When I was a kid, I thought heaven was "up." Up there above the blue sky God walked on his gold streets surrounded by sapphire walls enclosed with the pearly gates.
When a person died, if they were Christians, that was where they went. Up. If they were not, then they went down - down to someplace in the middle of the earth where the devil awaited.
As I progressed in school, I learned about the solar system. Sun. Nine planets. Stars and so on. In my mind all of that was still enclosed within the blue sky. Beyond that sky was heaven where God still resided watching us.
Too Infinity and Beyond
Adult hood came. New scientific discoveries were made. Galaxies. Other universes. The further humanity explored the more endless the universe seemed.
Suddenly, my concept of the sky and heaven no longer worked. If God was up there, then God was far-far away. In fact, so far that we can't know at present.
Where Art Thou?
So Where Is God?
It wasn't until much later in my adult life that I began to really ponder the dilemma of my understanding of heaven and God's location. It was then that the teachings of Jesus began to make more sense to me.
Jesus taught God wasn't in some far off place. Rather, God was within me. Even the Old Testament declared God was closer than we thought.
Jesus said that God was spirit. This meant that God was everywhere. God couldn't be limited to one spot. The Psalmist mentions that too. Somehow I missed that.
Not only that, the Apostle Paul wrote that God was over all, through all, and in all.
So, quite frankly, God couldn't be up there. Well, he was there too, wherever that is, but more importantly he is right here.
God wasn't watching from above. Well, he is that too, but more importantly he watches from right next to me. As a disciple of Jesus, he watches from within me.
What About Heaven?
And heaven, well heaven becomes something different. Heaven isn't some place way up there far far away. Where it is at present, I am not sure.
Jesus did imply to the thief crucified with him that he would see him in paradise that same day. So, heaven, or paradise, is some place. I don't have a street address but it does exist today.
Part of my growing up also included the realization that the eternal heaven as I thought of it in my mind as some place in the clouds way up there wasn't actually correct. In fact, the book of Revelation reveals that the place we will dwell with God forever isn't going to be in a sky anywhere. Rather, it will be on a new heaven and new earth.
I hope you enjoyed this reflection as I gazed into the sky this afternoon realizing how my understanding of heaven and God has changed.