Rev. Langerak is pastor of Southeast Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In the beginning God created the heaven (Gen. 1:1). Actually, He created three (II Cor. 12:2). He fashioned two physical heavens called firmament (Gen. 1:8)—the first, an inner atmosphere or sky (Deut. 33:26), and the second, a vast outer space. No chaotic wreckage from a big bang, they are the glorious artistry of the Lord’s fingers, which carefully measured and spread them out the second day (Job 9:8; Is. 40:12). The heavens praise God, declare His righteousness, and continually tower over earth as an irrefutable witness to His glory and handiwork (Ps. 89:5; Ps. 50:6; Ps. 19:1). They are also important pedagogues, especially concerning the third heaven, a spiritual space called Paradise or the heaven of heavens (II Cor. 12:4; Neh. 9:6), i.e., the arch-typical, superlative heaven.
Able tutors are these physical heavens in the school of wisdom (Ps. 19:1-3). They teach that, as to its quality, heaven is transcendent to everything earthly. Its place is higher and glory far above (Eph. 4:10; Job 22: 12). Its space is immeasurable, its inhabitants innumerable (Heb. 11:12). Its substance is better and more enduring (Heb. 10:34). Its darkness is absolute (Ex. 10:21), yet its light brightens the world (Gen. 1:15). And its life is everlasting (John 6:51). Even more so is the transcendence of its Creator, who makes heaven His holy habitation (Ps. 19:6). The Lord measures it with a span, numbers its creatures, and calls them by name (Ps. 147:4). He travels its length (Ps. 19:6), fills its immensity (Jer. 23:24), but it cannot contain Him (I Kings 8:27). Though His mercy is as high as heaven is above the earth, His glory is higher still (Ps. 103:11; Ps. 148:13).
Yet, wonderfully near is heaven. Even with feet firmly planted on earth, one can breathe its life, see its light, feel its warmth, hear its testimony, and enjoy its blessings. Though in heaven, God is not very far from us (Acts 17:27). From heaven He speaks often to men (Mark 3:17). In an instant, His heavenly hosts can appear (Luke 2:13-15). Through windows in heaven, the Lord pours out precious things from His treasure—rain, snow, dew, bread, even mercy and truth (Mal. 3:10; Deut. 28:12; Deut. 33:13; Ps. 57:3). But from those same windows, He also sends judgment. Heaven hears, witnesses, and records the iniquity of men, whose sins reach up unto it (Ex. 17:14; Deut. 4:26; Rev. 18:5). In righteousness the Lord looks down under the whole heaven and tries the children of men (Job 28:24; Ps. 85:11; 11:4). He hears their blasphemy against Him, His home, and them that dwell in heaven (Rev. 13:6). Especially, the Lord hears the cries of His own oppressed children. He rides upon the heaven to their aid (Deut. 33:26), sees their hands lifted up toward Him, smells the sweet savor of their heavenly conversation, and delivers them (Neh. 9:27; I Kings 8:22; I Kings 8:30; Phil. 3:20). So, from heaven His voice thunders down and He sends darkness, tempest, flood, hail, fire and brimstone (II Sam. 22:14).
Although very near, there is a thick veil and impassible gulf fixed between heaven and earth (Heb. 9:3; Luke 16:26). It is the dark shroud of man’s flesh, foolishness, sin, and guilt under the law (Rom. 1:23; Eph. 2:14-15). It is the deep chasm between mortality and immortality, corruption and incorruption, natural and spiritual, dishonor and glory (I Cor. 15:43ff.). Thus, one can stare a lifetime into space, soar through the clouds, and launch a thousand rockets, but never see heaven (John 3:3). He can have righteousness like the Pharisees, own the whole world, and be greatest among men, but never enter heaven (Matt. 18:1; Matt. 19:23). In fact, no man has ascended up to heaven, for flesh and blood cannot live there (John 3:13).
To see heaven a man must be born from above. To enter, he must become as a little child. To receive its blessings, feel its power, bear its image, and enjoy its life, a man must be changed, heaven must come down, the gulf bridged, and veil rent. So from the windows of heaven, God has sent His Son, who is Lord above all (I Cor. 15:47-51; John 3:31). The stairway to heaven, passage to the Father, and heavenly bread of life, He blesses us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (John 1:51; John 6:33; John 14:6; Eph. 1:3). Jesus has not only come down, but by His own blood broken down the partition and entered through the veil, having obtained eternal redemption, and again passed into the heavens to appear now in the presence of God for us (Heb. 4:14; Heb. 9:24).
… to be continued.