Paul went into the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2) and there are a number of other indicators in the Scriptures that there are three heavens as of now.
- The first one is the one we can see, the universe outside this earth that extends to 15 billion light years or so it seems. We don’t know too much about it but at least we can see some of it with our eyes and various forms of telescopes.
- The second one is mentioned in a few places such as Ephesians 6:12 and is the place where the devil reigns.
- The third one is described in Revelation. Moses made a copy of it in the Tabernacle (Hebrews 11:23,24). Paul was not the only human to go to the third heaven, Moses, John, Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekial all went there and probably a few others.
There is a hierarchy in the three heavens. God in the third rules over the other two and the second one rules over the first. Unless you are “in Christ” who is seated in the third heaven (Eph. 1:20) you are inevitably under the second heaven whether you know it or not. Or at least that is what the Scripture says. And we know who rules the second heaven.
So there are three ways of looking at everything:
1) From the third heaven: God’s viewpoint, totally in control, no surprises for Him and all He does is in love, justice, mercy and grace. As an example, God’s view of a faithful Christian’s death is that He called him/her home when He had decided they had accomplished all that they needed to accomplish and blessed all they could from down here. The “well done good and faithful servant” awaited him/her. This is the viewpoint of predestination.
2) The view from the second heaven. The devils and angels fight it out for the souls of men. Personally I don’t spend much time thinking of things from this point of view. Suffice to say you had better know what you are doing if you get involved in that conflict.
3) The view from the first heaven. This is the view of man where people make choices that determine their final destiny. The really important choices are all to do with accepting or rejecting God’s words. This is the Arminian viewing place for those familiar with those views.
If you want you can think of a faithful Christian’s death from the viewpoints of the other two heavens. I think a lot of people do. However, I for one am going to line my views up with God’s. Ok, maybe I don’t know exactly what He is thinking of the brother /sister or all about why He called him/her home just now. But imagining what He is thinking sure beats imagining how the devil or men are thinking about it.