In the Bible, means primarily the region of the air and clouds, and of the planets and stars, but chiefly the world of holy bliss above the visible heavens. It is called "the third heaven," "the highest heaven," and "the heaven of heavens," expressions nearly synonymous. There holy beings are to dwell, seeing all of God that it is possible for creatures to see. Thither Christ ascended, to intercede for his people and prepare for them a place where all shall at length be gathered, to go no more out forever, Eph 4:10; Heb 8:1; 9:24-28. In this life we can know but little of the location and appearance of heaven, or of the employments and blessedness of its inhabitants. The Scriptures inform us that all sin, and every other evil, are forever excluded; no fruits of sin will be found there-no curse nor sorrow nor sighing, no tear, no death: the former things are passed away. They describe it figuratively, crowding together all the images which nature or art can supply to illustrate its happiness. It is a kingdom, an inheritance: there are rivers of pleasure, trees of life, glorious light, rapturous songs, robes, crowns, feasting, mirth, treasures, triumphs. They also give us positive representations: the righteous dwell in the presence of God; they appear with Christ in glory. Heaven is life, everlasting life: glory, an eternal weight of glory: salvation, repose, peace, fullness of joy, the joy of the Lord. There are different degrees in that glory, and never-ceasing advancement. It will be a social state, and its happiness, in some measure, will arise from mutual communion and converse, and the expressions and exercises mutual benevolence. It will include the perfect purity of every saint; delightful fellowship with those we have here loved in the Lord, Mt 8:11; 17:3-4; 1Th 2:19; 4:13-18; the presence of Christ, and the consciousness that all is perfect and everlasting. We are taught that the body will share this bliss as well as the soul: the consummation of our bliss is subsequent to the resurrection of the body; for it is redeemed as well as the soul, and shall, at the resurrection of the just, be fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body. By descending from heaven, and reascending thither, he proves to the doubting soul the reality of heaven; he opens it door for the guilty by his atoning sacrifice; and all who are admitted to it by his blood shall be made meet for it by his grace, and find their happiness for ever in his love. See KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
(2.) Meaning of words in the original,
(c) Heb galgal, literally a "wheel," is rendered "heaven" in Ps 77:18 (R.V., "whirlwind").
(e) Heb rakia is closely connected with (d), and is rendered "firmamentum" in the Vulgate, whence our "firmament" (Ge 1:6; De 33:26, etc.), regarded as a solid expanse.
(4.) Spiritual meaning. The place of the everlasting blessedness of the righteous; the abode of departed spirits.
(a) Christ calls it his "Father's house" (Joh 14:2).
(e) The "eternal kingdom" (2Pe 1:11).
In heaven the blessedness of the righteous consists in the possession of "life everlasting," "an eternal weight of glory" (2Co 4:17), an exemption from all sufferings for ever, a deliverance from all evils (2Co 5:1-2) and from the society of the wicked (2Ti 4:18), bliss without termination, the "fulness of joy" for ever (Lu 20:36; 2Co 4:16,18; 1Pe 1:4; 5:10; 1Jo 3:2). The believer's heaven is not only a state of everlasting blessedness, but also a "place", a place "prepared" for them (Joh 14:2).
From "heaved up;" so "the heights" (Ps 148:1). The Greek ouranos and the Hebrew shamaim, are similarly derived. It is used of the surrounding air wherein "the fowls of heaven" fly (Ge 1:26, compare Ge 1:20); from whence the rain and hail fall (De 11:11). "I will make your heaven as iron," i.e. your sky hard and yielding no rain (Le 26:19). "The four quarters of heaven" (Jer 49:36) and "the circuit of heaven" (Job 22:14) refer to the atmospheric heaven. By metaphor it is represented as a building with foundations and pillars (2Sa 22:8; Job 26:11), with an entrance gate (Ge 28:17) and windows opened to pour down rain (Ge 7:11, compare 2Ki 7:2; Mal 3:10). Job 37:18, "spread out the sky ... strong ... as a molten looking glass," not solid as "firmament" would imply, whereas the "expanse" is the true meaning (Ge 1:6; Isa 44:24), but phenomenally like one of the ancient mirrors made of firm molten polished metal.
