The question covered in this book is a very important one. May the readers not read it with curiosity. This article was written to comfort many pilgrims on the heavenly journey. It shows them that our hope is sure. Although the world has many conjectures, the Word of God will not fail.
HEAVEN IS A PLACE
Heaven is a place and a location. It is not a state of being. The concept that heaven is within man's heart, that it is within man's mind, and that it is the pleasant state of man's being is not scriptural. That is the reasoning of the unbelievers and the curious ones. They base their concept on their imaginations. The heaven mentioned in the Bible is a place. It is in heaven, not within man's heart. The heart of fallen mankind, regardless how good it may be, can never express heaven. Although man may sometimes experience some unspeakable joy, this does not mean that it is heaven. If heaven is merely this, it is rather confined and too ordinary. The heaven mentioned in the Bible is an actual place. One day those of us who believe in the redemption of the Lord Jesus will enter that place. We will enter into heaven, rather than heaven entering into us.
The Lord Jesus Christ mentions His "Father's house" in John 14. He went to prepare a place for the believers. When it is ready, He will surely come again to receive them there. This passage can settle the problem of whether or not heaven is an actual place. When the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, He ascended with His body. The Bible says, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 15:50). After our beloved Lord shed His blood for us on the cross, in His resurrection He spoke of His resurrected body, saying, "For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you behold Me having" (Luke 24:39). After His resurrection, the Lord Jesus' body of "flesh and blood" was changed. Yet He was not only a spirit, but also a person with "flesh and bones." He had a human body. This body was already transformed. It was not like the natural body that was dead (1 Cor. 15:42-44). He was seen by human eyes (Luke 24:34); He was touchable (v. 39); He could eat food (v. 43). The Lord Jesus Christ has now ascended into heaven (v. 51; Acts 1:9-11). If heaven is not a place, how can Jesus Christ physically reside there? If we say that the Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven with a body, it must mean that heaven is a place. If He has a body, there must also be a place for His body to stay. These two cannot be separated. Without a place, the body cannot possibly exist. Whenever we think of a tangible object, we think of the place it is associated with. The Lord Jesus ascended into heaven with a body. Therefore, heaven must be a place.
[Note: In the original language, the Bible gives a distinction between heaven and the heavens. The expression the kingdom of heaven should be translated as "the kingdom of the heavens." The word heavens is plural in number; it may refer to the heavens above all the stars. (The earth has its heaven, and all the stars have their respective heavens.) It may also refer to the many levels of heaven. (Paul mentions "the third heaven.") The word heaven is used in contrast to the earth; it means the place where God's throne is, the place of bliss.]
Heaven is a place from which the Lord Jesus descended and in which He still is now. The Lord Jesus descended from heaven to fulfill God's purpose. He redeemed sinners by dying for them on the cross. After the Son of God resurrected, He "passed through the heavens" (Heb. 4:14), "sat...in the heavens" (8:1), and He is "become higher than the heavens" (7:26). Our Savior is not only higher than the things on earth and the things in heaven, He is beyond the realm of all the heavens. The Scripture says, "Therefore also God highly exalted Him" (Phil 2:9), "...seating Him at His right hand in the heavenlies, far above all rule and authority and power and lordship and every name that is named not only in this age but also in that which is to come" (Eph. 1:20-21).
In studying the Bible, we find out that heaven has at least three levels. Paul mentioned that he was once caught away to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2). Perhaps the first level is where the atmosphere is, the second where the stars are, and the third where the throne of God is.
Where is heaven? Some people think that heaven is a certain place in this universe. It is round in shape like a ball rotating on its own and revolving around a center. This center is God's throne. Such a saying is man's idea; it is unreliable.
How then can this question be answered? If God's Word (the Bible) clearly tells us where heaven is, then it is possible for us to find its whereabouts. But if the Bible is silent concerning this matter, we need not waste much thought on it. "The things that are hidden belong to Jehovah our God; but the things that are revealed, to us and our children forever..." (Deut. 29:29). Therefore, we need not seek to know the secret things of God. Yet, we must desire to know the things of God which are revealed. I believe that many Christians would rejoice to know where heaven is. Thank our Father God that in His Word, He is not silent about this matter.
THE LOCATION OF HEAVEN IS ABOVE
The location of heaven mentioned in the Bible is above. When the people built the tower of Babel, God said, "Let us go down" (Gen. 11:7). After God spoke to Abraham, "he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham" (Gen. 17:22). God said to Moses, "And I am come down to deliver them..." (Exo. 3:8). David in praising God said, "He bowed the heavens down, and descended" (Psa. 18:9). Isaiah's prayer said, "Oh that You would rend the heavens, that You would come down..." (Isa. 64:1). The Lord Jesus Himself said, "And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven" (John 3:13), "for I have come down from heaven" (6:38, 42). When the Lord Jesus ascended, the Bible says, "A cloud took Him away....And while they were looking intently into heaven as He went..." (Acts 1:9-10). Stephen, when he was about to die, saw the Son of Man standing to welcome the first martyred servant. He "looked up steadfastly into heaven" (7:55 KJV) and saw the Lord Jesus. The apostle John saw a door opened in heaven, and he heard the voice like a trumpet speaking with him, saying, "Come up here" (Rev. 4:1). When the Lord descends from heaven, all those believers who love Him "will be caught up together with them...to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thes. 4:17). There are many more verses that can be quoted. But these few are enough to prove that heaven, the dwelling place of God, is above.
