Every Christian living according to God’s word believes there is life after death and hopes to go to heaven. This topic is worth discussing since people have differing views regarding heaven. What people want to understand is: what is the third heaven?
According to the vision of Paul recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, the third heaven is paradise. Though many people believe that the third heaven is where God dwells, there is nowhere in the Bible that clearly states this. Also, the Bible does not mention the existence of the first and second heaven but only mentions the third heaven.
What does the Bible say about the third heaven? Why does Paul refer to the third heaven in his letter of Corinthians? Is the third heaven the same as paradise? These are some of the questions that this article will cover. By the end of it, one can also find out whether God dwells in the third heaven. Read on to find out more!
What does the Bible say about the third heaven?
The only mention of the third heaven in the Bible is in 2nd Corinthians 12:2, which says, 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. Many Theologians assume that if there is a third heaven, then there is a first and second heaven. However, there is no mention of this in the Bible.
Some Bible scholars believe that 1st Kings 8:27 talks about the third heaven. This verse says, But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less is this temple I have built? Others argue that the phrase ‘the heavens, even the highest heaven’ suggests that heaven has different tiers.
Another verse that makes some people believe in the third heaven is Deuteronomy 10:14. It says, To the Lord, your God belongs the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.
Some people also argue that there is a third heaven since the Bible implies that Jesus passed through the heavens during the ascension. This is explained in Hebrews 4:14, which says, 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.
Why does Paul refer to the third heaven in his letter to Corinthians?
Paul describes a period when he was caught up to the third heaven in his letter to Corinthians recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. Some theologians believe that Paul talked about himself in this passage but in the third person. Paul refers to the third heaven to make people aware of the existence of this place.
He also mentioned the third heaven in his letter to ensure that his readers know that he was not talking about the realm of space or the realm of the sky. Though the Bible does not define heaven as having different levels, many Bible scholars believe that heaven is divided into three.
They teach that the first heaven is the atmospheric heaven which includes the air that we breathe and the space that surrounds the earth. They also argue that the second heaven refers to the celestial heaven, which is the outer space that includes the stars, moon, and sun. They even try to support this view with verses like Deuteronomy 4:19, which suggest that the stars, moon, and sun are in heaven.
These Bible scholars believe that the heaven Paul was referring to was the third heaven which is called the presence of God. They try to support this view with verses like Acts 7:55, which says, 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.
Paul defined his experience in terms of ascension by saying that he was caught up to the third heaven. People interpret this to mean that Paul may have been transported to heaven, an experience similar to the rapture of the church described in 1st Thessalonians 4:17. This verse says, Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. So we will always be with the Lord.
Though Paul revealed that he himself did not understand his experience in the third heaven, he was content that God comprehends the details of his visit.
Is the third heaven the same as paradise?
The Bible suggests that the third heaven is the same as paradise since Paul uses the word paradise in 2nd Corinthians 12:4 as he continues describing his experience in the third heaven. This verse says he was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
Apart from Paul, John and Jesus also used the word paradise to describe life after death in God’s presence. In Luke 23:43, Jesus tells the thief of the cross, Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. John also mentions paradise in Revelation 2:7 as a reference to a place where believers would dwell. This verse says, He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Many people believe that John and Jesus were referring to the nature of heaven when they used the word paradise and not the realm of space or the realm of the sky.
Does God dwell on the third heaven?
There is nowhere in the Bible that clearly states that God dwells in the third heaven. However, most Bible scholars believe that the third heaven is the home of God. They assume that when Paul says that he went to the third heaven, he means that he went to the place where God dwells.
2nd Corinthians 12:4 says that in Paul’s vision, he was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. Bible scholars believe that God dwells on the third heaven since Paul describes this place as paradise, just as Jesus did on the cross, as explained in Luke 23:43.
Some people also argue that the third heaven is God’s dwelling since Paul heard things that cannot be told. They interpret this to mean that the things that Paul heard cannot be expressed because they are holy or because they go beyond human ability. Some assume that Paul may have heard a heavenly language.
Though the Bible does not reveal more about whether God dwells in the third heaven, theologians assume that the third heaven is outside space and time dimensions, and it is infinite.
- What does it mean that Paul went to the third heaven?
- Don Stewart: What are the three heavens?
- Today you will be with me in paradise.
- Are there different levels of heaven? Are there three heavens?
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? Being raised by Christians significantly impacted my life since I started professing Christ from a young age. My passion for the Christian faith made me pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology. I am a believer and pastor dedicated to spreading the word of God. I have been in the Christian ministry for over a decade and am currently ministering in Life Christian Church. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Please check the About Us Page for more details.