There’s no mistake in Jesus’s mind that heaven is a real, physical place.
Twice in John 14:1-6, he uses the Greek word topos, which is translated “place.” For example, He says, “I go to prepare a place for you.” In the ancient language, topos refers to a real, physical place. Furthermore, Jesus uses physical references like “rooms” and “house” to describe where the Father lives.
Revelation 21–22 describes heaven as a beautiful city in splendid detail. The holy city has walls, gates, foundations, streets, rivers, trees, vegetation, and more. While the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ is full of much symbolism, there is nothing in the context of those chapters that should lead us to believe heaven is anything other than a physical place.
All of that confirms that heaven is not the figment of a trumped-up religious imagination. Heaven is not Neverland or Candyland or Wonderland. It’s a real place where God the Father dwells and Jesus sits at His right hand.
So where is heaven?
The apostle Paul wrote about himself in the third person when he referred to a man who was “caught up into the third heaven…and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). What did he mean by the “third heaven”? Is there a first and second heaven too?
Think of the first heaven as the sky and the earth’s atmosphere. The second heaven is what we call outer space. The third heaven, where an omnipresent God dwells, is beyond all of that. A few verses later, Paul called it paradise, the same place where Jesus said the thief on the cross would join Him.
Some scholars speculate that the place where God dwells could be another dimension that we cannot see with the naked eye. This makes sense because God is spirit (John 4:24).
After His resurrection and while in His glorified body, Jesus appeared to move in and out of a space-time dimension. For example, He traveled with two men on a road to Emmaus, but “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” When they drew near to the village, they shared a meal together. After Jesus blessed the food and broke bread, “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight” (Luke 24:31).
Poof! Jesus appeared and then disappeared. Where did He go?
In the verses that follow in Luke’s Gospel, He appeared to the eleven in a way that startled them. Did He move through another space-time dimension? Earth to heaven and heaven to earth again? We don’t know for sure.
However, even if heaven is located in another dimension, it is no less real than the physical world we call earth. Jesus certainly spoke of heaven as a real place.
Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” The word “go” implies He was leaving this earth for a different place. That’s why the disciples were so upset. They didn’t understand all that was happening, but they knew Jesus was soon departing from this world. And He promised to return one day to take them to another place with Him.
That place called heaven should get us more excited than any beautiful place we might visit on God’s earth.