What is Heaven?

What is Heaven? 

Literal meaning 

The usual Hebrew word for "heavens" is _shamayim_, a plural form meaning "heights," "elevations" #Ge 1:1 2:1

The heavens can be considered "a natural phenomena and not [always] as the dwelling of the deity." (131) (See Mat 10:29)

The heaven(s)” may apply to the full range of earth’s atmosphere in which dew and frost form (Ge 27:28; Job 38:29), the birds fly (De 4:17; Pr 30:19; Mt 6:26), the winds blow (Ps 78:26), lightning flashes (Lu 17:24), and the clouds float and drop their rain, snow, or hailstones (Jos 10:11; 1Ki 18:45; Isa 55:10; Ac 14:17).

 “The sky” is sometimes meant, that is, the apparent or visual dome or vault arching over the earth.—Mt 16:1-3; Ac 1:10, 11.

The physical “heavens” extend through earth’s atmosphere and beyond to the regions of outer space with their stellar bodies, “all the army of the heavens”—sun, moon, stars, and constellations. (De 4:19; Isa 13:10; 1Co 15:40, 41; Heb 11:12) The first verse of the Bible describes the creation of such starry heavens prior to the development of earth for human habitation. (Ge 1:1)

And these have a firmament corresponding to each aeon-heaven. They were given names according to the glory which belongs to heaven for the destruction of the powers. (apocryphon of John)

And a voice came forth from the exalted aeon-heaven: '

This is the hebdomad

 For these are those who have a firmament corresponding to each aeon.

These are the ones who have a firmament corresponding to each heaven and aeon according to the likeness of the Aeon which exists from the beginning, in the model of the indestructible ones.

Symbolic meaning

In the Old and New Testament, "the phrase 'heavens and earth' signifies, in analogy the whole political world. The aspects of the political world, the focus of the bible prophecy, are related to aspects we understand of the natural world. In the political world some are elevated above others into ruling positions. Those great ones that rule are 'high' above the ordinary person and are said to be in 'the heavens'. The Hebrew for 'heaven'(shâmayim) is from a word for 'lofty', or 'high'. One can rise in power into the political heavens, and likewise descend. The ordinary person is said to be of the earth. In Hebrew a word for 'earth' (ădâmâh) is related to the name Adam.

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice. (Psalm 96:11) 
Hear, heavens, and listen, earth; for Yahweh has spoken: (Isaiah 1:2) 
Sing, you heavens, for Yahweh has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth! (Isaiah 44:23)

In all of these instances the heavens and earth have human emotions, and skills, which inanimate nature cannot have. They are poetry and prophecy are analogy. Isaiah particularly uses this analogy

Sing, heavens; and be joyful, earth; 
for Yahweh has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his afflicted. (Isaiah 49:13)

Isaiah is both poetry and prophecy. Note the poetic pairs: heavens - people, earth - afflicted.
In any instance when you read 'heavens' in a prophetic book, or a prophetic song, where it is speaking of the fate of nations, think first it means political heavens. There may be some instances where prophets speak of the natural world, but they will be rarer.

Daniel 8:9-12, where what has previously been shown to represent a political power is spoken of as “getting greater all the way to the army of the heavens,” and even causing some of that army and of the stars to fall to the earth

3772 ouranos οὐρανόςοὐρανοῦ (from a root meaning 'to cover,' 'encompass'; cf. Vanicek, p. 895; Curtius, § 509),

Perhaps from the same as oros (through the idea of elevation); the sky; by extension, heaven (as the abode of God); by implication, happiness, power, eternity; specially, the Gospel (Christianity) -- air, heaven(-ly), sky.

3772 ouranós – heaven (singular), and nearly as often used in the plural ("heavens"). "The singular and plural have distinct overtones and therefore should be distinguished in translation (though unfortunately they rarely are)" (G. Archer).

The incorporeal world then was already completed, having its seat in the Divine Reason; and the world, perceptible by the external senses, was made on the model of it; and the first portion of it, being also the most excellent of all made by the Creator, was the heaven, which he truly called the firmament, as being corporeal; for the body is by nature firm, inasmuch as it is divisible into three parts; and what other idea of solidity and of body can there be, except that it is something which may be measured in every direction? therefore he, very naturally contrasting that which was perceptible to the external senses, and corporeal with that which was perceptible only by the intellect and incorporeal, called this the firmament. (37) Immediately afterwards he, with great propriety and entire correctness, called it the heaven, either because it was already the Boundary{2} of everything, or because it was the first of all visible things which was created; and after its second rising he called the time day, referring the entire space and measure of a day to the heaven, on account of its dignity and honour among the things perceptible to the external senses.

{2} {philo means that ouranos was derived either from horos, a boundary, or from horaoµ, to see, horatos, visible.}

Gen 1:6 ¶  And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. [{firmament: Heb. expansion }
Gen 1:8  And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

In the King James marginal reading gives the alternate reading “expansion,” and the American Standard Version gives “expanse” in its footnote. Other translations support such rendering—“expanse” (Ro; Fn; Yg; An; NW); “expansión” (VM [Spanish]); “étendue [extent or expanse]”

Heaven in the Greek is ouranos, which can mean expansion. Therefore, that is a way of understanding what heaven is being a beyond somewhere up there in a cloud with some angels and some harps. Which I personally do not think that is what is happening anyway. However, heaven really is about the expansion of consciousness. 

God visioned two planes of consciousness, the heaven and the earth, or more properly, "the heavens and the earth." One is the realm of pure ideas; the other, of thought forms. Heaven is the orderly realization of divine ideas. Earth is the manifestation of these ideas.

heaven and earth--Two states of mind, the ideal and the manifestation. According to Revelation 21:1 we are to have new ideals with manifestations in the earth to correspond.

The kingdom of heaven is an expanding consciousness of truth or, we might say, an expanding awareness. To be consistent in our interpretation we should keep in mind that heaven always relates to consciousness and consciousness is relative. Not everyone is at the same point of development in consciousness. Jesus represents the highest development of spiritual consciousness.

heaven--The Christ consciousness; the realm of Divine Mind; a state of consciousness in harmony with the thoughts of God. Heaven is everywhere present. It is the orderly, lawful adjustment of God's kingdom in man's mind, body, and affairs.

heaven, firmament of--The consciousness of Truth that has been formulated and established.

heaven, restoration to--Faith in Spirit and the ultimate dominance of the good in all men will finally restore man to the heavenly consciousness from which he descended.