How many heavens are there?
The Bible teaches, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The heaven of heavens or the highest heaven is where God and the angels live. It is a place of purity, holiness and peace (Isaiah 3:3; 57:15). The Scriptures use the word heavens to describe three different places:
What about the expression “seventh heaven”? An ancient Babylonian myth spoke of the seventh heaven where the gods dwell. The number 7 may have also been taken from the heavenly bodies that are nearest to earth: the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn. This reference cannot be found in the Bible, as the Bible just describes 3 heavens:
The first heaven
The first heaven is the firmament, the earth’s sky, where the birds fly and where the clouds hover above. “And 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 also Isaiah 55:10). When God was forming the Garden of Eden, He created the first heaven to compass around the earth.
The first “heaven” refers to the atmospheric heavens that is seen by the human eye as a canopy, or dome, covering our earth. No life can exist without air. Plants need it as well as living creatures. Without the atmosphere, our earth would be a lifeless place, greatly heated in that section which is close to the sun and very cold in the other parts. No plant life would exist anywhere, and no living thing could live for any duration of time.
The second heaven
The second heaven is the space where the sun, moon and stars hang. “And 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).
These celestial bodies in heaven serve as signs of God’s favor or wrath as in Joshua’s life (Joshua 10:12, 13), and Hezekiah’s times (2 Kings 20:11), and on the crucifixion day (Matthew 27:45). The “falling stars” is one of the signs of Christ’s second coming (Matthew 24:29).
Each complex system of this second 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).
When a person beholds the greatness, the mystery, the glory of the heavens as seen at night, and ponders upon the boundlessness of space and the numberless heavenly bodies, he must see that man is an unimportant small spec in the universe.
Yet, God in his infinite mercy and love offered His only begotten Son to die to redeem mankind from eternal death. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The third heaven
The third heaven is the dwelling place of God. This is where God, Jesus, and the great number of angels live today. In fact, when Jesus ascended into heaven, he passed through all the heavens mentioned in the Bible.
“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 is mentioned in the Bible. Paul referred to it in 2 Corinthians 12:2:
“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 12:2-4
For more on what Paul meant, please check out: Did Paul go to heaven or was he speaking of another person?
David also wrote, “The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven…” (Psalm 113:4). The third of the heavens where the throne of God is located, is different from the previous two heavens mentioned. It is the highest heaven or the “heaven of heavens” (Nehemiah 9:6).
After Jesus Christ creates a new heaven and earth, God will move His throne to the new earth. John the Revelator records, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:1-3).
The New Jerusalem will come down from the third heaven and settle where the mount of Olives now stands. The mountain will be flattened to make a great plain, upon which the city will rest. All the righteous people of all ages (Zechariah 14:5), the angels of heaven (Matthew 25:31), God the Father (Revelation 21:2, 3) and God the Son (Matthew 25:31) will return to earth with the holy city for Jesus’ special third coming. The second coming will be for His saints, while the third will be with His saints.
A place for you in the heaven of heavens
God’s plan is for everyone who desires to be with Him in the heaven of heavens. Jesus assures His followers.
“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know”.John 14:2-4
Christ points the disciples to the second advent as the moment when they would be reunited with Him. Paul also points Christians to that glorious time of the grand reunion (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17). There is no mention here of the popular doctrine that believers go to be with their Lord at the time of death. Nor is this doctrine upheld elsewhere in the Scriptures.
The Son of God is waiting with great anticipation that His children will reflect His character. When His image will be perfectly duplicated in His people through the work of the Holy Spirit, then He will come down from the heaven of heavens to receive them. It is our privilege to speed the day of the home coming.
“Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?”.2 Peter 3:12
Thus, all those who have confessed and repented of their sins can dedicate their lives to preaching of the gospel and prepare the way for His coming. Salvation is simple. Love the Lord your God and love your fellow brothers and sisters. This is the way to heaven.
In His service,