Caught Up To the Third Heaven
James Scott Trimm
1 To boast is necessary but not profitable: for I will come to visions and to revelations of our Adon.
2 I knew a man in the Messiah fourteen years from before (but whether in a body or without a body I do not know, Eloah knows) who was caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew this son of man (but whether in a body or without a body I do not know, Eloah knows),
4 Who was caught up to Pardes: and heard unspeakable words that are not permitted for a son of man to speak.
(2Cor. 12:1-4 HRV)
What is the “third heaven”?
The Hebrew word for “heaven” is SHAMAYIM which is always in the plural. This is because in Hebrew thought, there is more than one “heaven”. In fact several passages in the Tanak imply that there is more than one heaven:
Behold, unto YHWH your Elohim belongs the heaven,
and the heaven of heavens; the earth, with all that therein is.
(Deut. 10:14 HRV)
But will Elohim in very truth, dwell on the earth?
Behold, heaven, and the heaven of heavens, cannot contain You; how much less, this house that I have built!
(1Kings 8:27 HRV)
Praise Him, you heavens of heavens:
and you waters that are above the heavens.
The Ketuvim Netzarim also implies the existence of multiple heavens:
He who descended, is He who also ascended higher than all the heaven, that He might fulfill all.
And from whom, we have this Cohen which ascended through the heavens by the foundation–Yahushua the Messiah, the Son of Elohim, behold we must confess this
(Heb. 4:14 HRV)
The Talmud (b.Hagigah 12b) tells us that there are actually seven heavens, giving us a proof text from the Tanak to demonstrate each is a heaven:
(1) The First Heaven – ROK “curtain” (Strong’s 1852)
“It is He that sits above the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as
grasshoppers; that stretches out the heavens as a curtain (ROK), and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in;”
(Is. 40:22 HRV)
The Talmud says that this heaven “…serves no purpose except that it enters in the morning and goes forth in the evening and renews every day the work of creation.”
(2) The Second Heaven – RAKIA “firmament” (Strong’s 7549)
“And Elohim set them in the firmament (RAKIA) of the heaven,
to give light upon the earth,”
(Gen. 1:14 HRV)
The Talmud says of this heaven “is that in which sun and moon, stars and constellations are set.”
(3) The Third Heaven – SHEHAKIM “skies, clouds; dust” (Strong’s 7834)
“And He commanded the skies (SHEHAKIM) above, and opened the doors of heaven,
And He caused manna to rain upon them for food, and gave them of the grain of
(Ps. 78:23-24 HRV)
According to the Talmud, in this heaven “millstones stand and grind manna for the righteous.”
The Zohar says: “…the manna which came down for the Israelites in the wilderness originated in the celestial dew from the most recondite spot, and at first its light would radiate to all worlds and the “field of apples”, and the heavenly angels drew sustenance from it, but when it approached the earth it became materialized through the influence of the air of this world and lost its brightness, becoming only like “coriander seed”.
(4) The Fourth Heaven – ZEBUL “high dwelling; glorious habitation” (Strong’s 2073)
“Look down from heaven, and see, even from Your Set-Apart and glorious habitation (ZEBUL). Where is Your zeal and Your mighty acts; the yearning of Your heart and Your compassions, now restrained toward me?”
(Is. 63:15 HRV)
According to the Talmud “Zebul is that in which [the heavenly] Jerusalem and the Temple and the Altar are built, and Michael, the great Prince, stands and offers up thereon an offering.”
(5) The Fifth Heaven – MA’ON “retreat; asylum, dwelling, habitation” (Strong’s 4583)
Look forth from Your Set-Apart habitation (MA’ON), from heaven, and bless Your people Yisra’el, and the land which You have given us, as You did swear unto our fathers—a land flowing with milk and honey.”
(Deut. 26:15 HRV)
The Talmud says “Ma’on is that in which there are companies of Ministering Angels, who utter [divine] song by night, and are silent by day for the sake of Israel’s glory.”
(6) The Sixth Heaven – MAKON “foundation; dwelling” (Strong’s 4349)
“Then hear You, in heaven Your dwelling place (MAKON), and forgive, and do, and render unto every man, according to all his ways, whose heart You know: for You, even You only, know the hearts of all the children of men.”
(1Kn. 8:39 HRV)
The Talmud says:
Makon is that in which there are the stores of snow (Job 38:22f; Is. 29:6) and stores of hail, and the loft of harmful dews and the loft of raindrops, the chamber of the whirlwind and storm, and the cave of vapour, and their doors are of fire, for it is said: The Lord will open unto thee His good treasure,(Deut. 28:12) But are these to be found in the firmament? Surely, they are to be found on the earth, for it is written: Praise the Lord from the earth, ye sea-monsters, and all deeps; fire and hail, snow and vapour, stormy wind, fulfilling his word! (Ps. 148:7-8) — Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: David entreated concerning them, and caused them to come down to the earth. He said before Him: Lord of the universe, Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness; let not evil sojourn with Thee; (Ps. 148:5) righteous art Thou, O Lord, let not evil sojourn in Thy abode. And whence do we derive that it is called heaven? For it is written: Then hear Thou in heaven, Thy dwelling place [Makon]. (1Kings 8:39)
(7) The Seventh Heaven – ARAVOT “sterile or empty place; desert, wilderness” (Strong’s 6160)
Sing unto Elohim; sing praises to His name: extol Him that rides upon the empty places (ARAVOT); whose Name is Yah, and exult you before Him.
