Why do we point up when referring to Heaven? Is Heaven up there, just past the reaches of our strongest telescopes? Ancient civilizations didn’t wrestle with that question. They seemed to be sure Heaven is up.
A few months ago, my daughters and I went to Tarpon Springs, Florida, where we toured a replica of the Tabernacle of the Old Testament. There we were told the blue veil that covered the entrance to the most Holy Place represented the blue sky, the layer of atmosphere that veils our view of the universe.
However, beyond that blue veil of the Tabernacle rested the Holy of Holies: the very dwelling place of God. What remarkable symbolism! On the other side of the sky-blue veil was the room representing Heaven.
But it’s not just Tabernacle replicas that point to the potential that Heaven is up, above the veiling layer of atmosphere. In Acts chapter 7, we read of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Just before an angry mob dragged him out of town to stone him, he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Stephen was looking up; Heaven was right there.
The Gospels also mention the heavens. When Jesus was baptized, Heaven opened, and the Spirit descended on Him like a dove. If the Spirit descended, it would make sense that Heaven is up, and it is close.
We read about Heaven in the Old Testament, too. Genesis 28 tells us of Jacob and his dream of seeing a ladder with angels ascending and descending on it while the Lord stood above it. The experience was so real, it prompted Jacob to name that place Bethel (the house of God) because he saw the gate of Heaven above him.
At the risk of showing my nerdy side, let’s bring science in to the discussion. Currently, we are aware of four dimensions that surround us and help us define our physical reality. These are length, width, depth and time. According to phys.org, modern scientists postulate there are 10 dimensions: four knowable and six that exist beyond our perception. No offense to these learned scholars, but the ardent student of the Bible already knew that based on the previously stated accounts and more.
One of these dimensions is what the Apostle Paul called the third heaven, where God dwells. (2 Corinthians 12) Since there is a third heaven, it makes sense there exists a first and second heaven as well. We can think of it this way: The first heaven we can see by day, the second heaven we can see by night, and the third heaven we can see by faith, knowing it abides in a dimension beyond the veils we can see.
So it would seem Heaven is apparently up — at least that’s how our human minds can comprehend it for now. But we can’t forget how Heaven is all around us, too. And it’s especially close to those who know and love Jesus. (John 14:6) Knowing Jesus abides just beyond the veil, closer than we might realize, definitely brings the peace that surpasses all understanding.