Out of the chosen twelve, Apostle Peter was the only one who received the revelation about the true identity of the Son of God as Christ the Anointed One of God. As a result and as per God’s plan, he was given the promise of being given the ‘keys of the kingdom of heaven’. Despite this even he, along with other disciples deserted their Lord and he denied even knowing Lord Jesus for fear of his own life. But how could he do this after such a great blessing and can we as believers also receive such blessings and live with heaven opened over our lives?
What is the meaning of ‘open heavens? – Lord Jesus told Nathanael about heaven being opened on the Son of Man, He Himself, ‘and the angels of God ascending and descending’ on Him (John 1:50-51). Jacob, while fleeing from Esau, his brother, saw in a dream, ‘a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven, and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it’ (Genesis 28:12). Lord Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan river; ‘and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him’ (Luke 3:21-22). From heaven the voice of God testified to the identity of Lord Jesus as God’s Son and only after that did He commence His work as Messiah. God localized His presence on that particular spot in Bethel for Jacob and for His Son in the Jordan River and heaven touched the earth during that particular moment. Every individual, a believer or a Gentile, all would love to live life under open heaven with every moment spent experiencing heaven on earth.
What is an open heaven and what can be expected or experienced then? With sin entering mankind, Adam and Eve were sent out of the Garden of Eden and cherubim with a ‘flaming sword which turned every way’ was placed at the east of the Garden to ‘guard the way to the Tree of Life’ (Genesis 3:23-24). In Lord Jesus ‘was life, and the life was the light of men’ (John 1:4). Adam chose to align with darkness instead of light of the glory of the LORD as revealed in His Son at the time of creation and lost the right to get back into that light and life of direct communication with God. In this state God, being the Creator, could talk to man but man could not initiate the talk
Open heaven is a Divine provision and an unobstructed manifestation of all that heaven is in a particular person or place, revealing God’s glory and presence. Jacob saw that and received Abraham’s blessing of the land of Canaan, unimaginable numbers of his descendents ‘like the dust of the earth; increase of his estate into all directions on the earth and blessings on ‘all the families of the earth through him’. This blessing did not include the blessing that Jacob had received from his father Isaac by impersonating as Esau, the blessing of wealth, honor and dominion (Genesis 27:28-29). When heaven opened over Jacob, he received the revelation of what he was supposed to be and not what he was fighting and craving for.
Under open heavens laws of nature are temporarily or permanently suspended for that person, signs and wonders and miracles happen, for the power of heaven starts operating directly in him/her and revelations may be received. Since nature and all of creation is subject to heavenly authority, sickness, disease and conditions prevailing in human life are reversed. God’s glory is manifested and since all material resources are the LORD’s, the same are made available for His purpose (Haggai 2:7-8). Stephen saw ‘heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’, the revelation seen by him empowered him to face his death by stoning at the hands of Jewish elders, even while seeking forgiveness from God for their sin (Acts 7:56).
After heavens were opened on Jacob, he realized that financial well being, the blessing that he had received by impersonating Esau, was not important. He could then seek protection, ‘bread to eat and clothing to put on from God’, all of the basic necessities of life, and made a commitment to offer tithe to God. Open heavens on a person provide him/her direct access to God and blessing of answered prayers but before that the individual is made to understand the real value of everything in life, to save him from pursuit of false things. The spiritual starts ruling the earthly and the body comes under control of the soul and soul under the spirit of man to be led by the Spirit of God. The fallen sinful nature of man starts getting reversed into a new godly way of life.
Effects of open heavens on a person’s life – Before the effects and results of open heavens start manifesting in a person’s life, he/she is subjected to extreme scrutiny/testing by the Spirit of God. Abraham had to leave his place and people and move to an unknown place. The Son of God was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1& 11). The devil left after the temptation, and only then did the ‘angels came and ministered to Him (Lord Jesus)’. Lord Jesus had to be in the wilderness for forty days to be with the LORD God. Saul experienced the light of the glory of the Lord and was appointed by the Savior Himself as an Apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 1:16-18). But he went into Arabia, the wilderness for three years, to learn operating in this new state, though he had been trained in the Scriptures, by Rabbi Gamaliel, the great scholar of that time.
Operating under open heavens, Apostle Paul was ‘caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter’ (2 Corinthians 12:4). The first sign of this changed life is revelation, to the individual as well as about him to others, like what Apostle Paul saw. Nathanael was ‘under the fig tree’ when the Lord saw him, meaning in prayer (John 1:48-51) and meditating upon Genesis 28:12, the ladder that Jacob saw. Lord Jesus, in the Spirit, not only saw his act but also his point of meditation to tell him about the ‘angels of God descending and ascending upon the Son of Man’, implying an open channel of communication with the Father in heaven. On Jacob, however, the angels first ascend with the prayers and requests and then descend with the answers. Because of this open supernatural channel of communication, angelic visits, dreams, visions and prophecies occur.