Above? That is right. Yet where is above? The earth we are now living on is spherical in shape. When we say "above," at which point on earth is it "above"? If we say that heaven is above the earth, there is a big difference between whether it is above Nanking or above Kuangchow. The place above North America and the place above China are in two extremes. Naturally, any point directly above the earth must be at right angles with the horizon of the earth. Otherwise, the different points above the different places on the earth would be pointing toward different directions—east, west, north, or south. If so, heaven would not be a definite place, but would be everywhere. However, as mentioned earlier, heaven is a definite place; it is not everywhere. Therefore, "heaven above" cannot be interpreted this way.
The Bible also says, "The heavens are higher than the earth" (Isa. 55:9). "For as the heaven is high above the earth..." (Psa. 103:11). Heaven is the highest point in the universe. Christ is now in heaven. He is "far above all the heavens" (Eph. 4:10). Therefore, the heaven where He is must be above all heavens. However, "higher than the earth" does not indicate a definite place, because the shape of the earth is round and the earth is in the midst of a void. Any direction can be a place higher than the round earth. Heaven is a definite place; it is not a place that exists in all directions. Therefore, heaven being higher than the earth should be explained differently.
HEAVEN ON THE SIDES OF THE NORTH
Let us consider a passage in the Bible which clearly declares where heaven is. Isaiah 14:12-14 says:
How you have fallen from heaven,
O Daystar, son of the dawn!
How you have been hewn down to earth,
You who made nations fall prostrate!
But you, you said in your heart:
I will ascend to heaven;
Above the stars of God
I will exalt my throne.
And I will sit upon the mount of assembly
On the sides of the north.
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will be like the Most High.
My intention here is not to interpret the meaning of these few verses, but to mention the points related to the question being studied, i.e., where is heaven. This Lucifer, son of the dawn who fell from heaven, is Satan. If we compare this passage with Luke 10:18, Revelation 12:7-12, and 1 Timothy 3:6, we can see that this one is Satan. However, regardless of who he is, in these verses there is a clear and accurate mention of where heaven is. Isaiah 14:13 mentions the reason why this marvelous personified one fell. He was proud, desirous to rob the position of God and to be like the Most High. Therefore he received God's judgment. He fell from heaven. Hence, his original dwelling place was in heaven; therefore, he knows where heaven is. Here the Bible says that heaven is above the stars of God, on the sides of the north, and above the heights of the clouds; it is also upon the mount of assembly. This Lucifer, son of the dawn, thought that if he could reach this position, he could be like the Most High.
We can understand that heaven is above the stars of God and above the heights of the clouds. Yet, what does it really mean for heaven to be on the sides of the north? Let us first look into the meaning of "the mount of assembly" by reading a few passages in the Bible.
"And he [Micaiah] said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so" (1 Kings 22:19-22). This passage clearly points out that the place where the throne of God is (i.e. heaven, cf. Matt. 5:34) is the place of assembly.
"Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them" (Job 1:6). After verse 6, the book of Job mentions the question and answer which took place between God and Satan. Here, the sons of God no doubt refer to the angels. As the created ones, they were called the sons of God. Satan also came for the purpose of accusing the righteous (cf. Rev. 12:8-10).
"God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; / he judgeth among the gods. / How long will ye judge unjustly....But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes" (Psa. 82:1-2, 7). God divided the universe into regions and ordered the created angels to govern them. These angels are "the mighty" and "the gods" referred to in this psalm (cf. John 10:34-35). God commanded them to do justice (Psa. 82:3-4). However, they sinned by walking in darkness (v. 5). Therefore the Lord judged their sins that they would be punished (vv. 6-7).
Daniel 4:17 refers to the "watchers" and the "holy ones." These are the angels under God's authority. They, being in the midst of God's assembly, know God's will and issue the decree.
According to the above quotations, it seems that "the mount of assembly" must refer to the heaven where God meets with the angels. Isaiah 14:13 says He is "on the sides of the north." Our conclusion is that heaven is on the sides of the north.
