What is heaven? I would expect that most reading this have at least pondered the question once or twice in their lives—but, sadly, the truth of this topic is hidden behind a massive wall of religious confusion. Tomorrow’s World holds the Bible as the origin and authority for wisdom and knowledge—so what does the word of God actually teach about this subject?
The word “heaven” occurs approximately 501 times in the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, and 551 times in the original King James Version. The Hebrew word for heaven is šāmayim, referring to sky, atmosphere, celestial bodies, or the abiding place of God. The Greek word is Ouranos, which carries the same meaning. Let’s examine some different areas of scripture where these terms are illustrated so we can gain a clear vision of what heaven really is from a biblical perspective.
We read in the book of Genesis that “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” (Genesis 1:7–8). Early on, God labeled the firmament—the atmosphere or the sky—as heaven. We also read later in Genesis 27:39 that the “dew” comes down from heaven, indicating that rain and moisture come from the atmosphere or the sky, which we know scientifically to be true today. Farmers throughout history have trusted in the rain, and the Bible reveals those rains being “poured on them from heaven” (2 Samuel 21:10). These scriptures indicate that the first heaven is the physical atmosphere, where weather patterns and storms occur and where the ozone layer exists.
Another heaven, above the sky and atmosphere, is described as the dwelling place of the stars and other celestial objects, such as planets, moons, and comets. We read that God describes “the sun, the moon, and the stars” as among “all the host of heaven” (Deuteronomy 4:19). Jesus Christ also illustrates this point when speaking of the Day of the Lord, God’s time of pouring out His direct wrath on mankind: The “sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29). These scriptures indicate a second “heaven” beyond the atmosphere that we identify as outer space, the home of innumerable stars, planets, and galaxies.
Scripture also points to a third heaven, magnificent and glorious. The Apostle Paul described how he was “caught up to the third heaven,” a place where he was in “Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:2–4). Whether bodily or in a vision, he bore witness to the dwelling place of God Almighty—the Headquarters of all things spiritual and physical. This is where God makes decisions regarding His plan and purpose for mankind, and it is the seat of His laws, statutes, and judgments, which He uses to guide and direct us in righteousness. God specifically states, “Heaven is My throne” (Isaiah 66:1) and King Solomon asked God, “Hear in heaven Your dwelling place” (1 Kings 8:30).
In Revelation 4 and 5 we are provided with a vivid illustration of the headquarters of God and His throne room. The Bible paints a very clear picture that the third heaven is God’s dwelling place and the seat of His heavenly government.
The Bible also provides insight into the future with a beautiful illustration of “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1). The word for “new” in the Greek is kainos, meaning unused, recently made, fresh, unprecedented—indicative that after God purges out all wickedness, He will establish a new heaven where He will dwell (v. 3)—one that is fresh, clean, and pure, and one that will usher in a new era full of everlasting peace and joy!
We have seen illustrated from Scripture that the first heaven is the sky and atmosphere, the second heaven is outer space, which houses the stars and planets, and the third heaven is the very headquarters and dwelling place of God. We also see in Bible prophecy a new, future heaven, where God will dwell and establish everlasting peace and joy. So, what is heaven? A really awesome truth!