Morning pondering in the Word….
Since the Apostle Paul references a “third heaven” experience in 2 Corinthians 12:2-5 of such impact he seems to find it difficult to bring himself to speak of it, one would ask, how is it that one can speak of a “third heaven” unless there can also be an understanding of a “first heaven” and “second heaven.” Here’s how God has led me to relate to these concepts as I have pondered this and other Scriptures. .
“First heaven”- a state of increasingly transcendent living while still in the physical realm of the earth (i.e., living “in the world but not of the world”) with the peace and presence of the Holy Spirit as one lives into being “In Christ”/“In the Spirit”- I believe this is the state of being about which Christ spoke in Matthew 18:18, “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” In this realm, we begin our life eternal and possess the power and authority to set and abide within boundaries in keeping with the virtues and character of Christ, purging those things of the world from our lives that diminish our awareness of the divine life and embracing those things of the Spirit that bring us into greater unity with the Lord. I believe this is also the state of being Christ talked about in Matthew 5 when he said, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth”, which I understand as gaining access to all of the resources of the Lord, who owns all things in the earth, that are needed to accomplish his will and purpose in this earthly realm through faith in Christ. Embracing this heavenly reality that Jesus, the Incarnate Christ, exemplified shows us how to “be holy as I am holy.”
“Second heaven”- a spiritual state in which one is given glimpses and insights into the spiritual realm’s presence in our midst; a peak transcendent experience in which one may experience God’s presence and communion with God more intimately. Like observing the descending dove and voice of the Father at Jesus’ baptism, Elisha’s prayer for his servant’s eyes to be opened to see the spiritual reality of God’s protective forces around them, Jacob’s dream of heavenly beings ascending and descending a ladder and him wrestling with the angel of the Lord, God walking between the pieces of the animal sacrifice in making his covenant with Abraham, and Peter, James, and John’s experience of Christ’s transfiguration, as well as the disciples’ witnessing his ascension. This is like entering the “Holy of Holies” present here among us while still tethered to our existence in the physical realm…
“Third heaven”- a state of one being lifted into the spiritual realm, like the visionary experiences of Paul, Isaiah, John and others in which one experiences one’s spirit/soul self being brought into the presence of God where she is shown the reality of heavenly beings and places. She may be given divine instruction or participate in worship in the presence of the Lord. This experience allows us to enter into the “Holy, Holy, Holy” Presence of God. 7/14/21 CBB