How Many Heavens are There?
1, 3 or 7?
Q. How many "heavens" are there? One, three, or seven?
A. The Bible gives no specific answer to this question. On one occasion Paul says there are basically three types of resurrection which in glory correspond in luminosity to the sun, moon and stars, and from this many exegetes have concluded that there are three heavens, or at least three types of heaven (1 Cor.15:41). And at least one commentator has concluded (without any real concrete evidence) that there is one "solar" heaven and one "lunar" heaven (because there is only one sun and earth, respectively), and an infinite number of "stellar" heavens (because there are trillions of stars) [the Restoration Movement calls these the "celestial", "terrestrial" and "telestial" kingdoms, respectively]. However, Paul is here only refering to the brilliance of the sun, moon and stars, and can therefore only have three resurrections in mind. Added to this, is also what he calls the "resurrection of the damned", making a fourth (non-heavenly) category.
On the other hand, Paul mentions that either he or an acquaintance had visited the "third heaven" (2 Cor.12:2) which, though it could refer to the ultimate of a total of three heavens, could simply be the third of an unspecified number of heavens. This could, however, be interpreted symbolically, as seven is the number of the Covenant; in other words, Paul (or his friend) visited the heaven where those of the Covenant reside. Some apocryphal and pseudepigraphical writings (e.g. Enoch) mention seven heavens.
Finally, Yahweh tells us that there are many "mansions" or degrees in the Kingdom of Heaven from which we are to deduce that there are more than enough places or degrees of glory for the saved and that we should not occupy ourselves unduly with numbers. Whatever we inherit in the next life cannot, in any case, be known by us in this life, nor, may I venture to suggest, need we know. It is sufficient simply to serve Yahweh our Heavenly Father with all our hearts and forget about future rewards. That we should be storing up rewards in heaven "where rust and moth do not corrupt" is certainly not to be denied either, that is, we should not worry about outward circumstances here on earth but be content in the knowledge that the Lord will reward us justly and fairly in the next life where our true inheritance is to be had.
This page was created on 16 October 1997
Last updated on 26 February 1998
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