Second, Manifestation of the Godhead – At the baptism of the Son of God, all three members of the Holy Trinity are on the earth, the Man Jesus, the Holy Spirit as a dove and God the Father in the voice from above. This happens at times of great turns to take place in history, whether Abraham as father of faith; David to turn his people to God; the start of the ministry of Lord Jesus; preaching of the Word to the Gentiles by Apostle Peter (Acts 10:44) or establishment of new churches by Apostle Paul. Stephen, the first martyr of the church, could see into heaven but the religious spirits of the Jewish elders felt offended and stoned him to death (Acts 7:55-56). But because of the persecution the Word of God spread into Judea and Samaria and then all over the world. Apostle Peter saw the sheet descending and Cornelius and his people became the first Gentile converts (Acts 10:11).
Third, permanent relationships – Opening of heavens is not a short ‘hit and run’ type of event but brings about permanent changes. God descended on Mount Sinai to tell the Israelites about the expected way of living by following His Ten Commandments (Acts 19:18 to Acts 20:17). With that a permanent covenant was made with the people by God to be with them always by creating an environment suitable for His stay in their hearts. God’s dwelling then becomes a ‘house of prayer’ and worship, for their He accepts their offerings (Isaiah 56:7). Lord Jesus cleared the Temple in Jerusalem of dealers and sellers of merchandise for this same reason (Mark 11:17). Since God dwells with the humble and those of a contrite spirit, open heavens bring in an era of worship and prayer and humility.
Four, life of abundance –God created everything in abundance for man in the Garden of Eden and His daily visits reflected a state of open heavens. Under such conditions there is abundance of everything for man. The state of life under open heavens is best illustrated by Moses, ‘The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and the LORD will make you the head and not the tail, you shall be above only and not be beneath’ (Deuteronomy 28:12-13).
The universe is controlled by the heavenly spiritual forces while the devil and evil spirits with him try to disrupt God’s plan. Opening of heavens is not subject to evil but depends on God’s timing, spiritual warfare, sowing and reaping, trial of faith, purity of heart of a person and mankind and their motives and curses.
Five, Open heavens means outpouring of God’s righteousness and presence –The LORD God commands, ‘Rain down, you heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness; let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together. I, the LORD, have created it’ (Isaiah 45:8). Then people’s hearts are ready to receive God’s presence, His call to righteousness, and to all that He wishes to work, for in them deep hunger and thirst develops for all that God is. However, those who turn away from God under such conditions suffer and 3,000 men died on the day law was given on Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:28). But those who surrender to God’s will are blessed and on the Day of Pentecost 3,000 accepted Lord Jesus as their Savior (Acts 2:41).
Six, under open heavens there is increased angelic activity for the angels carry prayers before the throne of grace and mercy and not only bring answers but also help in enforcement of that Divine decree. An angel of the LORD opened the prison doors to bring the Apostles out of the prison of the Jewish leaders (Acts 5:19). An angel led Phillip to Gaza road to meet and preach the Gospel to the Ethiopian official (Acts 8:26). An angel struck Herod ‘because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died’ (Acts 12:22).
Seven, open heavens means answered prayer – During the great Feast of Unleavened Bread, kept by the Israelites during Hezekiah’s reign, ‘there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. Then the priests, the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to His dwelling place, to heaven’ (2 Chronicles 30:26-27).
Under an open heaven there is a fundamental change within and without and material things start appearing as a result but that is not the only result of one’s life. The mighty presence of the glory of the LORD God removes darkness from within people’s hearts and transforms them to be able to bear much fruit for His kingdom.
How do we receive this blessing of open heavens in our life – Baptism of the Son of God was His readiness and surrender to God’s plan of redemption of mankind through Him. God chose all believers ‘in Him, before the foundation of the world’ that we ‘should be holy and without blame before Him in love’ (Ephesians 1:4). This plan of redemption was ready in God’s heart before anything was created for the All-knowing God was well aware of the sin of man beforehand. Open heavens is not something that we can cause for that will amount to salvation without grace, an impossible thing. For Lord Jesus is ‘the way, the truth, and the life’(John 14:6) and no one can enter into the presence of God the Father, except through Him.
It is, however, necessary that a person must have an earnest desire to enter into that state. Lord Jesus at twelve years of age was listening to the teachers and asking questions and ‘all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers’ (Luke 2:46-52). On being asked by His parents about His not joining the returning group, He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business’. His keenness to fulfill His assigned mission was great; yet, He went back with His parents to Nazareth ‘and was subject to them’. God also blessed Him with increase in ‘wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men’. At the right time, heavens were opened to Him with the Holy Spirit descending on Him.
God does not desire any of His children suffering lack of anything or be unable to meet Him through prayer. Lord Jesus defined the purpose of His ministry, ‘to preach the Gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and opening of the prison to those bound’. He has fulfilled this and desires us to enjoy these blessings in our lives.