HEAVEN and the HEAVENLIES
BY: JONATHAN MITCHELL
FEBRUARY 8, 2004
Now immediately after the pressure (squeezing; affliction) of those days, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give her radiating glow; and the stars will fall from the heaven and the abilities (the powers) of the heavens will be shaken.
And then the sign (signal; portent; omen; ensign; mark; token) of the Son of man will be brought to light and made visible within the heaven;
And then all the tribes of the land will grieve, and they will see the Son of man progressively going (or: coming) upon the clouds of the heaven, with ability (power) and much of that which calls forth praise (glory).
And He will send forth His agents (messengers) as apostles with a voice of a great trumpet; and they will fully gather together His chosen ones (His selected and picked out ones; His elected ones) from out of the four winds: from extreme points of [the] heavens, even to their extremities! Matt. 24:29-31 (my trans.)
A parallel passage in Mark 13:27 reads: … from an extremity of earth even to an extremity of heaven.
Setting aside questions of whether we should take a futurist view or a preterist view of this passage, I would like to consider the Lord’s use of the word “heaven” in this context.
Vs. 29 speaks first of the “heaven” which contains stars, and aside from a figurative interpretation this would seem to indicate the sky or the universe of space. Then it goes on to speak of the abilities (or, powers) of the heavens. But just what are these abilities (or, powers)? Here we often fill in the blanks with our own imaginations.
Vs. 30 speaks of the sign of the Son of man (Mark’s passage does not use the word “sign,” but simply, … they will see the Son of man progressively coming within clouds…) upon the clouds of the heaven (I like to bring in Nah. 1:3 at this point, where it says … the clouds are the DUST of His FEET.) What heaven is this? It is a heaven with clouds. Then is He referring to “the heaven” being the sky? Or is all this metaphor?
Then we have the “heavens” where His chosen ones are dwelling (or, existing) in vs. 31. Mark’s version has them in the extremity of land (earth) as well as of heaven. But these heavens are associated with the “four winds.” So which heavens are these?
I suggest that these verses are using apocalyptic language, just as the rest of ch. 24 does. I suggest that these are all metaphors. “Four winds” and “extremities” mean from all directions and the farthest corner of the land. But what about the term “heaven(s)”? Are the agents which He sends out as apostles those who live in the world of spirit, or are they those who are “raised up and seated together within the heavenlies within Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6)? The word “heavenlies” is the word “heaven” with the prefix attached. means “upon” when used by itself, and can carry this meaning when used as a prefix, but can also carry the sense of full or complete, e.g. means full or complete intimate and experiential knowledge. Or, this prefix can give the sense of being superimposed upon something.
The context of Eph. 2:6 is that of being seated (or enthroned) together within Christ. This, I suggest, is giving the sense of ruling over the heavens, and everything below them. Superimposed upon the fullness of the heavens.
But first, let’s consider how the word “heaven” is used, to find its Scriptural meaning. Is heaven a place, as tradition has taught us, or is it a sphere or plane of existence, or is it sometimes a metaphor for that which exists above or higher than the earth? Is it a figure for what is above, while earth is a figure for what is below?
Young gives the meaning of the Heb. (shamayim/shemayin) “heaven” as: “heaved up things.” For the Gr. ouranos he gives: “heaven, sky, air.” But let’s take our understanding from how these words are used for something other than “the sky,” which is often more a point of reference or contrast, and often used as a metaphor.
The heaven [is] My throne, yet the earth [is] a footstool of My feet. Heb. 7:49
Is this an ontological saying about the existence of heaven or His throne? Or is it an analogy by way of contrast? Is heaven a figure for the realm of His rule? Is earth a figure for that over which He rules – is under His feet? … you shall know that the heavens do rule. Dan. 4:26
We see in Gen. 1:1 that “the heavens” are part of the creation. Then in vs. 6-8, Become shall an atmosphere in the midst of the water, and becoming is a separation between water and water… And calling is the Elohim to the atmosphere, “heavens” (heaved up things, or heaved up ones). (Concordant OT)
In vs. 9 note that the water flows together “from under the heavens to one place.” This results in the appearing of dry land. Note in vs. 8 that “the heavens” (atmosphere) came to have water above it, after the separation of the waters to those above the heavens and those under the heavens. Is this the first figure of two different callings; the high call being figured by the waters (often a figure of people) above the heavens (the “upon-heavens,” or “the heavenlies”), and the calling which is to be governed by the heavens? Recall that Paul spoke of both “upon-the-heavens” bodies and “upon-the-earth (land)” bodies in I Cor. 15:40, and that these have “different” glories. Then in vs. 42 he said, “and THUS is the standing-back-up-again (resurrection) of the dead ones.”
Back to Gen. 1, vs. 14-15 speak of the luminaries “in the atmosphere of the heavens, to give light on the earth.”
The intelligent shall warn as the warning of the atmosphere, and those justifying the many are as the stars for the eon and further. (Dan. 12:3, Concordant OT)
But the Teachers will shine like Lights in space; and those who have led many to righteousness, like Stars for ever and ever (Ferrar Fenton trans.)
And those teaching do shine as the brightness of the expanse, and those justifying the multitudes as stars to the age and for ever (Young)
Can you see a correlation here? I think that those “justifying the many” are those who are bringing the multitudes into “the Way pointed out,” into a “right-wised relationship of fair and equitable dealings.”
Now with the thought of these being “teachers,” The heavens are recounting the glory of El, And the atmosphere is telling the work of His hands. Day after day is uttering a saying, And night after night is disclosing knowledge. (Ps. 19:1-2, Concordant OT)
In Gen. 1:20, Elohim is saying “Roam shall the water with the roaming, living soul; and the flyer shall fly over the earth on the face of the atmosphere of the heavens.” Once again we see a contrast of the two realms. This contrast is repeated all through the Scriptures.
