There is this wrong concept of heaven that is very pervasive within professing christianity today. It is the belief that we that this where we go when we die and it is the reward of the saved. The reality is that the biblical concept of heaven is vastly different, even a little banal by comparison, BUT when understood properly it opens up whole other realm of truth and understanding.
Jesus states very clearly in John 3 that
John 3:13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.
The rest of the bible bears this out:
Acts 2:29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
Acts 2:34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,
Acts 13:36 “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption;
Ezekiel 37:24 “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them.
1 Corinthians 15:52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
We have talked about the resurrection at length
Zechariah 14:4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.
Zechariah 14:9 And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be “The LORD is one,” And His name one.
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
And even beyond that….
Revelation 21:1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
Revelation 21:2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
To sum it up, the Bible nowhere says that we are going to heaven when we die or that it is the reward of those who are saved.
More than likely it is a pagan belief adopted around the 3rd century to add congregants to their form of christianity (syncretism). To a large degree it doesn’t really matter where it came from, because it was primarily a device of Satan no matter the who, what, where, when, why and how’s.
The misconceptions about heaven I believe come from the misunderstanding that the Bible actually talks about three heavens.
Today I would like to go through and clarify what they are and address some of the verses that people assume are talking about going to heaven when those who have been good die.
[Also see message on Hell]
Let’s have a look at the very first verse of the Bible and we see that immediately there are multiple heavens revealed within the Bible
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
“im” in Hebrew plural shaw-mah’-yim, shaw-meh’
Maybe surprised to know that the word heavens appears 167 times in the NKJV
(Accuracy of number not the most important thing here)
“Christians” believe in one heaven while the Jews and others talk of 7 heavens
We get in right away to the 1st heaven
Genesis 1:6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament [expanse] in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”
Genesis 1:7 Thus 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.
This separation of waters: humidity from bodies of water on the earth’s surface. So water vapor in the air from the seas and ice caps. Appears to be a division of water in it’s three states: gas, liquid and solid.
Psalms 104:2 Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.
Genesis 1:8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
We immediately see that God calls this creation of the sky and atmosphere: Heaven
This should create some cognitive dissonance or confusion as to what is going on already to those who believe that we go to heaven when we die. They would “intuitively” know that we don’t go into the sky.
It is Where the Birds Fly
Genesis 1:20 Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.”
This heaven encapsulates the space where the clouds are and the air that we breathe along with where the birds fly.
Revelation 19:17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God,
Where the Rain Comes From
In describing where the rain comes from, the author of Genesis refers to the sky as heaven in describing where the rain for the flood came from:
Genesis 7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
This heaven is what we call “space” or “outer-space”:
Genesis 1:14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years;
Genesis 1:15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.
Genesis 1:16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.
Just to be clear that there is a distinction between these 2 heavens
Genesis 22:17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.
There are several more references that support this but this should be sufficient to define the first and second heavens. The second heaven is the space of the whole universe, the starry expanse that is billions and billions light years across from all that we can tell.
These are the two heavens that we see and have access to.
Now one of the ways that we know that there are three heavens is due to the following verses:
2 Corinthians 12:1 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord:
2 Corinthians 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven.
2 Corinthians 12:3 And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—
2 Corinthians 12:4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
The context of the book of Revelation:
Revelation 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,
Revelation 9:17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone.
Revelation 4:2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.
John was before the throne of God, as Paul was, in the third heaven in this revelation and vision.
Where Is God?
Matthew 6:9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Where is Christ?
Revelation 3:21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
More About its Location?
The third heaven is the unseen place or throne from which God controls the whole universe.
Psalms 8:1 To the Chief Musician. On the Instrument of Gath. A Psalm of David. O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
Now it should be a little easier to understand this verse, He is above the first two heavens
Psalms 8:3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
Isaiah 14:12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!
Isaiah 14:13 For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;
Isaiah 14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’
Psalms 75:6 For exaltation comes neither from the east Nor from the west nor from the south.
North is not mentioned implying correctly that it is where exaltation comes from
Why a Third Heaven?
God is staying separate from man for the time being because of sin.
Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear.
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
We Do Not See Them
John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
John 3:13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.
Mankind has ascended to first and second heaven, so this has to be talking about the third.
So now that we are armed with these scriptures from the word of God, let’s look
Makes Other Verses Easier to Understand Now
Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
This is the first and second heavens
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
Like the kingdom of God and the gospel of heaven, it is where the idea originates.
Matthew 5:12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Revelation 22:12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
The reward is kept track of in heaven, but brought to Earth at His return
There are a few scriptures regarding Elijah that the world misunderstands and subsequently misuses.
Taken into Heaven
2 Kings 2:1 And it came to pass, when the LORD was about to take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.
2 Kings 2:7 And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood facing them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan.
2 Kings 2:8 Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
2 Kings 2:9 And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”
taken…. H3947 לָקַח lâqach law-kakh’
2 Kings 2:10 So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.”
2 Kings 2:11 Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
2 Kings 2:12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces.
4-10 years later….
2 Chronicles 21:12 And a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, Thus says the LORD God of your father David: Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah,
Matthew 17:1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves;
Matthew 17:2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.
Matthew 17:3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
Matthew 17:4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
Matthew 17:5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”
Matthew 17:6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.
Matthew 17:7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.”
Matthew 17:8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
Matthew 17:9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
Numbers 12:6 Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.
Genesis 5:22 After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters.
Genesis 5:23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.
Genesis 5:24 And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
H3947 לָקַח lâqach law-kakh’ [same word as Elijah]
In the same way as Elijah or allowed him to die peaceably it’s not clear, but now we know it wasn’t into heaven.
People assuming that because Elijah was taken into heaven then assume the same thing about Enoch.
Today’s euphemisms cannot be mistaken for scripture: “walked with God” and “taken” do not mean “go to heaven”
Genesis 6:9 This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.
Genesis 6:10 And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken away [KJV:translated; this only confuses the meaning] so that he did not see death, “AND WAS NOT FOUND, BECAUSE GOD HAD TAKEN HIM”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
“So that he did not see death” does not mean he went to heaven as we now know very clearly and we also know that all have sinned and the penalty for that is death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Could have been taken away like Elijah was and did not experience the death like those around him did or perhaps something more ignominious. While we may not know exactly what happened here we do know that he did die and he did not go to heaven.
The Bible has to agree with the rest of the Bible.
John 10:35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken),
It is impossible for the Scripture to be broken. The Word of God has to agree with everything internally in its original text. There is not one mistake or it is like a house of cards that comes down when a single one is removed. It all stands or falls together.
Revelation 22:18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book;
Revelation 22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Its another piece to the puzzle that helps us more completely understand the Truth.