Three HeavensWhen patterns of behavior do not mirror professions of belief, then it is time to take a closer look at the legitimacy of what we profess to believe. As Christians, we proclaim that the Bible is the “Word of God”. For me, a review of Biblical assertions always strengthens my faith.
The Bible asserts that spirit-beings reside within the spiritual realm. Spirit beings consist of God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, Satan (the prince of the air), angels and ultimately, demons.
The Bible does not speak of emotional concepts as we do today. Our spiritual ancestors, such as Abraham or the Disciples, were able to relate to one another without a collective concept called “feelings”. Love was love, peace was peace and joy was joy. Conversely, envy was envy, greed was greed and anger was simply anger. In Galatians 5:22 we read “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” and in 1 John 2:16 we read “For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” Apparently, what we call emotions were spiritually discerned and never dismissed as insignificant. It would behoove us today to understand why.
Additionally, the imagination is never treated as insignificant in the Bible (see article on Imagination). In 2 Corinthians 10-5 we are instructed to bring our imaginations “into captivity…to the obedience of Christ”.
What does this tell us, and how have we arrived at such a different place today than those that have gone before us? Were they out of touch, bound by superstition? Or have we just become bound to the World and the lusts thereof?
In 2 Corinthians 12:2 Paul speaks of a third heaven “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.” In verse 4, Paul links the Third Heaven and Paradise together.
Paradise must be a realm of absolute certainty, a realm free of rebellion. While upon the cross, Christ refers to Paradise, or the Third Heaven, in Luke 23:43 “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” We also find in Revelation 2:7 that the Tree of Life was in this Eternal Realm, or Paradise. “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
A third heaven would seem to necessitate a second and a first. The second heaven must be the Spiritual Realm, a realm in rebellion. In Isaiah 14:13,14 Lucifer said in his heart: “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Because Satan and his dominions have a destiny within the “Lake of Fire” (Rev. 20:10) we know those that have rebelled are confined by “time” within the Spiritual Realm. Divine judgment is final within the Spiritual Realm (John 16:11), however, execution of that judgment is not yet complete.
The first heaven is, no doubt, our physical realm, a realm of space in time, a realm of uncertainty; which is in wait for change and the possibility of redemption. Here, the inhabitants have universally fallen, yet judgment is not final. Mankind fell because of deception, unlike those of the Spiritual Realm, which fell through rebellious disobedience.
Is it possible these three realms exist as extensions of the Trinity? Perhaps God the Father is preeminent within Paradise, the Holy Spirit within the Spiritual Realm and Jesus Christ within the physical.
Consider Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” and Ephesians 3:9: “And to make all [men] see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things (by) Jesus Christ”
When we put on the righteousness of Jesus Christ, we have access to the Eternal Throne. (See Hebrews Chapters 6- The eternal perspective is the only reliable perspective of the truth. While eternal perspectives exist within the Spiritual Realm (in the person of the Holy Sprit), Satan, also known as the “Prince of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), and the Father of lies (John 8:44) inhabits the Spiritual Realm as well. Therefore, spiritual reality does not automatically equate into “truth”. This is why in 1 Corinthians 12:10 “discerning of spirits” is one of the “gifts of the Holy Spirit”. Remember as well, that “feelings are always real but not always true” (see “Feelings” article).
Today, we see “Ghost Hunters” attempt to prove the existence of a spiritual reality by scientific methods. They assume to have spiritual understanding based on physical encounters, yet they errantly accept all spiritual information as true. Science defines reality by conformity to space in time. The natural, what is real, is determined by space/time conformity; whereas the supernatural reality exists beyond the natural.
Likely, the Physical Realm, or Space, became restrictive when man fell, and once we perfectly occupy the space that God has extended, that restriction should diminish. Clearly, space became a sort of prison when faith was transgressed in the Garden of Eden. Time provides valued opportunity. We are all familiar with the phrase “You still have time to ...” Yet, “time” can be the rail the car is on that is leading toward certain destruction. Time can mean an opportunity to walk with the Lord or it can be marked for the execution of judgment (as in Satan’s case).
We must recognize that we are prisoners within a fallen realm, imposed upon daily by spiritual rebels that impact us emotionally. Ephesians 6:12 says “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].” If we ignore our feelings and limit truth to the physical realm, then we are fortifying our confinement. God intends for us to learn to walk by faith, discerning between the spirits we encounter as we seek Him in spirit and in truth.
Consider the possibility of the imagination as the spiritual realm. Because we are also spirit, we have the ability to journey within the imagination (spirit realm). If feelings are spiritual encounters operating within the imagination, then denying their significance furthers our physical captivity. Certainly, I understand how bizarre these concepts must sound. However, we must test their accuracy with the “Word of God”.
If you were convinced that you were imprisoned, would you attempt an escape? What if you discovered a door that was open to you, a door to paradise, would you use it? Would you leave your loved ones behind?