The next place that the heavens is mentioned is in Gen. 6:17, And I, behold Me bringing a deluge of water over the earth (land) to wreck all flesh, which has in it the spirit of the living, from under the heavens. All that is in the earth (land) shall expire. (Concordant OT; my additions: the Heb. erets can be translated either “land” or “earth”) Note that Noah’s group floated “upon” the waters, another figure of the high call.
It is interesting to observe that in Gen. 11:4 that those at Babel wanted to build a tower “with its head in the heavens” (Concordant). This speaks to me of being an imitation of the called-out assembly (His body) which also has its Head “in the heavens.” This, of course, corresponds both in name and character with the Babylon of Rev. 17.
Now thus far in our study, “the heavens” can be seen as either the sky and the natural atmosphere, or figuratively as that which is above, which rules, and which brings light (teaching) and judgment.
The term “heavens” is used only once in the book of Leviticus, in 26:19, in regard to punishment (vs. 18), I will break the pomp of your strength and make your heavens like iron and your land like copper. (CVOT: Concordant OT)
The figure of “hard times” is confirmed in the context of the passage, but note that it was “their” heavens that were turned to judgment rather than blessings. The “heavens” were related to them. Literally it would have involved the skies not bringing rain (“breaking the staff of bread” in vs. 26). But the term here applied specifically to their “world” and their “lives.”
It was used to describe high walls in Deut. 1:28, “… a people greater and taller than we, cities large and walled-up into the heavens…” (Roth.)
Then you approached and stood below the mountain, when the mountain was consumed with fire unto the heart of the heavens… and Yahweh spoke to you from the midst of the fire… (Deut. 4:11-12, CVOT)
Yahweh was in the heart of the heavens when He was there on Mt. Sinai. This picture parallels John 3:13, “And no one has ascended into heaven except He Who descends out of heaven, the Son of Mankind Who IS IN HEAVEN.” This was where Jesus was, as He ministered upon the earth. Now isn’t this a picture of heaven!
But now let’s go back to Deut. 4:19, where we see a “natural” description of the heavens, … lest you should lift up your eyes toward the heavens, and you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the hosts of heaven, and be induced to bow yourself down to them… (CVOT) yet in Joseph’s dream, the sun and the moon and the stars were figures of the rulers of Israel (Gen. 37:9-10).
Deut. 4:32 uses our term in a phrase that calls to mind Matt. 24:31, above. Here He is speaking of “from the day that Elohim created humanity on earth,” and from one end of the heavens unto the other end of the heavens: Has the reoccurred anything like this great thing, or has anything been heard like it? I think we could agree that the word is being used idiomatically here, as in Matt. 24:31.
In regard to Israel following the words of Yahweh, it was “so that your days are multiplied… as the days of the heavens on the earth.” (Deut. 11:21, Young) An interesting thought. Was this an analogy showing great length, or showing quality?
Again Deut. uses the term parallel to Matt. 24:31. In ch. 30:4,5 He says, If it comes to be that you should be expelled to the end of the heavens, from there Yahweh your Elohim shall convene you, and… will bring you to the land…
Judges 5:20, which says, From heaven they fought: The stars from their highways fought with Sisera (Young) follows vs. 19, Kings came – they fought… and is in the midst of the song of Deborah, and I suggest that vs. 20 is more poetic than literal.
In II Ki. 2:1,11 we see that Elijah was “went up by a whirlwind into the heavens.” No further explanation is given, so our imaginations usually kick in here. Recall that Elijah was with Moses and Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. Had Elijah been just hanging around, or did he simply appear there? So where did the storm wind take Elijah? To be in the cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1)? Is this the kind of cloud that He will be seen in – His witnesses?
Now the situation with Elisha and his servant (II Ki. 6:15-17) presents an interesting picture. Elisha knew (probably saw) that the mountain where he was “was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” But Elisha did not make use of these. Rather, he used blindness upon the host of the Syrians. We saw “a chariot of fire and horses of fire” back in ch. 2:11, just before Elijah was taken up. Were these simply manifestations, such as the pillar of fire and smoke that led Israel in the wilderness? Did they appear in a form that would speak to these men in their situations, such as did the visions which John saw in Rev.? When Elisha saw this in 2:11-12, he said, My Father, my Father: the chariot of Israel and its horseman! Was he referring to Elijah as his father, or was his excited exclamation a recognition that this manifestation was of God, His Father, Who was indeed Israel‘s defense – Israel‘s war chariot and Warrior? Whichever, we see here that “the heavens” are right here on earth, too.
In the Psalms, “the heavens” are spoken of as God’s dwelling, and the source of blessings and deliverance. Yet, did He not “tabernacle” in their midst? Was the holy of holies “heaven” in some respect? Note the decorations of the beautiful veil – with cherubim embroidered into them – and the cherubim on the ark.
In Isa. 14, the “shining one,” the “son of the dawn,” had intentions of rising “up to the heavens” (vs.13) He recognized who he was, and said, “I am like the Most High” (vs. 14, Young) Only – unto Sheol thou art brought down Unto the sides of the pit. Thy beholders look to thee, to thee they attend, Is this the man causing the earth to tremble, shaking kingdoms?
He hath made the world as a wilderness… (vs. 15-17, Young) This is the one who had “fallen from the heavens” (vs.12). Now we know that this was literally a “simile concerning the king of Babylon” (vs. 4) It is my opinion that this picture is also a figure of the fall of Adam from the garden (see a parallel passage in Ezk. 28, where that one was “cast to the earth” [vs. 17], even though he had “been in Eden, the garden of God” [vs. 13]. Vs. 2 says that although he had said “I am a god… yet thou art man [Heb. Adam]” and in vs. 8 this one is also brought “down to the pit” as was the king of Babylon). But for our study, I think this is an important point: falling from “heaven” was a figure for loss of rulership and exalted position.
