Summary: QUESTION: I have heard Heaven mentioned as having different levels (i.e. 1st Heaven, 2nd Heaven, 3rd Heaven). Are there levels of Heaven?
Sermon Series: “Questioning the Faith”
Sermon #3 “Question about Heaven #2”
Text: I Corinthians 3:9-15
OPENING JOKE: “The Pastor and the Bus Driver” After the preacher died and went to heaven, he noticed that the church bus driver had been given a higher place than he had. “I don’t understand,” he complained to St. Peter. “I devoted my entire life to my congregation.” “Our policy is to reward results,” explained St. Peter. “Now what happened , Reverend, whenever you gave a sermon?” The minister admitted that some in the congregation fell asleep. “Exactly, “ said St. Peter. “And when people rode in this man’s bus, they not only stayed awake, they prayed.” (Ray Heit, in Reader’s Digest)
INTRODUCTION: We continue our series on ‘Questioning the Faith’ this evening.
Last week we discussed the question of “Will we know people in Heaven?” I indicated that the Scripture apparently says, “Yes”.
Tonight we will answer another question concerning Heaven.
QUESTION: I have heard Heaven mentioned as having different levels (i.e. 1st Heaven, 2nd Heaven, 3rd Heaven). Are there levels of Heaven?
This is a good question, and it has more than one answer, because it is a complex question.
I believe what we should do is first go to the scripture that uses the phrase ‘third heaven’ and indicate what this means before we continue.
II 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.”
It is indicative that if Heaven has a ‘third level’ that it must also have a first and second – so what does this mean?
This is actually a scientific point of view on Heaven
(1) The first level of heaven is the earth’s atmosphere
a. i.e. of clouds
b. Genesis 8:2 “The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were also stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained.”
c. Deuteronomy 11:11 “but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven,”
(2) The second level of heaven is interstellar space
a. i.e. of stars
b. Genesis 15:5 “Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."”
c. Psalm 8:3 “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,”
(3) The third level of heaven is God’s presence
a. i.e. God’s abode
b. I Kings 8:30 “And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.”
c. Psalm 123:1 “Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens.”
Basically, to understand this verse we must be willing to concede that God’s abode is outside our understanding of space.
Because this is the case, the word ‘Heaven’ is often used interchangeably between our atmosphere, interstellar space and God’s abode (the Heaven of Heavens)
To help ensure that there would be no question concerning his meaning Paul said, ‘Third Heaven’ to indicate exactly what he meant in this passage: The presence of God
But this, though it is good trivia and exegesis of this verse, does not really get to the heart of the question.
When people begin discussing ‘levels of heaven’, the usual question is, “Is heaven going to be better for some than it is for others?”
Some argue that Heaven is the same for everyone, while others say that the better you are here the better heaven will be for you
Illustration: “Christian Sects Differ on Heaven” Because the Jehovah’s Witnesses misinterpret Revelation, they believe that only 144,000 of them will be going to the ‘true’ heaven, while the rest will be in different levels of heaven, which are good, but not as good as the ‘true’ heaven.
So what is the answer?
Of course, we must go to God’s Word for an answer to this question, the best answer being our text for tonight I Corinthians 3:9-15
I Corinthians 3: 10 “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.”
• There is but one foundation for salvation: The Lord Jesus Christ
• Paul says here that he has laid that foundation down for others to build on, meaning that he led them to faith in Christ
I Corinthians 3:12 “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”