1. The First Heaven: This is considered the lowest level of heaven and is often depicted as the earthly sky or atmosphere. It includes the physical universe and the celestial bodies found within it.
2. The Second Heaven: This level represents the spiritual realm beyond the earthly sky. It is typically associated with spiritual warfare and the domain of angels, including the fallen angels
Heaven, a realm of divine glory and eternal bliss, is a concept deeply rooted in various religious traditions, including Christianity. While the Bible does not explicitly outline a detailed hierarchy of seven levels of heaven, there are references to multiple heavenly realms, each with its own unique attributes and significance. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of the seven levels of heaven in the Bible and the associated symbolism and meaning.
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Are the seven heavens?
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'” This verse in 1 Corinthians 2:9 gives us a glimpse of the glory and splendor that exists in heaven. What we do know is that heaven is a place of perfection, beauty, and peace, where pain, sickness, and sorrow are no more. We will be reunited with our loved ones who have gone before us and will be in the presence of our Creator.
Moreover, heaven is described as a place of overflowing joy, where we will experience true happiness and contentment. We will have perfect communion with God and will be able to fully understand Him. Words cannot fully describe the beauty and majesty of heaven, as it is beyond our human comprehension.
However, it is important to remember that heaven is not a reward that we can earn through our own efforts. It is a gift that we receive through faith in Jesus Christ. He died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins and rose again on the third day, conquering death and giving us eternal life.
It is our hope and assurance of heaven that gives us strength to face the trials of this world and the peace to endure them with grace. As we eagerly await the great day of our homecoming, we can take comfort in the fact that heaven is a real place, prepared for us by our loving Father.
Exploring the 7 Levels of Heaven in the Bible: A Heavenly Hierarchy
- The First Heaven – The Sky
The first level of heaven is often associated with the sky or the atmospheric realm. It is where the birds fly and the clouds drift. In the Bible, it is mentioned as the “firmament” (Genesis 1:20) or the “heavens” where the stars and celestial bodies are placed (Genesis 1:14-17).
- The Second Heaven – The Cosmic Realm
The second level of heaven is associated with the cosmic realm, where the sun, moon, and stars are located. It represents the celestial bodies and the vastness of the universe. Scripture references the heavenly bodies and their purpose in God’s creation (Psalm 19:1-4).
- The Third Heaven – The Spiritual Realm
The third heaven, often mentioned as the “highest” heaven, represents the spiritual realm where God dwells. The apostle Paul speaks of being caught up to the third heaven, a place of indescribable glory (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). It is the dwelling place of God and is beyond human comprehension.
- The Fourth Heaven – The Angelic Realm
Although not explicitly labeled as the “fourth heaven,” it is often associated with the angelic realm. Angels are heavenly beings who serve as messengers and agents of God. They are present in both the earthly realm and in the spiritual realm.
- The Fifth Heaven – The Throne Room
The fifth level of heaven represents the divine throne room of God. It is where God’s majesty and glory are on full display. The prophet Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6 provides a glimpse into this heavenly realm, where seraphim worship and proclaim God’s holiness.
- The Sixth Heaven – The Paradise
The concept of the sixth heaven is found in some Jewish and Christian traditions. It is believed to be a place of bliss and paradise, where the righteous are gathered after death. The apostle Paul speaks of being caught up to paradise (2 Corinthians 12:4).
- The Seventh Heaven – The Future Glory
The seventh heaven represents the ultimate glory and the culmination of God’s plan. It is associated with the New Jerusalem and the eternal kingdom of God. In Revelation 21, John describes a vision of the new heaven and the new earth, a place where God’s presence is the eternal light.
Judaism’s Seven Heavens
The Hebrew word for heaven, shamayim, is only ever plural. Different traditions have different numbers of heavens; the Jewish mystical text, the Zohar, claims there are 390 heavens and 70,000 worlds. As science progresses, the understanding of the seven heavens is becoming less literal and more allegorical, as a description of how God interacts with His creation.
