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NASA telescopes peer deep into the 'second Heaven'

Unsplash/Marek Piwnicki

Many people have wondered over the years: Is space infinite? What is the farthest star ever seen?

Last year an international team of astronomers utilized images from the Hubble Space Telescope to spot the farthest known star from earth. This super-bright giant is 12.9 billion light-years away and was nicknamed Earendel.

“We almost didn’t believe it at first, it was so much farther than the previous most-distant highest redshift star,” said astronomer Brian Welch of the John Hopkins University in Baltimore, lead author of the paper describing the discovery.

“The research team estimates that Earendel is at least 50 times the mass of our Sun and millions of times as bright.”

Interestingly, Earendel is an Old English word meaning “morning star.” Jesus identified Himself as “the bright Morning Star” in the last chapter of the Bible (Revelation 22:16).

Sir Francis Bacon, the 17th century scientist and philosopher of science who is credited with discovering and popularizing the scientific method, said: “God has, in fact, written two books, not just one. Of course, we are all familiar with the first book He wrote, namely Scripture. But He has written a second book called Creation.”

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1). 

The James Webb Space Telescope was launched two years ago and is the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb recently observed Earendel a year after its initial discovery by the Hubble team. And unlike Hubble, Webb sees in infrared. 

Astronomer Dan Coe, who co-authored the paper with Welch, said: “With Webb, we may see stars even farther than Earendel, which would be incredibly exciting. We’ll go back as far as we can. I would love to see Webb break Earendel’s distance record.”

Earendel is the farthest that NASA telescopes have ever peered into the “second Heaven.” The “first Heaven" includes the sky and the earth’s atmosphere, whereas the “second Heaven” is outer space with all of its stars and planets. And the “third Heaven” is God’s dwelling place. 

Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “Our Father in Heaven” (Matthew 6:9). “From Heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from His dwelling place he watches all who live on earth” (Psalm 33:13-14). “This is what the Lord says: ‘Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool” (Isaiah 66:1). 

The Apostle Paul described being “caught up to the third Heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know — God knows. And I know that this man … was caught up to Paradise. He heard inexpressible things …” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

How would you explain the beauty of a sunset to a person who has been blind from birth? A blind person would lack the frame of reference necessary to understand your description. Likewise, Paul did not have words to express what he saw and heard in Paradise. 

One of the criminals who was crucified alongside Jesus placed his faith in the Savior while on the cross. He said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).

While 12 people in history have walked on the Moon, man will never invent a spacecraft capable of reaching the third heaven. Compare man’s best efforts in this regard to God’s supernatural achievement. The Lord has transported millions of believers over the centuries past the second Heaven all the way to Paradise.

You see, God alone knows where the second heaven ends, and the third Heaven begins. And the bright Morning Star provides the only way to get there (see John 14:6). NASA telescopes are able to peer deep into the second heaven, but such equipment will never be able to peer into Paradise, let alone transport anyone there. 

Robert Jastrow, the astronomer and physicist who founded NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, said, “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of ever star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover … That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”

Wonderful discoveries will continue to be made in many fields, including astronomy. But of all the discoveries that will ever be made, none are better than the one made by Alexander Fleming, the Nobel Prize-winning British bacteriologist who discovered the life-saving antibiotic penicillin. He said, “My greatest discovery was that I needed God, and that I was nothing without Him and that He loved me and showed His love by sending Jesus to save me.”

Looking at a distant star on a telescope image can excite an astronomer, but looking at the bright Morning Star with a heart of faith will save your soul in time and for eternity. NASA telescopes provide beautiful images from the second Heaven, but only Jesus can bring you to the third heaven to live forever in a place free from sickness, pain, sin, sadness, anxiety, anger and death. 

Stars, like human beings, eventually die, but everyone who calls on the name of the Lord lives forever in “a New Heaven and a New Earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13; see Revelation 21:1-5).

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

(If you would like to investigate this topic further, check out my CP op-ed about the astrophysicist Hugh Ross: “A Christian Turned Atheist vs. Atheist Turned Christian”).

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska. 

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