Biblegems # 286
Question: Are there a “First” and “Second” heavens? If so, what are they?
Gen. 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The Hebrew word “heavens” (Heb. shamayim) is a plural noun. The Bible pictures “the heavens” as one complex reality comprised of three components: the sky (Gen. 1:6-8) and space (Gen. 1:14-17) in the visible creation, and the environment God created for the angels (Matt. 18:20; 24:26) and for His “throne” in the spiritual realm (Gen. 28:17).
Is. 66:1 This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?
The Scripture calls this “heavens” beyond sky and space as the “highest” form of heaven:
Ps. 148:4 Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.
The first heaven is the visible sky of earth’s atmosphere, even though the Bible does not specifically use the term.
Gen. 1:6-8 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
The second heaven, space, is an extension of the first heaven. God began with the “vault” of earth’s sky (v. 6), including a vast envelope of water, and stretched it to the outer limits of the universe on the fourth day of creation.
Gen. 1:14-18 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness.
When Jesus as ascended “into heaven” from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1: 11), His followers witnessed the first part of that journey as Jesus “passed through” the first and second heavens:
Hebrews 4:14 “Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us cling to the faith we confess…” (translation mine).
God’s incredible creation is full of mystery, especially when it comes to the interweaving of the spiritual and physical heavens. The “third heaven” is “above” the physical heavens (Ps. 148:4), not in a geographical sense of location, but “above” even as the name of Jesus is “above” every other name (Phil. 2:9), so that God is present everywhere.
Acts 17:28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’