(Psalm 68:5(4) HRV)
“There is none like unto Elohim, O Yeshurun, who rides upon the heaven as your help,
and in His excellency on the skies.”
(Deut. 33:26 HRV)
The Talmud says:
ARAVOT is that in which there are Right and Judgment and Righteousness, the treasures of life and the treasures of peace and the treasures of blessing, the souls of the righteous and the spirits and the souls which are yet to be born, and dew wherewith the Holy One, blessed be He, will hereafter revive the dead. Right and Judgment, for it is written: Right and judgment are the foundations of Thy throne. (Ps. 89:15) Righteousness, for it is written: And He put on righteousness as a coat of mail. (Is. 59:17) The treasures of life, for it is written: For with Thee is the fountain of life. (Ps. 36:10) And the treasures of peace, for it is written: And called it, ‘The Lord is peace’.(Judges 6:24) And the treasures of blessing, for it is written: he shall receive a blessing from the Lord.(Ps. 24:5) The souls of the righteous, for it is written: Yet the soul of my lord shall be bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God. (1Sam 25:9) The spirits and the souls which are yet to be born, for it is written: For the spirit that enwrappeth itself is from Me, and the souls which I have made. (Is. 57:1) And the dew wherewith the Holy One, blessed be He, will hereafter revive the dead, for it is written: A bounteous rain didst Thou pour down, O God; when Thine inheritance was weary, Thou didst confirm it. (Ps. 68:10) There [too] are the Ofanim and the Seraphim, and the Holy Living Creatures, and the Ministering Angels, and the Throne of God; and the King, the Living God, high and exalted, dwells over them in ‘Araboth, for it is said: Extol Him that rideth upon Araboth whose name is the Lord. (Ps. 68:5)
The Zohar tells us concerning ARAVOT:
Said R. Eleazar: ‘It ought to have been “who rideth upon (‘al) araboth”, why does it say “in (be) araboth”? Again: it ought to be, “He is in YAH”, why does it say “in YAH is His Name”? It is because this verse refers to the Hidden of hidden ones, the most Ancient of all the ancients, the completely unknown and undisclosed. It may be said that, since He rideth in it, then in this sphere at least He does disclose Himself. Not so. What the verse tells us is that the Ancient of ancients “rideth in the araboth” in the sphere of YAH, which is the primordial mystery emanating from Him, namely the Ineffable Name YAH, which is not identical with Him, but is a kind of veil emanating from Him. This veil is His Name, it is His Chariot, and even that is not manifested. to study the Torah.
Who was caught up to Pardes
Paul says that the man who was caught up to the “third heaven” was caught up to PARDES (“Paradise”). This same section of Talmud goes on to record a tradition about four Rabbis who also entered Pardes but only one left in peace:
The Rabbis taught: Four entered the Pardes. They were Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Acher and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva said to them, “When you come to the place of pure marble stones, do not say, ‘Water! Water!’ for it is said, ‘He who speaks untruths shall not stand before My eyes’ (Psalms 101:7)”. Ben Azzai gazed and died. Regarding him the verse states, ‘Precious in the eyes of God is the death of His pious ones’ (Psalms 116:15). Ben Zoma gazed and was harmed. Regarding him the verse states, ‘Did you find honey? Eat as only much as you need, lest you be overfilled and vomit it’ (Proverbs 25:16). Acher cut down the plantings. Rabbi Akiva entered in peace and left in peace.
The Zohar elaborates on Akiva’s words saying:
The ancient Saba (an old man) stood up and said (to Shimon bar Yochai), “Rabbi, Rabbi! What is the meaning of what Rabbi Akiva said to his students, “When you come to the place of pure marble stones, do not say ‘Water! Water!’ lest you place yourselves in danger, for it is said, ‘He who speaks untruths shall not stand before My eyes.'” But it is written, ‘There shall be a firmament between the waters and it shall separate between water (above the firmament) and water (below the firmament)’ (Genesis 1:6). Since the Torah describes the division of the waters in to upper and lower, why should it be problematic to mention this division? Furthermore, since there are upper and lower waters why did Rabbi Akiva warn them, “do not say, ‘Water! Water!'””
The Holy Lamp (a title for Shimon bar Yochai) replied, “Saba, it is proper that you reveal this secret that the chevraya (Rabbi Shimon’s circle of disciples) have not grasped clearly.”
The ancient Saba answered, “Rabbi, Rabbi, Holy Lamp. Surely the pure marble stones are the letter yud – one the upper yud of the letter aleph, and one the lower yud of the letter aleph. Here there is no spiritual impurity, only pure marble stones, so there is no separation between one water and the other; they form a single unity from the aspect of the Tree of Life, which is the vav in the midst of the letter aleph. In this regard it states, ‘and if he take of the Tree of Life (and eat and live forever)’ (Genesis 3:22)…”
(Zohar I, 26b)
This sheds light on Paul’s statement:
1 To boast is necessary but not profitable: for I will come to visions and to revelations of
2 I knew a man in the Messiah fourteen years from before (but whether in a body or
without a body I do not know, Eloah knows) who was caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew this son of man (but whether in a body or without a body I do not know,
4 Who was caught up to Pardes: and heard unspeakable words that are not permitted
for a son of man to speak.
(2Cor. 12:1-4 HRV)
The man of whom Paul speaks (Paul himself?) was caught up to the place where millstones stand and grind manna for the righteous, the place where the celestial dew originates, the most recondite spot, Pardes, where he heard unspeakable words, learned of the unity of the Godhead and partook of the Tree of Life and returned in peace.
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