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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Heaven

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the place of the more immediate residence of the Most High, Genesis 14:19 . The Jews enumerated three heavens: the first was the region of the air, where the birds fly, and which are therefore called "the fowls of heaven," Job 35:11 . It is in this sense also that we read of the dew of heaven, the clouds of heaven, and the wind of heaven. The second is that part of space in which are fixed the heavenly luminaries, the sun, moon, and stars, and which Moses was instructed to call "the firmament or expanse of heaven," Genesis 1:8 . The third heaven is the seat of God and of the holy angels; the place into which Christ ascended after his resurrection, and into which St. Paul was caught up, though it is not like the other heavens perceptible to mortal view.

2. It is an opinion not destitute of probability, that the construction of the tabernacle, in which Jehovah dwelt by a visible symbol, termed "the cloud of glory," was intended to be a type of heaven. In the holiest place of the tabernacle, "the glory of the Lord," or visible emblem of his presence, rested between the cherubims; by the figures of which, the angelic host surrounding the throne of God in heaven was typified; and as that holiest part of the tabernacle was, by a thick vail, concealed from the sight of those who frequented it for the purposes of worship, so heaven, the habitation of God, is, by the vail of flesh, hidden from mortal eyes. Admitting the whole tabernacle, therefore, in which the worship of God was performed according to a ritual of divine appointment, to be a representation of the universe, we are taught by it this beautiful lesson, that the whole universe is the temple of God; but that in this vast temple there is "a most holy place," where the Deity resides and manifests his presence to the angelic hosts and redeemed company who surround him. This view appears to be borne out by the clear and uniform testimony of Scripture,; and it is an interesting circumstance, that heaven, as represented by "the holiest of all," is heaven as it is presented to the eye of Christian faith, the place where our Lord ministers as priest, to which believers now come in spirit, and where they are gathered together in the disembodied state. Thus, for instance, St. Paul tells the believing Hebrews, "Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written," or are enrolled, "in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel,"

Hebrews 12:22-24 . Here we are presented with the antitype of almost every leading circumstance of the Mosaic dispensation. Instead of the land of Canaan, we have heaven; for the earthly Jerusalem, we have the heavenly, the city of the living God; in place of the congregation of Israel after the flesh, we have the general assembly and church of the first-born, that is, all true believers "made perfect;" for just men in the imperfect state of the old dispensation, we have just men made perfect in evangelical knowledge and holiness; instead of Moses, the mediator of the old covenant, we have Jesus the Mediator of the new and everlasting covenant; and instead of the blood of slaughtered animals, which was sprinkled upon the Israelites, the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, to make a typical atonement, we have the blood of the Son of God, which was shed for the remission of the sins of the whole world; that blood which doth not, like the blood of Abel, call for vengeance but for mercy, which hath made peace between heaven and earth, effected the true and complete atonement for sin, and which therefore communicates peace to the conscience of every sinner that believes the Gospel.

3. Among the numerous refinements of modern times, that is one of the most remarkable which goes to deny the locality of heaven. "It is a state," say many, "not a place." But if that be the case, the very language of the Scriptures, in regard to this point, is calculated to mislead us. For that God resides in a particular part of the universe, where he makes his presence known to his intelligent creatures by some transcendent, visible glory, is an opinion that has prevailed among Jews and Christians, Greeks and Romans, yea, in every nation, civilized or savage, and in every age; and, since it is confirmed by revelation, why should it be doubted? Into this most holy place, the habitation of the Deity, Jesus, after his resurrection, ascended; and there, presenting his crucified body before the manifestation of the divine presence, which is called "the throne of the Majesty in the heavens," he offered unto God the sacrifice of himself, and made atonement for the sins of his people. There he is sat down upon his throne, crowned with glory and honour, as king upon his holy hill of Zion, and continually officiates as our great High Priest, Advocate, and Intercessor, within the vail. There is his Father's house, into which he is gone before, to prepare mansions of bliss for his disciples; it is the kingdom conferred upon him as the reward of his righteousness, and of which he has taken possession as their forerunner, Acts 1:11 ; Hebrews 6:19-20 .

4. Some of the ancients imagined that the habitation of good men, after the resurrection, would be the sun; grounding this fanciful opinion on a mistaken interpretation of Psalms 19:4 , which they rendered, with the LXX and Vulgate, "He has set his tabernacle in the sun." Others, again, have thought it to lie beyond the starry firmament, a notion less improbable than the former. Mr. Whiston supposes the air to be the mansion of the blessed, at least for the present; and he imagines that Christ is at the top of the atmosphere, and other spirits nearer to or more remote from him according to the degree of their moral purity, to which he conceives the specific gravity of their inseparable vehicles to be proportionable. Mr. Hallet has endeavoured to prove that they will dwell upon earth, when it shall be restored to its paradisaical state. The passages of Scripture, however, on which he grounds his hypothesis, are capable of another and very different interpretation. After all, we may observe, that the place of the blessed is a question of comparatively little importance; and we may cheerfully expect and pursue it, though we cannot answer a multitude of curious questions, relating to various circumstances that pertain to it. We have reason to believe that heaven will be a social state, and that its happiness will, in some measure, arise from mutual communion and converse, and the expressions and exercises of mutual benevolence. All the views presented to us of this eternal residence of good men are pure and noble; and form a striking contrast to the low hopes, and the gross and sensual conceptions of a future state, which distinguish the Pagan and Mohammedan systems. The Christian heaven may be described to be a state of eternal communion with God, and consecration to hallowed devotional and active services; from which will result an uninterrupted increase of knowledge, holiness, and joy, to the glorified and immortalized assembly of the redeemed.


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Heaven'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/h/heaven.html. 1831-2.

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Thursday, December 5th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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