In Ezk. 28 we see that God used “the terrible of the nations” to “defile thy brightness.” (vs. 7) The description in vs. 13 of being in Eden and having precious stones as his covering speaks to me of the vestments of the high priest, for the holy of holies was in figure decorated as a garden, and I suggest that this is a figure of Eden where man has access to the presence and voice of the Lord. Vs. 14 says “you [were] an anointed cherub that covered.” The ark, in the holy of holies had a cherub on each end of the mercy seat (cherub is the singular of cherubim), and “covered with their wings over the mercy seat” (Ex. 37:9). Another interesting point is that the rest of Ex. 37:9 says, literally, “… with their faces one to a brother (Heb. ach); to the mercy seatward were the faces of the cherubim.” This is also stated in Ex. 25:20, And the cherubim shall stretch forth their wings on high covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to a brother; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. Also, vs. 19 says “… of (lit. from) the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim.” The cherubim are of the substance of “the mercy seat. “From the visions of the “living ones” in Ezk. and Rev., we learn that these cherubim are figures of ones in the heavens. And we see them in the holy of holies, the dwelling place of God. Now consider, the Tabernacle – and later, the Temple – are figures of the body of Christ.
Back to Ezk. 28, vs. 14 tells us that this cherub was “upon the holy mountain of God” and “walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire” – the coals of the brazen altar and the altar of incense. This is the figure of the movement of a priest in serving the Temple. Note vs. 18, From the abundance of your iniquity, by the perversity of your traffic [note vs. 16: the abundance of merchandise – selling and trading in the Temple] you have polluted your SANCTUARIES… I will make you become ASHES upon the earth… The word “ashes” Young gives as epher, which he also defines as “dust” The Heb. word elsewhere translated as dust (e.g. Gen. 2:7) is a variation of this same word: aphar which Young also defines as : “ashes, clay, dust.” So did this cherub become “dust upon the earth”?
We have similar descriptions of “the Assyrian” in Ezk. 31. The Septuagint version of vs. 3 reads, “his beginning reached to the midst of the clouds.” Vs. 8 says, “The cedars in the garden (LXX: paradise) of God could not hide him… nor was any tree in the garden of God like unto him in his beauty.” Vs. 9, “… all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him.” Vs. 11, “… I have driven him out for his wickedness.” Vs. 14, “… for they are all delivered unto death, to the nether parts of the earth (land), in the midst of the children of men (Adam), with them that go down to the pit.” Vs. 16-18 speak of “his fall” and being cast down “into Sheol” and he will “be brought down with the trees of Eden unto the nether parts of the earth (land), in the midst of the uncircumcised…”
In Ezk. 32 we have a lament for the fall of Egypt. Vs. 7-8 says, “And when I shall put you out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light, and the luminaries of the light in the heavens I will make dark over you, and set darkness upon your land…”
In all these figures we see the heavens and Eden being a place of exaltation, rule and glory. We see the earth as a figure of Sheol, death, darkness and ruin. As I said earlier, the heavens and the earth are used to describe a contrast between these two extremes. Jer. 51:53 gives this picture, “Though Babylon should mount up to heaven… yet from Me shall spoilers come unto her, saith Yahweh.” So, in the OT we see many figurative uses of the word “heaven.” In Mal. 3:10, heaven is a figure for a source of blessing.
In Matt.5:34, heaven is defined as God’s throne. In Matt. 28:18 Jesus says, “All authority within heaven and upon earth is given to Me.” Throughout the synoptic gospels God’s kingdom is described as being “of heaven,” which could be translated as “pertaining to heaven or belonging to heaven.” In John 3:27 heaven is seen as the source of things being given to mankind. In Jn. 6:38 Jesus says that He came down from heaven. In vs. 51 He describes Himself as being “the living bread which came down from heaven” –once again, a gift.
In Matt. 13, the Kingdom of heaven is compared to sowing good seed in a field, then an enemy sowing weeds into the same field. There is growth, and then a harvest for both. The word “kingdom” can also be translated “reign,” as the sphere and activity of a king’s rule, not just the location of it. It seems from this parable, the kingdom of heaven is sown into the earth. In vs. 33 it is compared to the invasive expansion of yeast which completely permeates what it is put into. In vs. 44 it is compared to treasure “hidden in a field.” Once again, the reign of God (or, heaven) being placed in the earth.
In vs. 45-46 it is brought into the life of a merchant who deals with pearls, and finds “one pearl of great price” and sells all to buy it. It seems that the Kingdom of heaven is involved with everyday life. Does this mean that heaven is involved with everyday life?
In vs. 47-48 we are given a picture of the vocation of fishing. The kingdom of heaven is compared to a fisherman’s net: it drags in both the good and the useless, and throws the useless back into the sea. In vs. 49 Jesus compares this to His agents separating the wicked (the unsound; those in a bad condition; the miserable ones; the malevolent ones) forth from out of the midst of the just ones (the right-wised ones who are in accord with and have been placed into the Way pointed out) and cast them into the furnace of fire (figure like the lake of fire), or like casting them back into the sea. The Indians of this country would rather use them as fertilizer. This is obviously not a furnace which burns them up, like the annialationist would suppose, for there is sorrow, pain and regret in this figure. It is, I submit, a figure for what was about to happen in His kingdom, for this was to exist in the conjunction (the end-together) of the age which was then upon the Jews, when Jerusalem and the Temple were burned in fire by the Romans. But Jesus had sent forth His disciples as “fishers of men,” to gather out His elect for the Kingdom.
