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CHAPTER EIGHT

HEAVENS

THREE HEAVENS

 

There are three basic heavens distinguished in scripture.

THE FIRST HEAVEN is the atmosphere,

where birds fly. (Gen.1:20; Jer.4:25; Mt.8:2O; Acts 10:12; Genesis 2:19; 7:3, 23; Psalms 8:8, etc Lamentations 4:19),

Gen 1:14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night.“

Psalms 78: 23-23 “Yet He had commanded the clouds above, and opened the doors of heaven, had rained down manna on them to eat, and given them of the bread of heaven."

Genesis 7:11-12: “the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the eanh fony days and forty nights."

Genesis 8:2: “The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were also stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained"

Malachi 3:10 “lf I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it."

Deuteronomy 11:17 “Then the LORD's anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce....“

Deuteronomy 28:12: “The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands."

THE SECOND HEAVEN

The next heaven is a level above our atmosphere is the space beyond the atmosphere which goes to the limits of the seen universe where the planets, the stars and the sun and moon are located.(Gen.1:14-18,22:17;Mt.24:29;Rev.6:13)

Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork."

Genesis 1:17: And God placed them in the Firmament of heaven.

Isaiah 40:22: He stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spread them out as a tent to dwell in."

(Psalm 19:4,6) - “ln the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun... It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;...“

The above two are in the visible material realm. Bible refers to a third heaven which is in the unseen realm usually called Spiritual World and the world where God dwell.

 

THIRD HEAVEN

The third heaven is invisible, Acts, 2 Cor.; Eph.;Col. This is where God angels and all the host of heavens dwell

It is called “The heaven of heavens,” because it is beyond the visible heavens (Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; Psalms 115:16; 148:4).

(1 Kings 8:27) - “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you.”

(Psalm 2:4) The One enthroned in heaven laughs; The LORD scoffs at them."

2 Corinthians 12:2-4 “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the Third Heaven.... I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.“

The words "caught up" is in harmony with what we read of Elijah.

Genesis 5:24 Enoch walked with God (On Earth) and he was not (he disappeared) for God took him.

And it says of Elijah that the Lord would take Elijah up into Heaven by a whirlwind and as Elisha and Elijah were walking, a chariot of fire with horses of fire divided the two men, and Elijah was taken up into Heavenly a whirlwind.

2 Kings 2:1-11

And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.  And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into Heaven.

But Jesus affirms that no man hath ascended up to Heaven, but He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of man which is in Heaven. Maybe Enoch and Elijah were taken up to a different level of Heaven than what Jesus spoke of because they retained their body. Their bodies were transformed into undecaying immortal bodies.

Jn. 14:2-4 that he went ahead of us to prepare a place in heaven which is where his father dwells. That where he is we may be also.

“2 Corinthians 12:4 The word “paradise” paradeisos (NT:3808) occurs but three times in the New Testament; Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7. It occurs often in the Septuagint, as the translation of the word garden; Genesis 2:8-10,15-16; 3:1-3,8,16,23-24; 13:10; Numbers 24:6; Isaiah 51:3; Ezekiel 28:13; 31:8-9; Joel 2:3. And also Isaiah 1:30; Jeremiah 29:5; and of the word pardeec (OT:6508) in Nehemiah 2:8; Ecclesiastes 2:5; Song of Solomon 2:13” (from Barnes‘ Notes).

This is the final abode.

However we see that it is in Paul’s description of the “the third heaven" in 2Cor.12:2. That we come across the word Paradise. In vs.4 Paul calls it Paradise. Since it is a world of the spirits and souls without bodies we may assume that this may be separate part of the third heaven.

This concept that it is another place within or next to the third heaven is supported by Gill in his exposition of the Bible

 

 

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

How that he was caught up into paradise,.... Not the earthly paradise in which our first parents were; this was destroyed by the flood, and the place where it was not now to be known; and to what purpose the apostle should be carried thither cannot be guessed at; though some have thought that this is here meant: but not this, nor any place distinct from the "third" heaven, or place of the blessed, is meant; which is the sense of many of the ancients, who suppose the third heaven and paradise to be two distinct places, and that the apostle had two separate raptures.

