Most of the ancient world believed their gods were vaguely “above” them, and hell was “below” them. When the Earth is flat, this makes sense, and which particular direction above you doesn’t matter much – if you look up, you’ll see heaven.
But it’s not that simple when you learn that the Earth is a pinprick in a vast three dimensional universe, and “heaven” literally surrounds us on all sides. Even below us, past the Earth, you’ll find heaven. But where is the heaven that God dwells in? If and when we invent a (much) faster than light spaceship, which way would you point it to be able to knock on God’s door? You might be surprised to learn the Bible does actually give us an answer.
Psalms 48:2 Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.
This scripture is of course speaking of Jerusalem, the temple mount, on Earth… in a sense. But think about it: to whom is Mt. Zion, in Southern Israel, “on the sides of the north”? From the perspective of the vast majority of Israel, indeed the vast majority of the civilized world at the time, in no sense could the temple mount be considered “north”!
When Lucifer, at that time the appointed caretaker of the Earth (Jude 1:6), led a revolt against that very mountain – God’s government – he headed in a particular direction. Not towards Jerusalem, but towards God’s temple in heaven… yet still towards the “sides of the north”!
Isaiah 14:13 For thou hast said in thine heart, 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:
Clearly this is not speaking of the physical temple in Jerusalem, for the stars of God do not dwell there except in the most metaphorical of senses. So this can only be describing the temple of God in heaven, the one seen in…
Revelation 11:19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament…
So when we read the scripture in this light, it means that this temple of God is located, from the perspective of Earth, “in the sides of the north”. So that’s a general direction – but what is the distance? We know it’s well above the air, above even the stars.
2 Chronicles 2:6 But who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him? …
The Bible references three “heavens”. The heaven where birds fly, the heaven of heavens where stars shine, and the heaven where God has His throne – which must be above the others, beyond the others, for clearly they cannot contain Him!
Ephesians 4:10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.
Psalms 8:1 …O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
So we have a distance measurement – beyond the observable universe. That means, if astronomers are to be believed, at least 15 billion light-years away. But now let’s see if we can refine that directional measurement any…
The original Hebrew literally means, as translated, “in the sides of the north”. The same phrasing is used elsewhere to express ideas like “the sides of the temple”, the “borders [sides] of Zebulon”, “edges of a mountain”, etc. So this tells us that God didn’t mean precisely north – just north-ish.
But the very fact God was vague about that, means that there is an accurate direction which we can deduce from the Bible! If He was just being casual about the direction, not caring if we knew where it was or not, He could have said “I’m north!”. But He said “I’m next to north”, which means He wanted us to know He wasn’t exactly north, which means He cares about precision here!
To find the real answer, you’ve got to realize that “north” has a lot of definitions – even today. Astronomically, north is the top of the Earth, the upper end of a line drawn directly through the spinning top that is our planet. This is true north, the line that points towards the “North Star” in the graphic below. But finding that from a given spot on Earth is harder than you’d think.
Because the Earth rotates daily, most of the stars appear to move in the night sky – though of course they’re not actually the ones moving. However, the farther you look towards north, the less distance they seem to travel until ultimately, ideally, you find one star that doesn’t seem to move at all throughout the night. That’s true north. Well, almost.
See the problem is, it’s moving. The Earth’s rotation is not perfect. Rather, it’s like a spinning top, which spun perfectly – until you bumped it (see picture on the right). Then, it continues to spin on its axis but also wobbles, orbiting around its axis AND an arbitrary point where you bumped it!
This wobbling is called “precession”, and it causes the northern axis of the Earth to point at different stars over time. Because of the literally astronomic scale of the wobble, it takes about 26,000 years to complete the wobble-orbit and point at the exact same point in space. What this means is that what we call the North Star has changed over time. In another 12,000 years the North Star will be Vega. 5,000 years ago it was Thuban.
The ring on this picture shows where the north pole points over time, traveling in a counter-clockwise direction around the “ecliptic pole”, which is the center of motion the Earth should have, if it wasn’t wobbling.
The point of all this is that, now, Polaris is an almost perfect North Star. But that’s only been true for a few hundred years – the farther back in history you go, the farther off Polaris is from true north.
