Imagine There's Three Heavens: Shocked by the Bible, Chapter 6

Kovacs attempts to define the “three heavens” mentioned in the Bible. The problem, and what he doesn’t mention, is that Paul is the only biblical author to mention three heavens and only mentions it in one place. The definition of the different heavens, which Kovacs gives are not incorrect. However, it would have been better for him to simply show the different nuances of the word as it is used in the Bible. It is used in a cosmological sense to include the entire creation—the earth and the universe (Kovacs’ 1st and 2nd heaven). Heaven is also used in a theological sense in two ways. The first is that heaven is the abode or dwelling of God (Kovacs’ 3rd heaven). However, he does not mention the other sense heaven is used. Heaven is also used synonymously with God. Luke 15 contains the parable of the “Lost Son.” In this story the son asks for his inheritance before his father has died and then squanders it. He realizes that he has sinned against his father and against “heaven.” The last I checked, we don’t sin against inanimate objects. The full context of the story makes it clear the son understand that he was sinning against God (i.e. heaven). This use of heaven as another name for God is clear in several places in Scripture (such as, Matthew 21:25).

The majority of people when speaking of heaven understand it in its theological sense—the dwelling of God. It seems as though Kovacs is making a stretch here to shock people that there are three heavens. There is still only one heaven as people typically mean when using the word.

Kovacs is even spot on when he made the point that heaven will even be on earth one day. For him, it seems to be a short jump from understanding heaven will be on earth one day in the future to that meaning no one is in heaven now. He places much weight upon the statement of Jesus in John 3:13—“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.” The problem, though, is that Kovacs doesn’t consider the context of Jesus statement in the whole of the conversation in which it was made. Jesus was speaking with Nicodemus—a Pharisee and “pastor” to the nation of Israel. Jesus was explaining “how to be saved” to Nicodemus, who was having trouble understanding what Jesus meant. Jesus chastised him and said, “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?…I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (John 3:1-,12). It was following this chastisement that Jesus said no one has ever gone into heaven. Jesus was teaching about heaven and how to go into heaven. He was not making a blanket decree that no one has even been to heaven, but he was saying that no one before him “knew the way into” heaven. In other words, no one has been there and come back to tell others how to get there—except Jesus, the Son of Man.

The other “evidence” Kovacs gave that no one has ever gone to heaven was from Acts 2:29, 34. In this passage, the apostle Peter is preaching a sermon and is citing an Old Testament passage (Psalm 110:1). He did make the point David was dead in contrast to Christ’s living after his resurrection. However, Acts 2:34 which reads, “For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said” was introducing the quote from Psalm 110:1. Peter was highlighting the fact that David was a prophet and was prophesying of heavenly things in that verse while David was still alive (i.e., had not ascended into heaven).

Yet Kovacs makes even a greater blunder. He cited Psalm 146:4 as evidence that we don’t think anymore when we die but “sleep.” On page 56 he wrote, “Scripture provides much more evidence for dead people being unaware of anything until Jesus’ return than it does for an immediate trip to heaven.” He makes the argument that the Bible does not mention our “souls” going to heaven or people going to heaven and “reminds” us that Jesus made this abundantly clear. However, Psalm 146:4 states, “When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing” (NIV, emphasis added). This verse makes it clear that our souls depart and our bodies return to the ground.

He also cited Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10 as evidence that the dead have “no thoughts of any kind.” However, Ecclesiastes in both verses is comparing the living with the dead. Both verses make the point that the dead no longer do the same things as those living “under the sun.” It is merely pointing out the fact that things change when we die, we aren’t working to support our family or gain wealth as we do while we are alive on this earth/under the sun.

Kovacs then moves into a whole other subject, which I cannot address in this same post because of space. He delves into “soul sleep” or altered states after death. To this matter I will turn in another post.
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