Clemens Alexandrinus (m), reads the words thus, "l knew a man in Christ caught up to the third heaven, from thence to paradise";

and so

Theophilact upon the place says, "from the third heaven he was immediately called up into paradise";

and so

Oecumenius, "he was caught up unto the third heaven, and so again from thence into paradise"; and some modern writers have been inclined to think there were two raptures, and the rather inasmuch as the apostle is said to be caught "up to" the one, and caught "up into" the other, and makes use of the words "caught up" twice; or otherwise he would be guilty of a tautology, both in that and in repeating his ignorance of the manner of the rapture; to which is added, that he proposed to speak of "visions" and "revelations" in the plural number, 2 Corinthians 12:1,

and afterwards calls this vision an "abundance of revelations", 2 Corinthians 12:7, but as it was at the same time that he was caught up to the third heaven, and into paradise, there being one and the same date of fourteen years ago to both ; ......... .. heaven is called paradise, because as the garden of Eden, which bears that name, was of God's planting, so is this made and prepared by him; as that was a delightful place, so is this; also because of Christ the tree of life, which is in the midst of it, besides an innumerable company of angels, and spirits ofjust men made perfect, the pure and undefiled inhabitants of it; and because of the river of divine love, of endless pleasures, the saints there are made to drink of. It was usual with the Jews to call heaven , "the garden of Eden", or paradise; and

which they (n) sometimes speak of as upper and lower; the lower they suppose the souls of men are introduced into, immediately upon their dissolution; where they stay a while, and then go up to the upper paradise, the world of souls, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are. The Jews ought not to object to the apostle's being had into paradise before his death, for they tell us of several that entered there whilst alive; "nine (they say (0)). , "entered in their life time into the garden of Eden", or paradise; and these are they, Enoch the son of Jared, and Elijah, and the Messiah, and Eliezer the servant of Abraham, and Hiram king of Tyre, and Ebed Melec the Ethiopian, and Jabez the son of Rabbi Judah the prince, and Bethiah the daughter of Pharaoh, and Sarah the daughter of Asher; and there are some that say also (p) Rabbi Joshua ben Levi";and in another place "four , entered into paradise; and these are they, Ben Azzai, and Ben Zoma, another, and R. Akiba;"upon which is (r) added, "they entered into paradise as it were by the hands of God, and they did not ascend up above really, but it seemed to them as if they ascended;' M But others refer to seven heavens

 

SEVEN HEAVENS

‘There are seven heavens:

Vilon, Rakia, Shehakim, Zevul, Ma'on, Makhon, and Aravot.’

(the tractate of Hagigah in the Talmud.)

Read more: http://fon/vard.com/articles/11110/in-seventh-heaven 

[Quran 41.12] So [Allah] decreed them as seven heavens (one above the other) in two days and revealed to each heaven its orders. And We [Allah] adorned the lowest heaven with lights, and protection. Such is the decree of the Exalted; the Knowledgeable.

 Excerpt from the Power New Testament revealing Jewish Roots by William J. Morford

“http://www.biblewheel.com/forum/showthread.php?3O-Seven-Heavens

Heavens is always plural in Hebrew, with seven levels of heaven, noted in Scripture. The names are: Vilon, Rakia, Shechakim, Zevul, Maon, Machon, and Aravot.

 

 

1. Vilon is ‘That stretches out the heavens as a curtain (Vilon), and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in.‘ (Isaiah 40:22) Vilon retires in the morning and comes out in the evening, and renews the work of creation daily. Vilon is the entire universe, going beyond what we can see with telescopes. Vilon is the word for curtain used in the Talmud, but a synonym, doq, pronounced like coke, is the word used in Isaiah 40:22

 

2. Rakia is where ‘God set them in the firmament (Rakia) of the heavens.‘ (Gen 1:17[19]) This is a reference to the stars, sun, moon, and planets: outer space where the various heavenly bodies move in their prescribed orbits and /or maintain relationships in constellations, solar systems, galaxies, etc. Rakia is the pan of the heavens that can be seen.

