Can you explain and clarify the Bible's three heavens, also, what about the "New Heavens and New Earth"? When there is eventually a NEW Heaven and a NEW Earth, will there just be the ONE Heaven ?
UK Apologetics Reply:
Okay, let's go through this:
The Bible's Three Heavens
Sometimes the term "heaven" is used symbolically in Scripture, when it is not, it usually refers to one of three places/realms
- Inner Space - Our Immediate Earthly Atmosphere.
The area above us, including the area of cloud formation, but below the level of the following:
- Outer Space (The Sun, Moon, And Stars).
A truly huge area, much of it surely too vast and too far off for scientists ever be able to successfully chart and map.
- The Home Of God.
This is undefined but would appear to be above and beyond the two above areas, it is also a spiritual realm. One tends to believe that if cameras could be placed there they would probably see nothing since cameras can only visually capture physical things.
So the Bible speaks of more than one heaven. The fact that Jesus passed through the heavens (plural) 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).
The Third Heaven. The Bible clearly refers to a 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).
As many have pointed out, if there is a third heaven, it seems only logical there must also be a first and second heaven. Having said that, the Bible does not specifically 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. Scientists call this the "troposphere." It only extends about twenty miles above the earth. The next space above this is referred to as 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 Greek word translated "air" is ouranos, the same Greek word that is elsewhere translated "heaven." There is 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 stated 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 first thing to point out here is that 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 place where God resides which could be referred to as a geographical location although it is necessarily much more than that. It too is called 'heaven.' The Book of Hebrews states:
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).
Upon his death from martyrdom, 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 also 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 precise location of the abode of God is not revealed in Scripture, but the sense is that it is above and beyond the other heavens, although it is also a spiritual realm - it is not a purely physical place.
Sometime the word 'heaven' is used symbolically in Scripture, however, when used of an actual place, Scripture appears to speak of three heavens
1. The first is inner space - 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, cannot be limited to any one geographical place or location.
The New Heavens and New Earth
Okay, now what about the New Heavens and New Earth?
Christians are promised a New Heavens and New Earth which will be filled with righteousness. See Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:10-13 and Revelation 21:1. It is the second of those Scriptures which possibly tells us the most. Let's look at that:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:10-13).
Eventually this old earth will be burned by fire, but God promises a new Creation for His people in the Eternal Age beyond that. We sometimes forget that the promises of Eternity do not only concern Heaven, but a new Earth as well.
I am asked, "When there is eventually a NEW Heaven and a NEW Earth, will there just be the ONE Heaven?" That I cannot answer, but at that future time, living within a spiritual realm when there will be no more sea (Revelation 21:1), the first heaven of our atmosphere will possibly no longer be needed and God Himself will provide sufficient light without sun, so many things are going to be different. However, anything further I might say can only be speculation so I will leave it there.
Robin A. Brace. June 14th, 2012.