What is the third Heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4?

It is what we typically call “heaven.”

In the universe, there are three heavens.  But only Bible believers would know about that.  It should not surprise us since the universe is predominately made up of threes.

Astronomy: Sun Moon Stars

Atmosphere: Ionosphere Stratosphere Exosphere

Space: Length Width Depth

Time: Past Present Future

Family: Father Mother Children

Nations: Shem Ham Japheth

Existence: in Heaven, in Earth, under the Earth (Phil 2)

H20: Solid Liquid Vapor

Paul wrote about the three heavens and told us that he received this understanding:

  1. Spiritually – By revelation v.1.  The Lord revealed it to him like he did so many other things (Gal1:12).
  2. Visually – By sight 2-4.  He was caught up there like John and he saw it for himself (Rev. 4:1-2, etc)
  3. Audibly – By sound v.4.  He heard words about which he couldn’t speak (like John – Rev 10:4).

He wrote this to the Corinthians more than 14 years after (above 14 years ago) he had seen the third heaven.  So, he would have seen this in Acts 14:19-20, when he had been left for dead outside of Derbe (see the Scofield notes on the dates of 2 Cor 12 [60AD] and Acts14:19[45AD]).  He couldn’t tell if it was an out of body experience or in the body; it was so real.  He was “caught up” to the third heaven, so it was like the rapture – 1 Thes 4:17.

In Genesis 1, we find all three heavens.

  • In Gen 1:1, God created the heaven (singular).  That would be the third heaven – before the other two were created.  The third heaven is where God is (Is 66:1).
  • In Gen 1:6-8, God created the second heaven (the firmament dividing the water in outer space [1:7] from the seas on the earth [1:9-10]).  The solar system is in the second heaven.
  • In Gen 1:20, God created the first heaven (the open firmament of heaven above the earth in which birds fly – they cannot fly in the second heaven – humans do but only in pressurized cabins).

The third heaven is separated from the rest of the universe by a body of water.  Ps 148:4 speaks of heavens [plural] and waters above the heavens (first and second).  This body of water is also called the sea in Job 41:31, and it looks like a sea of glass (Rev 4:6) because it is frozen (Job 38:30).

In the third heaven, it is light (Gen 1:3-4) because God is light (1 Jn 1:5).  In the second heaven and the first heaven it is dark.  So, God had to supply the sun, moon and stars for light (Gen. 1:14-19; Ps 104:2-3).  When Jesus came to the earth, he came as light in darkness (Jn 1:5).

Since we are “under water,” (the water that separates the third heaven from us) God had to send “fishers of men” (Matt4:19) to draw us out of the water and get us to heaven.   David referred to something like this in Ps 18:16.

The third heaven is also called “paradise” in 2 Cor 12:4.  However, paradise had been in the heart of the earth until the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

  • In Lk 23:43, Jesus told the thief, “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
  • Yet, in Eph 4:9 Jesus descended first into the lower parts of the earth for three days and three nights (Matt 12:40).
  • Therefore, paradise was in Abraham’s Bosom (Lk 16:22) until the resurrection of Jesus, at which time Jesus took the souls of the Old Testament saints with him and moved paradise to the third heaven.

Hope this helps,

Pastor Bevans Welder