A Reader Has a Question About How God Can be “in Heaven”

A Reader Has a Question About How God Can be “in Heaven” December 4, 2015

He writes:

I have enjoyed your writing, and I like its clarity. Recently I have been pondering something that puzzles me. How can the Father by “in” Heaven? Whatever Heaven is, it does not exist before the Father. The Father does not have a body which could be within some created space.

What can this mean?

My only straw to grasp at is that it simply means “not my Father on Earth.” What do you think?

All of our language about God is, by necessity, analogous.  We cannot say what God *is*, only what he is *like*.  We have to draw from our sensory experience to speak of Him who is entirely beyond our senses.  So we speak of God being “in heaven” to communicate such things as purity, light, transcendence, glory, ineffability, joy, bliss, majesty, awe, power, mystery, beauty, power, order, and all the other things that go with our sensory experiences of the day and night sky.

“Heaven” was, for the ancients, a polyvalent word that included both “the physical sky” and “the spiritual realms”.  Indeed, for the NT writers, there is not just “heaven” but “the heavens”.  Paul, for instance, speaks of being taken up into the “third heaven” (2 Cor 12:2) and remarks that “the heavenlies” are not merely a place where God dwells, but also a place of warfare with “powers and principalities” and with “spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places” (Eph 6). Likewise, Rev 12 speaks, not of war between heaven and hell, but of “war in heaven”. This is a very different concept of heaven than we are accustomed to.  It appears to be more like a universe built like a skyscraper with multiple “floors” than a two floor house.  The intervening floors between earth and the “place” where God “dwell” seem to be, if you will, other created natures in which are “cherubim, seraphim, thrones, dominations, virtues, principalities, powers, archangels, and angels”.  But the language of Jesus is intended to communicate the glory of God “in the highest heaven”, not to say that God is a body occupying space.

St. Thomas looks at the question here.

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  • Dan’l Danehy-Oakes

    The brilliant, but weird, theologian and novelist Charles Williams suggests that we sometimes alter our saying of the Lord’s Prayer to say, “Our Father, in Whom is Heaven.”

    God is in Heaven because Heaven is, by definition, wherever God is. Hell, by analogy, is where God is not. When we die, we will find that our life here was the beginning of Heaven — or Hell — depending on what we make of it.