TWO GREAT CONVULSIONS divide the history of the heavens and the earth
into two grand divisions. One is found at the forefront of Revelation, the second is near
its finish. The heavens and earth were destroyed by water (Gen.1:2). In the future his
will be effected by fire. The past was a physical regeneration, the future will be a
chemical recreation. Water, in the form of seas, is found only on the present earth. It
was not on, but about, the previous one. It will be abolished in the third earth
A. E. Knoch in Concordant Commentary
Whenever the subject of the
heavens is brought up, our thought processes, being channeled by tradition, direct these
heavens into a mental rut. The result may be a picture of one heaven up on top of another
heaven, a sort of atmospheric cake made up of heavenly layers.
In this study we shall present for your consideration
evidence that, as to material basis, the Scriptures speak of three heavens and earths.
They are not one on top of the other, but one after the other.
The limits of this paper preclude an exhaustive treatment of
this important subject. We merely wish to stimulate your thinking and to guide your heart
into fields of refreshing, mature spiritual food, to say nothing of fostering and
developing profitable study habits in the things of God (2 Tim.2:15; Heb.5:12-14). Let us
proceed to the proof.
FIRST HEAVEN AND EARTH
BEGIN GOD'S MATERIAL CREATION
The first heaven and earth mentioned is in
the opening sentence of God's inspired Autographs. "In the beginning God created the
heaven and the earth" (Gen.1:1,AV). The first "the" is not in the Original,
and "heaven" is plural, heavens. The earth is really the dry land (Gen.1:9,10).
It does not include the sea. The statement is not concerned with time in the absolute
sense; it refers rather to that which God begins to do. We might paraphrase or freely
translate it: To begin with, God created the heavens and the earth, or, if we treat the
words "In the beginning" as the title, we may read: "God [the
Alueim] creates the heavens and the earth." Hence the first thing on His creative
program as to material basis was the heavens and the earth. These are the two spheres
mentioned in His Word which reveal Him as operating during the eons (Eph.1:10; Col.1:20).
FIRST WORLD PERISHED BY WATER
All things did not continue as they were
from the beginning of creation. The water which engulfed the earth was not there
originally (Gen.1:2; Job 38:8-11). God formed the earth to be inhabited (Isa.45:18). Peter
writes, "Knowing this first, that in the last days scoffers will be coming with
scoffing, going according to their own desires and saying, 'Where is the promise of His
presence? For since the fathers were put to repose, all is continuing thus from the
beginning of creation.'" Why should they make a remark like this?
Peter states that this attitude on the part of the scoffers
is because they want to "be oblivious of this, that there were heavens of old, and an
earth cohering out of water and through water, by the word of God; through which the then
world kosmos, being deluged by water, perished" (2 Peter 3:3-6).
In this passage, does Peter refer to the flood of Genesis
6:1-8:22 or to an earlier event? The context in Peter says "from [the] beginning of
creation." There can be no question as to which beginning was meant, nor as to which
creation he was referring to. The scoffers were contending that all continues as it was
from [the] beginning (vss. 3,4). They are reminded by Peter that the heavens of old, and
the earth, were deluged by water.
We find this momentous event recorded at the very forefront
of revelation. It follows the statement in Genesis 1:1 where creation begins with the
heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:2 continues, "Yet the earth became a chaos and
vacant, and darkness was on the surface of the submerged chaos. Yet the spirit of God [the
Alueim] is vibrating over the surface of the water."
SECOND HEAVENS AND EARTH
THEIR TRANSIENT NATURE
God is now seen rearranging the chaotic and
vacant condition mentioned in Genesis 1:2. On the first day [day one] He began by
commanding that out of darkness light should be shining (Gen.1:3-5; 2 Cor.4:6).
On the second day He is making an atmosphere (AV: firmament;
margin: expansion) that He is calling "heavens" (Gen.1:6-8). The heavens and the
earth which Peter says are now (2 Peter 3:7), start at Genesis 1:6-8 (for the heavens) and
1:9-13 (for the earth). They continue to this present time and are the second heavens and
earth mentioned in Scripture. They embrace within their limits all of God's
administrations from the restoration beginning in Genesis 1:3 to the end of the Kingdom
eon, commonly called the millennium (Latin for one thousand years). This present heavens
and earth, the second, are transient. We are reminded that they shall pass away. Let us
consult a concordance, such as Wigram's Greek, pp. 571-573.
