Q. What does “third heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:2 mean? Is there more than one heaven?
2 Cor. 12:2:
2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a man was caught up to the third heaven.
It is unlikely that Paul alludes to the idea of seven heavens held by some Jews (Test. of the Twelve Pat., Levi ii. iii.). He seems to mean the highest heaven where God is.
This is the seat of the divine Majesty, and the residence of the holy angels; where the souls of departed saints go immediately upon their death; and the bodies and souls of those who have been translated, caught up, and raised already, are; and where the glorified body of Christ is and will be, until his second coming. This is called the “third” heaven, in respect to the airy and starry heavens.
The ancients believed that the heaven was higher than the earth; therefore, they maintained that God’s habitation is in heaven from whence he watches men.
Heaven is spoken of in three different senses in the Scriptures.
1) There is the area where the birds fly – Luke 9:58
2) Above this is the area where the sun and the moon and the stars are – Psalm 19:1-6
3) And lastly, were God is – Deut. 4:39
The apostle refers to a distinction among the Jews of “the supreme heaven, the middle heaven, and the lower heaven” and who also make a like division of worlds,which they call “the supreme world, and the middle world, and the lower world.” Sometimes in Jewish writings we have references to the world of angels, the world of the orbs, and the world of them below; and accordingly the Cabalistic doctors talk of three worlds; “the third world”, they say , is the supreme world, hidden, treasured, and shut up, which none can know; and is the same with the apostle’s “third heaven”.