When the Bible uses the word ‘heaven’ it could be speaking of five very different things.
Genesis 1:20 reads, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.”
In this case, the word ‘heaven’ simply means ‘sky.’
Matthew 6:9 reads, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
In this case, the word ‘heaven’ is used to describe the place that God lives. God is present everywhere, but He is also hidden, this hidden place that God dwells is often times referred to as ‘heaven.’
The Reign of God
Matthew 4:17 reads, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…”
In this case, the word ‘heaven’ is used to describe the ‘reign of God.’ Sometimes the word ‘heaven’ is not used to talk about a place, but is used to talk about the reality that God reigns. The phrase “Kingdom of heaven” could be translated as the “Kingdom of God’s reign.”
The Intermediate State
Philippians 1:23 reads, “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”
Although this verse does not use the word ‘heaven,’ Paul writes about his soul departing from his body. At the Christian’s death, his soul departs from his body and enters into a spiritual realm with God and other believers. Christians wait together in this spiritual state until their souls are rejoined to their resurrected bodies in preparation for entering the eternal heaven. This spiritual place is often referred to as ‘heaven.’
The Eternal Heaven
Matthew 8:11 reads, “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” In this case, the word ‘heaven’ is used to talk about the eternal home of believers. The place where all believers, from all around the world and from all ages, join together in our resurrected bodies in perfect fellowship with God and each other forever and ever.