Isaiah and David wrote those verses in 1,000-800 BC – roughly 3,000 years ago. At that time, “north” would have been about where 1,000 BC is on that picture. God’s throne was not there, not at that north, but “on the sides of that north!
This is a time lapse photo of the northern sky. The farther you get from the center, the faster the stars seem to travel – the longer the streaks are. Almost in the center, you can see one star that barely moves. That’s Polaris, the North Star today. But look at the stars nearby – they are not on one side or the other side. They are rotating around the center point, literally on the sides of the north!
So a star that is NEAR to the north star would literally appear to be on all sides of it, over time! As God created the universe, it’s not much of a stretch to say all things revolve around Him. What better metaphor could there be, than the picture above? The place around which all the stars (angels) of God orbit!
Now 3,000 years ago, there was no perfect north star. Several stars could be said to be “on the sides of the north”. Kochab was the closest bright star, but Polaris wasn’t so far away; there was still Thuban relatively nearby.
Psalms 138:2 I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
Now bear in mind that when this was written, THERE WAS NO TEMPLE! This was a Psalm of David (Verse 1). But David didn’t build the temple! It didn’t exist until his son built it! Therefore, if David “worshiped toward thy holy temple”, he must have meant God’s temple in heaven!
Psalms 28:2 Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle.
Again, where was that? He lifted up his hands to point to it, so it wasn’t on Earth.
Psalms 5:3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, AND WILL LOOK UP.
Everyone in the world believes in looking DOWN while they pray. Jews and some messianic groups pray to the East, facing the physical temple. Muslims pray towards Mecca – they even have cell phone apps to tell you which direction to pray!
But David looked up, towards God’s holy temple, which was in the sides of the north – he himself said so!
1 Kings 8:30 And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive.
Physical Israel was meant to pray to a physical temple. God visited that temple regularly, particularly on the Sabbath (Ezekiel 46). But spiritual Israel knew that God did not dwell in a house built with hands (Acts 7:48), and that God’s temple in heaven was in a completely different direction!
HOW TO FIND HEAVEN
But now for the cool part. To find north – and this has been true for 3,000 years – there is a simple trick every schoolboy knows. First, you locate the big dipper – Ursa Major, or big bear, in Latin – then use the two stars in the bowl and follow them out of the bowl, go roughly 5 times the distance between those two stars, and you’ll find Polaris. North.
The distance you travel from the bowl to find north has changed a bit, but otherwise this has been true for about 2,000 years, and will continue to be true for another 6,000 years or so – those two stars point towards true north. Towards the throne of God. Thus, you literally use the big dipper to find God.
But now I want to call attention to something you might have already noticed – should have already noticed. There are seven stars in the big dipper. So literally, seven stars point the way to God.
Revelation 1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
Revelation 4:5 …there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
So seven spirits of God are seven stars “in God’s right hand”. It’s not hard to imagine that if God’s throne is near Polaris, the big dipper is one of the nearest constellations, and thus could be pictured as “in God’s right hand”. In fact, it wouldn’t take much imagination – far less than it does with most constellations – to see the dippers as “the hands of God”, like the picture at right.
So again, in direct Biblical symbolism – seven angels = seven stars = hand of God = Ursa Major. For thousands of years, people have used this to find “the sides of the north”. Well actually… that’s not quite true. People have used two of the seven stars to find God. Not all seven. Only two of them point to God.
Consider the fact that there are only two righteous angels mentioned in the Bible – Michael and Gabriel. And Gabriel specifically laments that no one stands with him against the forces of darkness except Michael:
Daniel 10:21 (ESV) But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.
I’ve extensively written on the seven top angels of God, and their interactions in the Bible, in other articles. So I won’t repeat all that here. Suffice it to say that of the top seven angels God originally placed in charge of the Earth, five joined the rebellion, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, and only two remained faithful. You can read God’s message to those seven angels in Revelation 2-3. Two good churches, two bad churches, and three not-good-but-could-be-worse churches.
If we apply that to the big dipper, we have two angels which point towards God; two angels which point towards the star Thuban – an Egyptian name meaning, literally “serpent”. And three angels that don’t really point anywhere.