 

3. Shechakim is from ‘He commanded the skies (shechakim) above and opened the doors of heaven; and He rained down manna upon them to eat.‘ (Psalm 78:23) This is where the millstones are located that grind manna for the righteous. His Word is still miraculously feeding us. Shechakim is the atmosphere.

 

4. Zevul is the location for ‘I have surely built you a house of habitation (Zevul), a place for you to dwell in forever. (1 Kings 8:13 [32]) This is the location of celestial Jerusalem and the temple with the heavenly altar where Michael offers a sacrifice. How do we know that Zevul is this place? Because, ‘Look down from heaven and behold the habitation (Zevul) of Your holiness and Your glory.‘ (Isaiah 63:16)

5. Maon is where ‘The Lord will command His loving kindness in the daytime and in the night his song shall be with Me.‘ (Psalm 42:8) This is where His ministering angels stay, singing in the night. We know that this is heaven because of ‘Look down from your holy habitation (Maon) from heaven.‘ (Deuteronomy 26:15)

 

6. Machon is the location of the storehouses of snow, rain, hail, whirlwinds, storms, etc. ‘The Lord shall open unto you His good treasure...‘ Deuteronomy 28:12 We know that this is heaven because ‘Hear in Heaven, the habitation (Machon) of Your dwelling...‘ (1 Kings 8:39)

 

7. Aravot is that in which are righteousness, judgment, and charity, the storehouses of life, of peace and of blessing, the spirits of the righteous, with which the Lord will hereafter revive the dead. Those living here include the Ophannim, Seraphim, holy Chayyot, the ministering angels, the Throne of Glory, and the King of the Universe. ‘Cast up a highway for Him Who rides upon the clouds (Aravot)’ His name is Yah. (Psalm 68:4) The storehouse of life contains

the force of life for all those yet to be born because when God finished creation (Genesis 2:1)

 

He had made everything that would ever be - including your descendants. The spirits of the righteous are the dead who are sleeping with their fathers.

Notice that the first three represent the universe, the visible night sky and sun, and the atmosphere. These are natural, physical things even when beyond the range of telescopes. Each of the other four levels is both physical and spiritual. Three levels are translated Habitation, but that is not the clue we need. Three levels are populated: Zevul, with the celestial Jerusalem; Maon, with bands of ministering angels; and Aravot, with various heavenly beings, the Throne, and the spirits of the saints. That is probably the level Paul referred to, the third of the populated levels, in 2 Corinthians 12:2 M

 

According to Kabala in order from lowest to highest, the Seven Heavens, Shamayim (n-mu), according to the Talmud, are listed alongside the angels who govern them: Vilon   also called "Araphel": The first Heaven, governed by Archangel Gabriel, is the closest of heavenly realms to the Earth; it is also considered the abode of Adam and Eve.

 

Raqi‘a  ): The second Heaven is dually controlled by Zachariel and Raphael. It was in this Heaven that Moses, during his visit to Paradise, encountered the angel Nuriel who stood "300 parasangs high, with a retinue of 50 myriads of angels all fashioned out of water and fire".

 

Also, Raquia is considered the realm where the fallen angels are imprisoned and the planets fastened.

Shehaqim:   The third Heaven, under the leadership of Anahel, sen/es as the home of the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life; it is also the realm where manna, the holy food of angels, is produced. The Second Book of Enoch, meanwhile, states that both Paradise and Hell are accommodated in Shehaqim with Hell being located simply "on the northern side".

 

Ma‘on:   The fourth Heaven is ruled by the Archangel Michael, and according to

Talmud Hagiga 12, it contains the heavenly Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Altar.

 

Makhon : The fifth Heaven is under the administration of Samael, an angel referred to as evil by some, but who is to others merely a dark servant of God.

 

Zebul : The sixth Heaven falls under the jurisdiction of Sachiel.

 

Araboth: The seventh Heaven, under the leadership of Cassiel, is the holiest of the seven Heavens because it houses the Throne of Glory attended by the Seven Archangels and serves as the realm in which God dwells; underneath the throne itself lies the abode of all unborn human souls. It is also considered the home of the Seraphim, the Cherubim, and the Hayyoth.

