Open Heavens: Spiritual Portals and Places

Open Heavens:  Spiritual Portals and Places

“Oh that You would rend the heavens!  That You would come down!  That the mountains might shake at Your Presence.”  (Isaiah 64:1)

There is a difference, geographically speaking, between the physical realm and the spiritual realm.  The spiritual realm is the invisible realm around us and the physical realm is the realm that we live in, that is experienced with our five senses.  On the second day of creation, it would seem that God established some boundaries that separated the higher lives of heaven from lower spiritual levels that exist here on earth.  We read, “Then God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the water from the waters.’  Thus God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.  And God called the firmament Heaven…(Genesis 1:6-8).   The word that is translated “waters” is the Hebrew word, “mayim.”  The word literally means “to flow” and is difficult to translate.  It is translated “waters” as water comes the closest to the exact meaning of “to flow.”  Oftentimes, water, in scripture, denotes the spiritual realm. (Ezekiel 47, John 8:38) .  If this be the case here, then God is making boundaries within the spiritual realm.  A firmament is placed to separate the lower spiritual levels (in which live devils, demons, and in which angels operate here on earth) from the higher spiritual levels which contain the abode of God.  This is evident by God calling the firmament, “heaven.”  This Hebrew word for heaven, is the word “shamayim” which is a combination word of “sha” meaning “lofty” and “mayim” meaning “to flow.”  In essence, a higher spiritual place.  It divided the lower levels from the higher spiritual realms.  This may be Paul’s reference to the “third heaven” that was experienced in vision. (2 Corinthians 12:12)  So, when God “rends the heavens” (Isaiah 64:1) a hole is ripped in the dividing partition and an open heaven is created over a certain geographic location.  Therefore, what is free to roam in higher levels of heaven has freer access to the lower spiritual realms here on earth.  In fact, there are times when heaven comes crashing into the physical realm.  Perhaps, this is the essence of revival.

There are three biblical locations that illustrate this point.   Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah.  A survey of when the open heaven occurred and the spiritual legacy of each location should provide sufficient evidence.

First, Bethel. (the meaning itself suggest an open heaven, it literally means house of God)  We find Jacob “on the run” from his brother Esau shortly after stealing Esau’s blessing and birthright.  Jacob is a deceiver and is reaping what he has sown.  Prior to his departure, his father Isaac releases some prophetic blessings over Jacob and sends him on his way.  Isaac states, “May God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may be an assembly of peoples; and give you the blessings of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you, that you may inherit the land in which you are a stranger, which God gave to Abraham.” (Genesis 28:3-4)  Isaac’s prophetic blessings caused a shifting in the spiritual realm.  The covenant blessings of Abraham have just been unleashed over this boys life, and God shifts His Spiritual Kingdom into motion.  Because of the nature of the covenant and the nature of the blessings, God must act.  Jacob now has the right to be a potential covenantal partner with God.  God moves to meet Jacob.  In Genesis 28:11, the meeting takes place.  “So, he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun and set.  And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep.”  The Hebrew word for “the place” can also mean “to make intercession.”  This is no ordinary place Jacob has come upon.  “The place” is the physical location where the prophetic blessings, declarations, and prayers that have moved the heavenly realms into action, come crashing into the physical realm.  The firmament is “rendered” and an open heaven exist.  A portal or door between the higher levels of heaven and the lower levels here on earth has been opened.  Jacob then has an encounter with God that changes his life forever.  The spiritual door is opened and that door impacts Jacob’s life so that he would never be the same.  Years later, Bethel would remain spiritual center for Israel.  Access to the spiritual realm is readily available at the spiritual door at Bethel.  Later, under Jeroboam, it becomes an idolatrous center, but it remained a place of spiritual activity.

Second, Mizpah.  Jacob is now leaving Haran, again on the run, only not his fault this time, and comes to a place.  Laban, his disgruntled father-in-law, is in hot pursuit of him for stealing his gods, and catches up to him in the mountains.  Jacob and Laban work out the differences largely because God opened a door at Mizpah and moved to meet Laban so as he would not harm Jacob.  God tells Laban to “speak neither good or bad to Jacob.”(Gen 31:29).  Again, the spiritual door is opened and what is free to operate in the higher levels of heaven, now has easier access here on earth.  The next day, Jacob verifies the opening of this spiritual door as ,”the angels of God” were following him. (Genesis 32:2)  Likewise, Mizpah enjoyed a long spiritual heritage in Israel (more on this in a moment).

Third, Gilgal.  The faithless generation of Israel has died in the wilderness and God is moving His People of faith into the Promised Land.  Joshua leads Israel across the Jordan and comes to a place which would later become called Gilgal.  God instructs Joshua to circumcise the children of Israel.  As they move in faith and obedience, the forces of heaven again prepare to assault the earth.  Joshua meets the “commander of the army of the Lord of Hosts.”  This preincarnate appearance of Messiah opened a spiritual door  and Gilgal remained a spiritual center for years.  (Judges 2:1)  Of course, a door is also opened shortly thereafter at Jericho and we will also see how it remained a spiritual focal point.

Years later, there remained something special about these three places.  Something existed there that prophetic people could sense, especially Samuel.  The Bible says that, “And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.  He went from year to year on a circuit to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah, and judged Israel in all those places. (I Samuel 7:15-16)  When the seer/prophet became the judge of Israel, he judged from the places where spiritual portals had been opened.  Throughout his ministry he assembled Israel at these places.  (I Samuel 13:4, I Samuel 76:5-7)  Could it be that the prophet knew where access to the higher realms of Spirit were easily accessed and he purposed to go there to obtain the wisdom and knowledge that he needed to rule Israel?  There is no clear cut verse of scripture that states it.  However, it seems likely.  Especially since the ark of the covenant (over which the presence of God was to remain) was in Kirath-Jearim and there is no record of Samuel ever visiting it.  Perhaps he was receiving revelatory knowledge through the open heavens that already existed.

