Scientists have recently published a paper describing a potentially habitable exoplanet and its star that are a “mirror image” of the Earth and the sun.  Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen, Germany, led an international team of astronomers in the discovery of the exoplanet-star-pair. The Sun-like star Kepler-160 (KOI-456) has been known to host two transiting planets, Kepler-160 b and c, of which planet c shows substantial transit-timing variations (TTVs). These variations suggest there is another planet circling Kepler-160. Analysis of the astronomical data, Markov chain Monte Carlo simulations of the TTVs of Kepler-160 c have been conclusively explained by a new non-transiting planet with a mass between about 1 and 100 Earth masses and an orbital period between about 7 and 50 days. The researchers conclude that Kepler-160 has at least three planets, one of which is a non-transiting planet Kepler-160 d. The researchers looking at exoplanet KOI-456.04 say this planet is less than twice the size of Earth, but orbits a sun-like star, and is just over 3,000 light-years from our solar system.
- René Heller, Michael Hippke, Jantje Freudenthal, Kai Rodenbeck, Natalie M. Batalha and Steve Bryson, “Transit least-squares survey – III. A 1.9 R⊕ transit candidate in the habitable zone of Kepler-160 and a non-transiting planet characterized by transit-timing variations,” A&A, 638 (2020) A10, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201936929
The planet KOI-456.04 resides in a region known as the stellar habitable zone. This is the distance from the sun necessary for the planet to have a liquid water surface on the planet similar to Earth. The difference between Kepler-160 and most other stars is that this star actually emits visible light. It is important to note the central stars of almost all other exoplanets emit infrared radiation because they are smaller and fainter than the Sun and therefore belong to the class of stars known as the red dwarf. The research paper  describes how scientists used a new search algorithm to discover planet candidate KOI-456.04, which is believed to be 1.9 Earth radii and an orbital period of 378 days. With the planet being in the inhabitable zone, the surface conditions on KOI-456.04 could be similar to those on Earth, assuming that the atmosphere is not too non-Earth-like. Researchers say the amount of light received from its host star is about 93 percent of the sunlight received on Earth. The research paper also describes how more data is needed to formally declare KOI-456.04 a planet. The researchers say, “It cannot currently be ruled out completely that KOI-456.04 is, in fact, a statistical fluke or a systematic measurement error instead of a genuine planet.” The researchers estimate the planetary nature of KOI-456.04 to be 85 percent chances of being a proto-planet. Obtaining a formal planetary status requires 99 percent.
The Spiritual Insights that we receive from this type of research is what this research reminds us of concerning something Yeshua said. According to John 14:1-4, Yeshua said, 14:1 ‘Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 14:2 ‘In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 14:3 ‘If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 14:4 ‘And you know the way where I am going.’ (NASB) Similar to the researchers who recently published a paper describing a potentially habitable exoplanet at Kepler-160, Yeshua states there is another place that He is going and He is preparing a place for us. When we think about this, we should consider what Yeshua said in Matthew 6:20 ‘But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 6:21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NASB) Something to note is concerning those things that are esteemed the most in life. Some people place their wants on the things of this world. This provides us with an example of what we place our hope in. Are we hoping simply to be in heaven, or for having a relationship with God? Heaven, this place that Yeshua is preparing for us, is the opportunity to spend eternity with God. This speaks of relationship, and of truly being in love with God. We are not simply in love with the idea of heaven as a means to escape hell.
The Torah states that God made man in the image of God (Bereshit / Genesis 1:28). This means that each person is unique and worthy of respect, compassion, and understanding. Rashi writes that being created in God’s image meant that we possess qualities of understanding and discernment. Nachmanides writes that God is immortal, and so is the human soul. The way each Jewish commentator writes was meant to protect us from making god in our own image (i.e. anthropomorphisms). This idea of being created in the image of God (b’tzelem elohim, בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים) is related to how we see ourselves and how we see and respond to others. We are fully capable of deceiving ourselves into thinking that we are being godly people, but we must recognize that we need the Lord in order to successfully live our lives for Him. When we consider that we are made after the image of God, we must consider how we treat others in this world, regardless of race, gender, social standing, and even regardless of one’s political outlook. We are all made after the image of God, and the Scriptures say that He is no respecter of persons. (Romans 2:11) We were created with the ability to have an identity and relationship with God as His children. This speaks to relationships, and whether we truly love the Lord or not.
