Are there multiple levels of heaven?

A. There are three different areas Bible writers mean when using the word “heaven.”

The first heaven consists of the earth’s atmosphere, where the clouds float and birds fly. Remember in Genesis, when God created a heaven between the waters? That's the atmosphere. You’ll also remember that in 2 Peter, the apostle writes the “heavens shall dissolve”? It's talking about the first heaven, the atmosphere around the earth, and not where God dwells.

The second heaven, then, is where the sun, moon, stars, and galaxies hang suspended. The third heaven is the dwelling place of God. When Paul writes he was caught up to the third heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:2, he’s referring to paradise, the very dwelling place of God—such as when we pray, “Our Father who art in heaven.”

Some churches teach that God has a segregated heaven. For instance, if you were saved but weren’t really a good person, you would go to the first heaven. The really good people, however, go to the third heaven to dwell with Jesus. When a person experiences some kind of ecstasy, he might say he was in “the seventh heaven.” But that’s not biblically based.

Ultimately, this helps us understand when God says He is going to make a “new heavens and a new earth.” He is talking about the planet and its atmosphere.

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