Where is Heaven?
My daughter came home from her Christian school a couple of years ago with an interesting question. We were out taking a walk around our suburb and she said, “daddy, do you know about the gap in the stars in the night sky?”. I responded, “no…”. She said, “my teacher says that’s where heaven is!”
I never followed it up with the school and really didn’t need to. In fact it was a great opening for a chat with my girl about the nature of God, His dwelling place and His presence and keen interest in our daily lives.
I doubt that the teacher really thought that (at least I hope not), and I suspect that my 11 year old daughter took literally something that was not meant as such.
Much of this comes back to the nature of God and our insistence on forcing Him into human and physical paradigms.
The Human Paradigm
We know that we were created in God’s image and nature. Adam was created in the physical shape (tselem) and likeness (demuth) of the Elohim.
James, speaking of the tongue says:
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.Jas 3:9
He says that we resemble God.
John Thomas, writing in Phanerosis over 100 years ago, says that Seth was born in the likeness of Adam who in turn was created in the likeness of God.
God has a bodily form and in some degree, as we bear His appearance, it is inescapable that He would seem to be humanoid in form (without wishing to constrain God) and has arms, legs, torso and so on.
But here the likeness ends. We are created in the image and form of God, but as a son is not entirely representative of his father, we are not entirely representative of God.
Therefore, whilst it is inescapable that God has a physical reality and God-like, He still appears physically as a man or woman would, He far exceeds this appearance. Yet He is not a wisp, a phantom or some vague spirit appearance.
What is God?
By His very nature, God is Love, Life and Light. The apostle John in observing Jesus intently was able to state unequivocally in his first epistle that God was Light with no darkness or shadow in Him (1 Jn 1:5). He could clearly state that God is Love (1 Jn 4:8), and that God is Life (1 Jn 5:13).
At heart, God is a creator. Revelations says:
“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”Rev 4:11
It is obvious that God loves to create and even that He has a sense of joy and even humour in creating. Look at the platypus or the giraffe or any other cute fuzzy joyful creations.
He gave us the gift of love expressed in the birth of a little boy or girl. I am the blessed father of three grown sons and a daughter who is rapidly heading for adulthood. When I look at the early pictures of our children, my heart aches with love and I miss them now that they are growing up.
This is the gift of God, that we might understand who He is and how He feels about us. He loves us, He took so much joy in the creation of Adam and Eve, He loved us in our birth and He seems to so regret and sorrow that our childlike faith fades as we grow and we move away from Him.
John Eldredge in Wild at Heart really struck me with this:
And after years of hearing the heart-cry of women, I am convinced beyond a doubt of this: God wants to be loved. He wants to be a priority to someone. How could we have missed this? From cover to cover, from beginning to end, the cry of God’s heart is, “Why won’t you choose Me?” It is amazing to me how humble, how vulnerable God is on this point. “You will . . . find me,” says the Lord, “when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). In other words, “Look for me, pursue me — I want you to pursue me.” Amazing. As Tozer says, “God waits to be wanted.John Eldredge, Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul
But God is no supplicant:
Self-sufficiency is the enemy of salvation. If you are self-sufficient, you have no need of God. If you have no need of God, you do not seek Him. If you do not seek Him, you will not find Him.William Nicholson, Shadowlands
God is Father
Fundamentally therefore, God as a Father longs for His children and deep in our hearts, this longing is reciprocated.
The hardest, gladdest thing in the world is to cry Father! from a full heart . . . the refusal to look up to God as our father is the one central wrong in the whole human affair; the inability, the one central misery.John Eldredge, Fathered by God: Learning What Your Dad Could Never Teach
He therefore created us as children with the express intent that we grow up to be like Him.