||Till heaven and earth pass
||Heaven and earth shall pass
||Heaven and earth shall pass away
||it is easier for heaven and earth to
||Heaven and earth shall pass away
||the heavens are the work of thine
hands: they shall perish
||the heavens shall pass away
||I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for
the first heaven and earth were passed away
FlRE USHERS IN THE
THIRD HEAVENS AND EARTH
The last reference above, showing the
transitory character of the second heavens and earth, tells us, "I perceived a new
heaven and a new earth, for the former (AV: first) heaven and the former (AV: first) earth
pass away, and the sea is no more." In full agreement with this passage, are Peter's
words that the present heavens and earth (which is the second of three) will be destroyed
by fire. "Yet the heavens now, and the earth, by the same word, are stored with
fire...in which the heavens shall be passing by with a booming noise, yet the elements
shall be dissolved by combustion...because of which the heavens, being on fire, will be
dissolved and the elements decompose by combustion" (2 Peter 3:7-12). This gives
place to "new heavens and a new earth" (vs. 13), the third referred to in
Scripture. They embrace the day of God and are the last to be mentioned in His Word.
A SUMMARY OF OUR SUBJECT
Let us restate and condense our study of
this subject up to this point. There was a heavens and an earth before the present one;
there will be heavens and an earth after this present one has vanished; consequently there
are three heavens and three earths, not vertical in space but rather horizontal in time.
The first, as originally created, was established
of old by God's word (Gen.1:1; Psa.33:6-9). He had surrounded them by the element which
was to be used for their destruction--water. They lasted until the first deluge, the one
spoken of in Genesis 1:2 (cf 2 Peter 3:5,6).
The second is the present heavens and earth. By the
same Divine statement it has been constituted a store-house of fire towards the day of
judging and destruction of irreverent men (2 Peter 3:7). Then the elements shall be
dissolved by combustion and the earth and the works therein shall be burned up (2 Peter
This gives place to the third, a new heavens and
earth in which righteousness is reigning and dwelling (2 Peter 3:13). He Who is sitting on
the throne said (Rev.21:5), "Lo! New am I making all!" "For, behold Me
creating new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, nor shall
they come upon the heart" (Isa.65:17).
A PRECIS OF OUR STUDY
To begin with, God created the heavens and
the earth (Gen.1:1). This was followed by the first deluge by water (Gen.1:2; 2 Peter
3:4-6). Then by the same Divine statement came the heavens and the earth which are now (2
Peter 3:7). These are to be dissolved by fiery combustion (2 Peter 3:7-12). Then following
this, according to His promise, we are looking for a new heavens and a new earth wherein
righteousness is dwelling (Isa.65:17; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev.21:1-5).
In this manner we are enabled to see that, as to material
basis, the three heavens and earths follow each other along a linear plane, through what
is called "time." Let us make a sketch of this.
2 Pet 3:7
2 Pet 3:13
LIGHT SHED ON A
This light on the three heavens and earths
may help us to solve a perplexing problem which is to be found in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4.
There we read in verse 2 (AV), "caught up to the third heaven," and in
verse 4 (AV), "caught up into paradise." Here the verses seem to
indicate a direction--a seeming contradiction to the Divine statements we have
just dealt with. We mention it because we want to be fair and present all the evidence,
even when it seems to be contrary to our position.
Two fundamental rules governing Scripture study need to be
noted at this juncture: (1) It is impossible for one inspired Scripture to contradict
another inspired Scripture dealing with the same subject, and, (2) No doctrine that does
violence to any Scripture is true, for truth must accord with truth; statements of truth
seemingly discrepant can always be harmonized when the facts are known. Bearing this in
mind, let us proceed with our study.
The AV renderings in 2 Corinthians 12:2,4, "caught
up," were intended to reflect the Greek terms harpagenta and Herpage
respectively, as found in extant editions of the Greek New Testament text.
Contemporary Bible translators who followed the AV in these
instances, should have consulted Thayer, Green, Arndt and Gingrich
(to name just a few) in order to ascertain the basic meaning of the Greek verb in question
harpazo, i.e. to snatch away, which allows for any direction. This
agrees with the definition given in our KEYWORD CONCORDANCE, page 275, "seize with a
sudden grasp and carry away, as a wolf its prey."
Since the AV rendering of this passage creates more problems
in its wake than it purports to solve, we should carefully consider it before embracing
it. The usual solutions, as offered by the AV and others on this passage in 2 Corinthians
12:1-4 are, to say the least, most unsatisfactory.
Our rendering is not merely an attempt to be novel or
different. Instead, it offers a sane solution, one that harmonizes with the other
Scriptures on the same subject. It should claim each student's attention as a most
reasonable answer to a problem bristling with as many thorny points as a porcupine has
quills. It should receive earnest and thoughtful consideration by His drudges.
