In the Bible, there is this mysterious passage that very few can explain: the Apostle Paul at some point had a Near Death Experience, perhaps from being stoned by a mob, and had a vision of heaven. He describes this very briefly in the following passage:
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows — how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2 Cor. 12:2-4)
If anyone is curious about the afterlife, this passage will just about drive one nuts. Here we have a direct experience of heaven, but there is not one heaven - there are three heavens. Why are there three heavens? Why offer such a statement, and nowhere else is it explained? And one hears angels speaking, and not allowed to repeat what they are saying??? This was very frustrating. When I first read it, it left me with the idea that the Bible was incomplete - or that scripture was hiding something we were not allowed to know. However there are some things that can be derived from it. The word Paradise appears here and in this passage:
To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God (Rev. 2:7)
And this means the Garden of Eden is symbolic of the time when mankind had direct access to heaven. When the love of self became dominate, from the desire to know things from one's self through the outer senses (the serpent) - the connection between heaven and man was broken. The other time the word Paradise appears is the following passage, which Jesus spoke to one of the thieves on the cross:
And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
And this means that after death, there is a judgment wherein one will enter heaven and hell. Some Christian churches teach that one enters into a sleep after death, and will eventually literally physically rise from the dead, but this is a false teaching. Those who teach it have to distort this verse, moving the comma making the word "today" absolutely meaningless in order to maintain their doctrine. The specific denominations who hold this false teaching are the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah's Witnesses. They do good in teaching people to follow the commandments, but they mislead others in teaching that there is no afterlife. What is true is that between heaven and hell there is a middle region for certain souls who await judgment after a period of time, and these periodic judgments are known as the "last judgment" which occurs at "the end of the world." Literalists and fundamentalists do not understand this, always expecting a literal judgment in the physical world, always expecting a literal physical appearance for the Second Coming. And their predictions always fail.
A DIVINE REVELATION OF THE THREE HEAVENS