Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Going To Third Heaven On Steroids

Ran across this article last night, and from all indications, the author is likely associated (not sure however) with the new prophetic movement. However, he appears very grounded on many issues regarding third heaven experiences. Nor does he discount the supernatural power of God. It did my heart good to see it, as I wonder how many of the apostolic prophetic sort question anything. I do not know his ministry personally nor may necessarily agree with everything, but the article below offers much to consider.


Visiting The Third Heaven
Deception or Reality?

Terry Somerville
Total Change Ministires

I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
2 Cor. 12:1-4

Real Third Heaven Experiences Are in Scripture

"Third Heaven' experiences are biblical and real. Paul and others in the Old and New Testament speak about being caught up to heaven in a trance like state, of being in the throne room of God, and having revelations of things in the spiritual realms. Paul called it the "third heaven" as well as "Paradise" (vs 4) . Paradise is placed in the third heaven by the book of Enoch. It means "a park, Eden, the place of future happiness." The idea is that the first heaven is natural, the stars, sun and moon. The second heaven is the local spiritual atmosphere, where demonic powers reside and angels intervene. The third heaven is thought to be the abode of God. Some rabbis say there are two, three or even seven heavens.

Modern Third Heaven Visits

But is the "third heaven" approach taught today by a number of prophets a deception or truth? They say a Christian can leave their body and go into heaven or other places on earth. The belief is anyone can do it who has faith. Even a conference room full of Christians can go together. While in this state they may experience the glory and throne room presence of God. They may seek out and encounter the dead, such as the Apostle Paul.

I've read one such revelation where Paul the apostle tells the third heaven traveler that was Abraham was the actual source of the book of Hebrews. To a new ager, that would be called channeling. ie: Paul channeled Abraham to write the book of Hebrews, and this would mean, of course, the book was not inspired by the Holy Spirit. The traveler may also encounter angels who tell them their role in bringing various moves and anointings to the body of Christ, like revival, healing or prophecy. Sometimes these angels are female. (though Jesus indicated angels are neither male nor female Matt.22:30) The traveler then accepts the ministry of these angels and may receive an impartation from them which they later transmit to others.

Is this the third heaven of Paul? Christians today are hungry for supernatural experiences, and readily accept these experiences without testing. But just because we receive a spiritual impartation does not mean it is authentic, even in a Christian setting, and even from a sincere leader. It could be dangerous to your soul. Paul said this could happen.

However, I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by its tricks, so your minds may somehow be lured away from sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes along and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or should you receive a different spirit from the one you received or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you are all too willing to listen.
2 Cor.11:3,4

I was involved in the occult before I was saved. We sang Christian songs, had teaching about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and experienced the supernatural. But the gospel was missing, we believed in reincarnation, and thought we were speaking to the spirits of the dead. If I had known what the scriptures said about what I was doing I would have stopped immediately. The "third heaven" teaching today has many similarities to occult practices and many differences from the biblical experience described by Paul. We should use extreme caution. We have been warned about this ahead of time.

The Word Of God Is The Plumb line

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
2 Cor. 11:14,15

We can have all kinds of experiences, even of an angel of light. But the word of God is ALWAYS the first line of inquiry, not experience. It provides doctrine, correction and instruction in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16) The word of God flows with life and separates what is of human soulish origination from what is truly of the spirit of the Lord. The word reveals the intent of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) How does "visiting the third heaven" teaching and practice stack up to the word of God? Not very well. Lets look at some issues.

Third Heaven Teaching and the Bible

1. Visiting The Third Heaven By Faith Is Not A Biblical Practice

Heaven is defined as "the sky" and "the abode of God". Paul did sovereignly experience the third heaven, and so did others like Daniel. In every case in the bible these visitations were initiated by the Lord and they were rare. But the modern practice of visiting the third heaven by faith is unknown in the scriptures. Silence does not authenticate a practice. It most likely indicates the practice was unknown. In no place are we told to seek it. Instead we are told to seek the Kingdom of God, the gifts of the Spirit and to pray in the Spirit. The Spirit of Glory is already living in us!

