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Heavens, Levels and Grades


Genesis 1:1 state: “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth.” So, there is over one heaven. The Bible presents three heavens:

1. The atmosphere where the birds fly beneath the dome of the sky (Gen 1:20). The Psalmist refers to this heaven: “Beside them the birds of heaven nest; among the branches, they sing” (104:12).

2. The dome where God set up sources of light, including sun, moon, and stars (Gen 1:14-18). The Psalmist refers to this heaven saying: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of his hands” (Ps 19:1).

3. The third heaven is the dwelling place of God and is the highest heavens or the heaven of heavens. Moses told the Israelites: “See, the heavens and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it, everything belongs to the LORD, your God” (Deut 10:14). Paul had an experience of being taken up to the third heaven where he had God’s revelation (2 Cor 12:1-4). He calls this third heaven also paradise.


There are references in the Bible on the opening of the heavens:

In Old Testament:

1) The floodgates of the sky (heaven) were opened during the flood at the time of Noah. After Noah built the ark, “the floodgates of the heavens were opened” (Gen 7:11) to destroy the sinners with a deluge while saving Noah and his family.

2) “Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from heaven” (Gen 19:24) to destroy the sinners while saving the life of Lot.

3) While Ezekiel was by the river Chebar among the exiles, he saw the heavens opened (Ezek 1:1).

In the New Testament:

1) The first mention of the heavens opened was when John baptized Jesus (Mt 3:1; Mk 1:10; Lk 3:21).

2) While Stephen was on trial by the Sanhedrin, he saw the heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).

3) Peter saw the sky opened, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground (Acts 10:11).

4) John the Evangelist saw the heaven opened while he was on the Island of Patmos based on which he wrote the book of Revelation (Rev 4:1; 19:11).

5.) Paul was caught up to the third heaven and heard ineffable things (2 Cor 12:2-5).

Mark presents the heaven’s opening at the baptism of Jesus as an extraordinary event. The Greek word used for torn open is “schizo.” The English word “scissors” has derived from this word. This image is vivid, like what happened at the death of Jesus on the cross, “And immediately the curtain which enclosed the Temple sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mk 15:38). However, when John baptized Jesus, the heavens were torn open to reveal the Most Holy Trinity.

However, the Bible does not document Nathanael seeing the heavens opened. Here the opening of heaven need not be taken in a literal sense. It shows the outpouring of blessings from heaven. The opening of the heavens can also be taken in a figurative sense as indicated in Psalm 78:24: “So he commanded the clouds above; and opened the doors of heaven. God rained manna upon them for food.” The apostles and others witnessed an abundant flow of blessings from heaven through Jesus Christ.


Jesus revealed that there will be different grades in the kingdom because Jesus will judge us based on our actions in this life. Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that He will repay each person according to what they have done” (Col 3:23-24). Jesus promised the apostles, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt 19:28).


Our goal in life is to reach heaven and to enjoy the eternal bliss with God. “For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven” (2 Cor 5:1). Let us not get stuck with worldly achievements at the loss of eternal glory.

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