THE GLORIOUS HEAVENLY HOPE - PART 1
WHAT THE HEBREWS KNEW ABOUT HEAVEN
May 26, 2012
Though the inspired writers of the Hebrew Scriptures did not know that man’s future was to be in the heavens, they did write down several phrases about the heavens that help us to imagine our hope. In the first book of the Bible, we are told:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
– Genesis 1:1
“And God went on to say: “Let an expanse come to be in between the waters and let a dividing occur between the waters and the waters.” Then God proceeded to make the expanse and to make a division between the waters that should be beneath the expanse and the waters that should be above the expanse. And it came to be so. And God began to call the expanse Heaven. And there came to be evening and there came to be morning, a second day.”
– Genesis 1:6-8
“And God went on to say: “Let luminaries come to be in the expanse of the heavens to make a division between the day and the night; and they must serve as signs and for seasons and for days and years. And they must serve as luminaries in the expanse of the heavens to shine upon the earth.” And it came to be so. And God proceeded to make the two great luminaries, the greater luminary for dominating the day and the lesser luminary for dominating the night, and also the stars. Thus God put them in the expanse of the heavens to shine upon the earth, and to dominate by day and by night and to make a division between the light and the darkness. Then God saw that [it was] good. And there came to be evening and there came to be morning, a fourth day.”
– Genesis 1:14-19
“And God went on to say: “Let the waters swarm forth a swarm of living souls and let flying creatures fly over the earth upon the face of the expanse of the heavens.”
– Genesis 1:20
“Thus the heavens and the earth and all their army came to their completion.”
– Genesis 2:1
So the first thing we learn about the heavens is that it includes created things! The stars, and the two great luminaries – the sun and the moon. We now know through scientific exploration that the “stars” are in actuality planets and galaxies and other solar and planetary systems. We are also told that the material created birds fly in heaven.
So the heavens, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, are not solely esoteric spirit planes. Much of the heavens are, in fact, materials planets and galaxies and solar or planetary systems that we can observe either with the human eye or with the aid of sophisticated equipment.
“Raise your eyes high up and see. Who has created these things? It is the One who is bringing forth the army of them even by number, all of whom he calls even by name. Due to the abundance of dynamic energy, he also being vigorous in power, not one [of them] is missing.”
– Isaiah 40:26
But there’s more:
“But will God truly dwell upon the earth? Look! The heavens, yes, the heaven of the heavens, themselves cannot contain you; how much less, then, this house that I have built!”
– 1 Kings 8:27
“And who could retain power to build him a house? For the heavens and the heaven of the heavens cannot contain him, and who am I that I should build him a house except for making sacrificial smoke before him?”
– 2 Chronicles 2:6
“But will God truly dwell with mankind upon the earth? Look! Heaven, yes, the heaven of the heavens themselves, cannot contain you; how much less, then, this house that I have built?”
– 2 Chronicles 6:18
These writers use the phrase “heaven of heavens.” That indicates that the heavens are arranged in some kind of hierarchy such that there are a series of heavens, and then a master heaven over them. We suspect this master heaven – the heaven of heavens – is also material in nature or at least not completely spiritual because even the master heaven cannot contain the Father. We are also told:
“Can you find out the deep things of God, Or can you find out to the very limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven. What can you accomplish? It is deeper than Sheol. What can you know?:” – Job 11:7-8
“Is not God the height of heaven? Also see the sum total of the stars, that they are high. And yet you have said: ‘What does God really know? Through thick gloom can he judge? Clouds are a concealment place for him so that he does not see, And on the vault of heaven he walks about.’”
– Job 22:12-14
Here, we are told that where the Father dwells is in a place “higher than heaven.” And that, in fact, he exists at the very “height of heaven,” even the “vault” or rooftop of heaven. So we now have identified at least three hierarchies of heaven – (1) the heavens; (2) the heaven of heavens; and (3) the roof, so to speak, of the heaven of heavens. We suspect this “vault” or roof is the actual spiritual, non-material, heaven in that we are told the Father “walks about” in it.
So, what are the Father’s plans for the vast planetary heavens? We can learn something from the words of Isaiah:
“For this is what Jehovah has said, the Creator of the heavens, He the [true] God, the Former of the earth and the Maker of it, He the One who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited: “I am Jehovah, and there is no one else.”
