Question and Answer.
“I read in the Bible somewhere about the third heaven. What is the third heaven, and where is it?”
The passage in question is 2 Corinthians 12:2 – 4, written by the apostle Paul. . .
“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. And I know how such a man whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” (New American Standard Bible)
The entire context indicates strongly that this “man in Christ” was Paul, himself. The time of fourteen years would place the event at about the time Paul was stoned and left for dead at Lystra (Acts 14:19, 20). Most scholars think that Paul refers to that event at Lystra. If that is true, then Paul was saying, in effect, “I don’t know whether I was alive or dead; God knows.” But, of course, we cannot be certain he refers to the events at Lystra.
In Paul’s day, the Jewish people referred to the atmosphere (where the birds fly) as “the first heaven”. They referred to what we call outer space (where are the sun, moon, planets, stars, etc.) as “the second heaven”. When they spoke of “the third heaven”, they meant the heaven which is the home of God.
It was this “third heaven” to which Jesus refers in His prayer given to His disciples, “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). What the “man in Christ” heard or saw in heaven, he was not permitted to tell on the earth. So, it is needless to speculate about what it was. Nor can we be certain that Paul was speaking of himself or of someone else. But the use of the term “third heaven” definitely refers to where God is.