The first thing to understand about the new heavens, as noted here and in the title, is the plurality. There are three heavens, but only two will be destroyed and the third is the highest heaven where the Lord Jesus is presently located—seated at the right hand of the Father.
Mark 16:19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.
Acts 1:9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they [His eleven] watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
Hebrews 12:2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Savior is waiting there at the Father’s right hand to obey the command to return to the heaven which is immediately above this earth. There, He will gather His Church body together.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
From these passages in Mark, Acts, and 1 Thessalonians, we have established the possibility that there are at least two heavens. To confirm there are three, we go to 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 as Paul the apostle is likely, humbly, describing his own experience:
2 Corinthians 12:1-4 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2I know a man [probably Paul himself] 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. 3And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
Apparently the first heaven is the earth’s immediate atmosphere with oxygen, gravity, the clouds, and blue sky. The second heaven contains the planets, stars, galaxies, and beyond.
The third heaven is the place where the Father and Son are seated on the throne. Steven explains:
Acts 7:47-50 47“But Solomon built Him a house. 48However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: 49‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the LORD, or what is the place of My rest? 50Has My hand not made all these things?’”
It is confirmed, there are three heavens. But now what about the new heaven and new earth? The first two heavens—earth’s atmosphere and the stars and galaxies, will be destroyed; they are temporary. But the third heaven is where God is presently dwelling. The Lord is quoted:
Isaiah 65:17-19 17“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 19I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying.”
Matthew 24:29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
Revelation 6:13 previews in present tense what John prophesies for the future:
Revelation 6:13-14 13And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. 14Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.
Revelation 8:10 Then the third angel sounded [the third trumpet]: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.
2 Peter 3:10-13 10But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Psalm 102:25-27 25Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. 26They will perish, but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed. 27But You are the same, and Your years will have no end.
Isaiah 66:22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the LORD, “So shall your descendants and your name remain.”
Following the Millennial reign and Great White Throne Judgment, God will create a new heaven, a new earth, and a New Jerusalem:
Revelation 21:1-2 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2Then, I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
All Scripture quoted is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.