The Third Heaven and Earth
There has been great confusion among Christians as to the "what and where" of the third heaven and earth. Here we will see exactly what the Word of God says about the subject.
II Corinthians 12: 1 - 4 -- It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 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[away] to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up [away] into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
In order to begin to understand these verses, we will first look at the words 'caught up'. We would normally think this means someone was 'caught up' to a greater height, but this is not necessarily the correct translation into modern day English. 'Caught up' is the Greek word harpazo, which is also translated throughout the Bible as 'catcheth', 'catcheth away', 'pluck', 'pull', or 'taken by force'. They all could be translated as 'catch' or 'catch away'.
In II Corinthians 12: 2 and 4, harpazo is in the aorist tense, denoting a one time occurrence. Paul was 'caught away' to the third heaven only once. He received this revelation as a one-time occurrence.
But what is the third heaven Paul spoke about? The Bible makes reference to three heavens and three earths. These are not in physical layers, but are sequences of time. All three are referenced in II Peter.
1. FIRST heaven and earth:
II Peter 3: 5, 6 -- For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
The water is not referring to the flood of Noah's time. "Perished" is the destruction of the earth documented in Genesis 1: 2.
Genesis 1: 2 -- And the earth was[became] without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep, And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
[See the teaching onGenesis Chapter 1 for more detail].
2. SECOND heaven and earth:
II Peter 3: 7 --But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
The heaven and earth 'which are now' is what God put into order in Genesis 1: 3 - 31.This is the same heaven and earth in which we now live.
3. THIRD heaven and earth:
II Peter 3: 13 -- Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
We look forward to the third heaven and earth, because unlike now, righteousness will prevail. More details are set forth in Revelation 21.
Revelation 21: 1 -- And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first[former] heaven and the first [former] earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
John writes in Revelation that he also saw the third heaven and earth. 'No more sea' is a Hebrew idiom meaning 'no more wavering, confusion, or trouble'. That is something to look forward to! The word 'first' should be translated 'former', as it is the same root word used in verse 4 of the same chapter.
Revelation 21: 4 -- And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
This verse gives us more good news! There will be no hurt, death, or pain in the third heaven and earth.
We will now go back to Paul's record of his revelation of the third heaven and earth in Corinthians.
II Corinthians 12: 2, 3 -- 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[away] to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
The words in parenthesis in the King James Version are used in the same way we describe someone who is 'beside himself' with joy. Paul was thrilled to have this experience.
II Corinthians 12: 4 -- How that he was caught up[away into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
Paul was caught away to Paradise, which is Heaven on earth. Paradise is always used in the Word of God as a place on earth. Eden, from the book of Genesis, was where Adam and Eve first lived on earth. That paradise was lost after they sinned. Paradise will return in the third heaven and earth, with the events recorded in Revelation 21.
What are the 'unspeakable words' Paul heard? He couldn't find the words to describe what God had shown him. Also, it was not lawful (he was not permitted) to utter the words anyway. Paul was allowed the vision because of God's grace. God knew that Paul needed something like this vision so that he would continue to do Godís Will. It was quite the phenomenon that greatly inspired the apostle Paul. Often, God will give you a Ďsigní to urge and inspire you to continue pursuing Him and doing Godís work and Will. Remember, we are Godís hands, legs, and mouth. Heís trusting and depending on us to STAND -- and MOVE His Word.
There are also verses in Isaiah that describe the third heaven and earth:
Isaiah 65: 17 -- For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
Righteousness will dwell with us in the third heaven and earth. We will not remember the problems and troubles we've had in this one.
Isaiah 66: 22 -- For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.
God will be there forever, and so will we.
Isaiah 51: 3 -- For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.
We can look forward to living in a wonderful Paradise (Eden), the garden of the Lord.
Now that we know the "what and where" of the third heaven and earth, we will look more closely at the descriptions given in the Word. We know that there will be a Paradise, a garden of God. The new Jerusalem will be there, as described in Revelation 21: 11 - 21. There will be no sun or moon, because the glory of God will light the heavens and earth.
Revelation 21: 23, 24, 25 -- And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.
There will be other wondrous things that are difficult for us to imagine now.
Revelation 22: 1, 2 -- And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
We already know from Revelation 21: 4 that there will be no death, pain, or sorrow. We will not even remember the trials and problems of this life. We also know we will not be sitting around strumming harps. We will be living life and working, only without the stress and strife we experience now.
Isaiah 65: 21, 22, 23 -- And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.
We know from the Word that we will coexist peaceably with other creatures of God. We see Christmas cards that depict Isaiah chapter 11, but it will not come to pass until the third heaven and earth.
Isaiah 11: 6 - 9 -- The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice'(adder's) den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
This is the third heaven and earth, the future home of all the children of God. The faithful of Israel will be there, as well as all believers born again after the day of Pentecost. It will be a beautiful place containing the new Jerusalem, and it will be the garden of the Lord. After a day of working in the vineyards, we can look forward to eating a good meal, and maybe taking a walk with the dog. We and our children will have nothing to fear in the world, because there will be nothing that can harm us. The sky will be lit up by the glory of God, and darkness will be forever lifted from the earth. This is as much as the Word tells us about the third heaven and earth. Once we are there we will learn a lot more, because God will be ready to tell us.
Isaiah 65: 24 -- And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
Note: See the related teaching 'The Hope of the Return'.