See http://www.jewishencyc|opedia.com/view.jsp?artid=1521&letter=A#4364

 

Though this concept of seven heavens is not found in the bible as such, this idea was developed later after the return from exile. Babylonians were probably the first to identify the planetary motion and chart the precise trajectories of the seven visible celestial bodies — the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter.

 

 

 

 

 

Christ is enthroned in heaven surrounded by the ranks of angels and saints. At the bottom is Paradise with the "Bosom of Abraham" (left) and the Good Thief (right).

 

HEAVENS IN OTHER RELIGIONS

ISLAM

Qu'ran, verse 35 of Surah AI-Ra’d says, "The parable of the Garden which the righteous are promised! Beneath it flow rivers. Perpetual is the fruits thereof and the shade therein. Such is the End of the Righteous; and the end of the unbelievers is the Fire."[Quran 13:35]

 

Islam rejects the concept of original sin, and Muslims believe that all human beings are born pure. Children automatically go to heaven when they die, regardless of the religion of their parents.

 

The concept of heaven in Islam differs in many respects to the concept in Judaism and Christianity. Heaven is described primarily in physical terms as a place where every wish is immediately fulfilled when asked. Islamic texts describe immortal life in heaven as happy, without negative emotions. Those who dwell in heaven are said to wear costly apparel, partake in exquisite banquets, and recline on couches inlaid with gold or precious stones. Inhabitants will rejoice in the company of their parents, wives, and children. In Islam if one's good deeds

weigh out one's sins then one may gain entrance to heaven. Conversely, if one's sins outweigh their good deeds they are sent to hell. The more good deeds one has performed the higher the level of heaven one is directed to. It has been said that the lowest level of heaven is one- hundred times better than the greatest life on earth. The highest level is the seventh heaven.

 

Palaces are built by angels for the occupants using solid gold.

Verses which describe heaven include: Quran 13:35, Quran 18:31, Quran38:49—54, Quran 35:33-35, Quran 52:17-27.

The Qur’an mentions seven heavens of Jannah:

‘See you not how Allah has created the seven heavens one above another, and made the moon a light in their midst, and made the sun a Lamp?’ (Surat Nuh, Verses 15—16)

 

Islamic texts refer to several levels of heaven:

1. Firdaus (Paradise)

2. Adn

3. Na’iim

4. Na‘wa

5. Darussalaam

6. Daarul Muaqaamah

7. Al-Muqqamul Amin

8. Khuldi (Dhunya - world)

Firdaus  In the Qur'an it is stated that Firdaus (Paradise) is the highest level and the most centered part of Jannah where the prophets, the martyrs and the most truthful and pious people will dwell. It is said that their palaces and castles are made of diamonds and gold. Jannah  is the Islamic word for paradise or heaven, Jannah means ‘Garden’. In Muslim belief, everything one longs for in this world, will be there in Paradise. In contrast to Jannah, the words Jahannam and Nar refer to the concept of hell.

 

The Qur'an states: ‘Verily, those who believe in the Oneness of Allah and do righteous deeds, shall have Gardens of Al-Firdaus(Paradise) for their entertainment.’ (Surat 18, Verse 107).

 

The lowest level of creation is Dunyah, which covers the known universe and all within it. The highest level is the seventh heaven, in which God can be seen and where anything is possible.

 

The parable of the Garden which the righteous are promised!- beneath it flow rivers: perpetual is the enjoyment there of and the shade therein: such is the end of the Righteous; and the end of Unbelievers in the Fire.(Quran013.035)

“Al-Janna “The Garden”: A Muslim Vision Of Paradise

http://www.siskiyous.edu/class/engl12/studentwork/mike/islamic.htm

 

Al-Janna is well documented in the Qur'an as the eternal reward for those who serve Allah, do good, endure, etc ("Comparative |ndex"). In fact, the Qur'an gives far more physical details about its Paradise than the Bible does about its Heaven: the Qur'an cites eight levels of Paradise, most gardens of some form or another, and it describes reclining couches, abundant fruits, food, spring water, goblets of silver, and so on ("Comparative lndex"). But the currently popular "knowledge" of Al-Janna in our Christian dominated society involves martyrs receiving

virgins. But this idea does not come from the Qur'an; it is from the from the Hadith."

