The Scriptures appear to indicate that there are three heavens. The first and second are not specifically mentioned as such, but "the third heaven" is declared to exist (2 Cor. 12:2). It is evident that there cannot be a third heaven without also a first and second heaven.
a. The first heaven must be the atmosphere which surrounds the earth. Reference is certainly made to the fowls of heaven (Hos. 2:18) and to the clouds of heaven (Dan. 7:13). Herein is the native abode of human beings and all created life upon earth.
b. The second heaven may be the stellar spaces (cf. Gen. 1:14-18 for stars of the heaven) and so is the abode of all supernatural angelic creatures.
c. The third heaven (its location however wholly unrevealed) is the abode of God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and until this age has never been entered by any created being—angel or human. The present divine purpose is to populate the third heaven. It is called glory (Heb. 2:10) and represents a place rather than a state of mind or being (John 14:1-3). Those who enter will be "made meet" (Col. 1:12). More specifically, they will become actual sons of God (John 1:12; 3:3). They will be perfected forever (Heb. 10:14), justified (Rom. 5:1), and made partakers of Christ's nA^pw^a (John 1:16), which is all fullness (Col. 1:19), the very nature of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9).
Similarly, the Scriptures employ the word heaven itself in a threefold usage:
a. The kingdom of heaven is a phrase peculiar to Matthew's Gospel (3:2, etc.) and indicates the earthly Messianic reign of Christ. Any rule of God over the earth is a form of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Dan. 2:44).
b. The heavenly, a phrase peculiar to the Epistle to the Ephesians (1:3, etc.), is a reference to the sphere of present association between believers and Christ, a copartnership in various respects. It signifies, therefore, not some favored place on the earth, but anywhere this communion with Christ may exist.
c. Heaven may represent the abode of the Godhead and of the redeemed forever.
As in many instances, knowledge about this place is wholly a matter of the testimony of the inspired Bible. It has been said that men really know nothing of heaven from experience since none have returned to tell of it. There are, however, three experienced witnesses:
a. Christ. Heaven was His abode for all eternity. He discloses more regarding it than does any other person in Scripture.
b. The Apostle Paul, who—probably when stoned to death in Lystra—was caught up to the third heaven (Acts 14:19-22; 2 Cor. 12:1-9). He was prohibited, however, from disclosing what he saw and heard. A thorn in the flesh was given to remind him to keep this mighty secret.
c. John the Apostle, who was called into heaven (Rev. 4:1), and then given instruction to write a book (Rev. 1:11) and record all that he saw and heard. If it is asked why Paul could not report but John was told to report, it may be observed that Paul's experience was typical of a believer at present departing by death while John's experience was more like that common to all believers at the rapture in a future day. After his experience and in spite of prohibition the Apostle Paul wrote: "To depart and to be with Christ is far better" (Phil. 1:23).
One has well said, "Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people." Very definite preparation is required of those who would enter that celestial sphere (cf. Col. 1:12). They must be like Christ both in standing and state (Rom. 8:29; 1 John 3:2).
It remains to observe that heaven is a place of beauty (Rev. 21:1-22:7) with various inhabitants (Heb. 12:22-24), of life (1 Tim. 4:8), holiness (Rev. 21:27), service (Rev. 22:3), worship (Rev. 19:1-3), fellowship with God (2 Tim. 4:8), glory (2 Cor. 4:17. See Revelation 21:4-5).
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