Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Third Heaven: Dwelling Place Of God

We now follow John as he goes through a door standing open in heaven! But where is that? Surely it is out there, beyond the clouds and the stars above, beyond human experience, outside of this world to that somewhere and everywhere where God dwells with all the great host of heavenly beings. This heaven was opened to Jesus at His baptism and he saw the Spirit of God descending, descending and descending like a dove to rest on him. And he heard a voice from that somewhere that said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matt 3:16-17).

Now John is invited into that other place, above and beyond us all. A door stands open and he passes through it. The Apostle Paul had been there. He wrote,
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. - 2 Co 12:2 ESV
He called it the "third" heaven. How many are there? And to which of these did John go?

The Hebrew word for it all is shamayim, a plural word. The Hebrew has several other words that refer to the sky, the firmament and the clouds. John uses a Greek word that refers to the same location, but is not a plural. Rather John speaks about the heaven (ouranos). When Peter received his vision about clean/unclean food a voice from the heaven spoke to him three times, indicating that this was God's voice (Acts 10:9-16). The third heaven is the dwelling-place of God.

From the blog of Pastor Ray K Liu
So there are three heavens:
  1. The firmament, our planet's atmosphere, where the eagles fly (Gen 2:19; Lamentations 4:19)
  2. Beyond is the starry heavens, with the sun, moon and stars in their orbits. Out there they declare God's glory and show His handiwork (Ps. 19:1)
  3. The third heaven is that place to which Paul was caught up, the place beyond, the dwelling-place of God, the heaven of heavens (Deut 10:14; Psalms 115:16; 148:4) 
There is no way to speak of that third heaven other than through the use of symbolical language. Paul knew that as well. He says "he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter" (2 Co 12:4). John, on the other hand, is given a revelation from that place of wonder and awe to share, using symbols and images familiar to this time, this world so that we may imagine in some small way what it is like there and what is going to happen in this world as we await Christ's return. These will appear all throughout the next chapters. Here's a partial list of the images we will want to study:

  • thrones of precious stones like jasper and carnelian
  • emerald rainbows
  • crowns
  • torches of fire
  • people wearing white robes
  • creatures like lions, oxen, men and eagles
  • creatures with wings, full of eyes
  • a mighty Lion
  • the Lamb
  • scroll with seven seals
  • horses of various colors
  • wars, blood, storms, people dying
  • angels, elders, demons
So we move forward with a prayer that the Spirit will speak to our hearts and open our eyes as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment

So what do you think? I would love to see a few words from you.