HEAVEN - A Symbolical DictionaryFor Fire from Heaven, see under FIRE.
According to the ancients, agreeably to whose ideas of things the symbolic language and character were fashioned, there is a threefold world, and therefore a threefold heaven; the invisible, the visible, and the political; which last may be either civil or ecclesiastical.
Wherever the scene is laid, heaven signifies, symbolically, the ruling power or government; that is, the whole assembly of the ruling powers, which, in respect of the subjects or earth, are a political heaven, being over and ruling the subjects, as the natural heaven stands over and rules the earth: so that according to the subject is the term to be limited; and therefore Artemidorus, writing in the times of the Roman emperors, makes the country of Italy to be heaven. As heaven,f1 says he, is the abode of gods, so is Italy of kings.
In Æschylus,f2 one of the seven heroes, who carried in the ensigns or symbols of their shields, the prospect of their designs to overthrow the city of Thebes, and the government of Eteocles, hath therein a heaven burnt by the stars about it.
In the Oneirocritics heaven is explained of kings or dominion. In chap. 162. all of them agree in this; "If a king dreams that he is raised up to the starry heaven, it denotes that he shall obtain a greater height and renown than other kings: if he dreams that upon his ascent he sits down in heaven, it denotes that he shall rule over a greater kingdom than he already has.
Heaven thus signifying the ruling powers, the Chinese call their monarch Tiencu,f3 the son of heaven; meaning thereby the most powerful monarch. And thus in Mat 24:30, Heaven is synonymous to powers and glory; and in the words of our Saviour just going before, "the powers of the heavens shall be shaken," it is easy to conceive that he meant the kingdoms of the world should be overthrown to submit to his kingdom.
Any government is a world; and therefore in Isa. 15, 16, heaven and earth signify a political universe, a kingdom or polity; the words are, "I am the Lord thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared; the Lord of hosts is my name; and I have put my words in thy mouth, and have covered thee in the shadow of my hand, that I might plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Sion, Thou art my people: "that is to say, that I might make them that were but scattered persons and slaves in Egypt before, a kingdom or polity, to be governed by their own laws and magistrates. (See p. 101.) Thus also in the same prophet, Isa 65:17, a new heaven and a new earth, signify a new government, new kingdom, new people.
A door opened in heaven, signifies the beginning of a new kind of government.
To ascend up into heaven, as was before shewn from the Oneirocritics, signifies to be in full power, to obtain rule and dominion. And thus is the symbol to be understood in Isa 14:13-14, where the words of the king of Babylon, meaning to subdue all the world, are "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High."
To descend front heaven, signifies, symbolically, to act by a commission from heaven. And thus our Saviour uses the word descending, Joh 1:51, in speaking of the angels acting by Divine commission, at the command of the Son of man.
To fall from heaven, signifies to lose power and authority, to be deprived of the power to govern; to revolt or apostatize.
Heaven opened. The natural heaven being the symbol of the governing part of the political world, a new face in the natural represents a new face in the political. Or the heaven may be said to be opened when the day appears, and consequently shut when night comes, as appears from Virgil.f4 And thus the Scripture, in a poetical manner, speaks of the doors of heaven, Psa 78:23 : "Of the heaven being shut," 1Ki 8:35; and in Eze 1:1, the heaven is said to be opened.
Host of heaven (Gen 2:1), signifies the sun, moon, and stars, under the symbol of an army; in which the sun is considered as the king, the moon as his vicegerent or prime minister in dignity, the stars and planets as their attendants; and the constellations, as the battalions and squadrons of the army drawn up in order, that they may concur with their leaders to execute the designs and commands of the sovereign. And thus, according to this notion, it is said, in the song of Deborah, "The stars in their courses fought against Sisera."f5
Midst of heaven may be the air, or the region between heaven and earth.
In an ecclesiastical view, heaven may denote the true church; earth the idolatrous. And then the air, as the midst of heaven, may be the symbol of such professors of Christianity, as are neither idolatrous nor yet true Christians, being such as are lukewarm, and destitute of a faith producing good works.
In a political view, the heaven may represent the visible supreme powers of the world, the earth the common subjects of those powers; and then the air, as the midst of heaven, will be the symbol of inferior rulers, who are placed between the Supreme governors and the lowest of the subjects. Thus, as in the natural world, the air is the medium through which the heat and light of the sun is conveyed to the earth; so inferior ruling powers are those through whom justice is distributed to the meanest of the people.
Again, the air, as the midst of heaven, may be considered in another view, as the middle station betwixt the corrupted earth, and the throne of God in heaven. And in this sense the air is the proper place where God's threatenings and imminent judgments against the impenitent inhabitants of the earth should be denounced, to denote, at the same time, God's forbearance and readiness to punish.
Thus in 1Ch 21:16, it is said that David saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, as he was just going to destroy Jerusalem with the pestilence, which vision was exhibited to David, that he might have time and occasion to put up prayers for the city which was going to be destroyed by that plague; so that the hovering of the angel was to shew that there was room to pray for mercy, just as God was going to inflict the punishment. It was not fallen as yet upon the earth; it had not as yet done any execution.
"To stretch out the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth' (Isa 51:16) may be an image generally signifying the execution of the greatest purposes of providence. Perhaps "the heavens" may denote hierarchies or religious establishments, and "the earth" secular governments. And under the image of "extending the heavens, and setting the earth on its foundations," the Holy Spirit may describe a new and improved face both of religion and civil government, as the ultimate effect of Christianity in the latter ages. Certainly not religion only, but civil government also, has already received great improvement from Christianity; but the improvement will at last be inconceivably greater and universal. And whenever this phrase of "stretching out the heavens, and laying the foundations of the earth," is applied by the prophets to things clearly future, and yet clearly previous to the general judgment, I apprehend it denotes those great changes for the better, in ecclesiastical and civil politics, in religion and morals, which are to take place in the very last period of the church on earth; not without allusion to that physical improvement of the system of the material world, which seems in some places to be literally predicted. I cannot believe, with Vitringa, that any thing that has yet taken place answers to the full meaning of that astonishing image. It is true that the prophets often confound the ends of things with their beginnings. But if the first promulgation of the Gospel be ever described under the image of a new-making of the whole external world, which with the highest reverence for the authority of the learned and judicious Vitringa, I as yet believe not, it must be so described, not simply in itself, but with a view to its ultimate effect. The establishment of the Christian religion in the Roman empire, by Constantine, was a further step indeed towards the ultimate effect; but still falls short of the grandeur of the image. Which being indeed of all images the greatest that the human mind can apprehend, must be applicable to that which it represents, whatever it may be, only in its highest and most finished state."-Bishop Horsley.
F1 Art. Lib. ii. c. 73.
F2 Æsch. Septem. c. Theb. ver. 393.
F3 See Herbelot on this Title.
F4 Vid. Virgil. Æn. Lib. x. ver. I, cum not. Sere.
F5 Jdg 5:20.
Consult other dictionaries:
A Symbolical Dictionary
A Symbolical Dictionary by Charles Daubuz. Publication date 1842.