By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
How does the Bible describe heaven? It depends where in the Bible you are reading. The Apostle Paul describes a third heaven; does that mean there are three different kinds of heaven?
2 Corinthians 12:1-4 (ESV): I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.
In a word, yes. The heaven we most often think of is the third heaven. This is the place where God resides with his angels, and where Jesus is preparing a place for us (John 14:1-3). This is the heaven where God will wipe away every tear and there will be no more mourning and pain (Revelation 21:4). As found in Psalm 103:19 the word "heaven" here is defined as the location of God’s throne. The same word for heaven found in Psalm 103:19 (8064. Shamayim) is translated as sky in Genesis 1:26. This would likely be the first heaven. This heaven is depicted in the Bible as a location where rain and clouds are located (Isaiah 45:8). This heaven is described in the physical sense and should not be confused with the spiritual heaven.
Psalm 8:3-4 (ESV): When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
The second heaven is located between the first and the third heaven. This heaven would be restricted to the universe and the stars. While it is common to assume God lives among the stars, God is not located in the second heaven. God’s throne remains in the third heaven; making the first and second heaven more of a physical location than a spiritual one. In our physical body we can see the attributes of the first (sky, clouds, rain) and second (stars) heaven; yet we cannot see God and His angels in the third heaven. This was not an accident as the beauty of nature was created by God for us to know He exists (Romans 1). Meaning everything from photosynthesis to condensation to a shooting star should bring comfort to idea that our universe had a designer. And when I think of it that way, it makes sense that the beauty of nature is its own piece of heaven and properly named as such.