2. Man Never Initiates Third Heaven Experiences
Proponents of the current third heaven experience say they initiate it "by faith".
In the bible there are a number of times when prophets are caught up to heaven, or "the third heaven". But Pauls choice of words tell us this is quite a different experience from the modern one.

- The word "revelation" in Greek In 2 Cor 12:1 (I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.) Paul calls the third heaven experience a "vision and revelation". The word revelation in Greek is "optanomai" - to gaze at an apparition with eyes wide open. It is not the Greek word "blepo" that would be used if it were voluntary. Jesus made it clear the Holy Spirit will lead us, speak to us and show us things to come. (John 16:13) We can ask for wisdom and expect revelations. But we are not told we can voluntarily "go and get" such a revelation.

- The word "caught up" in Greek
. In 2 Cor 12:2 Paul was clear that he was "caught up" into the heavenlies. It was so abrupt and overwhelming he couldn't tell if it was "in the body or out of the body". In other words he couldn't tell if he was physically being snatched away. "Caught up" is the greek word harpazo, which means to seize (in various applications):--catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force). Clearly Paul was not initiating this, and neither was Daniel, Ezekiel, or John when he they had their visions. It was sudden, intense, even violent experience. Paul and the others did not "yank themselves up", God did.

3. Third Heaven Is A Rare Experience - Once in Fourteen Years.

Given the modern third heaven teaching you would think a man as spiritual as Paul would have experienced this more often! Instead he says 'more than fourteen years ago. (vs 2) In other words, it was sovereign and rare. Modern third heaven teachers would have us believe we can experience this daily. So what exactly are they experiencing?

4. Elements Missing From Modern Experience
In most biblical instances of "third heaven" encounters there are clear consequences to the person, even Christians.

- Daniel and other prophets were sick. "And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up" Daniel 8:27

- The Apostles were overcome, as dead. "And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead " Rev 1:17

- Paul sent a "thorn in the flesh" And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure 2 Cor. 12:7

- Missing Unspeakable Things
Paul was not allowed to speak of what he saw in the third heaven. Daniel and others said things were hidden until the time of the end.

- Missing Awe and Reverence The bible experiences of the third heaven are overwhelming, reverent and awe inspiring. The third heaven descriptions we are hearing today sound like a travelogue. These are very similar to the descriptions given by new age channelers.

- Missing Fear Of God In the bible some of the prophets are protected by God. Isaiah feared his unclean lips would doom him but was cleansed at the altar. Today conferences full people, including sinners, believe they can enter the third heaven without consequence, and enjoy the ride.

My Own Encounter With Jesus

A number of years ago I had the experience of Jesus appearing while I was preaching. He was at the back of the church, perhaps 60 feet away. I lost my strength and fell against the pulpit. I could barely speak. People said I turned white as a sheet. After ten seconds or so he turned and walked away and disappeared. I was shaken for a long time afterwards, but also repentance and the power of God sovereignly fell upon the meeting.

5. Consulting the Dead - An Abomination Unto The Lord!
There are a few places in the bible where God's people encounter the dead, but these meetings are far different from the modern 'third heaven" encounters we hear about. The Apostles witnessed Moses and Elijah with Jesus. But as soon as the apostles tried to engage them, the Father rebuked the apostles saying "This is my beloved Son: hear him." John saw the dead under the altar in his vision. He did not engage them. King Saul sought out dead Samuel through the woman with a familiar spirit and was condemned for it (1 Samuel 28).

Consulting with the dead is NEVER a good thing in scripture. Why do we think it is a good thing in the context of third heaven encounters? It is being spiritualized with Christian ideas, but is far from the truth. Personally, I accepted this deception before I was a Christian. But the Lord graciously drew me to Him. Here is the bible verse that brought me to repentance.

Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord
Duet 18:10,11

There are various scriptures where we see these practices condemned.

-pass through fire - dedicate or sacrifice to a god
-divination - read signs in objects, such as entrails, drawing lots, tea leafs etc.
-observer of times - reveal hidden omens in events
-enchanter - tell future and cast spells
-witch - send spells, power, incantations
-charmer - join together, link in the spirit by use of charms.
- consult with familiar spirits - a channeler - who speaks by a familiar spirit
-medium or wizard - wise one conjuring up a ghost
- consults the dead- a necromancer - one who inquires of the dead

Israel was commanded to put anyone who did this to death, (Lev 20:27) The instruction in scripture is definite. We should not consult with any spirit. but seek God instead.