In vs. 52 He says … every scribe (interpreter; teacher) being discipled, trained and instructed by the Kingdom of the heavens (or: in the kingdom…; for the kingdom…) is like a man, a householder, who is constantly bringing forth from out of the midst of his treasury new things and old things. Was Jesus here referring to Himself and His manner of teaching the Kingdom? Did He draw from both covenants? Should we? Draw examples, yes, but apply them only under the new arrangement and dispensation.
The book of Hebrews does this a lot. Consider ch. 9:24, For Christ did not enter into holy places made by hands – the antitypes of THE TRUE ONES – but into the heaven itself, now to be made apparent (be disclosed) by the presence of God over us. I suggest that the True Temple into which He entered was His body – the called out. I suggest that the heaven referred to here is the realm of the spirit and of the kingdom which is within us, and which we corporately compose. He has put His blood upon the mercy seat of our hearts: God’s presence is a propitiary shelter over us and within us. Thus does the blood of Jesus Christ continually cleanse us from all and every sin (failure; missing of the target) – I John 1:7 – and this happens within us where He has entered.
This study is just scratching the surface of considering “the heavens,” but before I close it, let’s look at “the heavenlies,” the upon-the-heavens, again. This word is used, quite appropriately, as an adjective describing the Father, in Matt. 18:35. Jesus speaks of “the heavenly things” in contrast to “the earthly things” in John 3:12. Being born back up again (from above) is one of these “heavenly” things.
In I Cor. 15:48, Paul speaks of those who are “the heavenly ones,” the ones who are upon the heavens – they are ones “such as the Heavenly One.” Vs. 49 tells us that “we shall also bear the likeness (image) of the Heavenly One.” Here, then, it seems that the “heavenly” speaks of a quality or character or essence. It, like the situation in John 3:12, seems to be contrasted to the earthly – just as heaven and earth are contrasted.
Now let’s go to Eph. Ch. 1:3 tells us that there are “heavenlies” within Christ, where there are “every spiritual blessing.” Ch. 1:20 speaks of, … Christ, [God] having raised Him out from the midst of dead ones and seating Him at His right hand, WITHIN the heavenly ones (the ones upon-the-heavens) Now if we correlate this with I Cor. 15:48, I think we get the picture. This may now adjust our view of ch. 2:6, for en tois epouraniois can be translated “among the heavenly ones within Christ Jesus” as well as “within the heavenly places within Christ Jesus.” He has seated us together among a larger group that is within the Christ. He is within us; we are within Him.
So the question comes, in regard to Eph. 3:10, who are the rulers (chief ones; sovereignties; beginning leaders; princes) and authorities among those upon-the-heavens (within the super-heavenlies)? God’s many-colored, greatly diverse wisdom is to be made know to these through the called-out congregation. Paul does not connect the word “heavenlies” with Christ in this present context. Rather, in vs. 8 he is speaking of addressing the nations with the good news, and in vs. 9 of illuminating “all men” (everyone), then in vs. 10, “to the end that…”
Thus, my conclusion of this passage is that Paul is using here a figurative sense of the word “heavenlies,” as the prophets did when speaking of the king of Babylon, the prince of Tyre, of Egypt, etc. It is these earthly authorities to which the ecclesia is to make known the “many-phased wisdom of God, in accord with a purpose of the ages (a fore-designed plan of the ages) which He formed within the Christ – Jesus – by our Lord.” (Eph. 3:10-11)
Now let’s look at Eph. 6:10-12. I’ll give my trans., Of the remainder, be constantly empowering yourselves (engendering ability within yourselves) within the Lord and within the force (strength) of His might [or: the might of His strength]: you folks must enter within [or: clothe yourselves with] God’s full suit of armor and implements of war, in order for you to be continuously able (powerful) to stand (to make a stand) facing toward the crafty methods (stratagems) of the adversary, because for us, the wrestling is not against (toward) blood and flesh, but rather against (toward: i.e., ‘face to face’) the rulers (sovereignties; those in first position; the beginning ones; the princes) and [face to face] against the authorities, [facing] toward (against) the world strong-ones (the system’s mighty ones) of THIS darkness, [facing] toward (against) the spiritual things (spiritual aspects or elements) of the bad condition (the depravity; the wickedness; the evil) within the heavenly ones (heavenly places).
It is not a physical warfare, but a psychological, emotional, mental, spiritual wrestling (which speaks of intimate contact) with positions of leadership and with governments. I believe that these are the rulers of human governments, of authorities within the apostate church systems, and of corporate businesses. Walter Wink, in Naming the Powers, and Unmasking the Powers, wrote of the “spirit” that is created when any group comes together. When that group disbands or disperses, the spirit of that group ceases to be. But every corporation or culture creates its own spirit, and we encounter these “principalities” in our daily lives, and often we must wrestle against them. This is one of the main problems with having “church governments” and “church hierarchies” or structures. These structures produce a spirit (life) of their own which sits in the Temple of God, and makes us desolate. They take the Spirit’s rightful place, and having done all, we are called to take a stand against them.
Finally, Heb. 3:1 speaks of our “heavenly” calling. Heb. 6:4 speaks of the “heavenly gift.” Heb. 8:5 shows how the old covenant things are an example and a shadow of the “heavenly ones,” the ones-upon-the-heavens. Heb. 11:16 speaks of “a better, that is, a heavenly [Fatherland].” And II Tim. 4:18 refers to “His heavenly Kingdom.” All of this is not far away – it’s right here.
