Where is Heaven? Acts 1 9-11 : The Path to Pentecost : Pt.4

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Have you ever wondered where heaven is? Could you Believe in Heaven on Earth?

What we know of Christ’s Ascension to Heaven, provides us with some interesting lines of thinking about these questions.

Long before the time of Jesus, the ancient Greek philosophers introduced the idea that heaven and earth existed in places far apart. 

They taught that heaven and earth were incompatible and that our natural home was in heaven. 

Although, there is no evidence to support this line of thinking in the bible.

Then it was written in Acts that when Jesus finally left this world, for heaven, he was lifted up from the top of a mountain in a cloud, as his disciples gazed on watching upwards.

The early Christians named this event, Christ’s Ascension to Heaven, assuming he went upwards into the heavenly realms described in Genesis.

For these reasons, many people believe today that heaven is in a faraway place, somewhere over and above the clouds and rainbows.

But perhaps, heaven is closer than we think and exists in a parallel dimension in our world?

Today, biblical scholars argue that when God created the world, he did create two distinctly separate entities of heaven and earth, but they are both good; one is not better than the other.

They also argue that whilst the earth is our mortal home, heaven is where God lives, and is perhaps in a spiritual dimension closer to earth than we realise.

Also the disciples were all of solid Jewish heritage and would probably have understood heaven to be nearby and all around.

But they often referred to heaven as up and above, (as was written in Acts) almost as if it were somewhere in space and high above the world.

I must confess this is where I have always thought heaven was, far far away.

But, theologians today argue that this is just a figure of speech and could be considered to be a simile.

For example, we might say, ‘I was uplifted by the sunset this evening’, or ‘I felt down about an argument I had with my friend’.

But these are just cultural expressions and are not to be understood literally. 

Also, modern-day science is beginning to explore the fascinating concept of potentially more dimensions in the universe than we are traditionally aware of.

And alternative understandings of the existence of other realms.

With the disciple’s use of similes; the ancient philosopher’s aversion to the connectedness of heaven and earth; and the restricted knowledge of alternative dimensions, perhaps a distorted understanding of where heaven is located was formed, leading many to believe that it was in a faraway place.

The two heavenly figures who appeared, at Christ’s Ascension asked why the disciples were gazing up towards heaven. 

They told the disciples Jesus would return in the same way from the heavens as he went there.

But, what was the way in which Jesus went to heaven?

We can find a clue in (Colossians 3:4 and 1 John 3:2). Both verses state that when Jesus returns, he ‘will appear’ or ‘be revealed’ to us, which sounds rather local to me.

So maybe, at his Ascension Jesus used the cloud as a gateway, to the dimension of heaven. Then as he disappeared into the cloud, he entered the heavenly realm and was physically concealed from us but was able to release his spirit to dwell within believers.

I can relate to the arguments put forward by modern theologians who have thoroughly researched this fascinating subject and do believe that heaven is closer than we have been led to understand.

This line of thinking follows on to an interesting conclusion; that God created the world (both heaven and earth) to be his ultimate resting place and final Holy Temple. 

The subject of the location of heaven is dear to my heart, and it has taken me maany years to come to an understanding about heaven that makes sense to me. 

So whilst no one on this side of death can be certain of what happens, I have come to believe that heaven is a place separated from us by a heavenly veil or an invisible curtain.

And that at certain times and places, this division can become thinner, and in those moments we are able to experience the feeling of being closer to God.

And it seems I am not alone in this line of thinking.

Because I was sharing these views with someone just yesterday, and was told about The Rev George MacLeod, who was the founder of the Iona community.

I was surprised and delighted to hear that this very learned and distinguished priest, described beautiful and holy Iona as being so sublime, with such a special atmosphere, that he belived it to be;

‘A thin place – a thin place with nothing thicker that tissue paper separating earth from heaven in that place’  

Amen.

Footnote: A further blog will continue this line of thinking – covering the return (or appearance) of Jesus again on earth in a cloud of glory. This refers to a divine and holy experience. References to clouds of glory are found in many passages in the Old and New Testament, and the Jewish people had a name for it, ‘The Shekinha’.  This will be the subject of another blog.

Acts 1 9-11 NRSV

When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 

While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 

They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven?

This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ 

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