 

 

It appears that the Quran itself describe this idea of reward in the following verses Koran 78:31 As for the righteous, they shall surely triumph. Theirs shall be gardens and vineyards, and high- bosomed virgins for companions: a truly overflowing cup.

Koran 37:40-48 ...They will sit with bashful, dark-eyed virgins, as chaste as the sheltered eggs of ostriches.

Koran 44:51-55 ...Yes and We shall wed them to dark-eyed houris. (beautiful virgins)

Koran 52:17-20 ...They shall recline on couches ranged in rows. To dark-eyed houris (virgins) we shall wed them...

Koran 55:56-57 In them will be bashful virgins neither man nor Jinn will have touched before.Then which of the favours of your Lord will you deny ?"

Koran 55:57-58 Virgins as fair as corals and rubies. Then which of the favours of your Lord will you deny ?"

Koran 56:7-40...We created the houris (the beautiful women) and made them virgins, loving companions for those on the right hand.. "

 

Koran 55:70-77 "ln each there shall be virgins chaste and fair... Dark eyed virgins sheltered in their tents whom neither man nor Jin will have touched before..

In the Hadiths, Mohammed goes one step further and expands the promise of virgins to include a free sex market where there is no limit of the number of sexual partners. Women and young boys are on display as if in a fruit market where you can choose the desired ripeness.

Al Hadis, Vol. 4, p. 172, No. 34 Ali reported that the Apostle of Allah said, "There is in Paradise a market wherein there will be no buying or selling, but will consist of men and women. When a man desires a beauty, he will have intercourse with them."

Apparently Hadith extends it even to homosexuality.

But then Hadith is simply tradition and cannot be the norm. It is only folklore.

The idea presented in the Quran of Paradise is certainly one of sensual pleasures with human bodies and material prosperity.

 

AHMADIYYA

According to the Ahmadiyya view, much of the imagery presented in the Qur'an regarding heaven, but also hell, is in fact metaphorical. They propound the verse which describes, according to them how the life to come after death is very different to the life here on earth.

 

The Quran says: “From bringing in your place others like you, and from developing you into a form which at present you know not."[Quran 56:62] According to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of Ahmadiyya sect in Islam, the soul will give birth to another rarer entity and will resemble the life on this earth in the sense that this entity will bear a similar relationship to the soul, as the soul bears relationship with the human existence on earth.

We will raise you into a form of which you have not the slightest knowledge. Surah AI-Waqiah (Ch. 56: V.62)

 

The human being not only has a body, but also has a 'spirit' given to him or her by God. The spirit is the seed from which a higher form of life grows within man, higher than physical life, just as the body has developed from a small 'seed'. Just as in the world around us higher forms of life evolve from lower ones, similarly from the life of the individual in this world is evolved his higher ‘spiritual’ life. During his life, man's deeds shape and mould his spirit, for better or worse, according to his deeds. When a person dies, the physical body is finished, but

the spirit remains, as he or she had moulded it by their deeds when alive. That is the life after death.

 

Heaven and hell are not actual places somewhere in the universe, but really our inner conditions or the condition of the spirit resulting from our deeds. Heaven and hell begin in this life within a person's heart.

 

The exact nature of these things cannot be known in this world because they are in an entirely different world where ours ideas of space, time, feelings, etc. do not apply. But to describe them to us, physical terms have to be used such as "gardens and rivers" in paradise, and the "fire" of hell, to give an idea of what they feel like.

 

BAHA‘l FAITH

 

The Baha'i Faith regards the conventional description of heaven (and hell) as a specific place as symbolic. The Baha'i writings describe heaven as a "spiritual condition" where closeness to God is defined as heaven; conversely hell is seen as a state of remoteness from God.

 

Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha‘i Faith, has stated that the nature of the life of the soul in the afterlife is beyond comprehension in the physical plane, but has stated that the soul will retain its consciousness and individuality and remember its physical life; the soul will be able to recognize other souls and communicate with them.

