How many heavens are there? Genesis 1:1 state: “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth.” So, there are 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” (Ps 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 to 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 (Gen 7:11).
2) Prophet Ezekiel, while he was by the river Chebar among the exiles, 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) Stephen, while he was on trial by the Sanhedrin, saw the heaven opened up 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 authored the book of Revelation (Rev 4:1; 19:11).
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).
The occasions when God opened the heavens were for the destruction of sinners: 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. “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. However, when John baptized Jesus, the heavens were torn open to reveal the Most Holy Trinity.
The revelation of the opening of heavens is an assurance for believers on their final destination in life. The faith in afterlife helps us to live for Jesus and his church during sufferings and persecution. Jesus is the way to the Father, and he has opened the gates of heaven for us. Let us live with the hope of reward by Jesus for our good works in this world.