Again, John Eldredge:
You are the son of a kind, strong, and engaged Father, a Father wise enough to guide you in the Way, generous enough to provide for your journey, offering to walk with you every step. This is perhaps the hardest thing for us to believe—really believe, down deep in our hearts, so that it changes us forever, changes the way we approach each day.John Eldredge, Fathered by God: Learning What Your Dad Could Never Teach
Paul in Ephesians talks about growing up:
(11) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,Ephesians 4
(12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
(13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
(14) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
(15) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
(16) from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Therefore, we are not called to stay as children, helpless, but rather to grow to maturity and to partner with God in bringing about His plan.
You have no doubt heard of the purpose of God expressed in Numbers:
(21) But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD …Num 14
God’s purpose is that this entire earth be reunited with Him, that it reflect His glory.
He desires that the world be saturated in God. God knows what is truly good for man, just as a human father although in limited fashion and weakened by humanness, knows generally, what is good for his children. His gift to us is a gift given in love with our highest good at the core of His heart for us.
We simply don’t really comprehend the entirety of this purpose. This is not because God doesn’t want us to know, its just that we haven’t got the tools to fully comprehend it.
I have seen people get quite offended that it could be suggested that there is anything we can’t understand without enough study. That’s silly. We really can’t even comprehend that God has always been and always will be.
That seems to be at the core of Richard Dawkins’ argument in “The God Delusion”. His argument seems to be that from observation we identify that simple things are made in turn by slightly more complex things and that therefore God being supremely complex must have been made by something even more complex and so on. This is trying to fit God within the observable universe. I don’t think you can in a strict sense confine God to this. (I will write a more detailed article on this at another time)
We know that God intends in the initial instance to bring about a culmination of this world order with a “kingdom” which will last for a period whilst Jesus as our King rules and perfects us ready to meet our God. At the end of this time, Jesus will present us to God faultless and perfected. God will then be able to work directly with us being “all in all”
(28) When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.1 Cor 15: 28
So where does God live?
I needed to lay this foundation before I could really start to delve into this. But now, I need to lay another slightly different foundation set of ideas.
Fundamentally, science asserts that time is relative and a function of space. Therefore, without space, there is no time, and without time, there is no space. I’m no scientist (and real scientists would probably be able to poke holes in this simplistic approach) but I also understand that the universe is possibly also curved. Stephen Hawking’s proverbial universe in a nutshell springs to mind.
God appears to exist outside of time. I think this is the only possible explanation for His knowing the beginning from the end, having no beginning nor end and so on.
He is also, everywhere present. That suggests to me, that He exists outside of space as well.
Space/time is a human experience, not God’s experience.
God created space time in essence so that Jesus had somewhere to put his feet whilst he brought about our salvation. The great redemptive work of Jesus had to occur somewhere, and this earth is where it occurred.
God’s dwelling place is outside space and time. He is able to reach into space and time to adjust things through the agency of His spirit and His Elohim.
What are the implications of this then?
There are a number of potential implications. I believe that Jesus is the ONLY begotten son of God. I think that may be an absolute. I think therefore, that this world is it. This is where God chose to create men and women and provide them with a place to grow up and prepare for the great purpose of God.
In the short term, therefore, the purpose of God appears to be to fill this earth (and I guess by extension the universe) with His glory. In the longer term, I suggest that we will be outside of space and time, all in all with God.
If sentient life exists on other planets, that life sadly at least at this time has no hope of salvation, because salvation is through an understanding of Jesus.
God loves to create and creation is in and of itself an end in itself. God gives life to creation throughout the universe and when it is completed, He takes that breath of life back to Himself.
That suggests an awesome scope of power. He has created entire ecosystems in the universe that we may never see and from our perspective, have no reason for existence because He loves to create. Stop and think about that for a moment!
All of this, in one fashion or another has lead me to the belief that the Earth began in the few days before Adam’s creation and may cease to exist at some point in the future when Jesus hands it back to God.
Where is heaven? I don’t know, because it is not a place I can fully comprehend.
I suspect that if you were to think of it as a different dimension but with no time or space, existing in parallel to our current experience, that this might be close.