Seventh Heaven

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
(Psalms 19:1 KJV)

The Third Heaven is a spiritual division of the universe within Judeo-Christian cosmology. In some traditions it is considered the abode of God, and in others a lower level of Paradise, commonly one of seven. Seven Heavens is a part of religious cosmology found in many major religions such as Islam, Judaism and Hinduism and in some minor religions such as Hermeticism and Gnosticism. The Divine Throne is said to be in or above the seventh heaven in most Abrahamic religions.

It is believed that the origin of this myth goes back to astrology. Ancient astrologists could identify seven great heavenly objects and assumed each was floating in a separate heaven. The number seven in Biblical references symbolically represented perfect completion, as in the seven-day week, the seven eyes and horns seen on the Lamb of God in The Book of Revelation, and the seventh in the generations of Adam: Lamech who was completely wicked, and Enoch who walked with God.

According to Jewish teachings in the Talmud, the universe is made of seven heavens (Shamayim). Vilon (Isaiah 40:22), also called Arafel, Raki’a  (Genesis 1:17), Shehaqim (Psalms 78:23), Zebul (Isaiah 63:15, I Kings 8:13), Ma’on (Deuteronomy 26:15, Psalms 42:9), Machon (1 Kings 7:30, Deuteronomy 28:12), and Araboththe seventh Heaven where the ofanim, the seraphim, the hayyoth and the throne of the Lord are located.

The Jewish Merkavah and Heichalot literature was devoted to discussing the details of these heavens, sometimes in connection with traditions relating to Enoch, such as the Third Book of Enoch.

The Hebrew Bible does not mention third heaven or the number of heavens.

References to distinct concepts known as “Heaven” ( Shamayim) occur in the very earliest books of the Tanakh. The second use of the word heaven, in Genesis 1:8 and 20 refers to the atmosphere over the earth in which birds fly. The third, mentioned in Genesis 1:14, is the setting for the celestial lights, later identified (Genesis 1:16) as the sun, moon and stars. The first use of the word heaven is used in Genesis 1:1 to describe the heaven of heavens (Deuteronomy 10:14) the light creation in Genesis 1:3 is all the celestial beings such as the angels and the very image that the Spirit of God makes for Himself to receive glory on the throne of God as God. When God divided the light from darkness (Genesis 1:4-5) this was the separation of the Heaven of Heavens into two sections Day (God’s throne) and Night (where our universe is contained).

A third concept of Heaven, also called shamayi h’shamayim (the “Heaven of Heavens”) is mentioned in such passages as Genesis 28:12, Deuteronomy 10:14 and 1 Kings 8:27 as a distinctly spiritual realm containing (or being traveled by) angels and God Himself.

Due to the ambiguity of the term “Heaven” as it is used in the books of the Tanakh, and the fact that the word in Hebrew, shamayim, is plural, a number of interpretations have been offered for various texts involving its nature, notably the assumption of the prophet Elijah.

An Epistle of the Apostle Paul, included in the Brit Chadashah, contains an explicit reference to the Third Heaven. In a letter to the Corinthian church he writes, “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. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4 KJV). The Greek says “caught away”, not “caught up” possibly reflecting Jewish beliefs that Paradise was somewhere other than the uppermost heaven.

The apparent parallelism of the passage equates the Third Heaven with “Paradise” the traditional destination of redeemed humans and the general connotation of the term “Heaven” in mainstream Christianity.

Four allusions to the Apocalypse of Moses occur in close proximity in 2 Corinthians. The allusions are “Satan as an angel of light”, the distinction of Satan and the serpent as two beings, “Third Heaven” and “Paradise”, the connection to this Jewish material has led to discussion about whether Paul accepted these traditions, or alternatively whether Paul’s vision of Third Heaven is a continuation of his conflict with the Superapostles in the previous chapter, and that the material comes not from his own teaching, but in reply to material similar to Apocalypse of Moses being transmitted by the Superapostles to the Corinthians. Whether this is so partly depends on whether irony is detected in this section. The relationship of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism is still widely disputed among many people.

This article will not discuss the beliefs of Islam, Hinduism, Hermeticism and Gnosticism any further regarding their theology on this subject. Sound Doctrine Ministries mission is to proclaim the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah and provide glory to God, the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Therefore, the doctrines and theology of these false religions are of no further interest to us  regarding this topic.

