Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "ask roger" column regularly appears at preach it, teach it. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

Could space be a part of heaven?

Sincerely, Simbi

Dear Simbi,

If Heaven is in just the right place in space, it might begin to explain how God can be omnipresent (every where all the time), omniscient (all knowing), and omnipotent (all powerful) instantaneously throughout the universe.

“Heaven is out beyond the North Star,” said the preacher when I was a boy. “There are no stars out beyond the North Star, just vast empty space. This is where Heaven is.” I was so impressed.

Now I know better. Just as many stars exist behind the North Star as they do everywhere else in space.

The idea of what’s "out there" has puzzled mankind since ancient times. It puzzles still today. Every culture developed a cosmology to explain the world they could see but never touch. Some cultures figured better than others. For example, the wise men from Babylon were "star gazers" who figured out the meaning of the stars leading to Bethlehem. Prehistoric peoples figured out enough about the universe to erect Stonehenge with astral accuracy. By looking down a deep well during the summer solstice, the ancient Egyptians figured out that the earth was round, rotating and revolving around the sun. Compare the Egyptian astronomers with the Pope in Rome, who only relatively recently admitted that the Church was wrong and Galileo was right. The sun doesn’t revolve the earth. It’s the other way around.

Paul’s understanding of the universe was consistent with the cosmology of his day which postulated the existence of three Heavens. Paul wrote:

“I know a man in Christ [Paul was talking about himself] fourteen years ago who was caught up to the third Heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man… was caught up to Paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that a man is not permitted to tell” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

According to the cosmology of Paul’s time and place, the First Heaven was the atmosphere where birds fly, clouds move and people breathe. In the Second Heaven the sun, moon and stars moved and shined. The Third Heaven was “way out there,” where God and the angels dwelled.

Paul’s understanding of the cosmos is quite unlike ours today. But that’s okay. Neither the Bible nor Paul ever tried to establish the actual location of Heaven. Paul just told us that he was taken there.

So, where is Heaven? And, what are the implications for the nature and character of God?

Ever since I got over the “North Star stuff," I’ve wondered about the other “stuff.” Is Heaven a spirit world just a step away from ours? Think about it. In His spiritual body Jesus walked through walls, got hungry, ate dinner with the disciples, changed appearances and even let Thomas touch His nailed-scared hands (Luke 24; John 20:19, John 20:24).

Where was He just before He stepped into their midst? Does the spirit world somehow connect with our physical world? Is Heaven right among us, just in a different spacial dimension?

I’ll try to make this very simple. As Dr. Harry Ironside used to say about his preaching, “I try to put the cookies on the shelf where everyone can get them.” Billy Graham often said that he tried to preach at the eighth-grade level.

Current String Theory predicts that every elementary particle is a tiny string that vibrates at a particular frequency. Change the frequency and change the type of particle. I’m not surprised about this. The Bible says that music plays continuously throughout God’s universe (Psalm 19:1-4).

String theory postulates that God created a universe with at least ten spacial dimensions (or twenty-four, but that is another story). Six of the dimensions were rolled up like lines inside of “tiny straws” (try to imagine that!). The other four dimensions are those we know: length, width, height and time.

Here is the point. Mathematically speaking, if we keep moving on to higher dimensions, as we pass through the 10th spacial dimension into the 11th dimension, everything becomes a single point.

Think of the implications! This can explain how God is everywhere all the time because everything is where He is all the time.

This can explain how God knows everything going on in the universe because he is everywhere to observe it all the time.

This can explain how God instantaneously powers and controls anything that He wants to anywhere in the universe.

The Book of Hebrews teaches that God created the universe from nothing. The creation occurred at a single place, at a single time, and at a single point (Hebrews 11:3; and John 1:1). This point of creation is called a singularity. I wonder if the universe that God created as a singularity is, in eleven dimensions, still a singularity and explains the interaction of the spirit world with ours.

All of this comes together in my mind when I think of Jesus’ words of comfort He gave to the disciples in the upper room the night before He was crucified.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1).

Jesus knows the very moment that we die because He is in position to know everything. He is able to take us immediately to Heaven because He is always present with us. Finally, because of His awesome power, He has more than enough strength to take us right into Heaven.

Thanks, Simbi, for the great question. I like to think about the “stuff,” especially when it may provide insight into the Bible and into the nature and character of God.

Simbi, I hope that you find my answer helpful.

Sincerely,
Roger

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor from casas church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, got guts? get godly! pray the prayer god guarantees to answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at preach it, teach it, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, dr. julie barrier.

Publication date: May 8, 2012