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Don Stewart :: What Are the Three Heavens?

Don Stewart
When the term "heaven" is not used symbolically in Scripture, it usually refers to one of three realms.

(1) Our Immediate Atmosphere

(2) Outer Space (The Sun, Moon, And Stars)

(3) The Home Of God

Consequently we find the Bible speaking of more than one heaven or multiple heavens.

More Than One Heaven

The fact that Jesus passed through the heavens gives evidence there is more than one heaven.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession (Hebrews 4:14).

Third Heaven

Furthermore the Bible refers to the third heaven.

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know - God knows (2 Corinthians 12:2).

If there is a third heaven, it seems there must also be a first and second heaven. The Bible, however, does not mention a first and second heaven.

1. The Atmospheric Heaven - The First Heaven

The atmospheric heavens include the air that we breathe as well as the space that immediately surrounds the earth. The technical term for this is the "troposphere." It extends about twenty miles above the earth. The space above this is called the "stratosphere." The Scripture uses the term heaven to describe this area.

I will destroy humanity whom I have created from the face of the earth, both humans and beasts, creeping thing and birds of heaven (Genesis 6:7).

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather in barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them (Matthew 6:26).

The word translated "air" is ouranos, the same Greek word that is elsewhere translated "heaven." We have another example of this use in the book of James.

And he [Elijah] prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced fruit (James 5:18).

2. The Celestial Heaven - The Second Heaven

This use of the term heaven refers to outer space or the stellar heaven. It includes the sun, moon, and stars.

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken (Matthew 24:29).

Stars are said to be in heaven.

And take heed, lest you lift up your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the Lord your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage (Deuteronomy 4:19).

Heaven Of Heavens

The Scripture speaks of heavenly spheres beyond that which is visible from the earth. It is called the heaven of heavens.

Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it (Deuteronomy 10:14).

The psalmist wrote.

Praise Him, you heaven of heavens and you waters above the heavens! (Psalm 148:4).

3. Heaven As The Home Of God - The Third Heaven

The Bible is clear that God cannot be limited to any one geographical place.

But will indeed God dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You (1 Kings 8:27).

Yet Scripture also teaches us that there is a certain geographical place where God resides. It is also designated heaven. The writer to the Hebrews said.

The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven (Hebrews 8:1).

Stephen knew he was going into the presence of the Lord.

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55).

Heaven is called the presence of God.

For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24).

The location of the abode of God is not revealed in Scripture.

Summary

Sometime the word heaven is used symbolically in Scripture. When used of an actual place, Scripture speaks of three heavens.

1. The first is the atmosphere above us.

2. The second heaven is the stellar heaven, the sun, moon, and stars.

3. The third heaven is where God resides, above the other two regions.

God, however, is certainly not limited to one geographical place.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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