It is also a point of interest that Elijah, when passing the mantle to Elisha, visits both Bethel and Gilgal.  It is of further interest that at Bethel there existed a “school of the sons of the prophets” or a community of prophets who chose to live there.   Perhaps it became a prophetic center as the open heaven made practicing the prophetic much easier.  Elijah also visits Jericho, and likewise, a center for the prophets existed there as well.  Could it also be that prophetic activation was readily available from the doors opened at both Gilgal and Jericho?  It seems more than mere coincidence.

There is also a New Testament example.  When Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan an open heaven is established.  Matthew describes the event as, “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.” (Matthew 3:16)  When the heavens open, what is free to operate in higher levels of heaven moves readily into earth.  We see God Himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit, coming to Jesus, and this time, the presence stays with Jesus.  He has an open heaven wherever He goes, as the higher abode of God is now abiding in Him.(it should be this way for us as well)  Be that as it may, Jesus may have operated under that baptismal open heaven while in ministry.  The disciples of John the Baptist stay to John, “And they came to John and said to him, Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan to whom you have testified–behold He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” (John 3:26)  Perhaps Jesus was ministering under the open heaven  that was created at His baptism and revival was breaking out as “all were coming to Him.”  The open heaven experience sparked a revival among the tax collectors and sinners, and Jesus knew how to exploit the breach.

This is relevant to our times.  If these doors or portals exist, then they must be open.  “The implication is that we can visit these geographic locations and participate in an open heaven experience.  These are not just specific to Israel.  Everywhere that a revival or renewal has taken place is a door that has been opened.   The Red-River Revival was birthed out of prayer, fasting, and intercession.  Reverend James MacGready was a man given to prayer and a pastor who encouraged parishioners to pray for revival.  He encouraged them to join him in covenant to pray for revival in Logan County.  He wrote on the covenant:  “When we consider the Word and promises of a compassionate God to the poor lost family of Adam, we find the strongest encouragement for Christians to pray in faith–to ask in the name of Jesus for the conversion of their fellow-men.  None ever went to Christ when on the earth, with the case of their friends, that were denied, and , although His people, He has left it on record, that were two or three agree upon earth to ask in prayer, believing, it shall be done…With these promises before us, we feel encouraged to unit our supplications to a prayer-hearing God for the outpouring of His Spirit, that His people may be quickened and comforted, and that our children , and sinners generally, may be converted.” (1)  Those who joined him in covenant agreed to pray every Saturday night and Sunday morning for revival. Furthermore, they devoted the third Saturday of each month for fasting.  They continued in prayer despite the worsening of conditions, they remained faithful.  God always honors covenant , commitment, and humility expressed through prayer and fasting.  Those who remained faithful would not be disappointed.

God honored the perseverance, the faith, the prayers, and the fasting of His People, and He moved.  The prayers in the  physical realm moved the spiritual realm and God’s Kingdom, once again, began to move.  There was going to be a place where the hevens were rendered and God would invade earth.  He came crashing into Kentucky in June of 1800, and this open heaven experience sparked a nationwide revival.

In June of 1800, another communion service was scheduled.  The event was scheduled for three days with not much happening till the last service on the last day.  In fact, many of the ministers MacGready had invited to participate had already gone home.  At the end of the last service, which was preached by William Hodge, “a solemn weeping fell over the house” (2).  John McGee, a Methodist minister who was attending the meetings, composed himself for a final appeal to the lost.  McGee explains, “I exhorted them to let the Lord Omnipotent reign in their hearts and submit to Him, and their souls should live.  Many broke silence.  The woman in the east end of the house shouted tremendously.  I left the pulpit to go to her…Several spoke to me:  ‘You know these people.  Presbyterians are much for order, they will not bear this confusion, go back and be quiet.’  I turned to go back, and was near falling, the power of God was strong upon me.  I turned again and losing sight of the fear of man, I went through the house exhorting with all possible ecstasy and energy.” (3)  When McGee turned around to look over the church, he states that, “the floor was covered with the slain; their screams for mercy pierced the heavens.” (4)  God had poured out His Spirit and MacGready described the effect on the lost as, “As multitudes were stuck down under the awful conviction the cries of the distressed filled the whole house.  There you might see profane swearers, and Sabbath breakers pricked to the heart, and crying out, ‘what shall we do to be saved.’  There frolickers and dancers crying for mercy.  There you might see little children of 10,11, and 12 years of age praying and crying for redemption, in the blood of Jesus, in agonies of distress.  During this sacrament, and until the Tuesday following, 10 persons we believe were savingly brought home to Christ.” (5)  This was the beginning, a year later, another meeting was scheduled at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, and the response was overwhelming.  To put this into perspective, the closest city to Cane Ridge was Lexington and it was 100 miles away.  Its population in 1801 was around 800 people.  At the Cane Ridge revival, it was estimated that 10,000 people came with God pouring out His Spirit similarly to what happened at Red River.  This was the beginning of the camp meetings and the beginning of the Second Great Awakening.

A spiritual door must exist at Red River.  This summer we will travel there and sit under the open heaven that was created by the prayers of the saints and the response of a Loving, All-Powerful God.

Endnotes

1.  Jarboe, Frank, The Red River Revival, http://www.goodshepherdfarm.us/1800/redtext.htm.

2.  Ibid.

3.  Ibid.

4.  Marshall, Peter, Manual, David, From Sea to Shining Sea, Revell Cp, Old Tappan New Jersey, 1986, page 63.

5.  Grider, J.S.  The Red River Meeting House, http://www.cumberland.org/hfcpc/churches/RedRivKY.htm.

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