The Three Realms—Heaven, Earth and the Underworld
Scripture reveals that there are three basic realms or universes:
Therefore God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” (3) But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.
As you can see, the three realms are:
- Heaven, the spiritual realm where God’s throne is located, also called the “third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2).
- The earth, which naturally includes the physical universe that encompasses it and, as such, refers to the entire physical realm.
- The underworld, which is the “dark heavenlies,” as described in this passage:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Lending further support that there are three basic realms is the fact that God’s heaven is described as the “third heaven.” Since God’s heaven is the highest dimension where the LORD’s throne is located (Psalm 115:16) and is called the third heaven we must naturally conclude that there are two other heavens; that is, two other universes. These other realms are the earth/universe and the underworld, as shown in the above passages.
As far as the underworld goes, there was no such realm until Satan and his band of rogue angels started a war in heaven and were subsequently booted out and fell to the earth (Luke 10:18, Isaiah 14:12 & Revelation 12:9). The devil and his minions are spiritual beings and so they obviously didn’t enter into the physical earth & universe when they fell from heaven, but rather fell to the spiritual dimension that parallels or underpins the earth and universe. This is the underworld or dark heavenlies. We see evidence of this underpinning spiritual realm in the book of Job where Satan twice presents himself to the LORD in heaven to which God asks, “Where have you come from?” Both times the devil replies, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it” (Job 1:6-7 & 2:1-2). Being a spiritual being, Satan wasn’t roaming around the physical earth, but rather throughout the dark heavenlies or underworld, which underpins the earth and universe.
The dark heavenlies exist between the earth/universe and the third heaven. This can be observed in Daniel 10:10-14 where an angel explains to Daniel that he was the messenger who came with a response from the Almighty to Daniel’s prayer, but he was hindered by a demonic entity in the dark heavenlies—”the prince of Persia”—and needed Michael the archangel’s help to get through to the physical realm. There’s more Scriptural evidence, but it’s scant and you have to read in between the lines. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV).
In the above passage, Philippians 2:10, the Greek word translated as “under the earth” is one word—katachthonios (kat-akh-THON-ee-os), which means “subterranean” or “infernal.” This is the underworld—the dark spiritual dimension that underpins the earth & universe, which explains why it’s called the underworld. Notice that this passage doesn’t define the underworld as Hades. Why? Because Hades—that is, Sheol—is not the underworld; it’s merely a pit in the underworld where dead souls are kept.
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