Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Bible's Four Heavens

Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Revelation 21:1 "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea."

The term "heaven" or "heavens" is mentioned over 500 times in the Bible.  When the Bible speaks about "heaven", we must be aware of the fact that at least four places are being referred to by that one word "Heaven".  In today's blog I want to outline for you the scripture's teaching on what I call "The four Heavens".  In Genesis we see mention of the first three and in Revelation we see reference to the fourth place the scripture calls "The New Heavens". 

1. The First Heaven - The Earth's atmosphere or sky
When the Bible says God "created the heavens and the earth", the word "heaven" in the text is rendered plural - telling us that there are multiple heavens.  In Genesis 1:8 we see reference to what is termed "The first Heaven", the sky - "And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day."  Quite literally the word translated "firmament" comes from a Latin root, which in turn is a translation of the Hebrew original that means "a stretched canopy or covering".  Much like when you pitch a tent and have to stretch the canvas over a frame, God took the atmosphere of Nitrogen, Oxygen and other gases and stretched them around the globe he had made.  Already He had set the earth rotating about its axis as it was illuminated by His glory.  With the first heaven, the sky, now in place, Earth would be ready for the Sun He would create on day four and the birds He would create on day five. 

2. The second Heaven - The Universe
Genesis 1:1,8,9 mentions the first heaven - the atmosphere and the sky.  In Genesis 1:14 we see the first reference to what can be termed the second Heaven or "universe" - the domain of stars, planets, moons and space itself.  Genesis 1:14 states - "And God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens, to divide between the day and the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years".  God had already created the space in which the earth was suspended.  In continuing the stretching forth of the universe, God made the sun, the moon and later on the stars. Astronomers estimate our earth and moon, along with the seven other planets and other objects going around the sun, with their attendant moons, are sweeping through our Milky Way Galaxy at 500,000 m.p.h.  Our Galaxy is composed of over 100 billion stars, with over 100 billion galaxies populating our universe.  This is but a sample of what the Bible and science has to say about this much larger second heaven - the universe.

3. The Third Heaven - God's Throneroom
As we travel through Genesis, we see another 30 or so mentions of the word "heaven" with most references to either the first heaven (sky) or second heaven (universe).  In Genesis 28:12 we read: "And he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to the heavens. And behold, angels of God ascended and descended upon it."  Though scripture up to this point indirectly alludes to the existence of a distinct realm in which God occupies as Sovereign and Lord over His creation (Genesis 2:1-3), as well as the existence of angels, yet this verse shows the activity of the third heaven touching down here on earth.  According to John 1:51, what Jacob saw was none other than an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ.  It is in 2 Corinthians 12 that the Apostle Paul refers to this realm as the "third heaven" (hence the reason for terming the first two realms as "1st heaven" and "2nd heaven").  More could be said but for now we must move on to the the fourth major type of realm, a realm that is referred to as "the New Heavens".

4. The "Fourth" place called Heaven -  The New Heavens
Admittedly the the "New Heavens and New Earth" described in many Old and New Testament passages is a realm that is in one sense future to us.  Its main time of manifestation will occur when Christ has ruled and reigned for 1,000 years and sets up the Great White Throne Judgment.  We can also say that when we as Christian's experienced the New Birth, that greatest of all realities described at the end of the Bible is being "previewed" in us, since the Bible describes the Christian as a "new creation in Christ". (2 Corinthians 5:17) The Bible tells us in Revelation 20-21 that following this judgment, the first three heavens will be done away with, and in their place a New Heaven and a New Earth will be established by God.  It appears that God will somehow transform our current world and perhaps the third Heaven into that incredible reality spoken of at the end of Revelation.  However it could very well be too that God does away with this present order completely and re-creates a whole new earth and a whole new Heaven.  More could be said on these two thoughts, but I want to hasten onto the main point of Revelation 21.

The point of Revelation 21 is that the New Heavens and the New Earth are no longer spearated from one another.  The Glory of God will indeed flood the New earth and Heaven will touch down upon our planet.  Just as the second heaven exceeds the first, and just as the third heaven far exceeds the second in beauty and grandeur, this "new Heavens" will exceed them all, being that it will be saturated with God's unending glory.  Furthermore, the "New Heavens" will saturate the "New Earth" with God's unending glory, literally fulfilling His ultimate will of "the earth being filled with His glory". (Habakkuk 2:14)

May your thoughts and mind be raised to the heavens to marvel at the Lord and His glory. 

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