But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God”. (Acts 7: 55, 56)
The universe in which God has placed us, consists of three dimensions of time (past, present, & future) and three dimensions of space (height, depth, & width). Everything in our physical universe is made up of three in one structures reflecting the presence of the Triune God at creation.
Because we were created by God to live in a three dimensional world it is difficult for us to conceive life in another dimension. Do you sometimes wonder where heaven is? God does not specifically tell us. The Bible often refers to the heavens as being above us and hell beneath us. That makes sense to us because when we look up to the “heavens” we see beauty and when we dig down below the soil we find black dirt, mud and clay.
Have you ever stopped to think that heaven is maybe right beside you or all around you – that if you had the power to see it, you could just step into it and be in a different world? Maybe that idea is not so far from wrong.
Do you know the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus? On this particular day after Jesus death and resurrection, two of his disciples were walking together on the way to the village of Emmaus. As they were walking and discussing all that had happened, Jesus came up and walked beside them, but they were kept from recognizing him (Luke 24:16). He walked all the way to their destination with them, but they did not know it was Jesus until they sat down to eat together. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight (Luke 24:30, 31)
Do you remember how on the first Easter morning Jesus met Mary Magdala at his empty tomb? She saw him but thought he was the gardener. She did not recognize him until he said her name “Mary”. She cried out “Rabonni” which means “teacher” (John 20: 16). Then in verse 17 Jesus said to her, do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell
them, I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.
Do you remember how the angels appeared to the shepherds the night Jesus was born? In Luke 2:9 we read, An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them… and then in verse 13… Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.
And there is the story of Elisha when the king of Aram in a rage surrounded the city of Dothan to take him captive because Elisha had warned the King of Israel of the King of Aram’s presence time and time again, saving Israel from his hands. When Elisha’s servant went out early in the morning and saw that they were surrounded by the king of Aram and all his chariots and horsemen, he was terrified. He said to Elisha, Oh my lord, what shall we do? Elisha answered, don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them. Elisha prayed; O Lord, open his eyes so he may see. Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. ( 2Kings 6:15-17)
There are many, many more instances in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments where God reveals to us that He Himself and His holy angels were all around His people and they still are around us today. They are right by our side every step we take. We are just not permitted to see them in our human state.
I will never forget the story told me by my mother after the death of my nephew. He was 2 years old and dying of cancer. The family took turns staying with him to give his parents a break. Mom was with him at the end. She bent over him to talk to him and he reached out his hands to touch her face saying, “sunshine”. Did he, like Stephen see heaven at that point? We will never know for sure in this life, but it is a very definite possibiltiy that he did. It is also possible that he was seeing the angels preparing to carry him over the threshold from this life to the next.
Heaven is not some far distant and difficult to reach place. Heaven is all around us. It is another dimension which we cannot see with our human eyes. We are surrounded by it everyday and on the day when God calls each of us home, he will open our eyes so that we will be able to see it. It will be like putting on 3D glasses at the movie theater. We will not just feel like we are are part of the picture (as in the movie theater). We will actually be there. We will see for ourselves the glory of God, and the mansions Jesus has prepared for all who love Him and are connected to Him by faith.
I know a man in Christ who…was caught up to the third heaven.I know that this man…was caught up to paradise. (2Corinthians 12: 2-4)