The Bible uses the same word for “heaven” to describe different areas above the earth. This is true in the Hebrew (shamayim) in the Old Testament as well as in Greek (ouranos) in the New Testament. The Bible also specifies that there are three heavens (2 Corinthians 12:2).
The First Heaven
The first heaven is the firmament, the earth’s atmosphere or sky, where the birds fly and where the clouds hover above. “…God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day” (Genesis 1:6-8). “For as the rain comes down and snow from heaven, and do not return there, But water the earth…” (Isaiah 55:10).
The Second Heaven
The second heaven is the place where the sun, moon and stars hang. Thus, it is what we would call the solar system within our galaxy in space. “… God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And 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” (Genesis 1:14-16).
Each complex system of this heaven made the prophet David marvel, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him?… O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3-4, 9).
The Third Heaven
This is the dwelling place of God. Paul wrote, “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth; such an one caught up to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2). David also wrote, “The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven…” (Psalm 113:4).
In the Bible, we read that this third heaven is different from the previous two heavens mentioned. It is the highest heaven. The Bible explains the layers of these heavens as being the “heaven of heavens” (Nehemiah 9:6). For wherever the Lord abides is the most heavenly place in all creation.
The New Heavens
God’s dwelling place is now in the third heaven. However, He is going to move it to the new earth after Jesus creates a new heaven and earth and takes His people home (Revelation 21:1-3). His plan is for everyone who desires to be with Him to have a place in heaven (John 14:2-4). Therefore, He will fulfill this promise to anyone who holds fast to his faith in Him and follow Him (Matthew 5:10). May we humbly seek God that we may enter His new heaven. “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4).
In His service,