When the Bible speaks of ‘the highest heavens’ it’s speaking of this spiritual world called the Kingdom of Heaven. To the spiritually minded this world is far more real and enduring than the physical one. It does not decay and pass away but it is eternal.
The Apostle Paul had ecstatic experiences of being caught up into this heavenly reality that were so powerful he didn’t know if he was in his body or out of it. He said he was caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. He called this place the third heaven. (2 Corinthians 12:2)
There are lots of references to heaven or the heavens in the Bible but they are not all the same place. From Pauls reference to the third heaven we can rightly conclude that the Hebrews understood there was a first heaven and a second heaven too.
First Heavenly Realms
The understanding of the Hebrew writers was that the first heaven was the earthly atmosphere:
“The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.” Deuteronomy 28:12
“Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons, . . . ” Acts 14:17
Second Heavenly Realms
The second heaven was the stars and moons and suns
“In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun . . . It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other, . . . “. Psalm 19:4, 6
Third Heavenly Realms
And the third heaven – (also the highest heavens) was where God dwelt
“(phrase repeated numerous times in following verses) …then hear from heaven, your dwelling place . . . ” 1 Kings 8:30
“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you.” 1 Kings 8:27
Now we know that God and man have an enemy the Bible calls the devil who was cast down from the highest heavens and now inhabits the lower heavens. These spiritual enemies are described in the Bible as thrones, powers, rulers and authorities; they have power in the second and first heavens. However through the transforming work of Jesus our spiritual eyes are opened to the third heavens and we are able to see and hear what the Father is doing and agree with it. (Colossians 3:2, Ephesians 2:6)
This helps us understand scriptures like this from Ephesians:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)
So when Jesus instructs us to pray to our heavenly father: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6), he is saying, let the will of our Father God in the highest heavens thwart and overturn our enemies activities in the second and first heavens.
This activity is sometimes called ‘intercession‘.
Too Heavenly Realms Minded?
There is an old saying that someone can be too heavenly minded to be any earthly good but the Bible teaches the contrary. It says we must set our minds on heavenly things if we are going to be any earthly good at all. (Colossians 3:2)
Jesus said many times that He only did what he saw his Father doing (John 5:19-20). Jesus had a way of seeing what was happening in the third heaven and carrying it out with what he said and did on the earth. It follows that as those who are born from above (John 3:3) and filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) we too should expect to ‘see’ what our heavenly Father is doing and carry out those plans in our lives.
These don’t have to be acts of greatness by mans standards; in fact they might not even be noticed by other people but, they may have great import and impact in the heavenly realms. What you do may be important for a bigger scheme that relies on you playing your part.
For example – you may sense that God has a plan and purpose for a place in your community. You might think, great, what has that got to do with me? Well, everything… because you are now God’s agent in the earthly realm that is going to make that happen, you are going to play a part in seeing Gods Kingdom come and his will being done; manifest right where you are today. Why don’t you take a walk and start declaring Gods plans and blessing over that building or land He showed you? You will be surprised at what may begin to unfold as you engage your faith to see ‘on earth as it is in heaven‘. What we must decide, like many of our heroes in the stories we love, is which world is more real: this temporary one or the one that was unseen but now we see; the heavenly one?