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HEAVEN

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 Almost everyone has his or her own idea of what Heaven is like.  Some believe it is a place where we will just pray and sing praises to God.  Some believe that we will all be busy with different jobs.  Whatever you believe isn't really important.  It isn't about what you or I think, it's about what God has in store for us.  Whatever Heaven is like, I for one, want to be there.

Why don't we hear more about Heaven in our Churches?  All of us are going to die here on earth and face eternity in Heaven or Hell.  One reason no one talks about it is because the word "death" has an uncomfortable affect on people.  We use the words "passed on," "breathed his last," "departed," "gone to his eternal rest," but we avoid the word "death."

Most people are reluctant to think of trading their "real" life here on earth for an "unreal" life in Heaven, and yet, Heaven is for eternity, earth is for a very short span of time.  If you had a button in front of you and all you had to do was press it to go to Heaven without dying, would you press the button? 

Mature Christians have an understanding and appreciation for the reality of Heaven, and yet they are still uncertain as to what it is like.  All of us want to go there and yet, we don't know what to expect.  If you were taking a trip to Hawaii, wouldn't you want to study about all the things you would see and do?  Well, the Bible is the study guide to Heaven.  Let's take a look at this place we all want to see.

First of all, Heaven is a real place.  It isn't some fairy tale, it's real.  Out of the 66 books in the Bible, there are only 13 that do not mention Heaven.

            Old Testament                                        New Testament 

1.     Numbers (Pentateuch)             1.  1st Timothy (Pastoral Epistle)

2.     Ruth (History)                             2.  2nd Timothy (Pastoral Epistle)

3.     Esther (History)                         3.  Titus (Pastoral Epitle)

4.     Song of Solomon (Poetry)      4.    Philemon

5.     Obadiah (Minor Prophet)        5.    2nd John

6.     Micah (Minor Prophet)             6.    3rd John

7.    Jude

The Bible begins with the creation of the heavens by God, and it ends with a description of the new heaven – The New Jerusalem.  In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for heaven is "shaamayim".  This word is neither singular or plural, but dual.  This dualism can be traced throughout the Old Testament.  It may refer to an upper or a lower heaven, or a physical or a spiritual heaven. 

In the Epistles of Paul, so much emphasis is put on the spiritual realm of Heaven that we sometimes lose sight of the physical Heaven. In the New Testament, the Greek word is "ouranos".  The meaning of the Greek and Hebrew parallel each other. 

In Scripture, there is more than one heaven mentioned,

1.     The atmospheric heaven, which is the air we breath.  It is where the birds and the airplanes fly.  This is the area where our weather forms.

2.     The stellar heaven is where the sun, moon and stars are located.  It is also the abode of Satan or the Devil

3.     The Third heaven is the abode of God.  This is the place Paul referred to in 2nd Corinthians 12:2  "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. "

This is the place from where the Son of God descended and the place He returned to when He ascended.  This is the place the Holy Spirit came from on the day of Pentecost.  It is the same place that the saints will ascend to at the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And yet the Bible teaches us in 1 Kings 8:27

"………behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; ……."   

One of the attributes of God is His omnipresence.  He is present everywhere, and yet the Scriptures also positively declare that Heaven is, in a particular way, the habitation of God.

Isaiah 63:15 "Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory:………. 

2 Chronicles 30:27 "Then the Levitical priests stood and blessed the people, and God heard them from his holy dwelling in heaven."   NLT

Psalm 123:1 "Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. ."   

 Isaiah 66:1 "Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool…………"  

David referred to the "God most high" God.  Gabriel, when he spoke to Mary, said her baby would be the Son of the Most High.

Luke 1:32 "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. "  

 The following Scriptures speak of different levels of Heaven.

Deuteronomy 10:14 "Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD'S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. "  

Psalm 115:16 "The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's: but the earth hath he given to the children of men. "   

 In referring to God having a "home", the Bible, particularly in the New Testament, uses seven different words that refer to Heaven.  All of them contain the idea of a dwelling or habitat.

