There are many human ideas about heaven, but what does God tell us? This study examines the Bible verses that answer the question: Where is heaven?
As a young child, I wondered if heaven might be on the opposite side of the sun from the earth, which would explain why we never see it.
I’m not the only one who has tried to figure out where heaven might be. Throughout history there has been no lack of human ideas, traditions and even witticisms.
Human ideas about heaven
Mark Twain may not have believed in heaven, but he seems to have liked making jokes about it. “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company,” is attributed to him, as well as, “Travel has no longer any charm for me. I have seen all the foreign countries I want to except heaven and hell, and I have only a vague curiosity about one of those.”
Others have had a much greater curiosity. Some who have had near-death experiences claim to have visited heaven. (See “Are ‘Near-Death Experiences’ Real?”)
And mystics and religious thinkers through the ages have described a variety of heavens:
- Some talked of seven heavens, with the seventh heaven being “the most exalted level of heaven, especially the highest and most holy or blessed of the hierarchical series of heavens described in Jewish and Islamic theology” (lexico.com).
- In Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, he poetically visits 10 spheres of heaven, associated with the moon, sun, five then-known planets, stars, as well as a crystalline heaven “that transfers its movement to all the spheres below it. Beyond the crystalline sphere is the unmoving heaven of the Empyrean” (Museo Casa di Dante website).
The concept of seven heavens in some versions of Jewish theology is derived from mystical thought, and in Islam it comes from the Koran. Dante’s ideas reflected the Ptolemaic conception of the universe.
But what does the Holy Bible say?
What does heaven mean in the Bible?
The words heaven or heavens in the Bible can refer to three different things:
- The earth’s atmosphere where birds fly (Genesis 1:6-8, 20).
- Space, where the planets and stars are (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 8:3).
- God’s dwelling place where His throne is (Revelation 4:2).
The apostle Paul called the heaven where God dwells “the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2). The Bible does not talk about seven or 10 heavens.
Where is heaven located in the universe?
We know where the first two biblical heavens are—they are part of our physical universe. But the heaven of God’s throne is spiritual. It existed before space and time existed.We know where the first two biblical heavens are—they are part of our physical universe. But the heaven of God’s throne is spiritual. It existed before space and time existed. You could say it is before the universe and beyond the universe. It doesn’t belong to any of the physical dimensions we know, so it can seem pointless to even ask the question “where is heaven?”
But God understands our limited minds, and He does use analogies and talk about spiritual things in physical terms to help us understand them.
How does the Bible describe where the heaven of God’s throne is?
Heaven is described as being up
Jesus said He “came down from heaven” (John 6:41), so of course when He returned to His Father, He went up.
“So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19, emphasis added throughout).
The book of Acts takes the story from there: “And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:10-11).
Looking up can represent an attitude of awe, humility, appreciation and reverence.
David wrote, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).
David sometimes prayed looking up: “Give heed to the voice of my cry, my King and my God, for to You I will pray. My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up” (Psalm 5:2-3).
And there are examples of Jesus praying looking up: “Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes” (Matthew 14:19).
Where is heaven? Where God generally is
Throughout the Bible, heaven is described as God’s dwelling place and where He rules from (though there are passages that describe Him coming down).
Daniel told the Babylonian king, “But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days” (Daniel 2:28).
Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple, “Then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men)” (2 Chronicles 6:30).
Heaven is where Satan can come only with permission
Satan the devil was formerly the angel Lucifer, who served at God’s throne. But since his rebellion, he can come before God only with permission.
Isaiah described Satan’s fall: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:12-14).
The book of Job gives a brief, behind-the-scenes look at how Satan interacts with God since that time:
“Now there was a day when the sons of God [referring to angels] came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them” (Job 1:6). Satan, the accuser, used this opportunity to accuse Job, as he seeks to accuse all of us.
There can be war in heaven!
The Bible reveals that in the end time Satan the dragon again attempts to fight against God in heaven:
“And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:7-9).
Heaven is where no man has gone
Most modern Christian conceptions of heaven include saints now looking down from heaven. But what does the Bible say?
“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven” (John 3:13).
When people study what the Bible actually says, most are surprised to see that death is clearly described to be like sleep, and that God promises to wake (resurrect) the saints when Jesus Christ returns to the earth.
For example, the apostle Paul wrote, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16).
Study more about what the Bible teaches in our biblical article “Do We Go to Heaven When We Die?”
Where is heaven? In the end, heaven will come to earth
Though the Bible teaches men don’t go to heaven now, God makes the wonderful promise that He will bring His heavenly throne and glorious city to the new earth. God will be with us!Though the Bible teaches men don’t go to heaven now, God makes the wonderful promise that He will bring His heavenly throne and glorious city to the new earth. God will be with us!
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:1-3).
John also explained God’s loving plan to make us His children—to make us like Him, “for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:1-2).
So we see God’s plan is to share His nature and His dwelling place with us for all eternity.
No man has ascended to heaven, but in the end God will bring heaven to the humans who become children of God.
Sidebar: What Does Heaven Look Like?
The Bible gives us several awesome and intriguing glimpses of heaven and God’s glorious throne room.
In Isaiah 6:1-3 Isaiah recorded a vision he had of God’s throne:
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’”
Ezekiel 1:4-28 describes a vision given to Ezekiel of God’s throne in motion, “coming out of the north” and visiting Ezekiel.
“And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it.
“Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around.
“Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking” (Ezekiel 1:26-28).
Revelation 4 is another wondrous description of the throne room of heaven. It is a beautiful, glorious, bustling scene of praise and activity.
Then at the end of the Bible, Revelation 21 and 22 paint the scene of the awesome inheritance God will share with His children, as New Jerusalem comes down to the new earth.