As you work your way through the hundreds of mentions of the word heaven in the Bible, you soon realize there is a plurality of heavens. In fact, the Bible specifically speaks of three distinct heavens. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about his visions and revelations, he told them of a time when he was “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2). That clearly implies there is also a first and second heaven.
The first heaven is the atmospheric heaven—the sky with its clouds and birds and life-giving oxygen. Isaiah 55:10:11 says, “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be ….” In this passage, the word heaven refers to the atmosphere that yields its rain and snow to the earth. We live on a privileged planet, surrounded by a thin layer of gasses—mainly nitrogen and oxygen—that make life possible. Traces of the earth’s atmosphere stretch 300 miles into space, but it doesn’t abruptly end. It simply tapers off gradually. The most vital resources of our atmosphere are within ten miles of the surface of the earth, and God custom designed them to sustain life. No other known planet in the entire universe has an atmosphere like ours, and this is the first heaven.
The second heaven is the vast universe in which we live, filled with billions of stars, planets, dust clouds, meteors, and galaxies. The story of the creation of the second heaven is told in Genesis 1:14-17:
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth.
The psalmist referred to this second heaven when he wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Jesus said that at the very end of time, “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven …” (Matthew 24:29). These are all references to the second heaven, the stellar skies.
The third heaven is the one Paul had in mind when he wrote, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:2).
Paul was not referring to the atmospheric heaven or to the stellar heaven. He was referring to the highest heaven, the very dwelling place of God. King Solomon had a different name for this place in 1 Kings 8:27, when he said, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, Heaven and the Heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” Moses called this the “highest heavens” in Deuteronomy 10:14.
Jesus was referring to this heaven when He taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). The psalmist said, “The LORD is in His holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven” (Psalm 11:4). Psalm 103:19 says, “The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.”
This heaven—the heaven of heavens, the highest heaven—is the locale of the throne and the dwelling place of God. It is Paradise. It is our eternal home. This is where we will soon live side-by-side with God and with the angels and with the redeemed of all the ages.
Dr. David Jeremiah talks about heaven over the next two weeks on LIFE TODAY. This is an excerpt from Revealing The Mysteries Of Heaven by David Jeremiah. Copyright ©2017 Turning Point for God. Used by permission.