The Third Heaven is a spiritual division of the universe within Judeo-Christian cosmology. In some traditions it is considered the abode of God, and in others a lower level of Paradise, commonly one of seven.
The Hebrew Bible does not mention third heaven or the number of heavens.
References to distinct concepts known as "Heaven" (Heb. Shamayim) occur in the very earliest books of the Old Testament. The first use of the word heaven, in Genesis 1:8 and 20 refers to the atmosphere over the earth in which birds fly. The second, mentioned in Genesis 1:14, is the setting for the celestial lights, later identified (Genesis 1:16) as the sun, moon and stars.
A third concept of Heaven, also called shamayi h'shamayim (םשמיה שמי: the "Heaven of Heavens") is mentioned in such passages as Genesis 28:12, Deuteronomy 10:14 and 1 Kings 8:27 as a distinctly spiritual realm containing (or being traveled by) angels and God Himself.
Due to the ambiguity of the term "Heaven" as it is used in the Old Testament books, and the fact that the word in Hebrew, shamayim, (םשמי) is plural, a number of interpretations have been offered for various texts involving its nature, notably the assumption of the prophet Elijah.
Location and geography
In the Greek Pseudepigrapha Apocalypse of Moses the Third Heaven is the paradise where Michael buries Adam to await resurrection. In the earlier section of the myth where Satan transforms himself to an angel of light, and works with the serpent to trick Eve, there is no identification of the Eden paradise as "Third Heaven", which may indicate that Adam and Eve's expulsion from paradise led to paradise being relocated in an area beyond human access.
In the later Pseudepigrapha Book of the Secrets of Enoch, the Third Heaven is described as a location "between corruptibility and incorruptibility" (2 Enoch 8:5) containing the Tree of Life, "whereon the Lord rests, when he goes up into paradise." (verse 3) Two springs in the Third Heaven, one of milk and the other of honey, along with two others of wine and oil, flow down into the Garden of Eden, which is also located there. (verse 6) In contrast with the common concept of Paradise, 2 Enoch also describes a place of torment existing in the Third Heaven, "a very terrible place" with "all manner of tortures" in which merciless angels torment "those who dishonour God, who on earth practice sin against nature," including sodomites, sorcerers, enchanters, witches, the proud, thieves, liars and those guilty of various other transgressions. (2 Enoch 10:1-3)
In the Slavonic version of the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch, also known as 3 Baruch, the author is shown a Phoenix, and a dragon residing there is said to eat the bodies of "those that have spent their lives in evil."
In The Legends of The Jews by Louis Ginzberg, this third division of Paradise is said to be, like the other six, "twelve myriads of miles in width and twelve myriads of miles in length," built of silver and gold, and containing "the best of everything there is in heaven."
Aside from the redeemed, the transgressors and various angels mentioned in the Bible and other Hebrew literature, a number of specific figures and spirits are mentioned as residing in the Third Heaven. These include, by source,
An Epistle of the Apostle Paul, included in the New Testament, contains an explicit reference to the Third Heaven. In a letter to the Corinthian church he writes, "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. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell." (2 Corinthians 12:2-4) The Greek says "caught away", not "caught up" possibly reflecting Jewish beliefs that Paradise was somewhere other than the uppermost heaven.
The apparent parallelism of the passage equates the Third Heaven with "Paradise" the traditional destination of redeemed humans and the general connotation of the term "Heaven" in mainstream Christianity.
The occurrence of four allusions to the Apocalypse of Moses in close promiximity in 2 Cor. ch.11 & 12 has led to consideration of whether Paul's vision of Third Heaven is a continuation of his conflict with the Superapostles in the previous chapter. It is possible that Paul's use of: (i) "Satan as an angel of light", (ii) distinction of Satan and the serpent, (iii) "Third Heaven" (iv) "Paradise", come not from his own teaching, but in reply to material similar to Apocalypse of Moses being transmitted by the Superapostles to the Corinthians. Whether this is so partly depends on whether irony is detected in this section. 
New Testament Apocrypha
- The Apocalypse attributed to James:
- John the Baptist
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Henry, Matthew, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/henry/mhc6.viii.xiii.html Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume VI (Acts to Revelation): Second Corinthians Chap. XII], Public domain, Library of Congress call no: BS490.H4, at Christian Classics Ethereal Library
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ginzberg, Louis (1909) The Legends of the Jews, Chapter 1, at sacred-texts.com
- ↑ van der Toorn, Becking, van der Horst (1999), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in The Bible, Second Extensively Revised Edition, Entry: Heaven, pp. 388-390, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, ISBN 0-8028-2491-9
- ↑ Baruch, Apocalypse of at jewishencyclopedia.com
- ↑ 3 Baruch at Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry
- ↑ "Is heaven located in the northern sky?" at christiananswers.net
- ↑ cf. discussion of irony and possible use of Apoc. Moses. in Martin, Ralph P. 2 Corinthians Word Biblical Commentary 40, Thomas Nelson 1st.Ed.1987, (2nd Ed. predicted 2010)
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Davidson, Gustav (1967), A Dictionary of Angels, Including The Fallen Angels, Entry: Third Heaven, p. 288, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 66-19757
- ↑ Mi'raj at the Canadian Society of Muslims Website