THE HEAVENS AND THE HEAVENLIES
And a war (a battle) arose (was birthed; occurred; came to be) within the heaven: the One, Michael [the One in God’s likeness], and His agents [went] to war (did battle) with the dragon. And the dragon battles (or: did battle – aorist), also his agents, and they were not strong (had no strength), neither was their place any longer found within the heaven. Rev. 12:7-8, my trans.
We see in vs. 9 that the serpent “was (or: is – aor.) thrown (cast) into the earth (or: land), and its agents were (are) thrown with it.” Then vs. 10 tells us, …At the present moment (just now) the deliverance (salvation), and the authority, and the kingdom of our God was (is) birthed (comes into existence; arose; came to be), also the authority of His Anointed (His Christ), because our brothers’ accuser was (is) cast down – the one continuously accusing them.
This chapter, in the midst of a book of symbolic visions, begins “And a great sign was seen within the heaven: a Woman having been clothed with the Sun…” Then in vs. 3, “And another sign was seen within the heaven: and behold, a great fiery-colored dragon…. (vs. 4) and its tail is in process of dragging the third of the stars of the heaven, and casts them into the land (earth), and the dragon stood before the Woman… that… it may devour her child.”
Now the questions lies: is this sign – this vision – simply seen by John upon the “screen” of the “sky,” or is what is seen by John something that happens “within” the heaven? The picture continues in vs. 5 that “her child was snatched away [same word used in I Thes. 4:17, of we, the living ones … snatched away within clouds – into the Lord’s encounter – into air; and of the man in Christ that Paul knew that was snatched away into the paradise – II Cor. 12:4 – paradise being called a third heaven in vs. 2] towards God and towards His throne.”
Now often the phrase “snatched away” is translated “caught up,” but this word is used of the violent, forceful ones who “snatch away” the kingdom of the heavens, in Matt. 11:13. Jesus also knew that they were about to come and snatch Him away to the end that they might make Him king (John 6:15). It is also used of the Roman soldiers who were ordered to snatch away [Paul] from out of the midst of the mob, in Acts 23:10, and of Philip, in Acts. 8:38, where the Lord’s Spirit snatched Philip away from being with the Ethiopian Eunuch. The point is, being snatched away towards God, and toward His throne does not necessarily mean that he was “caught up” off the earth into the sky. The picture is rather that of being rescued (like Paul was) from being devoured by the dragon, so that he could “shepherd the multitudes (the nations; the ethnic groups).”
Now we see in vs. 6 that “the Woman took flight into the wilderness… to the end that THEY may continuously nourish her there for 1260 days.” So did the Woman drop down out of the heaven and flee into the wilderness? Or was the “sign” in the heaven? And was the “war… within the heaven” (vs.7-10) a vision which John was seeing in the sky, above the earth – to which the dragon and its agents were cast? Was this whole figure representative of a heaven “not” associated with the earth, or of a heaven that is the higher portion of the creation – the lower part of which “is” the earth? In other words, did the dragon fall out of the “spirit” realm into the “physical” realm, or is this just apocalyptic language which speaks of him being cast to a lower position, having lost his “place” (vs.8)? Is this parallel to the picture in Eden, where the Serpent was judged to crawl upon its belly and eat dust?
The Woman being nourished in the wilderness by the corporate body of sons (the THEY of vs. 6) has not come toward God or His throne yet, and is on the same level as the dragon, for we see in vs.15 that it casts water, as a river, after the Woman – but the land (earth) “runs to the aid of the Woman.” In vs. 17 the dragon gives up on the Woman “and goes away to do battle with the remaining ones (those left) of her seed.” These would be others who were not yet caught up to the throne – they are still doing battle, and have not yet overcome so that they can “sit with [Him] in [His] throne” (Rev. 3:21).
Now this “they” of vs. 6, who I suggested are the corporate son brought forth by the Woman (vs. 5), nourish the Woman. I submit that this “nourishing” is parallel to “shepherding” in vs. 5, and also to Rev. 2:27 where we find of the overcomer that, he will shepherd (feed, tend, guard) them with a staff made of iron, as he is being continuously broken [like] pottery vessels, as I also have received from My Father.
Note: the verb “broken” is a present PASSIVE, third person singular, without a personal pronoun. To me, the above rendering better fits the image of the suffering Servant, Who in being bruised of the Father thus nourishes us. It is the bread being broken (the life being broken) that allows others to partake of it. As He is the bread, so is His body. … and of what kind [is] the Heavenly One (the One upon the heavens) of such kind also [are] the heavenly ones…. we shall also bear (or: wear) the likeness (or: image) of the Heavenly One. I Cor. 15:48,49
Vs. 47 of I Cor. 15 says the second man (or: the second humanity) is “from out of the midst of heaven.” This calls to mind John 6:33-58 For the bread of God is the One habitually coming down from out of the midst of the heaven and continuously giving life to the world…. Jesus said to them, “I myself am the bread of the Life. The one habitually coming to me may by no means hunger….” I have come down from out of the midst of the heaven…. because He said, “I myself am the bread, the One coming down from out of the midst of the heaven.” …. I, myself, am the bread of the Life…. I, myself, am the living bread, the One coming down from out of the midst of the heaven; if any one may eat from out of the midst of this bread, he will live into the age. Yet, also, the bread, which I will give is my flesh which I will give over (on behalf of) the life of the world…. This is the bread: the One descending from out of the heaven…
John used present and aorist participles for the verbs “coming down” (descending). The participle describes something “in process,” or refers to the action of the verb. Jesus was contrasting Himself with the manna, which had its source in heaven, and descended to be food for the people. In vs. 33 the participle is in the present tense, which signifies habitual, repeated or continuous action. He is the One habitually descending from out of the midst of the heaven. Yet we, His body, are joined to Him, our Head, and are one spirit with Him (I Cor. 6:17). Thus, as He descends we too descend from our realm of citizenship (our civic entity; our commonwealth) within [the] heavens (Phil. 3:20), and we, His flesh now upon the earth, are the bread of His presence (figured by the 12 loaves in the holy place) which are given to present His life unto the nations. Thus do we nourish the Woman who is yet in the wilderness.