Previously, we have said that heaven is "above." This posed a problem. But if we say that heaven is in the north, such a problem will not exist anymore. The four directions are east, west, south, and north. East and west differ from north and south logically. For instance, though there is the distinction of east and west on earth, no one can distinguish between the far east and the far west. If one travels towards the east, he will never reach the extreme east; eventually, he will return to his starting point. This is due to the fact that the shape of the earth is round. There is no possibility for one to reach the extreme east or the extreme west. But north and south are different. They are the two poles of the earth with the north being on the top and the south on the underside. We often say "up north" or "down south," never "up south," or "down north." North is above. When we look at a map, we indicate east, west, south, and north by right, left, down, and up, respectively. We also represent the four directions by our two hands, head, and feet. Our head represents the north, which is above. Therefore, the verses quoted from the Scriptures above prove that heaven is above, which implies that heaven is in the north. Isaiah 55:9 also says that the heavens are "higher than the earth."
Except for the north, no other direction can be higher than the earth. The north of any place on earth always points to one direction. This direction is above all other directions. Therefore, north is the highest point. If heaven is in any direction, then nothing more can be deduced. But if heaven is in a certain direction and at the same time "higher than the earth," then heaven cannot be anywhere else but in the north.
Psalms 48:2 also mentions "in the uttermost parts of the north" (according to the original text). "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, / is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, / the city of the great King." It seems this Mount Zion, the city of the great King, refers to the earthly Jerusalem because it is "the joy of the whole earth." But it also implies the heavenly Jerusalem. The earthly Jerusalem is not in the uttermost parts of the north. Therefore, this mount should at least imply "Mount Zion...the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22). This is heaven.
Psalms 75:1 says, "Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, / unto thee do we give thanks: / for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare." This is the praise by the psalmist. Verse 2 continues: "When I shall find the set time, I will judge uprightly" [ASV]. This is spoken by God. "When I shall find the set time" is also translated as "when I shall receive the congregation" [KJV]. This is related to the "mount of assembly" (heaven) in Isaiah 14. Psalms 75:3-7 says, "The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: / I bear up the pillars of it. Selah. / I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: / and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn: / lift not up your horn on high: / speak not with a stiff neck. / For promotion cometh neither from the east, / nor from the west, nor from the south. / But God is the judge: / he putteth down one, and setteth up another." Here, God warns the people not to seek help from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. It is very meaningful that He does not include north as a direction not to call for help! When we read the expression "For promotion cometh neither from the east, / Nor from the west, nor from the south," naturally we would think that promotion comes from the north. Following the words "neither from the east, / nor from the west, nor from the south," it says, "But God is the judge." We can see that the unmentioned north is intimately related to God's dwelling. Although God did not ask the people to seek help from the north, it is evident that the heaven where God dwells is in that direction. Where God receives the assembly and executes His justice and judgment is in the north.
When the prophet Ezekiel saw a vision of God, he beheld a whirlwind that "came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire" (Ezek. 1:4). The "cloud," "brightness," and "amber" all represent God's glory, which is from the north. In the book of Ezekiel, this word "north" is mentioned over forty times, and it is quite often amazingly related to God's administration and God's glory.
Zechariah 6:6-8 says, "The black horses went forth to the land of the north, and the white horses went forth after them, and the speckled horses went forth to the land of the south. And the strong horses went forth and sought to proceed to go to and fro on the earth. And He said, Proceed to go to and fro on the earth; and they went to and fro on the earth. Then He called out to me and spoke to me, saying, See, these who are going forth to the land of the north have given My Spirit rest in the land of the north." Here the use of the word "north" is also very significant.
The earth's geographic and magnetic poles both point toward the north. How wonderful it is! Who can know the reason why the compass always points towards the north? In the Constellation of the Swan in the north, there is a place where the surroundings are all stars, yet this space is without any star. This empty space is known by some astronomers as the "dark nebula" or by others as the "rift of the sky." Job 26:7 says, "He [God] stretcheth out the north over the empty place." Can this "empty place" not be the same as the "rift"? If the uttermost part of the north is in the midst of this, then should heaven not also be in it? We will certainly find out one day!
Job 26:7 is another good proof of heaven being in the uttermost part of the north. "He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, / and hangeth the earth upon nothing." Here, "the earth" and "the north" are in opposition. "Nothing" refers to the atmospheric air enveloping the earth. If "nothing" means the atmosphere, then the empty place over which the north is placed cannot be the same atmosphere. It must be where heaven is. Heaven is therefore in the north.
Astronomers tell us that the entire solar system—the sun, the planets, and the earth—are all traveling toward this "rift" at a velocity of more than twenty miles a second! That is equivalent to almost 72,000 miles per hour! Why would our Lord allow the inhabited earth to travel toward the north? Who can say there is no purpose in this phenomenon?
Today the theory of heaven being a definite place has been under numerous attacks and mockings. What we have studied in this book is not of utmost importance. The important thing is to believe that there is a place called heaven.
Heaven is a place prepared for those who are prepared. Do you desire this? Are you prepared for it?
Source: Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 02: The Word of the Cross, by Watchman Nee