1.     The first word we see is Tabernacle.  The Tabernacle was built by Israel in the Wilderness and the "true Tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man." (Hebrews 8:2)

There are 50 chapters devoted to the Tabernacle in the Old Testament.  In the Book of Hebrews, 131 verses out of 303 are devoted to giving us the spiritual meaning of the Tabernacle.  That is 43% of the Book of Hebrews.  This is definitely further proof of the significance of the Tabernacle. 

In Hebrews 8:5 God told Moses "………as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount." 

God wanted a dwelling place here on earth where He could dwell with His people.  When Jesus came, He became the Tabernacle.  He was God dwelling with His people. 

John 1:14 "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."

The Greek word for "dwelt" is "skenoo."  The following is from the Strong's definition: skenoo (skay-no'-o); from NT:4636; to tent or encamp, i.e. (figuratively) to occupy (as a mansion) or (specifically) to reside (as God did in the Tabernacle of old, a symbol of protection and communion):

Jesus Christ was the Tabernacle not made with hands.  This gives us a vivid picture of God inhabiting a dwelling place.  Moses was shown something and then told to reproduce it in portable form.  The Book of Hebrews tells us that the Tabernacle in the Wilderness was a shadow of God's home in heaven.  This confirms the declaration of the scriptures that tell us there is a literal Heaven.

2.  The word that appears most frequently in scripture in reference to Heaven is the word "house."  In Genesis 28:17, Jacob referred to Bethel as the "house of God." "And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. "

In 1 Kings 8:27, Solomon called the temple that he had built a "house".

"But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?"

In John 14:2, Jesus referred to Heaven as His Father's house.

"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."  

3.     Another word related to Heaven is "temple".  It is also substituted for Heaven in the Scriptures.

In 2 Samuel 22:7, David refers to God's dwelling as His temple.

"In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears."

The word "temple" gives a greater sense of permanence than the word, "tabernacle,"  but both words speak of a dwelling place of God and a meeting place between God and man.

4.     The next word relating to Heaven is "sanctuary."  This is the innermost court of both the Tabernacle and the Temple.  This word is occasionally used as a euphemism for Heaven. 

Hebrews 8:1-2 "Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. " 

Psalm 102:19 "For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth;"  

Here David is equating the dwelling place of God on earth with His eternal habitation, Heaven.

5.     The Throne of God is also referred to as Heaven. 

Isaiah 66:1 "Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?" 

Matthew 5:34  "But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:" 

Revelation 4:2-3 "And immediately I was in the spirit; and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. " 

And in Hebrews, we are told to bring our needs to the Throne of Grace – to pray to God in Heaven.

Hebrews 4:16  "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." 

6.     The word "glory" is sometimes used as an expression of Heaven.  The glory of God is a physical, visible manifestation of the presence of God.  It becomes natural to equate this with the Heaven of God.

Acts 7:55  "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God," 

1 Timothy 3:16 "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." 

Colossians 1:27  "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:" 

7.  The last word that we will discuss is Heaven.  It is intertwined with God and His heavenly abode and frequently, it is used as synonym for God. 

Matt 14:19  "And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude." 

Luke 15:18 "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee," 

These verses tell us that Heaven has substance; Heaven is real; Heaven is an actual place.  We now see that there is consistent teaching that Heaven is a real place, prepared for real people who will enjoy the benefits in real bodies. 

The Bible declares that Heaven exists now, not sometime in the distant future.  It is God's eternal home right now.  Heaven is also the present residence of the angels of God, who are mentioned at least 170 times in the New Testament alone. 

God has programmed into man strong desires for what will be available to him.  God has built into the human being a belief and a yearning for Heaven.  There is not a single religion on the face of the earth that does not make a provision for a heaven.  God would never cause us to desire a heaven if there was no heaven to satisfy that desire.  Tragically, many Christians' vision of Heaven lacks as much substance as the world's concept of Heaven.

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