Paul speaks of our being bread in I Cor. 10:16-17, “… The bread which we are habitually breaking, is it not the communion (fellowship; partnership) of THE BODY of the Christ? Because WE, the many, are one bread, ONE BODY, for we – these all – are continuously partaking (holding and having with; sharing) from out of the midst of the One Bread.” True communion is receiving into our spirits His life (the Word and the Spirit – the bread and the wine) from out of Him Who resides in and is joined to the other members of His body. Remember, He is enthroned within the holy of holies within them, as well.
And Jesus said unto him, “Feed my lambs…. sheep”… John 21:15,17 But Jesus said to [the disciples], “They don’t need to depart; you give to them [something] to eat.” Matt. 14:16
In Lu 10:17-20 we have an interesting situation and statement by the Lord. The 70 have just returned with joy telling Jesus, “O Lord! Even the demons are subject to us, within Your Name.” Then Jesus makes this famous, although enigmatic, statement: I beheld the adversary (or: Satan) falling, as lightning, from out of the midst of the heaven. (vs. 18)
Many have erroneously (in my opinion) connected this vs. with the fall of the Light-bearer (unfortunately transliterated Lucifer from the Latin luciferos in the KJV). See the footnote on Isa. 14:12 in The Amplified Bible. But this statement is made within a context: first vs. 17, then vs. 19 and 20: Behold! I have given you authority to tread upon SERPENTS and scorpions, even upon ALL the power (ability) of the enemy…. However, do not rejoice in this – that the SPIRITS are subject to you! But rejoice that your names are written within [the] heavens.
Now I offer this interpretation to vs. 18: Jesus was seeing via the Spirit into the heavens – the realm of the spirit within those whom the disciples were delivering from the demons mentioned in vs. 17. He saw each time one of the 70 cast a demon out of an individual, and He spoke of this as Satan (the adversary) falling out of the midst of the spirit of that individual.
I also suggest for your consideration that this work of Jesus and His disciples is put in figurative language in Rev. 12:7-8. Jesus is the One who overcame Satan. He is put as a sign – a symbolic figure – here, just as the Woman of vs. 1 and the dragon of vs. 3 are. The Son she births is a figure of the Christ (Jesus and His body). Then this Son who is snatched away to the place of authority (vs. 5) overcomes the enemy, figured in vs. 7-8 as a war: Michael (meaning: the One in God’s likeness), and His agents (i.e., His body) doing battle with the dragon and his agents (demons). In this battle the dragon and his agents lose their “place” of authority in the heavens, and can only operate in the realm of the earth (figure of the soul realm). Thus the Spirit always has authority over the soul within man, and over any of the soul’s illicit “lovers.”
Now note that in vs. 10, it is with this victory of “Michael and His agents” that salvation and the authority of the kingdom of God comes into being – “even (or: also) the authority of His Christ.”
Then in vs. 11: “And THEY (Michael and His agents – Jesus and His body) overcame him (the dragon) because of the blood of the Lamb (the work of Christ on the cross), and because of the word of their witness (the preaching of His disciples; His body).
Now in vs. 12 the “heavens” are told that they must rejoice, “and the ones continuously tabernacling within them.” Remember: this is still figurative language! The “heavens” are a part of these signs as well. (Note: for those of you who have a copy of my study on the book of Revelation, you may refer to pages 113-121 for further thoughts on ch. 12)
So what am I saying? That the war in heaven happens within the spirits of people? This is my current conclusion. The battle is in our minds, and our adversary tries to overwhelm our souls (our emotions; our wills; our desires). But lets look at others who spoke of heaven(s).
Peter tells us “that heavens were continuously existing out of long ago (or: of old), and earth (or: land) out of water and by means of water being made to stand together by the Word of God.” (II Pet. 3:5) He is obviously referring to the creation here. He continues on in vs. 6, through which the ordered system (world) of that time destroyed (lost) itself, being washed down (inundated; deluged) by water. This speaks of Noah’s day. Peter is using the flood as an analogy of the judgment which will come “upon the last days” (vs. 3) in “His presence” (vs. 4). He then continues on in vs. 7, Yet at the present time the heavens and the earth, by the same Word, having been collected and being stored for fire (or: in fire; by fire; to fire – dative), continually exist being ones constantly kept (watched and guarded) into a day of judging and loss (destruction; Alex. MS reads: irreverence; lack of awe toward God instead of loss) of irreverent men (mankind without reverential awe toward God).
And vs. 12 speaks of, … the presence of God’s Day, through which heavens, being continuously on fire will be loosed (untied) and elements (rudimentary principles) are constantly burning, being repeatedly melted down (liquefied).
Vs. 13 continues, Yet we, according to (down from) His promise, are habitually receptive toward heavens new in kind and quality, and an earth (land) new in kind and quality, within which fair and equitable dealings (justice and righteousness; living in accord with the Way pointed out) is habitually settled down (continuously dwelling; permanently at home).
