JUST WHAT IS THE FIRMAMENT?
Written by Evangelist Michael Kearns
For a long time I have not understood clearly what the firmament is or what it means. So I decided to do a study on it to better my own understanding as well as to be a help to others that may wonder just what the firmament is.
Jesus said in John 14:26 of the Holy Ghost, “he shall teach you all things” and then in John 16:13, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth”. And then in John 2:20 God’s Word says,
“But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.”
In other words Jesus promised His believers that the Holy Spirit of God would teach us everything that we need to know to be fruitful disciples for the glory of God. God surely did not mean that we would know everything in this life as He does but that we would know all things pertaining to His will for our lives as we travel this earthly sojourn. While I do not believe that any Christian will know everything about the Bible in this life, I do believe that we can know more and more and so grow in the knowledge of God and His Word. One final promise to encourage us in our study:
In Matthew 7:7 Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you”.
THE HOLY RECORD
“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.”
“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.”
The word firmament is found a total of 17 times in the King James Bible. In every instance this word is found in the Old Testament and has the same underlying Hebrew word. According to Strong’s Hebrew dictionary (word #7549) here is the meaning: an expanse or the visible arch of the sky. Smith’s Bible Dictionary gives this very similar definition:
“In Scripture the word denotes an expanse, a wide extent; for such is the significance of the Hebrew word. The original, therefore, does not convey the sense of solidity, but of stretching, extension; the great arch or expanse over our heads, in which are placed the atmosphere and the clouds, and in which the stars appear to be placed, and are really seen.” (Smith gives Webster as his reference on this.)
In other words, the firmament may be what we simply refer to as the sky or the atmosphere. When we go outside and look outward and upward we see a vast canopy. We see a blue sky if it’s clear or we see a grey cloudy sky if overcast. On a clear night we see blackness dotted with the stars and other heavenly bodies that reflect light enough to see them.
Let’s look back in Genesis 1 to see what God says about His firmament that He so wisely made. In the first place, the firmament is in the midst of the waters and it divides the waters from the waters. In my mind I picture the atmosphere with its various levels. If you will study up on the atmosphere you will find out that it contains different levels and consists of various things among which one is water!
Secondly, the firmament divided the waters from under it and above it. The waters gathered together under the firmament were called Seas by God. So evidently the waters under the firmament mean the waters that cover the earth and make up various bodies of collected water. And going in the other direction the waters above the firmament must mean those waters in the sky. This would mean the water in the atmosphere that you can not see as well as the water that you can see in the air that we simply call clouds.
Thirdly, note that in verse 8, “God called the firmament Heaven.” When we as Bible-believing Christians think about Heaven we tend to think of the actual dwelling place of God’s throne in the third heaven. But here God calls the firmament Heaven. The sky, the atmosphere, the air up above the earth is called Heaven by God in Genesis 1:8. The Psalmist said in Psalm 19:1,
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Here the Bible says that there are heavens-more than one! Paul said over in II Corinthians 12 that he knew a man in Christ “caught up to the third heaven.” He says that “he was caught up into paradise”. John tells of his experience of seeing the “new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven”. So the Bible teaching seems to be that Heaven means three different heavens, or three different parts of Heaven, or the heavens.
Evidently the first heaven is our atmosphere, the sky, called the firmament and Heaven here by God in Genesis 1. The second heaven must be what we call outer space wherein lies the planets and stars and other various heavenly bodies existing beyond the boundaries of earth’s atmosphere. And then the third heaven must be where the throne of God exists and what Paul called paradise. And so “the heavens declare the glory of God” and Heaven means everything above the earth-from the sky to the throne room of God our Creator.
And it too seems that in the heavens is also where much spiritual activity takes place. In the book of Ephesians we find that the believer’s position in Christ is in the heavens. Note Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Now notice that 2:2 tells us that the devil is “the prince of the power of the air” and that it is that evil “spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience”. And then notice that in 6:12 we see that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Notice that Christ is in the heavens. The devil operates in the heavens. And the devil’s wicked agents dwell “in high places”, or in the heavens. There is not only natural light and darkness in the heavens but spiritual light and darkness there as well!
When Jesus preached the Word of God we are told that He preached the following message: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” John the Baptist preached the same thing as well. And so Heaven has a kingdom, a realm where the King has dominion, or authority. Matthew contains many parables of the kingdom of Heaven and that is a study well worth doing!
