The 3 Levels of Heaven

The 3 Levels of Heaven

In the previous article, “Is Heaven a Real Place,” someone posted a comment asking how many heavens are there and who lives in each of them. I say his question is valid because Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Heavens must mean more than one, right?

But instead of writing a long response to the commenter’s question, I decided to write an article about the 3 levels of heaven and look at the various Scripture references supporting the idea of more than one heaven.

Jesus Passed through the Heavens

Hebrews 4:14 says, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”

The fact that Jesus “passed through the heavens” seems to give evidence that there is more than one heaven.

Another translation puts it this way: “We need to hold on to our declaration of faith: We have a superior chief priest who has gone through the heavens. That person is Jesus, the Son of God” (God’s Word).

Consequently, the reference to plural “heavens,” seems to refer to more than one “heaven.”

The Third Heaven

The Bible specifically refers to the third heaven. In 2 Corinthians 12:2, Paul refers to himself in the third person when he said, “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.”

So, if there is a third heaven it seems there must also be a first and second heaven.

What are the 3 Heavens

The 3 Levels of Heaven Explained

It is important to note that the term “heaven” is not used symbolically in Scripture; instead, it usually refers to one of three realms.

The three heavens are divided as follows:

1. Our immediate atmosphere

2. Outer space (the sun, moon, and stars)

3. The home of God

The Atmospheric Heaven – The First Heaven

The first heaven is linked to what we call the “atmospheric heaven.” This includes the air that we breathe as well as the space that immediately surrounds the earth. The technical term for this is the “troposphere.” It extends about twenty miles above the earth. The space above this is called the “stratosphere.”

The Bible uses the term heaven to describe this area in Genesis 6:7.

So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

In this passage, the “birds of the air” are the “birds of heaven.” The Hebrew word used here is the same word, in other contexts used of the presence of God, heaven.

Jesus also spoke of the “birds of the air” or the “birds of the sky” in the Sermon on the Mount. “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they” (Matthew 6:26)?

The word translated as “air” is ouranos, the same Greek word that is elsewhere translated as “heaven.” Thus, the word can mean heaven, sky, or air. It all depends upon the context.

Another example of this use of the term can be found in James 5:18. In this verse, we are told that the “heaven gave rain.” It is the sky, the first heaven, which gave rain. Therefore, Scripture often uses the term heaven in the same way as we would use the word “sky.”

The Celestial Heaven – The Second Heaven

The term heaven is also used of what we call the celestial heaven, known as the “second heaven.” This use of the term heaven refers to outer space or the stellar heaven. It includes the sun, moon, and stars.

We find this use of the term in the words of our Lord Jesus when He describes coming events. He said, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29).

The stars are said to be “in heaven” or “in the sky.”

Deuteronomy 10:14 also speaks of heavenly spheres beyond that are visible from the earth. “Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it.”

The psalmist also wrote about this heaven of heavens when he said, “Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens” (Psalm 148:4)!

Therefore, there seems to be a second heaven, a celestial heaven.

Heaven, God’s Dwelling Place – The Third Heaven

The Bible is clear that God cannot be limited to any one geographical place. At the dedication of the first temple in the city of Jerusalem, King Solomon asked the following question when praying to the Lord:

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built” (1 Kings 8:27)!

King Solomon realized that the Lord was not limited to that one particular place. Indeed, the entire universe cannot contain Him.

Yet, Scripture also teaches us that there is a certain geographical place where God’s presence resides in some unique sense. It is also designated heaven. The writer to the Hebrews said, “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1).

God’s throne is spoken of as residing somewhere – heaven.

Quote about Heaven

Heaven is God’s Presence

When Stephen was being stoned to death, he knew that he was going to a specific place and that would be in the presence of the Lord (Acts 7:55). While God does not reside in one particular area, there is a place where His presence dwells in a unique way. And Stephen was allowed to see that place as he was nearing death.

We also read this in Hebrews 9:24, “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”

Although the exact location of the abode of God is not revealed in Scripture, it is spoken of as being above the first and second heavens.

Heaven is an Actual Place

We can conclude that there is such a specific place as the third heaven. And since the first two heavens are actual places we should also conclude that a third heaven is also a real place. There is no reason to assume it is symbolic especially since the first two heavens are speaking of known realities.

But then again, while the Lord is not limited to this third heaven, in some special way He has a place there. This is the clear teaching of the Bible on the subject.


Heaven may be beyond the limits of our vision and many people do regard it as merely a sphere of life, or a state of the independent locality. But heaven is a real place – the three levels of heaven are actual places.

The first heaven is the immediate atmosphere above us, the second heaven is the place where the sun, moon, and stars exist, and the third heaven is God’s dwelling place. And someday we will be in the third heaven too. The Bible says we are citizens of heaven living as strangers and pilgrims in this foreign land (Philippians 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11).

But while we wait for our Lord to come back for us and take us to our native home, we are to live heavenly lives here on earth.

Reference: Heaven, the final Destination of Believers by Don Stewart

Recommended Resource: Place Called Heaven: 10 Surprising Truths about Your Eternal Home

A Place Called Heaven by Robert JeffressIf any of us learned we were going to move to a foreign country, we’d do everything we could to learn about that place so that we’d be prepared when moving day arrived. As Christians, we know someday we will leave our familiar country and be united with God in heaven. And yet many of us know very little about this place called heaven.

