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How High Is Heaven?

The term we know as heaven is the Old-English translation of the two original words in the Bible - the Hebrew word in the Old Testament is pronounced shaw-may, and the Greek word in the New Testament is pronounced oo-ran-aws. Both mean the same thing - either the sky (i.e. the earth's atmosphere), or the limitless outer space above it, depending on what the writer was talking about at the time. Sky or space are quite accurate modern substitutes for heaven. Examples:

"Heaven" translated meaning the sky, the atmosphere:

  • "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater." (Isaiah 55:10 RSV)

  • "and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens." (Genesis 1:20 RSV)

  • "And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." (2 Kings 2:11 RSV) (see also Where Did Elijah Go?)

"Heaven" translated meaning outer space, the abode of God:

  • "O Lord, God of our fathers, art Thou not God in heaven?" (2 Chronicles 20:6 RSV)

  • "So then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God." (Mark 16:19 RSV)

  • "No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven, the Son of man." (John 3:13 RSV)

"The Highest Heavens"

Stars Stars are very hot spheres of gas (usually more than 90% hydrogen) that give off various forms of radiation, including light. The sun is an average-size star. Some stars are much smaller than the sun, others are millions of times bigger. Stars vary in color according to their surface temperature, from blue-white (the hottest at about 35,000 degrees) to white, yellow, orange, to red (the coolest at about 3,000 degrees). Stars are "born" from accumulating physical matter, live out their lives according to how much fuel they have, and then "die" - either by going cold and dark, or exploding (a supernova) when they no longer have the gravity to hold together. From the ejected matter, new stars will eventually be born.

Constellation Constellations are merely chance alignments of stars that seem to draw an outline of something - a human, animal or an object. "The Big Dipper" (also known as "The Plow," or "The Wagon") is a familiar example (it is actually part of the constellation Ursa Major - the Big Bear). Some others (there are 88 "official" constellations) are Orion the Hunter, Leo the Lion, and Canis Major. There are thousands more that anyone can decide for oneself on any starry night.

Galaxy Galaxies are very large aggregations of stars, gas, dust, and physical matter. The "Milky Way," of which the sun is a member, has an estimated 200 billion stars (many of which are now known to have planets). Throughout the universe there are billions of galaxies. The photo at left, while appearing to be just a mist in space, is a very distant galaxy, and the "mist" is actually billions of stars

Fact Finder: Did the apostle Paul speak of how the stars of the heavens differ?
1 Corinthians 15:41
Note: Paul was very well qualified to make that statement. See 2 Corinthians 12:2-4


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