Where is heaven?
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
- Acts 1:11
He ascended into heaven
- from The Apostles’ Creed
So, if “heaven is for real,” where is it? Reading today’s passage on the surface could lead you to think that heaven is just up in the sky. People throughout history have scoffed at our forefathers for such a silly belief. But did people actually believe that heaven was just a long ladder’s length away?
Our ancient Jewish forefathers understood heaven as an overlapping, interlocking reality. When they used metaphors like “up in the sky,” they knew they were speaking metaphorically.
Although they had a sense of reverence when they looked up at the vastness of the sky, they refused to worship the vastness. All around them were people who worshipped the heavens: the sun and the moon and the stars.
But the early Jews knew better. They knew that God and his heaven were not found inside the creation. “Heaven” to the early Christians and the communities from which they originated was a place distinctly different from earth, but not one far away.
NT Wright writes about this view of heaven as overlapping, interlocking reality in his book Surprised by Hope. Heaven is not some distant place to which we arrive only after a long post-mortem journey.
Instead, heaven is the larger reality that encompasses us all … what Wright calls “the God-dimension.” And a significant part of Jesus’ great work is to link this larger reality with our day-to-day world. In fact, Jesus is both IN HEAVEN and NEAR US as he brings the kingdom of heaven to bear on our world.
What kind of difference does it make to you that Jesus is both “in heaven” and “near to you”? How does that impact the way you pray and live?