There has been a lot of talk about the third heaven lately. And I mean, a lot. This seems to be the latest buzzword in Christian circles and the invitation is made to all to enter the third heaven for the way has been made open by Jesus. I must admit that this all sounds really exciting. Is this really possible? Can we just sit down, relax and just go to the third heaven to fellowship with God and frolick with the angels?
Well, that is what is being taught. And to support the teaching, these would often talk about their own multiple experiences in the third heaven, giving full description of what they had seen or had been shown by God Himself. It is also not uncommon for these teachers and preachers to suddenly exclaim with oohs and aahs as they are hit by ‘waves’ of heaven or the anointing midway.
Biblical support is usually readily given that we can now boldly come to God’s throne (which is in third heaven), that we are now seated with Christ in heavenly places (which is in third heaven). In other words, the third heaven is the Christian’s right and entitlement. After all, many of the biblical characters experienced it … Moses spoke to God face-to-face, Isaiah saw the Lord, Ezekiel was caught up in the Spirit; John, too, in the book of Revelation, as well as Paul. So why not us?
Perhaps the passage that most supports this teaching is the one where the words “the third heaven” are mentioned … 2 Cor 12:2-5. By the way, this is the one and only time “the third heaven” is mentioned in the Bible. Proponents of this teaching often quote verse 2, “such a one was caught up to the third heaven” and verse 4, “he was caught up into Paradise and heard many inexpressible words”.
Well and good, but why stop there? Don’t we need to read the rest of verse 4 when Paul says, “which it is not lawful for a man to utter”? I understand some of you may immediately baulk at the word “lawful” since in your minds, the law is done away with. So, allow me to present a few more versions other than the NKJV:
ESV: “And he heard things which cannot be told, which man may not utter.”
NRSV: “…and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.”
NIV: “He heard inexpressible things, things which man is not permitted to tell.”
NASB: “…. heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.”
Message: “There he heard the unspeakable spoken, but was forbidden to tell what he heard.”
Please tell me what am I missing here? Am I misreading or misinterpreting the Word of God? Or does it say plainly and clearly that such experiences are not to be public domain? Like everyone else, I don’t want to miss the things of God. If God is doing a new thing, I want to be a part of it! That said, I have also been taught to align myself with and test everything against His objective Word. And here, Paul explicitly says that he refuses to talk about this one experience which took place 14 years ago. Yet, today, we are making such a big deal of third heaven experiences, suggesting that we can walk in and out of heaven as and when we like.
Please tell me if I am missing something here or being excessively hermeneutical and legalistic about the whole matter! The point is, to me at least, something just doesn’t line up! And if that is truly so, then I just can’t be a part of this phenomenon however inviting, exciting, attractive, scriptural or spiritual it sounds!
I am fully aware that I might have offended (or will offend) some people with this post. That is not the intention at all. This is just one issue I have been wrestling with for a while. In putting my thoughts down in writing, I am forced to think and process more clearly. So this is just what I have done. Nothing is conclusive at this point. All I can say is that I am proceeding with extreme caution.