What is “Heaven?”

Occasionally, when I am caught up in long, drawn-out (informal) conversations with people, I’ve often asked them if they believed there was a “heaven.” Most of the time the answer I’d receive is, “Yes, I believe that after we die we go…somewhere.” They think of it as an abstract concept, much in the way that many people view God. Some will say that heaven is whatever we want it to be. Others say it’s paved streets of gold, much as the Bible described. To me, heaven is an actual place that exists in a separate dimension. it is, as Jesus described, paradise.

I’m not explaining what Heaven is because it’s unknowable. However, I do have an image in mind, drawn from the Bible and I believe the Bible’s description of it holds up against the modern day attempt to understand what’s “out there” by way of science.

The Bible states that there are three levels of “heaven.” (It actually mentions the “first” and “third” heavens, and the “second” is assumed, never directly mentioned). There’s the reality we live in right now, which I believe is described as the “first heaven” and there’s the “third heaven,” where it is said that God, the Son and the Holy Spirit as well as the heavenly host reside. Heavenly host is a way of describing the stars above and when people talk about looking “heavenward,” they’re generally referring to the sky. Knowing that the earth is not flat, you’re looking outward into space, not “up” at a dome, as was previously thought for millennia.

Flat-earthers, bless their hearts, will argue with me over this, but in order for the earth to be a flat disc, they have to make some impossible leaps to explain how an airplane or a satellite can fly all the way around the world. Some say the plane would “disappear” from one side of the disc once it reached the edge and “reappear” at the other side, flying in toward the center once more. In order to make the flat disc theory work, you have to be able to teleport the airplane. Occam’s Razor suggests that the most simplest explanation is the most likely, and so it makes far more sense that the earth is round. (Not to mention, people have viewed the earth from space and it is a sphere…but nevermind the obvious). Copernicus figured it out just using a telescope.

But what about realms we can’t see?

If you talk about this kind of stuff, most people – including most Christians – will write you off as insane. Yet, there it is in the Bible. All through it. If you, as a Christian, don’t believe in other dimensions beyond this one, sorry, but you’re not truly a believer.

Heaven itself is in a different dimension. An actual place. I’ve heard the explanation that “heaven” is simply somewhere in the sky or  out there in space, and maybe somewhere far beyond that. It is that mundane, but at the same time it describes something more.

The second  heaven is all around us, and the third somewhere beyond that, on a much higher plain (or plane, speaking from a physics standpoint). We just can’t perceive it. It wasn’t that long ago when I heard some famous scientist talking about outer space and wondering “where are all the aliens?” Why does the earth seem to be all alone? The truth is that there are “high places” according to the Bible that we cannot see. The earth is most definitely not alone, and the universe is teeming with life. It’s just hidden from our sight. On purpose.

As Paul said, [Eph 6;12] “12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

What are these “high places?”

Paul also mentions that believers at some point will be caught up in the “air.” One of the names of Satan is “prince of the power of the air.” So why would the Bible keep referencing “air” when talking about these other ‘high’ places?

“Air” is that which surrounds us. We breathe it in. We feel it when the weather changes and wind picks up. We also can’t see it but it’s obviously there, isn’t it? Back in ancient times, they didn’t know what Oxygen, Hydrogen and Nitrogen were, all they knew was that the air was there and we all breathed it in. The same goes for the spirit world and the other heavens beyond that. Science has worked out mathematically that there are somewhere between eleven and twenty-three dimensions, if not an infinite number.
So the air is “there,” everywhere and nowhere all at the same time.

When we say “up in the air,” we mentally picture someone or something flying up in the skies above us. We have another term for those who go missing and are never seen again; we say they “disappeared into thin air.” In other words nobody knows where they went, so they simply became part of the air around us. That, in a nutshell, is Rapture. We wink out of existence in this world (first heaven) and step into another (second heaven and beyond). In the twinkling of an eye…

Maybe some people have  problem with the concept of a Rapture, not because they think God is somehow incapable of transporting us to a place we can’t see, but because that’s too easy. It can’t be that simple, they say. They ignore the fact that Jesus went to the cross to buy us a reprieve with His flesh and blood, getting us a ticket to the place of many mansions that He talked about while He walked among us so long ago.