 

For Baha'is, entry into the next life has the potential to bring great joy. Baha'u'llah likened death to the process of birth. He explains: "The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother." The analogy to the womb in many ways summarizes the Baha'i view of earthly existence: just as the womb constitutes an important place for a person‘s initial physical development, the physical world provides for the development of the individual soul. Accordingly, Baha'is view life as a preparatory stage, where one can develop and perfect those qualities which will be needed in

the next life. The key to spiritual progress is to follow the path outlined by the current Manifestation of God, which Baha'is believe is currently Baha'u'llah. Baha'u'llah wrote, "Know thou, of a truth, that if the soul of man hath walked in the ways of God, it will, assuredly return and be gathered to the glory of the Beloved."

 

The Baha'i teachings state that there exists a hierarchy of souls in the afterlife, where the merits of each soul determines their place in the hierarchy, and that souls lower in the hierarchy cannot completely understand the station of those above. Each soul can continue to progress in the afterlife, but the soul's development is not entirely dependent on its own conscious efforts, the nature of which we are not aware, but also augmented by the grace of God, the prayers of others, and good deeds performed by others on Earth in the name of that person.

 

BUDDHISM

In the original early Buddhist teaching, there is no continuity in personality. The Soul, the ego of person is destroyed when a person die and the parts of all the structure, body, soul and spirit go back their primal elements. What is reborn is a total recycled being. These beings as long as they live create their own heavens or hells. They don't go beyond their life time either.

 

There are several dimensions of life and existence. Each with their own life form and reincarnations. According to Buddhist cosmology the universe is impermanent and beings transmigrate through a number of existential "planes" in which this human world is only one "realm" or "path".

But this first teachings of Buddha had undergone changes under various later influences including the Greek, Christian and Islamic teachings.

 

TIBETAN BUDDHISM

There are 5 major types of heavens.

1. Akanishtha or Ghanavyiiha

This is the most supreme heaven wherein beings that have achieved Nirvana live for eternity.

2. Heaven of the Jinas

3. Heavens of Formless Spirits. These are 4 in number.

4. Brahmaloka. These are 16 in number, and are free from sensuality.

5. Devaloka. These are 6 in number, and contain sensuality.

JAINISM

The shape of the Universe as described in Jainism is shown alongside. Unlike the current convention of using North direction as the top of map, this uses South as the top. The shape is similar to a part of human form standing upright.

The Deva Loka (Heavens) are at the symbolic "chest", where all souls enjoying the positive karmic effects reside. The heavenly beings are referred to as devas (masculine form) and devis (feminine form). According to Jainism, there is not one heavenly abode, but several layers to reward appropriately the souls of varying degree of karmit merits. Similarly, beneath the "waist" are the Narka Loka (Hell). Human, animal, insect, plant and microscopic life forms reside on the middle.

 

The pure souls (who reached Siddha status) reside at the very south end (top) of the Universe

 

CHINESE FAITHS

In the native Chinese Confucian traditions Heaven (Tian) is an important concept, where the ancestors reside and from which emperors drew their mandate to rule in their dynastic propaganda, for example.

 

Heaven is a key concept in Chinese mythology, philosophies and religions, and is on one end of the spectrum a synonym of Shangdi ("Supreme Deity") and on the other naturalistic end, a synonym for nature and the sky. The Chinese term for Heaven, Tian (75), derives from the name of the supreme deity of the Zhou Dynasty. After their conquest of the Shang Dynasty in 1122 BC, the Zhou people considered their supreme deity Tian to be identical with the Shang supreme deity Shangdi. The Zhou people attributed Heaven with anthropomorphic attributes,

evidenced in the etymology of the Chinese character for Heaven or sky, which originally depicted a person with a large cranium. Heaven is said to see, hear and watch over all men.

 

Heaven is affected by man's doings, and having personality, is happy and angry with them. Heaven blesses those who please it and sends calamities upon those who offend it. Heaven was also believed to transcend all other spirits and gods, with Confucius asserting, "He who offends against Heaven has none to whom he can pray".