Now the star Thuban was pretty close to being the North Star – the star around which the stars of God rotated – at the time of Adam’s sin. And as Thuban was anciently called “the serpent”… well, it could be coincidence but it’s a compelling one if so.
GOD’S LEFT HAND
It has always seemed odd to me that there are two constellations so near by that are so nearly identical. The little dipper actually includes the star Polaris as its tail star. But what’s really odd is that both are composed of exactly seven stars!
True north during Jesus’ lifetime was where the blue dot is at the picture at right. But God never said the throne would be due north; He said it would be at the “sides of the north”. Given that, we should ask ourselves – why did God put these two constellations so near what would be north during the lifetime of man?
We already use one “hand” to find north; what if we are supposed to use both hands to find… the sides of the north?
In other words, what if the throne of God is at the intersection of the lines of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor?
This means it is possible, with mathematical precision, for anyone from any age of man to find God. It means that you simply have to look where the two last stars on God’s “hands” are pointing, and you’ll find the temple of God.
Just beside the North Star, but never quite truly north of the Earth! Always on the “sides” of the north!
That answers the question in the title, by giving us a plausible location for the temple of God in heaven. I don’t expect to be able to test it anytime soon – but all knowledge is worth having. Yet this is only a fraction of the things we can learn from the stars God placed in heaven.
Psalms 19:1-4 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world…
Have the heavens “shewed knowledge” to you? Knowledge that can be conveyed without speech, to anyone in all the Earth? Not just scientific knowledge, but knowledge about the plan of God, night after night? Well, they’re about to.
Job 9:9 (Holman) He makes the stars: the Bear, Orion, the Pleiades, and the constellations of the southern sky.
There are three constellations mentioned in the Bible by name. The bear, which we call the big dipper, and which has seven major stars. Orion, and the Pleiades cluster. The identification of these Hebrew words with these particular constellations could be debated, but commentators are pretty well agreed on their meaning, so we’re going to accept it for now.
But the curious thing is, every constellation mentioned in the Bible has seven stars! Do you really think that’s an accident, given that God says…
Isaiah 40:26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host BY NUMBER: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.
All the constellations – that is, the constellations as God sees them – are called by name. And they are brought out “by number”, meaning that God has a specific count of the stars in them, like army divisions, and calls them to rise in their proper order.
We know very little about the other constellations since God only mentioned these three. But that tells us two things; first, that there is an awful lot we don’t know – and therefore could deduce from the Bible and looking at the heavens.
And second, considering how many constellations God must divide the heavens into – dozens, if not hundreds – the fact that He singled out these three tells us they must be very important to God, important enough for us to understand what they mean.
PLEIADES AND ORION
Orion has always been one of the most recognizable, least ambiguous constellations. It’s one of the few constellations that most cultures have agreed looks like a man. In fact, it still does – “sword” and all (seriously, who are we kidding)?
The mere presence of Orion is hard to accept as being random chance. It’s so lifelike – for a connect-the-dots image – that it’s always been surprising to me that it wasn’t seen as a proof of God’s existence. Most constellations are a big stretch – do you see a dragon there? Or a kite? Or a fish? You see what you want to see. But with Orion, you see a man. It’s possible it’s there by random chance, of course, but it’s unlikely. And yet it is there.
The Pleiades (below) were known in several unrelated cultures as the seven sisters, even though only six are clearly visible, the seventh being significantly fainter and harder to make out with the naked eye. Curiously, they also form a dipper shape, and are often confused with the little dipper by amateur astronomers.
Several cultures invented a mythology of what happened to the 7th star, which has led many astronomers to believe that something happened to drastically reduce the luminosity of one of the stars within our cultural memory.
Orion is also considered to be composed of seven major stars. Easily the brightest stars in the constellation are the three belt stars, and the shoulders and the feet. As with the other two constellations, the actual constellation as defined today contains many hundreds of stars, but the easy, obvious ones total seven.
Just as with the seven stars in Revelation, there is an easy division of 2-3-2. Interestingly, Orion’s belt is almost perfectly aligned with the celestial equator, the dividing line between the “north” and the “south”. So you could say that there are two stars in the north (God’s side) and 2 stars in the south (Satan’s side), and 3 who are neither good nor bad – just like the seven angels over the churches of Revelation!
