What is the meaning of heaven?


Depending on the context, the word "heaven" may have different definitions and may refer to four different realms. They are listed here, but since the last two are so closely related, some just maintain that biblically there are only three heavens:

(1) Sky or earth’s atmosphere or the firmament. This is also known as the “first heaven.” (Gen. 1:1; Deut. 11:11; Psa. 104:12; Isa. 55:10).

(2) Outer space containing the stars and planets. This is also known as the “second heaven.” (Psa. 8:3; Isa. 13:10).

(3) God’s dwelling place or the “third heaven.” (Psa. 33:13-14; Isa. 66:1; Matt. 6:9; 2 Cor. 12:2; Rev. 2:7; 11:19).

(4) New Heavens and New Earth. This is where God and his saints spend eternity. (Rev. 21-22).

Outside of the Bible and Christianity, many teach that there are seven heavens. So that the reader will be alert as to which religion is being discussed when they hear certain terms, I’ll include some of the most relevant ones below:

(1) Babylon's Seven Heavens: (Moon [Sin]; Mercury [Nabu]; Venus [Ishtar]; Mars [Nergal]; the Sun [Shamash]; Jupiter [Marduk]; and Saturn [Ninib].

(2) Dante's Heavens: (Moon; Mercury; Venus; the Sun; Mars; Jupiter; and Saturn). Note that besides a small change in their order it is identical to the Babylon Seven Heavens.

(3) Hindu's Seven Heavens: (Satyaloka; Tapaloka; Janaloka; Maharloka; Svarloka; Bhuvarloka; and Bhurloka).

(4) Islam's Seven Heavens: (Firdaus; ‘Adn; Na’im; Ma’wa; Darussalam; Darul Muqamah; and Maqoomul Amin).

(5) Judaism's Seven Heavens: (Curtain [Vilon]; Canopy [Raqi'a/Raki'a]; Clouds [Shehaquim/Shehaqim/Shehakim]; Habitation [Zebul]; Refuge [Ma'on]; Cities [Makhon/Machon/Makon]; and Deserts [Araboth/Aravot – also known as the 10th heaven]).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).