The concept of these other worlds around us is difficult to picture. I’ve tried and the closest I can imagine is simply one reality superimposed over another, and the residents of Reality A simply can’t see the residents in Reality B, yet “B” can see “A” perfectly. They can’t interact with it – they’re insubstantial to us. They are “spirits” to us – things that are ‘of the air.’

When I think about this, it occurs to me that this may be why some books were left out of the Bible, particularly Enoch. Enoch talked about the spirit world {“First estate”) like it was second nature, like he walked there all the time. Enoch also described the earth hanging in space with nothing above or below it. They (the people in power at the time the Bible was put together into one book) didn’t want the common people to know this. Knowledge is power, after all. So they left those books out. Nevertheless, the books are out there. God has made them available to us, all we have to do is pick them up and read them. The only ones reading them with any seriousness are those into Gnosticism and the occult. or else they’re people trying to figure what certain nearly indecipherable parts of the Bible refer to. *Gnosticism denies the deity of Jesus Christ, so I don’t buy into their doctrine. Occultists are reading them for the use of arcane knowledge, knowingly working against the Will of God.

These concepts presented in the Bible are hard for the average person to figure out at times because we don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle.  I believe that all the ancient writings should be at least read and considered, if only for a clearer mental picture of what references to things like “air” means. We read the Bible in our terms, using our mental constructs and sometimes we dismiss parts because they just don’t seem possible in the modern day world or simply a thing of imagination or myth.

We can’t walk in the shoes of the people who wrote these things down, so we guess, and when we guess, we make assumptions and develop theories. When we assume, we connect it to terminology and ideas we’ve come up with in our modern-day reality. So, when someone talks about Rapture and people disappearing into thin air, never to be seen again, they may see it as a metaphor, not reality.

Into thin air…

It is indeed real. We visit it every night when we dream. Most people don’t recall their dreams, or when they do, it’s fractured and only scattered images remain. In my view, we don’t remember because when we wake up, the left side of our brains kick on, a filter is engaged, shutting these memories out.

Each hemisphere of our brain has a job. The Right side takes in the information and the Left side parses it. Because our minds have been deliberately “limited” by God after the fall of Adam and Eve, the way our brain works is to keep us from going literally insane. (Maybe one of these days I’ll rattle on my theory of why schizophrenics only hear “bad” voices and see horrible hallucinations, which is directly due to a malfunction in the Left sides of their brains, in the speech control center. Their “filter” isn’t working properly. Another story for another time, though…)

The Left side of our brain “is” who we are. It’s where we form thoughts and inner dialogue when we are thinking. The Right side is where we form imagery when we try to picture something in our minds, remember what the inside of a building looks like, remember where roads go, where things are in space around us. It’s a mental “map” of our environment and where our mental image of our own bodies resides. It’s the side that processes colors, sights, sounds. The Left side sorts that information out, prioritizes it and discards that which we don’t need to retain. The Left side is a filter that keeps us from information overload. The Right side is like a television, receiving the signal. the Left side sorts data into channels we can easily perceive, disregarding all the unnecessary random imagery and “noise” that would otherwise overwhelm our senses.

The Bible speaks of a “firmament” that separates us from space (the skies – ozone layer?). But it turns up in other places in the Bible where it’s not exactly talking about skies and waters. I’ve often tried to figure out what it was. A solid bank of dark clouds that surrounded the whole earth? A barrier of some kind? What was the purpose for such a barrier? It didn’t make sense, unless the Bible was talking about something else entirely.

I looked up the word “Firmament,” and found the following:

firmament

(Image attribution included in the bottom portion of the screen snapshot)

It is a barrier, but how can a barrier also be an “expansion?” Space/time? How was it removed and why? I don’t think it was removed so much as hidden from our sight, much like the Garden of Eden has been hidden from the sight of man. The Firmament is something that is above and around us, separating us from something else. It is said to have  “doors” and “windows” that at one time we could presumably look through.

I researched the break down of the latin term “firmamentum” and it’s roots, “Firma” and “mentis.” Even search engines turn up something unexpected…

firma mentis

(image snapshot of Google Translate)

“Diminished mental capacity?” In other words, the firmament exists to shut down part of our minds. It’s a barrier between the physical and the spiritual. As long as the physical remains our primary focus in life and we forsake the spiritual, the barrier remains. But the Bible says the firmament is the sky and then the waters. However, according to Daniel and Ezekiel, the firmament seems to be more than that. It seems to be a wall between dimensions, a wall that is visible while in the spirit but not in the flesh.

“Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne..” (Ezekiel 10:1).

Daniel 12:3 “they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”

Enoch referred to God as the “Lord of the Spirits,” whereas other prophets and major figures of the Bible refer to God as the “Lord of Hosts” (heavenly stars or armies). The spirits are unseen by man, though occasionally they do show themselves. Either that, or part of our brains opens for a time, a filter is partially shut off and we perceive them.

In other words, when seeing a denizen of the spiritual realm or having a vision of some kind, one is relieved of their dome, crown, firmament and their mental capacity is expanded for a brief period of time.

There are two modes of perception.

  1. Seeing with your physical eyes, sensing with the flesh (5 senses) and sorting out that data with the left side of the brain.
  2. Seeing with your spiritual eyes, opened  by way of Jesus Christ. This is unfiltered data perceived by the spirit as it is taken in by the right side of the brain.
    Paul said:
    “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.”(Ephesians 3:17-19 KJV)

There are aspects to us, to our own bodies and spirits that we cannot perceive. Scientists are beginning to entertain the idea that consciousness is “non-local,” meaning that the spirit is separate from the human body. It isn’t just chemicals and flashing synapses that define who we are. We are something far more mysterious. The sad thing is that many Christians deny this. They refuse to believe it. They get uncomfortable when you talk to them about it. It’s like they accepted the more “sane” parts of the Bible and dismissed everything else. Problem is, if you don’t believe in the entire Word of God, you don’t actually believe any of it.

While we are told that God and how the universe He created is ultimately unknowable, we are to accept what He told us as Truth. Not only did God create the various atmospheres of earth, water, sky and space, He also created dimensions and the membranes between them. The fact that this part of Reality is mostly unknowable to us is not a basis for unbelief, though. That’s where faith comes in. You can see God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit working your life once you open your eyes to it. I see evidence of God at work every day.

God did allow me to see things that I never imagined were true, though. While I have never seen Him, and never claimed to, I was shown things that led me to the logical conclusion that if these conditions and trans-dimensional beings exist, then everything else in the Bible must be true, too. We just don’t understand all of it. People still interpret the scriptures talking about the “sea of glass” in Revelation to being one of the heavenly firmaments (or skies/waters) of heaven.

Simple explanation – Occam’s razor, for lack of a better term: The “seas of glass” are a metaphor for a “sea” of people in their crystalline “glorified” bodies. Millions of people assembled before the throne of God, in their glistening new bodies would surely be like unto a “sea of glass.” And the Tribulation saints who come later, their glorified bodies are mingled with fire because they were tried by fire of the Great Tribulation. The Great Tribulation is their last chance. Again, there are two “seas of glass” mentioned in Revelation, because there are two groups of people separated only by the time in which they ascended into the third heaven to stand before the throne of God by way of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the Word of God, Incarnate.  He has been there in heaven since the world was founded, if not much longer than that. He came to the world to save the Jews and ended up saving the entire bulk of humanity – those who believe in Him. He was not of this earth and told us so:

And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.”
(John 8:23 KJV)

This is the time when you really need to examine your faith and what it means to you. Most people say they believe in God, but say they are more “spiritual” than religious. As the meme says, “Demons are spiritual, too, so be more specific.” Why do some people take Jesus for granted or ignore Him altogether? You will not get to the Father without Him.

The easiest thing to do is not to question God’s existence and Jesus’ sacrifice at all – just believe. For hard-headed people like me, we had to get there the hard way. We had to research. We needed proof. But as the Bible says, blessed are those who believed without seeing. My years of research into the afterlife aren’t wasted time, though. It ultimately led me to God and to call out for Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. If I had not done so, I would have been lost forever.

– Jillian

1024px-Flammarion

_____________________________________________________________________________________________
The image I used for the post is from Camille Flammarion’s L’atmosphere meteorologie populaire, 1888. The caption with it describes the place where the firmaments of the heavens and the earth meet, and the man has found an opening in it and slipped into the next heaven.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flammarion_engraving
Credit: By Anonymous – Camille Flammarion, L’Atmosphère: Météorologie Populaire (Paris, 1888), pp. 163, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=318054

Color version of this engraving comes from
http://www.ubiquitorium.com/woodcut2.htm

 

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