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 KJV)

The English word “firmament” in the Bible is a translation of the Hebrew, raqiameaning “expanse.” Its meaning is not “firm boundary” as Biblical critics have alleged, but might be better paraphrased as “stretched-out thinness” or simply “space.”

Its first occurrence in the Bible relates it to heaven  (Genesis 1:6-8). This firmament obviously could not be a solid boundary above the sky, but is essentially the atmosphere, the “first heaven,” the “space” where the birds were to “fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven” (Genesis 1:20).

Many Young Earth Creationists have interpreted the “waters above the firmament” as a theoretical water canopy which once surrounded the Earth but no longer exists (their source of the waters of Noah’s flood). This is incorrect when closely examined within the literal framework of the Genesis narrative. The reason is because of what is said in this next passage.

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. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
(Genesis 1:14-19 KJV)

There is a second firmament, or second heaven, where God placed the sun, moon, and stars, stretching out into the infinite reaches of space. (Genesis 1:17).

The Prophet Ezekiel’s had a vision in which he described seeing God as attended and served by a vast company of angels, who are all his messengers, his ministers, doing his commandments. Ezekiel then described the firmament beneath the very throne of God, and above the mighty cherubim  who seem always in Scripture to indicate the near presence of God.

And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above. And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies.
(Ezekiel 1:22-23 KJV)

This glorious firmament, brilliantly crystalline in appearance, must be “the third heaven” which the Apostle Paul described in his epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

There are three “firmaments” or “heavens” mentioned in the Bible, atmospheric space (Genesis 1:20), stellar space (Genesis 1:17), and the third heaven (II Corinthians 12:2), where God’s throne is located.

The firmament deals with the structure of the present heavens and Earth. There is presently a three heavens structure. Again, let’s look back at Genesis 1:6-8 and more closely examine that passage to determine the present structure.

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 KJV)

On the second day of the creation, God “divided” the waters (plural) into two parts with a “firmament” in the midst. According to the Genesis narrative, both the waters that were upon the face of the Earth and the waters which God placed above the firmament He called Seas.

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
(Genesis 1:9-10 KJV)

This is important to understand. We know that the waters on the Earth are called “Seas” in the Bible, but there is also another “Sea” that is spoken of in the Scriptures, and that one is above the firmament. During the six days of the Creation, God defined three heavens.

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.
(Genesis 1:14-15 KJV)

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
(Genesis 1:20 KJV)

These two heavens constitute a continuum called the “firmament,” and this firmament is collectively called “Heaven”.

And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
(Genesis 1:8 KJV)

The Third Heaven is above this higher “Sea,” and this higher sea is before and below the Throne of God.

And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
(Revelation 4:6 KJV)

Therefore, this particular “Sea” above the firmament is above the known physical universe. Since the sun, moon and stars are “in” the firmament this “Sea” must be above them. This is difficult for the mankind and science to understand, but it is a Scriptural fact on cosmology.  It represents a firm and impassable barrier between the world of man and the Kingdom of God.

Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.
(Psalms 148:4 KJV)

This is almost certainly the firmament or sea that John saw in his visions.  This is the present sea of separation that will no longer exist when God destroys the old world and makes all things new after the Reign of Yeshua during the Millennial Kingdom and the final judgment that follows.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
(Revelation 21:1 KJV)

This now gives us a better understanding of what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he speaks of a place called the third heaven.

Although the third heaven is not directly mentioned in the Genesis narrative, the established structure of all things is defined in Genesis and, when understood, allows us to comprehend exactly where and what Paul was talking about when he mentions the third heaven in his epistle to the Corinthians. It also gives the reader a better understanding of John’s vision in Revelation. Again, when the Lord God divided the waters He created a boundary which presently exists between the two lower heavens (which constitute the firmament) and the third heaven (where the throne of God is). That boundary is that “Sea,” and again that “sea” is above the two heavens of the firmament. It is also likened in passages of Scripture to crystal or smooth glass.

And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
(Revelation 15:2 KJV)

All three heavens “declare the glory of God” and all three firmaments “sheweth His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Therefore, we should “Praise God in His sanctuary” and also “praise Him in the firmament of His power” (Psalm 150:1).

Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.
(Psalms 150:1-6 KJV)

Many times throughout my life, I have likened the universe to a type of snow globe on Almighty God’s desktop. This study of the firmament and the order of the universe does nothing if not prove that analogy to be very accurate.

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