So what is Peter referring to here? A new creation? Yes, but is he first using what happened literally in Noah’s day as a type and example for what in this age is to happen in the spirit? Is Peter speaking of the same thing that John saw in the vision of Rev. 21:1-5? And I saw a new heaven and a new earth (land), for the first (former; earlier) heaven and the first land (earth) went away, and the sea does not exist any longer. (vs. 1) In vs. 2 we see a new Jerusalem progressively descending from out of the heaven – as a bride. Now in vs. 9-10 we see that this same Jerusalem is referred to as “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” That the foundations of the walls of this city contain the names of the 12 apostles (vs. 14) should alert us to the fact that this is the church, and John is seeing things in signs and symbols. Paul referred to this same city in Gal. 4:26 saying, Now the Jerusalem above is a free-woman, who is our mother. I suggest that Paul is speaking also of the same woman that we saw in Rev. 12.
So if the city in Rev. 21 is a figure, a sign, what about the new heaven and new earth? In vs. 3 of this chapter we see that God will live in a tent (dwell in a Tabernacle) with them. Is not the Tabernacle (tent) a figure of the body of Christ? When He says in verse 4, “And death will no longer exist” is he not perhaps speaking of the new creation in the resurrected Christ, the Firstfruit of the new creation?
I love vs. 5, where the One sitting upon the throne makes the proclamation, Consider this (Behold)! I am continuously making [or: I am habitually creating] ALL THINGS (everything) NEW!
In vs. 10, we see that John is carried away, in spirit, upon a great and high mountain. This is an echo of Ezk. 40:2, where the hand of Yahweh brought Ezekiel, in visions, to “… a very high mountain on which there seemed to be the outline of a city…” He is given a detailed view of “the Temple [area].” In Ezk. 48:30-35, the gates of the city are listed, each one corresponding to one of the tribes of Israel. Vs. 35 ends, And the name of the city from that day on shall be “The LORD (Yahweh) Is There.” This corresponds with Rev. 21:3. William Barclay, in his commentary, points out Lev. 26:11,12 where God promises “I will make my abode among you … and I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people,” and Ezk. 37:27, “My dwelling-place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Paul quotes the Lev. 26 passage in II Cor. 6:16, applying it to the church… For WE ARE a Temple of the living God; as God said, “I will dwell within them, and walk about within them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people. Hence, we can see through Paul a direct tie of Rev. 21:3 to the church.
A.T. Robertson mentions that the word “tabernacle” (skenoo) is also used in Zech. 2:10; 8:8 (LXX), “and [is] used of the Incarnate Christ on earth by John [in his gospel] (1:4).” He also refers us to the name Immanuel (Matt. 1:23) which expresses the same idea.
In regard to vs. 5, Preston Eby has pointed out that since God is a Creator, and since He never changes, then He is always a Creator, i.e., He is always creating (cf Heb. 13:8). He is, then, always a Savior (i.e., always saving), always transforming everything, always bringing from death to life, always creating everything new. He is always the source of everything and always the ultimate goal of everything. The glory of the set-apart city described in this chapter is a figure of that goal, a symbol of the ultimate end of all creation!
Since we know from Heb. 12:29 that our God is a consuming fire, I suggest that the fire of II Pet. 3:12 is a figure of God smelting creation, making it new. … for He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’ soap, and He shall sit as a refinerand purifier of silver; and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto Yahweh an offering in righteousness.
If we consider that the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and later, the Temple, were a type and a shadow, th en we can learn something of the realities of which they speak. First we know that they were a figure of the body of Christ. We see in Rev. 1:20 that the lampstand was a figure of the church. We see from Rev. 5:8 that the altar of incense symbolizes the prayer of the saints within the church. We have seen, above, that the bread of the presence also represents the church. Now, let’s consider that the palm trees and pomegranates that decorate the Tabernacle speak of a garden, a paradise – the place where Jesus was to go, upon resurrection. We also see cherubim on the beautiful veil, the entrance to the holy of holies – the presence of Yahweh, and the place of His throne (“He is enthroned on the cherubim” – Ps. 99:1, Rotherham; “He sitteth [between] the cherubim,” KJV).
The “living ones” of Ezk. ch. 1 are called “cherubim” in ch. 10. These are seen again “in the heaven,” before the throne, in Rev. 4. Can you see the correlation of these figures through the Scriptures? In Rev. 22:1, we see a “river of water of life,” and also a tree of life. Where did we first see these figures? Eden, right? Both Gen. and Rev. describe paradise. Yet it is out of our innermost beings that are to flow “rivers of living water” (John 7:38). In Ezk. 47 the rivers which bring life (vs. 9) originate in the Temple.
So, we are the temple; out of us flow rivers of living water; God’s presence and throne are in the innermost chamber of the temple (us); the cherubim, also seen in the heavens, are in the holy of holies (us). We are seated together with Christ in the sphere “upon the heavens.” Where is heaven? May His Spirit connect the dots. 🙂
I would like for you to consider another viewpoint regarding the terms “heaven and earth,” and cite a quote of John Owen’s Works, Vol. 9 given in David Chilton’s book, The Days of Vengeance, a preterist presentation. He notes that Owen makes reference to Isa. 51:15-16, But I am the LORD thy God, that divided the sea…. And I have put My Words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of Mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art My people! Chilton says, “Owen writes: ‘The time when the work here mentioned, of planting the heavens, and laying the foundation of the earth, was performed by God, was when he divided the sea (vs. 15), and gave the law (vs. 16), and said to Zion, ‘Thou art My people’ – that is, when he took the children of Israel out of Egypt, and formed them in the wilderness into a church and state. Then he planted the heavens, and laid the foundation of the earth – made the new world; that is, brought forth order, and government, and beauty from the confusion wherein before they were.
“Owen continues: ‘And hence it is, that when mention is made of the destruction of a state and government, it is in that language that seems to set forth the end of the world. So Isa. 34:4; which is yet but the destruction of the state of Edom…. the prophetical idiom and manner of speech, by heaven and earth, the civil and religious state and combination of men in the world, and the men of them, are often understood. So were the heavens and the earth that world which was then destroyed by the flood.'” That the dividing of the sea, in Isa. 51:15 refers to the events of Ex. 14:21 agree both Bullinger (The Companion Bible) and the commentary by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown.
