaven somewhere on Earth?
First Thessalonians 4:16 states, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” To descend clearly indicates that the Lord must be above in order to come down as is referenced in the scriptures. In Ephesians 6:10-12, we are reminded that there are dark or evil forces, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 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.” According to Revelation 7:1-4, heaven is clearly beyond the Earth and larger than the Earth, given that the angels were standing at the four corners of the Earth. This Bible verse should remove any doubts that heaven is here on Earth.
The Concept of Place
Most of us would have been exposed to social studies and/or geography at school. Places are locations having distinctive characteristics that provide meaning and distinguish them from other locations. Places also have physical and human characteristics.
Undoubtedly, in the discourse surrounding whether heaven is real or not, the Bible clearly outlines all the characteristics, both physical and human, which the geographically informed individual will agree meets the concept of place.
The physicality of heaven in rooted in the scriptures. Let us examine Revelation 21:22-25. In this book John clearly speaks of at least three characteristics — street, city, and gates — which adds to the evidence that heaven is a physical place. “The 12 gates were 12 pearls, each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold like transparent glass. But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honour into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). Heaven is not a mythical place, heaven is a real place.”
Considering God is spirit (John 4:24), it could be argued that the heaven where God dwells exists on a separate space from where we currently exist on Earth. Jesus, of course, in His resurrection body is in heaven. Angels and deceased believers are also in heaven with God. Therefore, heaven is not completely non-physical, but it is not located in our physical universe.
Revelation 12:7-9 supports the idea that heaven in not down, “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world, he was cast out into the Earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
While the location of heaven is unobservable to living beings on Earth at present, the Bible describes a final state of existence in which there will be a new heaven, new Earth, and new heavenly city (Revelation 21-22). At this future time, all of God's people will dwell with Him in this new realm for all eternity. We cannot purchase a ticket on Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic spacecraft or Jeff Bozos's Blue Origin ship.
The Bible mentions three heavens. The first heaven is where the birds fly and the clouds reside. The second heaven is where the sun, the moon, and the stars abide. The third heaven is where the very throne of God resides and where Jesus presently sits at the right hand of the Father. Heaven is a real place. In the book of Isaiah 6:1-5 he reveals an amazing look that he had at the throne of heaven, “I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another, 'Holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole Earth is full of his glory.' At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 'Woe to me!' I cried. I am ruined. For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Heaven is as much a real place as New York,; Toronto; Bridgetown in Barbados; or Kingston, Jamaica.
Blueprint to Salvation
The human heart is a spiritual vacuum and within that larger vacuum there is a smaller heaven vacuum, at least for most people. Most of us wish to join Christ in heaven. The blueprint is easy. In order to be saved by Jesus Christ you must recognise that you are an imperfect being. You must repent of your sins and ask Jesus to forgive you. The notion of repentance involves acknowledgment of your sins and turning away from your sins. Once you pray and invite God into your heart and make that commitment you will be on the heavenly path.
In the words of Jesus in John 14:1-3: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and/or gender issues. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.