Here the CONCORDANT LITERAL NEW TESTAMENT reads, "Such
a one was snatched away to the third heaven...he was snatched away into paradise" (2
Cor.12:2,4). This same verb is used of the description of the rapture harpagsometha,
we shall be snatched away, 1 Thess.4:17), and elsewhere in the New Testament (Matt. 11:
12; 13:19; Luke 16:16; John 6:15; 10:12,28,29; Acts 8:39; 23:10; Jude 23; Rev.12:5). None
of the sheep will be taken away by force, out of the hands of the Shepherd; saving is
compared to conveying away suddenly, out of the fire; and so on, through the rest of the
occurrences listed. The reader is invited to check them and thus satisfy himself that,
what at first seemed to be contradictory to other Divine statements, serves instead to
From this it seems obvious that the misleading rendering
"caught up" was invented only for the purpose of supporting the erroneous idea
that the three heavens were piled up, one on top of the other.
PAUL GLORIES IN THIS EXPERIENCE
The passage under scrutiny is Paul's
greatest ground for glorying. It is called forth here in this context for the first time
because of its urgent need (cf 2 Cor.11:1-33). Going back fourteen years, we find Paul on
his first missionary journey after his separation at Antioch (Acts 13:1-3). At Lystra he
is stoned and left for dead (14:19). More than likely it is at this time that he is
transported in spirit into the third heaven. This is the heaven viewed by John in
Revelation 21:1. However, John does not enter into it but confines his description to the
Paul was snatched away into the third heaven, out into this
future eon which follows the millennial eon of the Messiah's Kingdom reign, and there saw
and heard things not lawful to be uttered. There he saw the supremacy of Christ, "an
administration of the complement of the eras, to head up all in the Christ -- both that in
the heavens and that on the earth" (Eph.1:10).
He may also have seen and heard other matters which he does
not reveal until he writes the prison letters (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and
Philippians). He also enters the new earth and its park paradeisos which John
describes in Revelation 22:2. (cf Rev.2:7, the tree of life which is in the midst of the
paradise of God, or as the CV reads, "the log of life which is in the
center of the paradise of God.")
If the evidence from the Word is persuasive and conclusive,
the student should now be ready to fill the rectangles on this page with the facts
revealed in the Word and set out in the sketch. In the first rectangle: "Heavens and
earth" -- OLD (Gen.1:1; 2 Peter 3:5). In the second rectangle: "Heavens and
earth" -- NOW (Gen.1:6-8, 9-13; 2 Peter 3:7). In the third rectangle: "Heavens
and earth" -- NEW (Isa.65:17; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev.21:1). In the space between the first
two rectangles write in WATER. In the space between the last two rectangles write in FIRE.
SEARCH AND SEE IF
THESE THINGS BE SO
God's blessings will rest upon you in the
new-found joys which are going to be yours as a delver into His inexhaustible storehouse
of treasure, His inspired Word.
This brief study is intended as a skeletal framework upon
which you will be encouraged to properly partition the strong food of the Word, which food
God gives to those who, because of habit, have faculties exercised for discriminating
between the ideal and the evil (Heb.5:14). If, in doing this, you happen upon a precious
find which God gives to the drudges, pass it on to others for their good and God's glory.
 yahbahshah or ibshe, DRY. Wigram's THE
ENGLISHMAN'S HEBREW AND CHALDEE, CONCORDANCE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, [latest reprint
of the] Fifth Edition, 1890, page 488 (hence-forth referred to as "Wigram's
 Robert P. Markham, "Ancient and Modern Titles of Books of the
Bible," THE BIBLE TRANSLATOR, April 1967 (Vol. 18, No. 2), pp. 86-94;
July 1967 (Vol. 18, No. 3), pp. 133-145.
 deluge (noun), kataklusmos, DOWN-SURGE, Matt.24:38,39;
Luke 17:27; 2 Pet. 2:5; deluge (verb), katakluzo, DOWN-SURGE, 2 Peter 3:6;
cf our KEYWORD CONCORDANCE, p. 71; cf Wigram's THE ENGLISHMAN'S
GREEK CONCORDANCE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, [latest reprint of the] Ninth Edition,
1903, page 412 (henceforth referred to as "Wigram's Greek").
 GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, Corrected Edition,
 A GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON TO THE NEW TESTAMENT, Twentieth
 GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT AND OTHER EARLY CHRISTIAN
LITERATURE, Fourth revised and augmented Edition, 1952.
 Short for CONCORDANT LITERAL NEW TESTAMENT.