Another preterist, Foy E. Wallace, Jr., in his book, The Book of Revelation, writes of ch. 21:1, “… the word heaven denoted the existing authorities of government. The new heaven and earth, and the troubled sea, having passed away and represented as being no more, indicated the changed conditions within the existing governments and society… The old system of Judaism had been removed and the opposition of heathenism had been overcome; and the vision represented new conditions to surround the church in the changed world.”
I have noted these two quotes, above, to call to your attention other views on how the word “heaven” is used in apocalyptic or prophetic writings within the Scripture. But I offer my own view, now, of the new heavens and new earth spoken of in Rev. 21:1. My friend Mike Davenport, in doing a study of the word “sea,” noted that it would be most unlikely that this was meant to be literal, in this verse, “and there was no more sea.” He pointed out how drastically the absence of the oceans would affect this planet. Of course we know that the Scripture “with God all things are possible” can be used to support any view of Scripture. Bruce M. Metzger, “one of the world’s best-known scholars on the text of the NT” (from the cover of his book, Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation) says of this verse, Behind this strange announcement lies the fact that the Jews regarded the sea as a symbol of separation and turbulence. Throughout the Bible it symbolizes restless insubordination (see Job 38:8-11; Ps. 89:9; Isa. 57:10), and in Rev. 13:1 it casts up the system that embodies hostility against God’s people. Naturally, then, there is no room for it in the new creation.
Now my point is, that if “there was no more sea” is speaking symbolically, then why is not “a new heaven and a new earth” symbolic, in this same verse? I suggest that there were three “heavens” symbolized by the Tabernacle in the wilderness: the outer court; the holy place, and the holy of holies. Man (Israel, in the type) could enter the first heaven, the outer court – for we all live and breathe in the first heaven (in Him we live and move and have our being); only the anointed, the priests could enter the holy place – the part of the body of Christ which I suggest is the bride; and only the high priest, under the old covenant, could enter into the immediate presence of God. Thankfully, we, His body, under the new arrangement (covenant) have free access unto our Father.
But the Tabernacle is still a type. Of what? Of us, His body, His Temple. If so, then I suggest that the outer court represented the body; the holy place represented the soul, and the holy of holies represents our spirit – which becomes “one spirit” (I Cor. 6:17) with Him when we are joined to Him. Thus, when we become a new creation in Christ, we have a new heaven and a new earth.
In regard to the figure of the Temple (or, Tabernacle) being a type of the old order “world,” when the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, it symbolized the end of the “Jewish world,” and signaled the installation of the new order – the new age – of the Melchizedek priesthood. So we have the fulfillment both individually, and corporately.
And let’s remember that a chief aspect of this new heaven and new earth is that God’s home (God’s tent) is with mankind (Rev. 21:3). And when He is dwelling with us in our tent (His temple), there is now no more death is us, and He wipes away our tears and gives us “righteousness and peace and joy – in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17)
Remember the groaning of creation, and our own groaning, in Rom. 8:22, 23? Well, Paul speaks again of groaning in II Cor. 5:2. Here he says that we are “groaning, earnestly desiring to be clothed-upon with the dwelling place (home) from out of the midst of heaven.” Now note the goal of thus being “clothed-upon”: … to the end that the mortal may be swallowed by (lit., underneath) the LIFE. “Swallowed” could also be translated “absorbed.” Note that having this heavenly home “come upon” us is a figure for having the Life of Christ swallow and absorb us. Christ is the Life from out of the midst of heaven. He comes upon us and clothes us with Himself and with His glory. This is heaven and the glory of God covering the earth, as the waters cover the sea!
Now does this mean that I think that heaven only involves us, or is only within us? Of course not. But I do think that when Paul spoke of one being snatched away into the third heaven, I think he was speaking figuratively, tho’ of a real experience. I relate the “third heaven” to the holy of holies, in the type. That was into the most intimate presence of God. But I do not think that it was a “special” experience – it was not to some “place,” but to a realm within God Himself. I think that Moses was in this same realm when he and the manifestation of God Himself were both upon Mt. Sinai. I think that Moses, Elijah, Jesus, Peter, James and John were also in this same sphere of existence when Jesus was transfigured on the mount.
But I think that the important thing to realize is that in our spirit we are connected to this same “heaven,” on one level or another – if so be that the resurrected Christ and the Father have made their abode within us. Those “encompassing about us” (Heb. 12:1) are figured as a “cloud of witnesses.” Clouds can envelope us, and we can ascend into them. Consider the unity of the entire body of Christ: both the part scattered all over this earth, and those within this realm which we call “heaved up,” “heaven.” Consider the “fellowship of the saints” which believers of the past put into a creed.
Further, if we can relate to ourselves being figured as a “branch on a Vine,” a “building,” a “Temple,” a city, “the new Jerusalem,” then is it so hard to ourselves also being “heaven” – or at least a part of it? Dan. 12:3 compared such as us to “the brightness of the firmament” and to “the stars.” So, when the dragon’s tail sweeps 1/3 of the stars to the earth, can’t you see that it is speaking of some of us who are dwelling in the heavens, the realm of the spirit? Have we not seen some of these dear ones fall back into the carnal realm, even getting caught in carnal lusts? Once we “break the code,” to use Metzger’s term, and escape from the thinking of “myth,” to use Rudolf Bultman’s term, our eyes can be opened to see into the heavens, and behold His Glory. Amen.
HEAVEN and the HEAVENLIES [Jonathan Mitchell] 1