Word Studies - Short Articles
What and where is Heaven?
To answer this question, we examine both the New Testament (Greek original) and the Old Testament (Hebrew)
The Greek word for heaven is οὐρανός (singlular - heaven) or οὐρανῶν (plural - heavens). In some verses we find the usage is singular and in other verses its plural. This distinction is helpful in distinguishing which heaven is in view. The Greek is much better for checking the meaning of the word than the Hebrew of the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word “shamayim shameh” (Strongs H8064 שׁמה שׁמים) is translated as either heaven or heavens. There is no consistency among translators on this Hebrew word and they appear to translate the word based on the context or on their reasoning.
The description of heaven in the New Testament we are considering, correlate to the aspect of the dimension of space and move upward and outward from the Earth. Heavens refers to everything above the surface of the earth whereas Heaven refers to one of three realms. One is the sky or air, another is the vast universe of stars, galaxies and other objects of outer space and yet another one is the region of God and His throne. As will be shown from Scripture we deduce that there are 3 heavens.
The First Heaven
Examples in the New Testament are:
Matthew 8:20 (KJV) And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air (original word is heaven Greek οὐρανός) have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
See this verse translated in American Standard Version, English Standard Version, Amplified Bible.
Luke 12:56 (KJV) Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky (original word is heaven Greek οὐρανός) and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
Similarly see this verse in American Standard Version, English Standard Version, Amplified Bible, New International Version.
Examples in the Old Testament are:
In verses 6 and 7 of Genesis chapter one we find the Hebrew word רָקִיעַ (rā·qî·a - Strongs H7549). This word is translated in many of our English versions as firmament, expanse, space, dome, vault, horizon or sky. It is remarkable that one Hebrew word can be translated into so many different English words. But there is a commonality when we look at the verses where this word is used.
Here are the verses of Genesis 1:6-10 from the New International Version. Among the many fine versions displaying Genesis 1:6-10, this one catches the meaning of the first heaven well:
Gen 1:6 (NIV) And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”
Gen 1:7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so.
Gen 1:8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
Gen. 1:9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.
Gen 1:10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
Check out other versions including the Amplified bible which mentions heaven in verses 8 and 9. From this we can conclude that what is being pictured here are waters above and waters below. Waters above being the water vapor and clouds in the air and the waters below being the oceans, lakes and rivers. This is consistent with the other words mentioned in first paragraph of this section and with many other good English versions of these verses.
This describes what constitutes the first heaven of God’s creation from the Old Testament
The Second Heaven
We know there is a second heaven. We just studied the first heaven and the Apostle Paul mentions a third heaven. The second heaven is the vastness of space including the sun, moon, planets, stars and galaxies. Substantiating scriptures are:
Nehemiah 9:6 (Christian Standard Bible) You, LORD, are the only God. You created the heavens, the highest heavens with all their stars, ….
Genesis 2:4 (New Living Translation) This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth.
Gen. 26:4 (KJV) And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven…
The stars and other extra-terrestrial bodies reside beyond the first heaven. These are in the second heaven.
The Third Heaven
The third heaven is the spiritual realm of God’s throne. The Apostle John was taken there in vision (Rev. 1:10) and so was the Apostle Paul. Supporting scriptures:
Acts 7:49 (KJV) Heaven (Greek οὐρανός) is My throne and earth is My footstool. The original word is Greek οὐρανός meaning heaven noun nominative masculine singular.
2 Corinthians 12:2 (KJV) I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven (Greek οὐρανός). The original word is Greek οὐρανοῦ - meaning heaven noun genitive masculine singular).
Three heavens are mentioned in scripture. The first being the atmosphere surrounding our planet. The second is outer space beyond our atmosphere containing a myriad of celestial objects. The third is the realm of God’ throne.Go to Home Page