In this enlightening book, bestselling author Dr. Robert Jeffress opens the Scriptures to unpack ten surprising truths about heaven and explain who we will see there and how we can prepare to go there someday.

Perfect for believers or skeptics who are curious about heaven.

15 Replies to “The 3 Levels of Heaven”

  1. On June 15, 2022, in response to a post from Sharon, Admin said, “although we now know that there are three levels of heaven, what we want to focus on is the abode of God, the third heaven where we will eventually spend eternity with our Lord and Master.” …

    Then in another response on September 17, 2022 to Linda, Admin states that the third heaven, as we know it today, is where believers will go when they die while waiting for the resurrection. Admin goes on to say, “this new heaven and new earth is the eternal heaven, the final destination of the believers in Christ.

    This seems to be a contradiction to me. I know what the word says about it, but I’m concerned about the possible confusion it could create with new believers.

    Am I just reading it wrong?

    1. Hi Bill,

      Thanks for raising this issue.

      I may not have elaborated on the difference between the heaven as we know it today and the new heaven and new earth. And this is because this already falls on another topic.

      The third level of heaven described in the article is the “paradise” Paul referred to. Yes, this is the abode of God where believers go immediately when they die. It’s where believers wait for the rapture and resurrection.

      The new heaven and the new earth is where believers enjoy eternity with the Lord after the millennial reign. There should not be any confusion or contradiction because when we read the book of Revelation, it makes it clear that there’s going to be a new heaven and a new earth.

      In short, the third heaven is not the final heaven where believers will spend “forever” with God.

      I would welcome your insight on the new heaven and new earth and the eternal state as described in Revelation 21-22.

      God bless!

  2. Will we really one day reside in heaven?

    The new Jerusalem comes down to earth. An earth is our permanent home. We inherit the Earth.

    So how do we connect the seeming contradictions??

    1. Hi Veronica,

      Thank you for your comment and the information you shared.

      As I said, the words used will depend on the context.

      There can be different meanings and translations but the translators must have used the words that match the authors’ original intent.


  3. Just started a book study on heaven.

    This book talks about an “intermediate” heaven. In this heaven, we’ll wait for the time of Christ’s return to the earth, our bodily resurrection, the final judgment, and the creation of the new heavens and new earth. Then we will go to Heaven.

    I have not heard of an intermediate/present heaven before.

    What are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Linda,

      Based on the book’s description of an intermediate heaven, the author must be talking about the third heaven as we know it today. This is where believers will go when they die while waiting for the resurrection.

      I would like to emphasize that the third heaven as described in this post is different from the eternal heaven where God and His people will dwell after the Millennial reign of Christ.

      The heavens as we know them today will be destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3:10) and God will create a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1, 4).

      This new heaven and new earth is the eternal heaven, the final destination of the believers in Christ.

      I hope this helps.

      1. William Shatner said that when he went up in space but not beyond the galaxy, he felt a dark void, a dead silence, almost death that left him struggling with what he thought was beauty, until he was up there.

        Why do you think he felt this?

        1. He probably went to the second heaven which scholars believe is where the powers of this dark world reside.

          Ephesians 6:12 describes the spiritual battle that exists in the lives of believers.

          I hope this helps, God bless!

  4. Oops, I just found a little bit of the Trinity please help……..I have been taught that there are 3 in one in essence only, they can all do certain things.

    God is the ultimate planner
    Christ his son the executioner
    The Holy Spirit became our teacher and our gift when we became a believer.

    But there is only one God and one Jesus who God gave his son to die for us and we can not be saved if we do not believe in him. You can not just believe in God as his son did all the work for us.

    Jesus Christ. Then we needed a teacher who we believe you have. Is this all not in the Bible as I have read?

    But they all are alike in Essence only and they all have a purpose which God created.

    Please, wrong or right?

    1. Hey Sharon,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I would like to refer you to another post. Just click the link and it will lead you to the article on the Trinity.

      Here they are:

      I hope you will take the time to read them. You can always leave a comment or any question you may have regarding the topic.


  5. I just found this site and I’m so blessed, thank you so much. When I learned I never could explain, now I can. Wow what an eye-opener and you explained so well.

    I have a favor could you explain the Trinity 3 in one.

    I understand but so many of my friends do not, I have the blood and learned from Robert Theme and John Mc Arthur.

    Could you do a study on it like the three heavens? A Pastor I know said I was wrong there are not 3 heavens when he gets back from vacation I can prove to him in a biblical way.

    Thank you again.

    1. Hi Sharon,

      I am really glad that God led you to this site and it makes me happy that you found clarity on the topic of heaven.

      Although we now know that there are three levels of heaven, what we should want o focus on is the abode of God, the third heaven where we will eventually spend eternity with our Lord and Master.

      God bless you, dear.

  6. Hi Alice,

    I have read many articles and journals concerning heavens but this is really an eyeopener and inspirational! I am really blessed.

    And God shall continue to bless you too. Shalom!

    1. Hi Chris,

      So nice to hear from you again and I am glad you found this article on the 3 levels of heaven inspirational and enlightening. Please do come by from time to time as we regularly post new articles.

      Should you have some topics in mind that you would like us to tackle or any questions about the Bible and the Christian faith, please do not hesitate to drop us a note.

      God bless you more and more!

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