Are there different levels of Heaven? Are there three heavens?Question: "Are there different levels of Heaven? Are there three heavens?"
Answer: The closest thing Scripture says to there being different levels of heaven is found in 2 Corinthians 12:2, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.” Some interpret this as indicating that there are three different levels of heaven, a level for “super-committed Christians” or Christians who have obtained a high level of spirituality, a level for “ordinary” Christians, and a level for Christians who did not serve God faithfully. This view has no basis in Scripture.
Paul is not saying that there are three heavens or even three levels of heaven. In many ancient cultures, people used the term heaven to describe three different “realms”—the sky, outer space, and then a spiritual heaven. Paul was saying that God took him to the “spiritual” heaven—the realm beyond the physical universe where God dwells. The concept of different levels of heaven may have come in part from Dante’s The Divine Comedy in which the poet describes both heaven and hell as having nine different levels. The Divine Comedy, however, is a fictional work. The idea of different levels of heaven is foreign to Scripture.
Scripture does speak of different rewards in heaven. Jesus said regarding rewards, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12). Since Jesus will be distributing rewards on the basis of what we have done, we can safely say that there will be a time of reward for believers and that the rewards will differ somewhat from person to person.
Only those works that survive God’s refining fire have eternal value and will be worthy of reward. Those valuable works are referred to as “gold, silver, and costly stones” (1 Corinthians 3:12) and are those things that are built upon the foundation of faith in Christ. Those works that will not be rewarded are called “wood, hay, and stubble”; these are not evil deeds but shallow activities with no eternal value. Rewards will be distributed at the “judgment seat of Christ,” a place where believers’ lives will be evaluated for the purpose of rewards. “Judgment” of believers never refers to punishment for sin. Jesus Christ was punished for our sin when He died on the cross, and God said about us: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). What a glorious thought! The Christian need never fear punishment, but can look forward to crowns of reward that he can cast at the feet of the Savior. In conclusion, there are not different levels of heaven, but there are different levels of reward in heaven.
Recommended Resources: Heaven by Randy Alcorn
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Are there different levels of Heaven? Are there three heavens?