Job 38:31-32 (Holman) Can you fasten the chains of the Pleiades or loosen the belt of Orion? Can you bring out the constellations in their season and lead the Bear and her cubs?
God considers the Pleiades to be “chained”. It is well known now that unlike most groupings in the sky, the Pleiades actually occupy the same region of space in an open cluster. Thus their gravity literally “chains them together”.
Likewise, Orion’s seven stars are, again atypically, at approximately the same distance from Earth, and relatively near to each other, but are very slowly moving apart. As the galaxy rotates most of the constellations will distort out of recognition over time, but Orion will be one of the last to change.
But there’s another translation that changes the sense of those words a bit; the ISV says “Can you bind the chains of Pleiades or loosen the cords of Orion?” With this translation, we see the implication that Orion is held by cords; chained, against his will, astride the celestial equator. If that were the intent here, then it would make us look at it differently.
Orion is often seen as a mighty hunter, fitting in with mythologies which often revolve around food production and hunting. If so, then it could be argued that Orion represents Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord. In fact, in Hungarian legend, this group of stars is actually called Nimrod, whom they believe to be their cultural ancestor.
The name Nimrod means “Rebel”; and Nimrod’s master, the Adversary, the literal translation of Satan, was the first to lead a rebellion against God. Who in turn cast Satan down to Earth as lightning and chained him here.
2 Peter 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
Viewed in this light, it seems like God was asking Job “can you loose the chains binding Satan to the Earth? Or can you bind again the Pleiades whom I have freed?” For some reason, God always treats these constellations as a unit; neither is ever mentioned without the other.
Amos 5:8 Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning…
Orion is clearly a man, and in the vast majority of mythologies the Pleiades are female, usually seen as seven sisters. And as the heavens turn above the Earth, it seems as if Orion is chasing the Pleiades across the sky, but cannot catch them – for God has bound him, and freed them from his grasp!
In Biblical symbolism, a woman always represents a church. Hence, every winter’s night we have seven churches fleeing the Rebel – Satan/Nimrod. Which once again changes the way we look at this verse…
Job 38:31-32 (Holman) Can you fasten the chains of the Pleiades or loosen the belt of Orion? Can you bring out the constellations in their season and lead the Bear and her cubs?
Revisiting this verse and looking at it in this light, we see the seven ages of the true church fleeing the great hunter who is never allowed to overcome them! And we also see that in this sense, the churches were chained, not by God, but by Satan!
Lukes 13:16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?
This last piece adds a new perspective, yet another way to look at Job 38:31-32; And most likely all of these senses are completely true – yet no one of them is the complete truth. For with these ideas in mind, you can also read it “Can you… loosen the cords of Orion [which he has placed on mankind]?” For truly Satan has bound the whole world under sin – and only Jesus is able to loose his binding!
And God was right to boast of this, for men like Job cannot loose Satan’s binding, nor bind again the church whom Jesus has freed! (Romans 8:35-39). These last verses show the contrast between “the shadow of death”, pictured by Orion/Nimrod/Satan, being turned into “morning” by God! When He frees the slaves, and binds Satan with chains in the bottomless pit!
Revelation 20:1-2 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
This happens on the seventh day; just as Pharaoh, pursuer of the church in the wilderness, was drowned in the Red Sea on the seventh day; and just as the “woman, daughter of Abraham” (a symbol of the spiritual Church) whom Satan had bound was loosed on… the seventh day. Every detail in the Bible fits together in every possible sense, but only if you fully understand it!
The seven stars of the dippers have been pointing the way to God’s throne since before the foundation of the world – and God even gave us a huge hint by telling us which direction to look – and yet no one has ever seen it before. How many other things are hidden in plain sight, literally shining out of the darkness?
What you’ve read in this article are some of the things that can be learned from studying just over five percent of the night sky (the area taken up by Orion, Ursa Major and Minor, and the Pleiades). How many other truths are in the heavens, boasting of God’s handiwork and glory, shewing us knowledge night after night?