We are told in multiple places that there will be rewards in heaven. (see Matthew 5:12, Luke 6:23, 6:35, 1 Corinthians 3:14, 9:18) The Scriptures tell us that Yeshua also shares His reward with us. Paul wrote saying, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Paul also wrote, “our lives are hidden with Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1-4) We are also told that “We die with Him and we live with Him and we share His joy.” (Matthew 25:21 and Romans 6:8) The Scriptures say “in heaven we will dwell with Him” (John 14:1-3) and “He has seated us with Him in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 2:6) These things describe how we are inextricably linked with the Messiah. The rewards that He receives is shared with all of us as being the children of God and heirs of the kingdom. Paul wrote we are co-heirs if we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (see Romans 8:17)
The scientific research which speaks of a second world, another place, reminds us of the place in heaven the Lord is creating and preparing for us. In terms of rewards in heaven, we tend to think in a more material way, such as receiving mansions, jewels, gold, or precious stones. These things are merely a description or representation, a type and shadow, of the true rewards that we will receive when we stand in the presence of the Lord. The reward that is given as a result of our faithfulness here on Earth, is not about the reward itself, but in the meaning and purpose of the reward which demonstrates our relationship with God. The reward demonstrates God Himself by His Spirit worked in our lives here on earth! The honor of being rewarded is therefore related to our relationship with the Lord God Almighty, and His Messiah, just as we are told in the Scriptures how we are seated with Christ, we die with him and we live with him, and how we no longer live but it is Christ who lives in us. It is because of what the Lord God Almighty is doing in us and our willingness to allow Him to live in and through us that we are rewarded. It is in this way that God is glorified as He creates in us peace, joy, and love for one another. The closer we draw near to the Lord during this life, the more dependent upon Him we are, and the more aware we are of His presence. We recognize His mercy and grace, and we celebrate these things in fear and trembling because He is a good God and loves us tremendously. King David wrote in his psalm saying according to Tehillim / Psalms 16:11 You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. (NASB) The rewards (Matthew 5:10-12) that are spoken of that we will receive in heaven are not the focal point of our faith. Our relationship with the God of Israel is what is most important because we are His children, and we are heirs of God! Note also rewards in heaven are not the only thing that is promised. We read the following according to the Torah:
Devarim / Deuteronomy 28:1-14
28:1 ‘Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 28:2 ‘All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God: 28:3 ‘Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. 28:4 ‘Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. 28:5 ‘Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 28:6 ‘Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. 28:7 ‘The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways. 28:8 ‘The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you. 28:9 ‘The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. 28:10 ‘So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will be afraid of you. 28:11 ‘The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. 28:12 ‘The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. 28:13 ‘The Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully, 28:14 and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. (NASB)
Over and over again in God’s Holy Word we read of the promises that will be fulfilled when we honor God according to His Word by obeying His mitzvot (commandments). This comes by our asking the God of Israel and His Messiah Yeshua to come into our hearts and our lives to help us to live for Him! We will experience abundant blessings doing this and listening and obeying. We should not be surprised the Lord will pour out His abundance upon us if we listen to His Words, and keep His commands. This is the peshat, the simple reading of God’s Word. This is the purpose of our lives, to bring glory to God and bear testimony of His ways in all the earth. All of Scripture speaks of these things, as we read according to the Psalmist:
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the TORAH of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! (Tehillim / Psalms 119:1-3)
א אַשְׁרֵי תְמִימֵי-דָרֶךְ הַהֹלְכִים בְּתוֹרַת יְהֹוָה: ב אַשְׁרֵי נֹצְרֵי עֵדֹתָיו בְּכָל-לֵב יִדְרְשׁוּהוּ: ג אַף לֹא-פָעֲלוּ עַוְלָה בִּדְרָכָיו הָלָכוּ: ד אַתָּה צִוִּיתָה פִקֻּדֶיךָ לִשְׁמֹר מְאֹד: