We often think about heaven as a beautiful place, which makes sense because it’s the ultimate goal of our journey with God. The very first verse of the Bible states that God made the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). When the Bible talks about heaven or the heavens, it means different things at different times.
So, when you read the word “heavens,” you might wonder how many heavens there are. It’s normal to think it mainly means where God lives, but the Bible uses this word in many ways. In this article, we’ll explore these different meanings to understand the idea of heaven better.
What is Heaven According to the Bible?
The Bible provides profound insights into our eternal dwelling place in Revelation 21:1-3. What we often refer to as “heaven” is described as the “new Jerusalem” descending from heaven, crafted by God for His people.
Much like how God initially created the earth as a dwelling place for humanity, this new Jerusalem is destined to be our eternal home. It appears after the completion of all end-of-the-world events and the ultimate judgment. We will encounter the totality of God’s presence in this dwelling and enjoy eternal communion with Him, resting in His glorious presence eternally.
The Three Heavens in the Bible
The Bible provides insights into the existence of three distinct heavens. However, let me clarify that the Bible doesn’t explicitly label them as the “first” or “second” heaven. I’ll only use these terms for clarity in this discussion.
The First Heaven: The Earthly Sky
According to the Bible, the first heaven refers to the earthly sky or the atmosphere surrounding our planet. This heaven is where birds fly and where clouds form. It is often referred to as the “firmament” in the King James Version (Genesis 1:6-8). In Genesis 1:8, it is written: “And God called the firmament Heaven.”
The earthly sky reminds us of God’s creative power and the beauty of the world He has made. It serves as a constant reminder of His existence and glory.
The Second Heaven: The Cosmic Heavens
The second heaven encompasses the celestial bodies and the vast expanse of outer space. This is where we find the sun, moon, stars, and galaxies. In Psalm 19:1, it is stated that the majesty of God’s creation is evident in the heavens, and His handiwork is proclaimed by the skies.
The Apostle Paul also referred to the second heaven when speaking of a visionary experience in 2 Corinthians 12:2.
The cosmic heavens reveal the vastness and complexity of God’s creation. They point to His infinite wisdom and knowledge, leaving us in awe of His majesty.
The Third Heaven: God’s Dwelling Place
The third heaven is the realm of God Himself. It is a spiritual and divine dimension that transcends the physical universe. This heaven is often associated with God’s throne and the presence of angels and redeemed souls.
In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul shares a remarkable account of a man who was transported to a heavenly realm and heard ineffable revelations, which he was not allowed to disclose.
The dwelling place of God is the ultimate destination for believers. It is where we hope to experience eternal communion with our Creator. This heaven represents the culmination of our faith and the promise of salvation.
The concept of heaven has different meanings in the Scriptures. The first heaven, our earthly sky, reminds us daily of God’s creative power and the marvels of His handiwork. It is a testament to His existence and glory, readily accessible to all who gaze above.
The second heaven, the cosmic heavens, unveils the immense complexity of God’s creation. The stars, galaxies, and celestial wonders declare His glory, leaving us humbled by His wisdom and knowledge.
The third heaven, the heavenly realm where God dwells, is the ultimate aspiration for every believer. It represents our eternal home, the New Jerusalem, where we will bask in the fullness of God’s presence, free from the cares of this world.
As a pastor, I encourage you to reflect on the richness of these biblical teachings. Let them inspire you to seek a deeper connection with God, appreciate His creation, and anticipate the heavenly home He has prepared for His faithful children with hope.
Remember, the Bible’s revelations about the heavens are not just about knowledge but are meant to enrich and strengthen your faith and bring you closer to the loving Creator who has promised an eternal and glorious dwelling place for those who believe. Embrace the hope and joy these heavenly truths bring to your spiritual journey, and let them guide you in your walk with God.