Matthew, who is most Hebraistic in style, uses the plural, the Hebrew term for heaven being always so. "The heaven of heavens" (De 10:14) is a Hebraism for the highest heavens. Paul's "third heaven" (2Co 12:2) to which he was caught up implies this superlatively high heaven, which he reached after passing through the first heaven the air, and the second the sky of the stars (Eph 4:10). Heb 7:26, "made higher than the heavens," for Christ "passed through the heavens" (Heb 4:14, Greek), namely, the aerial heaven and the starry heaven, the veil through which our High Priest passed into the heaven of heavens, the immediate presence of God, as the Levitical high priest passed through the veil into the holy of belies. The visible heavens shall pass away to give place to the abiding new heaven and earth wherein shall dwell righteousness (Ps 102:25-27; Isa 65:17; 66:22; 2Pe 3:7,13; Re 21:1; Heb 12:26-28).
The kingdom of the heavens in Matthew, for "the kingdom of God" in Mark and Luke, is drawn from Da 4:26, "the heavens do rule," (Da 2:44) "the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed." It consists of many stages and phases, issuing at last in heaven being brought down fully to earth, and the tabernacle of God being with men (Re 21:2-3,10, etc.). The plurality of the phases is expressed by "the kingdom of the heavens." The Bible is distinguished from the sacred books of false religions in not having minute details of heavenly bliss such as men's curiosity would crave. The grand feature of its blessedness is represented as consisting in holy personal union and immediate face to face communion with God and the Lamb; secondarily, that the saints are led by the Lamb to living fountains of water, and fed with the fruit of the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God, the antitype of the former Adamic paradise.
It is no longer merely a garden as Eden, but a heavenly "city" and garden combined, nature and art no longer mutually destructive, but enhancing each the charm of the other, individuality and society realized perfectly (Revelation 2-3, 7, 21-22). No separate temple, but the whole forming one vast "temple," finding its center in the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb, who are the temple to each and all the king-priests reigning and serving there. This was the model Moses was shown on Sinai (Heb 7:1-6). The earthly tabernacle was its pattern and figure (Heb 9:23-24). The "altar" (Re 6:9) and the "censer," etc. (Re 8:3), the "temple" in heaven (Re 11:19; 14:17; 15:5,8), are preliminary to the final state when there shall be "no temple therein" (Re 21:22), for the whole shall be perfectly consecrated to God.
Negatives of present provisional conditions and evils form a large part of the subordinate description of heaven's bliss: no marriage (Lu 20:34-36), no meats for the belly (1Co 6:13), no death, no sorrow, crying, pain; no defilement, no curse, no night, no candle, no light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light (Re 21:4,27; 22:3,5). Heaven is not merely a state but a place. For it is the place where Christ's glorifed body now is; "the heaven must receive Him until the times of restitution of all things" (Ac 3:21).
Thither He will "receive His people to Himself" after He hath "prepared a place for them" (Joh 14:2-4), that where He is there His servants may be (Joh 12:26). From heaven, which is God's court, angels are sent down to this earth, as the multitude of the heavenly host (distinct from the host of heaven," Ac 7:42), and to which they return (Lu 2:13-15; 22:43). God Himself is addressed "Our Father who art in heaven." His home is the parent home, the sacred hearth of the universe.
In the cosmic theory of the ancient world, and of the Hebrews in particular, the earth was flat, lying between a great pit into which the shades of the dead departed, and the heavens above in which God and the angels dwelt, and to which it came to be thought the righteous went, after having been raised from the dead to live for ever. It was natural to think of the heavens as concave above the earth, and resting on some foundation, possibly of pillars, set at the extreme horizon (2Sa 22:9; Pr 8:27-29).
The Hebrews, like other ancient peoples, believed in a plurality of heavens (De 10:14), and the literature of Judaism speaks of seven. In the highest, or Aravoth, was the throne of God. Although the descriptions of these heavens varied, it would seem that it was not unusual to regard the third heaven as Paradise. It was to this that St. Paul said he bad been caught up (2Co 12:2).