 

Other philosophers born around the time of Confucius such as Mozi took an even more theistic view of Heaven, believing that Heaven is the divine ruler, just as the Son of Heaven (the King of Zhou) is the earthly ruler. Mozi believed that spirits and minor gods exist, but their function is merely to carry out the will of Heaven, watching for evil-doers and punishing them. Thus they function as angels of Heaven and do not detract from its monotheistic government of the world.

With such a high monotheism, it is not surprising that Mohism championed a concept called "universal love" (jian'ai,  which taught that Heaven loves all people equally and that each person should similarly love all human beings without distinguishing between his own relatives and those of others. In Mozi's Will of Heaven (XE), he writes:

"l know Heaven loves men dearly not without reason. Heaven ordered the sun, the moon, and the stars to enlighten and guide them. Heaven ordained the four seasons, Spring, Autumn, Winter, and Summer, to regulate them. Heaven sent down snow, frost, rain, and dew to grow the five grains and flax and silk that so the people could use and enjoy them. Heaven established the hills and rivers, ravines and valleys, and arranged many things to minister to man's good or bring him evil. He appointed the dukes and lords to reward the virtuous and punish the wicked, and to gather metal and wood, birds and beasts, and to engage in cultivating the five grains and flax and silk to provide for the people's food and clothing. This has been so from antiquity to the present." Mozi, Will of Heaven, Chapter 27, Paragraph 6, ca. 5th Century BC

 

Mozi criticized the Confucians of his own time for not following the teachings of Confucius. By the time of the later Han Dynasty, however, under the influence of Xunzi, the Chinese concept of Heaven and Confucianism itself had become mostly naturalistic, though some Confucians argued that Heaven was where ancestors reside. Worship of Heaven in China continued with the erection of shrines, the last and greatest being the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, and the

offering of prayers. The ruler of China in every Chinese dynasty would perform annual sacrificial rituals to Heaven, usually by slaughtering two healthy bulls as sacrifice.

 

HINDUISM

 

Attaining heaven is not the final pursuit in Hinduism as heaven itself is ephemeral and related to physical body. Being tied by the bhoot-tatvas, heaven cannot be perfect either and is just another name for pleasurable and mundane material life.

 

According to Hindu cosmology, above the earthly plane, are other planes:

(1) Bhuva Loka, (2) Swarga Loka, meaning Good Kingdom, is the general name for heaven in Hinduism, a heavenly paradise of pleasure, where most of the Hindu Devatas (Deva) reside along with the king of Devas, Indra, and beatified mortals.

Some other planes are Mahar Loka, Jana Loka, Tapa Loka and Satya Loka. Since heavenly abodes are also tied to the cycle of birth and death, any dweller of heaven or hell will again be recycled to a different plane and in a different

form as per the karma and "maya" i.e. the illusion of Samsara. This cycle is broken only by self-realization by the Jivatma. This self-realization is Moksha (Turiya, Kaivalya).

 

The concept of moksha is unique to Hinduism and is unparalleled. Moksha stands for liberation from the cycle of birth and death and final communion with Brahman. With moksha, a liberated soul attains the stature and oneness with Brahman or Pramatma. Different schools such as Vedanta, Mimansa, Sankhya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, and Yoga offer subtle differences in the concept of Brahman, obvious Universe, its genesis and regular destruction, Jivatma, Nature

(Prakriti) and also the right way in attaining perfect bliss or moksha.

 

In the Vaishnava traditions the highest heaven is Vaikuntha, which exists above the six heavenly lokas and outside of the mahat-tattva or mundane world. It's where eternally liberated souls who have attained moksha reside in eternal sublime beauty with Lakshmi and Narayana (a manifestation of Vishnu).

 

 

MESOAMERICAN RELIGIONS

The Nahua people such as the Aztecs, Chichimecs and the Toltecs believed that the heavens were constructed and separated into 13 levels. Each level had from one to many Lords living in and ruling these heavens. Most important of these heavens was Omeyocan (Place of Two).

