heaven(s)


heaven(s)
In the Bible, as in the English language, ‘heaven’ can refer to the region of the atmosphere or also to a supernatural world. Birds [[➝ birds]] fly in the heavens (Jer. 4:25, REB, AV, NJB), and the clouds are there (Prov. 8:27–8). ‘Heaven’ also refers to the firmament or celestial vault (Gen. 1:6) which divides the waters above from those beneath and is supported on pillars (Job 26:11). The waters above supply rain which drops to the earth through openings in heaven (Gen. 7:11). Stars [[➝ stars]] are attached to or suspended from heaven (Job 22:12). In visions of the End, the heavens will be destroyed along with the earth (Isa. 24:4; Luke 21:33).
The supernatural ‘heaven’ is the dwelling place of God, but the word is often written in the plural, as Ps. 148:4: ‘the heaven of heavens’. The Hebrews spoke of the existence of several heavens, and Paul had a mystical experience of being taken up ‘into the third heaven’ (2 Cor. 12:1 ff.). Christ ascended above ‘all the heavens’ (Eph. 4:10). The book of Enoch [[➝ Enoch, books of]] refers to ‘seven heavens’.
God's throne is in heaven (Isa. 66:1), and angels surround it (1 Kgs. 22:19), and this vision is developed in Rev. 4. In the highest heaven there is a ‘tabernacle’ or ‘true tent’ (Heb. 8:2) ‘exalted above the heavens’ (Heb. 7:26) where Christ the true High Priest offers spiritual sacrifices and intercedes for faithful Christians. Similarly, this is where the Son of Man will sit at the right hand of the Father (Mark 14:62) and will prepare places there for disciples (John 14:2). The names of the redeemed are recorded in heaven (Heb. 12:23), which is a realm of joy (Luke 15:7) and peace (Luke 19:38). The descriptions of heaven in Rev. 4, 14, and 21, representing the ultimate triumph of God, have often provided the ground of hope for life after death and have been a fertile source of imagery in Christian hymns. The essence of the belief is that heaven is the promised fulfilment of a life already begun but incomplete; it is not a continuation in another space and time of the kind of life experienced here and now on earth but a translation into a new dimension.

Dictionary of the Bible.

Look at other dictionaries:

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