This series of superimposed heavens was regarded as filled by different sorts of superhuman beings. The second heaven in later Jewish thought was regarded as the abode of evil spirits and angels awaiting punishment. The NT, however, does not commit itself to these precise speculations, although in Eph 6:12 it speaks of spiritual hosts of wickedness who dwell in heavenly places (cf. Eph 2:2). This conception of heaven as being above a flat earth underlies many religious expressions which are still current. There have been various attempts to locate heaven, as, for example, in Sirius as the central sun of our system. Similarly, there have been innumerable speculations endeavouring to set forth in sensuous form the sort of life which is to be lived in heaven. All such speculations, however, lie outside of the region of positive knowledge, and rest ultimately on the cosmogony of pre-scientific times. They may be of value in cultivating religious emotion, but they belong to the region of speculation. The Biblical descriptions of heaven are not scientific, but symbolical. Practically all these are to be found in the Johannine Apocalypse. It was undoubtedly conceived of eschatologically by the NT writers, but they maintained a great reserve in all their descriptions of the life of the redeemed. It is, however, possible to state definitely that, while they conceived of the heavenly condition as involving social relations, they did not regard it as one in which the physical organism survived. The sensuous descriptions of heaven to be found in the Jewish apocalypses and in Mohammedanism are altogether excluded by the sayings of Jesus relative to marriage in the new age (Mr 12:25|), and those of St. Paul relative to the 'spiritual body.' The prevailing tendency at the present time among theologians, to regard heaven as a state of the soul rather than a place, belongs likewise to the region of opinion. The degree of its probability will be determined by one's general view as to the nature of immortality.
The principal words so translated are shamayim, from 'the heights,' and ???????. They are used in a variety of senses: as
It is important to see that, in forming the present system of this world, God made a heaven to this earth, so that the earth should be ruled from heaven. The blessing of the earth, either materially or morally, depends upon its connection with heaven. This blessing will be full when the kingdom of the heavens is established in the Son of man, and He will come in the clouds of heaven. Ps 68:32,35. It is the place of angelic power, 'the principalities and powers in the heavenly places' being angelic, Satan and his angels, though fallen, still being among them. Job 1:6; 2:1; Re 12:7-9.
That there are various heavens is evident; Satan cannot have entrance into the glory, and Paul speaks of being caught up into the third heavens, 2Co 12:2; and the Lord Jesus passed through the heavens, and we read of 'the heaven of heavens.' De 10:14; 1Ki 8:27. Very little is said of the saints going to heaven, though their citizenship is there now, Phi . 3:20; but they are to be where Jesus is, and He went to heaven, and prepared a place for them. In the Revelation the four and twenty elders are seen in heaven sitting on 'thrones.' To Him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Believers "look for NEW HEAVENS and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." 2Pe 3:13; Re 21:1.
There are four Hebrew words thus rendered in the Old Testament which we may briefly notice.
1. Raki'a, Authorized Version, firmament. [FIRMAMENT]
2. Shamayim. This is the word used in the expression "the heaven and the earth," or "the upper and lower regions."
3. Marom, used for heaven in
. Properly speaking it means a mountain as in
4. Shechakim, "expanses," with reference to the extent of heaven.
De 33:26; Job 35:5
St. Paul's expression "third heaven,"
had led to much conjecture. Grotius said that the Jews divided the heaven into three parts, viz.,
1. The air or atmosphere, where clouds gather;
2. The firmament, in which the sun, moon and stars are fixed;
3. The upper heaven, the abode of God and his angels, the invisible realm of holiness and happiness the home of the children of God.
HEAVEN, the place of the more immediate residence of the Most High, Ge 14:19. The Jews enumerated three heavens: the first was the region of the air, where the birds fly, and which are therefore called "the fowls of heaven," Job 35:11. It is in this sense also that we read of the dew of heaven, the clouds of heaven, and the wind of heaven. The second is that part of space in which are fixed the heavenly luminaries, the sun, moon, and stars, and which Moses was instructed to call "the firmament or expanse of heaven," Ge 1:8. The third heaven is the seat of God and of the holy angels; the place into which Christ ascended after his resurrection, and into which St. Paul was caught up, though it is not like the other heavens perceptible to mortal view.