– Isaiah 45:18
This scripture tells us that the Father does not create things “simply for nothing.” Since he formed the earth to be inhabited, we can safely assume that he formed most, if not all, of the other planets to be inhabited at some point. Science tells us our universe is billions of years old. If that is correct, it is likely that there are many other inhabited planets much older than our earth, that could very well be inhabited by humans much like ourselves. But given the vast distances between what we see as potentially habitable planets, it is unlikely that those on earth would have much interaction with those on other planets. However, there is another type of creature who has made an appearance on earth.
The Hebrew Scriptures tell us about a creation that is generically referred to as angels. Some angels act as messengers (Genesis 16:7-12), some are referred to as sons of God (Job 1:6; 2:1), morning stars (Job 38:7), holy myriads (Deuteronomy 33:2), seraphs (Isaiah 6:2,6), and cherubs (Ezekiel 10:1-22). We are also told about the archangel Michael, “one of the foremost princes” (Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1). This indicates the Hebrew writers knew that the angels are also arranged in a hierarchy. Thus, we suspect there are many more angelic creatures in the heavens who either have not had direct contact with humans on earth, or have not been revealed to us.
While the angelic beings exist in a form that is not perceptible to the human eye, they apparently have the ability to make themselves visible at will.
“Now the two angels arrived at Sodom by evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot caught sight of them, then he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the earth.”
– Genesis 19:1
“Later Jehovah’s angel found her at a fountain of waters in the wilderness, at the fountain on the way to Shur. And he began to say: “Hagar, maidservant of Sarai, just where have you come from and where are you going?” To this she said: “Why, from Sarai my mistress I am running away.” And Jehovah’s angel went on to say to her: “Return to your mistress and humble yourself under her hand.” Then Jehovah’s angel said to her: “I shall greatly multiply your seed, so that it will not be numbered for multitude.”
– Genesis 16:7-10
The Christian writer, Paul, confirmed these encounters:
“Let your brotherly love continue. Do not forget hospitality, for through it some, unknown to themselves, entertained angels.”
– Hebrew 13:1-2
We are also told that angels are made from a substance different, but not far different, from man:
“What is mortal man that you keep him in mind, And the son of earthling man that you take care of him? You also proceeded to make him a little less than godlike ones, And with glory and splendor you then crowned him.”
– Psalms 8:4-5
Paul quoted this scripture when he wrote:
“But a certain witness has given proof somewhere, saying: “What is man that you keep him in mind, or [the] son of man that you take care of him? You made him a little lower than angels; with glory and honor you crowned him, and appointed him over the works of your hands.”
– Hebrews 2:6-7
From a scientific view, being made a little lower than angels could mean that man’s molecular structure vibrates at a lower rate than angels. We are on a lower frequency. Since we can only see things that vibrate on our own frequency, that would explain why we do not have the visual capability to see angelic creatures in their natural form. It would also explain how an angel could make itself visible, namely by slowing down its own rate of vibration.
It further seems likely that since our earth vibrates at the same rate as humans, the angels would have dwelling places that vibrate at their rate. So we can safely assume that some of the planets are not visible to the human eye, likely the “heaven of heavens.” And, of course, the “vault of heaven” where the Father resides. Hmmm. But enough of science.
The point we are making is that it appears that the heavens are partly material (the heavens), partly spiritual (the vault of heaven), and partly in between material and spiritual (the heaven of heavens). And it appears that the heavens are inhabited with different types of creatures. If the angels vibrate at a higher frequency than man, perhaps there are other creatures that vibrate higher than angels. And when we consider the vast gulf between God and man – from the earth, to the heavens, to the heavens of heavens, to the vault of heaven – we can presume there are many different levels of beings that we could possibly encounter in the heavens.
In spite of the ancient Hebrew encounters with angels, nothing in their writing expresses a desire to live among the heavens, or contains any insight of heavenly life for humans. Neither do we read anything that invites them to enter the heavens. It simply was not in their world view.
But when Christ came, he advanced mankind’s spiritual view and correspondingly expanded his possibilities. Let’s see what we can glean from the writings of the Christian Bible writers in the next article, “The Christian Revelations of Heaven.”
We welcome your comments.