Mystical Judaism says followers can make their way through the heavens if they pass certain tests and know the names of the guardian angels. At each level, the mystic is allowed to receive particular wisdom. Some Jewish scholars say Paul’s trip to the “third heaven” is an example (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). Legend says when Moses went to Mt. Sinai, God opened up all the heavens and let the Israelites see in (Exodus 19:10-11).
The characteristics of the seven heavens vary with source and have been discussed by the Rabbis of the Talmud for ages. The apocryphal book 2 Enoch (written, perhaps, shortly before the fall of the Temple in AD 70) gives a great amount of detail. But the book can’t be a true account, since it was written nearly 4000 years after the biblical Enoch was taken by God. The story may have been adapted from Zoroastrianism.
Originally, 2 Enoch mentioned seven heavens; it was later changed to ten, possibly by the Eastern Orthodox Church in the 7th Century. What each of the heavens contain or represent vary depending with the teller. The story claims that Enoch walked the heavens with the angels, returned to earth and told his family, then was taken to heaven again (Genesis 5:24). The heavens he visited were:
Vilon (“curtain”): a curtain which is rolled over the earth at nighttime to block the sun (Isaiah 40:22); contains the atmosphere, minor stars, snow and dew; abode of Adam and Eve; governed by Gabriel; called curtain or veil because it veils or hides the other six levels; represented by the moon
Raqi’a/Raki’a (“expanse,” “canopy”): possibly refers to the frozen canopy over the earth before the Flood (Genesis 1:7-8; Deuteronomy 11:11); Moses visited Paradise here to receive the Ten Commandments; fallen angels are imprisoned here for marrying human women (Genesis 6:4); dwelling place of souls awaiting judgment including “men of renown,” apostates, tyrants; called expanse because it’s where the sun and planets dwell (Genesis 1:14, 17); represented by Mercury
Shehaquim/Shehaqim/Shehakim (“clouds”): Eden and Tree of Life, the mill that produces manna; also includes paradise and hell/hades (Psalm 78:23-24); represented by Venus
Zebul (“habitation”): stratosphere, sun, moon, and “four great stars,” including celestial mechanics; dwelling of the winds; called habitation because it’s where the New Jerusalem with its temple is (Isaiah 63:15); represented by the sun
Ma’on (“refuge”): home to “Grigori” — fallen angels who mourn for their brothers in Raqi’a; hell/Gehenna; Michael or possibly Samael presides; filled with ministering angels who sing by night; called refuge because it’s where most of the angels reside; represented by Mars
Makhon/Machon/Makon (“city,” “established place”): home for angels in charge of nature’s cycles and good governing systems of the world; angels who write men’s actions in books; governed by Samael, a dark servant of God; storage place of rain, snow, and hail (Deuteronomy 28:12); called city because it’s where the City of Angels resides; represented by Jupiter
Araboth/Aravot (“deserts”): also known as the 10th heaven; Throne of Glory and God dwell here as well as unborn human souls, Seraphim, Cherubim, justice, righteousness, souls of the righteous, and ineffable light (Psalm 68:5); called desert because it has no moisture and no air; God also said to be above the seventh heaven; represented by Saturn
It’s possible that Judaism’s belief in multiple heavens could have been influenced by Zoroastrianism, but it’s unclear how Zoroastrianism influenced Judaism — or if it was the other way around. Jews taken to Babylon in exile who did not return to Jerusalem would have been exposed to Zoroastrian laymen. It’s possible Judaism got the idea of multiple heavens at this time. In fact, the word “paradise,” one of many words used to reflect heaven, comes from the Persian for “enclosed park or garden.”
Judaism might also have been influenced by the ancient Babylonian tales. Perhaps Abraham brought the mythology with him from Ur. The parallel affiliation with celestial bodies indicates a closer relation to Babylonian stories than Zoroastrian.
While the Bible does not explicitly lay out a detailed hierarchy of seven heavens, it does contain references to various heavenly realms, each with its own significance and symbolism. These levels of heaven convey the vastness and complexity of God’s divine plan, from the material world to the spiritual realm and ultimately to the eternal glory of God’s presence in the New Jerusalem. Understanding these concepts can deepen one’s appreciation for the biblical perspective on heaven and the divine order of the cosmos.