2. It is an opinion not destitute of probability, that the construction of the tabernacle, in which Jehovah dwelt by a visible symbol, termed "the cloud of glory," was intended to be a type of heaven. In the holiest place of the tabernacle, "the glory of the Lord," or visible emblem of his presence, rested between the cherubims; by the figures of which, the angelic host surrounding the throne of God in heaven was typified; and as that holiest part of the tabernacle was, by a thick vail, concealed from the sight of those who frequented it for the purposes of worship, so heaven, the habitation of God, is, by the vail of flesh, hidden from mortal eyes. Admitting the whole tabernacle, therefore, in which the worship of God was performed according to a ritual of divine appointment, to be a representation of the universe, we are taught by it this beautiful lesson, that the whole universe is the temple of God; but that in this vast temple there is "a most holy place," where the Deity resides and manifests his presence to the angelic hosts and redeemed company who surround him. This view appears to be borne out by the clear and uniform testimony of Scripture,; and it is an interesting circumstance, that heaven, as represented by "the holiest of all," is heaven as it is presented to the eye of Christian faith, the place where our Lord ministers as priest, to which believers now come in spirit, and where they are gathered together in the disembodied state. Thus, for instance, St. Paul tells the believing Hebrews, "Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written," or are enrolled, "in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel," Heb 12:22-24. Here we are presented with the antitype of almost every leading circumstance of the Mosaic dispensation. Instead of the land of Canaan, we have heaven; for the earthly Jerusalem, we have the heavenly, the city of the living God; in place of the congregation of Israel after the flesh, we have the general assembly and church of the first-born, that is, all true believers "made perfect;" for just men in the imperfect state of the old dispensation, we have just men made perfect in evangelical knowledge and holiness; instead of Moses, the mediator of the old covenant, we have Jesus the Mediator of the new and everlasting covenant; and instead of the blood of slaughtered animals, which was sprinkled upon the Israelites, the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, to make a typical atonement, we have the blood of the Son of God, which was shed for the remission of the sins of the whole world; that blood which doth not, like the blood of Abel, call for vengeance but for mercy, which hath made peace between heaven and earth, effected the true and complete atonement for sin, and which therefore communicates peace to the conscience of every sinner that believes the Gospel.
3. Among the numerous refinements of modern times, that is one of the most remarkable which goes to deny the locality of heaven. "It is a state," say many, "not a place." But if that be the case, the very language of the Scriptures, in regard to this point, is calculated to mislead us. For that God resides in a particular part of the universe, where he makes his presence known to his intelligent creatures by some transcendent, visible glory, is an opinion that has prevailed among Jews and Christians, Greeks and Romans, yea, in every nation, civilized or savage, and in every age; and, since it is confirmed by revelation, why should it be doubted? Into this most holy place, the habitation of the Deity, Jesus, after his resurrection, ascended; and there, presenting his crucified body before the manifestation of the divine presence, which is called "the throne of the Majesty in the heavens," he offered unto God the sacrifice of himself, and made atonement for the sins of his people. There he is sat down upon his throne, crowned with glory and honour, as king upon his holy hill of Zion, and continually officiates as our great High Priest, Advocate, and Intercessor, within the vail. There is his Father's house, into which he is gone before, to prepare mansions of bliss for his disciples; it is the kingdom conferred upon him as the reward of his righteousness, and of which he has taken possession as their forerunner, Ac 1:11; Heb 6:19-20.
4. Some of the ancients imagined that the habitation of good men, after the resurrection, would be the sun; grounding this fanciful opinion on a mistaken interpretation of Ps 19:4, which they rendered, with the LXX and Vulgate, "He has set his tabernacle in the sun." Others, again, have thought it to lie beyond the starry firmament, a notion less improbable than the former. Mr. Whiston supposes the air to be the mansion of the blessed, at least for the present; and he imagines that Christ is at the top of the atmosphere, and other spirits nearer to or more remote from him according to the degree of their moral purity, to which he conceives the specific gravity of their inseparable vehicles to be proportionable. Mr. Hallet has endeavoured to prove that they will dwell upon earth, when it shall be restored to its paradisaical state. The passages of Scripture, however, on which he grounds his hypothesis, are capable of another and very different interpretation. After all, we may observe, that the place of the blessed is a question of comparatively little importance; and we may cheerfully expect and pursue it, though we cannot answer a multitude of curious questions, relating to various circumstances that pertain to it. We have reason to believe that heaven will be a social state, and that its happiness will, in some measure, arise from mutual communion and converse, and the expressions and exercises of mutual benevolence. All the views presented to us of this eternal residence of good men are pure and noble; and form a striking contrast to the low hopes, and the gross and sensual conceptions of a future state, which distinguish the Pagan and Mohammedan systems. The Christian heaven may be described to be a state of eternal communion with God, and consecration to hallowed devotional and active services; from which will result an uninterrupted increase of knowledge, holiness, and joy, to the glorified and immortalized assembly of the redeemed.