 

The thirteen heavens were ruled by Ometeotl, the dual Lord, creator of the Dual-Genesis who, as male, takes the name Ometecuhtli (Two Lord), and as female is named Omecihuatl (Two Lady)

 

Polynesia

In the creation myths of Polynesian mythology are found various concepts of the heavens and the underworld. These differ from one island to another. What they share is the view of the universe as an egg or coconut that is divided between the world of humans (earth), the upper world of heavenly gods, and the underworld. Each of these is subdivided in a manner reminiscent of Dante's Divine Comedy, but the number of divisions and their names differs

from one Polynesian culture to another.

 

Maori

In Maori mythology, the heavens are divided into a number of realms. Different tribes number the heaven differently, with as few as two and as many as fourteen levels. One of the more common versions divides heaven thus:

1. Kiko-rangi, presided over by the god Toumau

2. Waka-maru, the heaven of sunshine and rain

3. Nga-roto, the heaven of lakes where the god Maru rules

4. Hau-ora, where the spirits of newborn children originate

5. Nga-Tauira, home of the servant gods

6. Nga-atua, which is ruled over by the hero Tawhaki

7. Autoia, where human souls are created

8. Aukumea, where spirits live

9. Wairua, where spirit gods live while waiting on those in

10. Naherangi or Tuwarea, where the great gods live presided over by Rehua

The Maori believe these heavens are supported by pillars. Other Polynesian peoples see them being supported by gods (as in Hawai'i). In one Tahitian legend, heaven is supported by an octopus.

 

I

An 1869 illustration by a Tuomatuan chief portraying nine heavens.

The Polynesian conception of the universe and its division is nicely illustrated by a famous drawing made by a Tuomotuan chief in 1869. Here, the nine heavens are further divided into left and right, and each stage is associated with a stage in the evolution of the earth that is portrayed below. The lowest division represents a period when the heavens hung low over the earth, which was inhabited by animals that were not known to the islanders. In the third division is shown the first murder, the first burials, and the first canoes, built by Rata. In the fourth division, the first coconut tree and other significant plants are born

 

THEOSOPHY

It is believed in Theosophy of Helena Blavatsky that each religion (including Theosophy) has its own individual Heaven in various regions of the upper astral plane that fits the description of that Heaven that is given in each religion, which a soul that has been good in their previous life on Earth will go to. The area of the upper astral plane of Earth in the upper atmosphere where the various Heavens are located is called Summerland (Theosophists believe Hell is located in the lower astral plane of Earth which extends downward from the surface of the earth down to its center). However, Theosophists believe that the soul is recalled back to Earth after an average of about 1400 years by the Lords of Karma to incarnate again. The final Heaven that souls go to billions of years in the future after they finish their cycle of incarnations is called Devachan

 

Except for the Semitic religions, there never was a concept of God as who is involved in the redemption of Mankind and in general the redemption of the whole creation. All other religions hold that for every action the sentient beings receive their due reward, those who build up the creation will be rewarded and those who pull down will be punished in accordance with their works. This is the law of Karma — the physical law of cause and effect. While Islam rely on the

mercy of God as a good luck chance, Judaism has the concept of Mesiahnic World to Come which was essentially a political hope of salvation. Only in Christianity we see a God who cares enough to die for His creation. This gives the ultimate new concept of redemption and requirement of every being to serve one another and die for one another. The greatest in the Kingdom of God is the one who serves the most and God is just that. No other religion defines God as Love. Love is giving oneself. “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son", “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us," and God demands that we lay down our lives for the brethren.

 

God with his love will redeem all of his creation.

Revelation 21 1-5

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. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor

crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.“ And He said to me,

“Write, for these words are true and faithful."

 

God does it all in love. In His love He ordained death. Bible tells us that after death believers‘ souls are taken to heaven, because their sins are forgiven by having received Christ as Savior (John 3:16, 18, 36). For believers, death is to be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8;Philippians 1:23). And when the time is ripe Jesus will come back to earth and the souls of the believers will come with him and they will be given undecaying bodies. 1Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17describe believers being

resurrected and given glorified bodies. At the resurrection of believers, the physical body is resurrected, glorified, and then reunited with the soul/spirit. This reunited and glorified body- soul-spirit will be the new creation man.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleeps in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ

shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.