2 Corinthians 12:2-4 speaks of the "Third Heaven", it says: 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. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.
So what is the "third heaven"? And what are the other two heavens? That is what I will be taking a look at in today's blog. First, I think that we know what two of the three heavens might be right of the bat. Let's see if you agree with me. The first heaven is merely a reference to the sky above us, and all of the stars. Like when we say that the heavens opened up with rain. A great example of the use of this is in Genesis 15:5 - where God tells Abram, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars." This type of use of "heaven" is used in both the Old and New Testaments, as is done in Deut. 11:11, Psalm 19:6, Isaiah 13:10, and James 5:8. So let's call the sky and the stars above as the First Heaven.
And we know that God the Father and His Son sitting at His right hand are living in a place we call Heaven, this being the majestic home of God. This is the glorious place where the Prophet Isaiah was transported to, the very throne room of God in Isaiah 6. This is where the Apostle John was caught up in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 4-5). And this is where Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for His believers (John 14:2-3). This is also the place that Paul is speaking of in 2 Cor. 12:2-4 (quoted above.) So let's call this the Highest Heaven, or the Third Heaven.
So what is this place that is the Second Heaven? Pastor Jack Hayford has a great study on Revelation (called Focusing on the Future), and in this study he explains that the Second Heaven is a reference to the unseen, spiritual world that surrounds us here on earth. And this is well supported in the Scriptures. There are two great examples of this – first, in 2 Kings 6:15-17 we see the Prophet Elisha involved in a war between Syria and Israel. When Elisha's servant freaks out because the Syrian army is so large, Elisha prays that the servant's eyes are opened. Here is what he sees: 1
5 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" 16 He said, "Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, "O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see." So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Cool, cool, cool! There are armies of unseen armies of God, in the unseen, spiritual realm around us. This is the Second Heaven. And they help us! But we know from the world around us, that there must also be unseen demonic activity around us. And this is shown in the second verse that gives us as an example of the unseen spiritual realm around us, which is in Daniel 10. In Daniel 10, the Prophet Daniel is a godly man, who is fasting for three weeks and in prayer to God. 21 days after he started his prayer, Daniel receives a visit from the Arch-Angel Gabriel who explains that he was delayed for 21 days because he was in battle in this unseen Second Heaven around us with the ominous Prince of Persia. Here is what God's Word says about this battle:
12 Then he (i.e., the Angel) said to me, "Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come."
Whoa, what a cool verse with all sorts of implications that we can draw from this. This shows that the Arch-Angel Gabriel was in battle with an evil Prince of Persia. This was such a ferocious battle that it delayed the intended response for Daniel for 21 days. And the spiritual battle was turned when the Arch-Angel Michael came to help. Lots of meat in this chapter, but for now, let's just understand that the unseen spiritual realm around us, the Second Heaven, is a place where there are both forces of God and Satan.
Finally, in the New Testament we see references to thrones, dominions, principalities and powers (also called rulers and authorities). See, Ephesians 1:20-21, Colossians 1:16. I believe this is a reference to this unseen realm of the Second Heaven. And the most important point of this entire writing is that Jesus is far above every created thing, including all principalities and powers, rulers and authorities. Jesus triumphed over Satan and his kingdom by His death on the Cross. The battle is won. As is made more clearly than I can ever say is what is contained in Colossians 2:15 –"And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." And nothing in the Second Heaven, no principalities or powers can separate a born again believer from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38).
If you would like to study more about the unseen principalities and powers, here are a few more verses to look at: Eph 3:10, Eph. 6:12, and Col. 1:16. Thanks to my Mom who first raised this question a few weeks ago over lunch. God bless you!