And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? 20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
Isaiah 8:9,10

Lev 19:31 do not Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.

Lev 20:6 cut off6 And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people

6. Similarity to The Occult
Third heaven experiences have many similarities to the occult. It should give us great alarm. The third heaven experiences seems to be the same as astral travel (astral means the heavens), but in a Christian setting. Here are some similarities drawn from my own experience before I was a Christian.

*Note: Btelife Musings could not paste the author's chart in, so this has been modified in structure

ASTRAL TRAVEL: Sincerity is faith
THIRD HEAVEN: Receiving anointing is faith

ASTRAL TRAVEL: Sin is irrelevant
THIRD HEAVEN: Sin is not usually mentioned

ASTRAL TRAVEL: Impartation of a spirit from leaders
THIRD HEAVEN: Impartation of anointings from leader

ASTRAL TRAVEL: Presence of spiritual realm is felt
THIRD HEAVEN: Spiritual presence of is felt.

ASTRAL TRAVEL: Focus on "light" and break through to spirit realm
THIRD HEAVEN: Focus on light of God and break through to 3rd heaven

ASTRAL TRAVEL: Soul Travels - leaving body into spirit realm and other locations
THIRD HEAVEN: Third heaven journey - leaving body into spirit realm and other locations

ASTRAL TRAVEL: Channeling - communication with good spirits for help
THIRD HEAVEN: Communication with angels and saints for help.

ASTRAL TRAVEL: Communication with the dead
THIRD HEAVEN: Communication with the dead

ASTRAL TRAVEL: A Spirit guide - a spirit who stays with you to guide you
THIRD HEAVEN: Angels & Anointing to guide ministry, taking the role of the Holy Spirit

7. Sensationalism

Recently there has been a great increase in what I can only call sensationalism. All kinds of signs are reported. Gold dust, oil, glory, angels, feathers, jewels, miracle water, anointed objects , etc. God may do any of these things, but it sounds like a new age of "icons" has entered the church. We must focus on Jesus! It seems that the "third heaven" experience is another one of these sensational experiences, and many are enthralled.

Paul, Daniel and the others in scripture seemed to keep their third heaven experiences to themselves most of the time. We need Jesus! It is faith in Him alone! He is the very center, and we are to look to him not an experience.

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. Romans 11:36

Completeness In Him

The word of God says that we have completeness in Christ, and doesn't say anything about needing third heaven experiences. In fact, we have been given supernatural reality in Christ on earth, NOW! That is His plan. Look at these wonderful scriptures.

We have His presence in us. (We are not going somewhere to find Him)
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. 1 Cor.3:16, 6:19

We have His Glory (We don't travel into the glory)
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. John 17:22

We Have The Ultimate Spirit Guide - The Holy Spirit

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. John 16:13-15

We Partake of Heaven NOW (We don't travel to get there)
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: Ephesians 2:6

But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. Hebrews 12:22-24

Jesus Himself Intercedes For Us - (We don't need dead saints!)
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

There is much more that I could say. We can have a full, powerful, anointed, spiritual life now. Most Christians are looking for something else and not living in what they have. The ultimate purpose for us is not going up to heaven through third heaven experiences, but His Holy life coming through us here on earth!

His ultimate purpose for us is not going to the third heaven , but His life coming through us here on earth!


Our look at the "visiting the third heaven by faith" idea is by no means thorough or complete. But when it is compared with the bible it leaves no doubt that the practice does not fit the scriptures. In fact there may be a familiar spirit at work, a deception. There is no reason for any Christian to pursue third heaven experiences. We already have "all we need for life and godliness". I close with the following verses that warn the church.

Seducing Spirits
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; latter times, attention to spirits and doctrines of demons.
1 Tim 4:1,2

Strange Doctrines
Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace;
Heb 13:9,10

Test The Spirits of The Prophets
1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

Know His Voice
sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
John 10:4

Hold Fast To The Word You Received

hold fast to word preached to you at first
1 Cor 15:2