It is remarkable how the world in general is increasingly interested in cosmic reality, and in the position that the planet we live in occupies within the universe that surrounds us. Immense fortunes are being spent on space probes capable of reaching the planets of the solar system, taking photographs and films in its proximity, and even descending to the surface of the moon and the closest planets to carry out analyses of their composition and to bring samples of their surface.
Other fortunes are spent on telescopes, both on the surface of the Earth as in orbit to unveil the secrets of infinite space. Some of the telescopes are optical; others capture radiation coming from celestial bodies located at immense distances, to form images with the aid of computers. The curiosity to find out if there is life outside our planet also has motivated a large investment in equipment to look for and detect any transmission coming from space that could identify an intelligent source.
The result of all this so far has been proof of the immense beauty of what is out there, and our insignificance, as the psalmist exclaimed: "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" (Psalm 8:3.4). A film has been produced, using a powerful computer and astronomical data, simulating a space travel, in which, as passengers, we leave the Earth and, keeping our focus on it, we move at a dizzying speed. It doesn't take long before the Earth disappears in an invisible point, while we are still within our galaxy, and there are countless others, larger and smaller than ours, as far as it is possible to see.
The wonders that arise in our eyes when we see the pictures taken by Hubble Space Telescope fill us with awe, as well as the fact that, until now, our planet is the only one inhabitable among so many billions of stars already seen and tested, its beauty seen from space is magnificent and several scientists have stated that it is unique and it is as if it was created especially with all the conditions needed for human life.
But astronomers are now worried about the possibility of a meteor hitting Earth and destroying everything, or most of what exists on its surface. They have already identified several, and are looking for the best "candidates"! This reminds us of the words of the Lord Jesus "And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken." (Luke 21:25,26).
The Bible was formerly accepted as the greatest authority on the heavens, but was then rejected by most people in favour of the theory of evolution, and the first verse of the Bible "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" was forgotten. But, despite all the knowledge acquired in recent years, astronomers are confused: their discoveries appear to be undoing all theories that they had before. The latest sensational discovery is that there is a sub-atomic particle that can move at a speed which is even higher than that of light, while the latter has up to now been the basis for calculation of cosmic distances and the age of the universe.
Let us then consider some things that the Bible tells us about the “heavens”, a word which translates, in our Bibles, the hebrew "shamayim" and which appears, according to Vine, 420 times in all periods of Biblical hebrew. This word is always plural, never appearing in the singular.
What we see of the "heavens" is what God placed there to be seen by us. The scientific instruments are always finding new wonders in the heavens, and what we see appears to always be at a phenomenal distance from us, but we know that God put it there for our benefit. Zophar wisely asked: “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?" (Job 11:7). The clear message these instruments give us is that they will never uncover perfectly the works of God, although scientists are still groping with the absurd theory that everything arose and the wonders were formed accidentally, without a Supreme Creator God.
The Bible tells us repeatedly of the "heavens" because we need to understand that there is much more than we can see when we look up, with or without instruments. It even seems that the Creator, knowing beforehand the research that man would do, related its immeasurable vastness with the nation of Israel in Jeremiah 31:37: "Thus says the LORD: "If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the LORD.” And there are still those today, claiming to be Christians, who falsely teach that God rejected Israel and that it was replaced by the Church!
To create the visible heaven, God had as a primordial purpose what we read in Genesis1:14,15: " Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so." The movement of stars is so regular that men can now direct their spacecraft with the simple use of formulas of physics and mathematics, as mariners were formerly guided by the sun and the stars.
The word "signs" is the translation of the Hebrew "oth" which also means "flag", "brand" and "miracle" and comes from a root "ooth" which means to come, a warning that something or someone is to come. It was through a star that the “wise men” learned of the birth of the Messiah of Israel (Matthew 2:2-10). In Luke 21:25-27 the Lord Jesus prophesied that one day "there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory". In Revelation 6:13 we read that the stars of heaven will fall to the earth and in 8:10 and 11 a "great star" is expected to fall with disastrous effects on the earth ... as scientists currently fear a catastrophic fall of meteor.
The heaven that comprises the entire universe, visible to the naked eye or with instruments, and where our planet is located, is just one of the heavens that the Bible tells us of (Deuteronomy 17:3, 33:26, Jeremiah 8: 2, Matthew 24:29, etc.). Closer to us we have the "firmament", also visible (Genesis 1:6, 2:19, 7:3.23, Psalm 8:6, Lamentations 4:19, etc.). But immensely exceeding these is the third heaven, the “heaven of heavens", physically invisible to us, but that in some rare occasions was given to be seen by a few chosen men, including the Apostle Paul (see Deuteronomy10:14, 1 Kings 8:27, Psalm 115:16, 148:4, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4).
The third heaven is distinguished from the others for not being of a physical nature, and so does not have the physical boundaries of the other two. It is just as real as they are; it existed before the creation of the earth and the other two heavens. It is the "holy habitation" of the Eternal God and other beings created by Him, including those known as "angels". They watched the creation of the visible world, as God told Job (Job 38: 4-7).
Our material human brain does not have the capacity to comprehend the vastness of the visible universe, let alone eternity. Thanks to God, however, besides our physical body, He gave us His Spirit, whereby we can communicate with Him and we have us His word that was transmitted through His holy prophets, for our information and instruction. With this perspective we have a better perception of the sublime love and compassion that God showed to us, the lowest creatures that live in a grain of dust in this immense universe.
His willingness to make us partakers of His wonders is seen in the great work of His Son, who is an integral part of God, through Whom all things were made, nothing having been made without Him (Colossians 1:16): He is God's only begotten Son, “who is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:1-5, 9-14,18) and assumed humanity being given birth by a woman as her baby son.
He received the Hebrew name "Joshua", which means "(Jehovah) is salvation", i.e. "is the Saviour", as ordered by an angel to Joseph, husband of his mother Mary. The Hebrew name was transliterated into Greek as Jesus, which is the language used in the New Testament. The Gospels tell us how he lived in amazing humility, and later gave His life to save all those who believe in Him. Three days later He proved who He really was by rising from the dead in His transformed human body, with vastly superior properties to those of that in which he had been born here.
Forty days later He rose visibly until He was concealed by a cloud, in front of several witnesses. He is now in the third heaven, together with the Father, and is preparing a place there for those redeemed by Him, who he will come to rapture one day, both those living and those who will rise from the dead, all having new bodies like His (1 Corinthians 15:52).
We know that the earth and the first heaven are doomed to be destroyed and replaced by something better and more permanent (Matthew 24:35, Hebrews 12:26,27, 2 Peter 3:7-13, Revelation 21:1). On this new earth the Holy City of Jerusalem, having within it the glory of God, will descend from heaven from God, having in it the glory of God. Its brilliance, magnificence and huge dimensions are described in Revelation 21:10 to 27. The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. “But only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” will be allowed to enter it.
The third heaven, where currently God has His throne, is eternal as far as we know; the fate of the second heaven has not been revealed, but there is an infinite time ahead.
To the redeemed people eternal life in the communion of God is reserved with an eternal weight of glory far exceeding their afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:17), the exemption from all sufferings forever, free from all evils (2 Corinthians 5:1.2), and as children of God they will be equal to the angels (Luke 20:36), having an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that does not fade away reserved in heaven for them (1 Peter 1:4).
As Paul said: "we should therefore not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18).
"We should therefore not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal"
(2 Corinthians 4:18).