We have seen that the firmament separates the waters in the sky from the waters on the earth. Now we see in Genesis 1:14 that God placed lights in the firmament. And these lights are “to divide the day from the night” and are “for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years”. Obviously the greater light to rule the day is the sun and the lesser light to rule the night is the moon. These are the two great lights of verses 14-18 made on day four.
By the way, there is a wonderful type of Christ and His Bride here. The sun is the greater light. And the sun gives off light of itself. And the sun is so bright that it lights up everything during the day and you can not look directly at it without hurting your eyes. But the moon shines in the night. You can look at the moon and see the moon because its light will not hurt your eyes. The moon gives enough light at night that a person can see a certain amount of things when the sky is clear. But the moon does not give off its own light. The light of the moon is actually the light of the sun reflected on the moon that we see. And just as the moon has no light of its own but reflects the light of the sun, so the Church has no light of her own but reflects the light of her Lord the Son of God. And just as the moon shines during the night and gives off enough light to see where you are walking, so the church is the light in this dark age of sin and the only light she has is that which comes from the Lord Jesus Christ! May God help us as true Bible-believers to reflect the glorious light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those blinded in the darkness of sin.
The firmament may possibly be summed up as consisting of the following realms which we also call the heavens, or sometimes just simply Heaven:
1.The sky as far as we can see up and out could be called the firmament or part of the firmament.
2.The whole atmosphere that surrounds the planet earth could be referred to as the firmament or part of the firmament.
3.All that we see as outer space beyond the earth’s atmosphere or literally all of outer space could be considered the firmament or at least part of what the Bible calls the firmament.
4.The Heaven of heavens where redeemed souls go after this life to be with Jesus could be called part of the firmament as well.
5.And finally, the firmament may literally be all three heavens, or everything that is actually above earth’s ground level at any given point. And room is given to suppose that the firmament is merely all that a man sees when he simply steps outside and looks up. (I tend to think that the firmament is everything above the earth-from the air we breathe to the right of hand of God the Father where Christ is seated. Whatever are the literal boundaries of the firmament mentioned in Genesis 1 and other places in the Bible, we can be sure that God did create the firmament, that He called it Heaven and that He knows every detail about it!)
1.The study of any Bible subject is not in vain because it is the very Word of God. Hence, our faith should increase, our souls should be encouraged, and our Biblical knowledge should abound more and more. And the study of one Bible topic certainly can lead to other Bible topical studies.
2.God called the firmament Heaven in Genesis 1:8. If we are to believe this includes the throne room of God where justified souls go when they leave this world, then we should make certain that we are ready to go up into Heaven and not down into Hell. In other words, in light of the reality of Heaven, are we prepared to go there? Someone once said, “Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.” Are you prepared to meet God? Only through the Lord Jesus Christ can one be worthy to enter Heaven. All must come through the blood of the Lamb of God in order to enter the kingdom of God.
3. If we know Christ in our hearts and we have known others who have died and gone to Heaven, then we are blessed with a special hope and expectation of seeing them again some day! Heaven then creates a blessed hope and a special longing of a grand family reunion one glad day! As we look up into the sky and out to the stars we are reminded that there is something far better than what this present world has to offer and that we’ll go higher than the stars some day! The firmament means a future for God’s people.
4.But the firmament not only causes hope for the Christian as we look toward God’s throne room, but it is a reminder to us as well that God will one day restore the earthly nation of Israel and that the covenant with Abraham will yet result in God’s earthly people being as the stars in number! While part of this is fulfilled through the church age since the spiritual seed of Abraham are all those in Christ (see Galatians 3:6-9, 29), there remains yet the time when Israel shall turn to God and be counted as the seed of Abraham and the Jewish people will be the head and not the tail among all the nations of the earth. When we look up at the night sky we see the stars and God told Abraham in Genesis 15:5, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.” Note Abraham’s response in the very next verse, “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
5.Finally, the firmament ought to mean the glory of God in our hearts and lives. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19:1-3
The Bible itself says that the heavens glorify God. The firmament shows or reveals that there is a God. Creation reflects the Creator. Every day and every night the sky tells the story of God to the conscience of every soul of man. The lost sinner in the deepest jungles of Africa can look up at the sky and know in his heart that there is a God. God uses His creation to shed forth a certain amount of light to the darkened conscience of a lost sinner.
Regardless of what language a man speaks, the heavens are telling him, “There is a God! Give glory to your Creator!”
Suggested Reading: Find the book by John R. Rice on Heaven by Sword of the Lord publishers. This can be obtained at or through Gullion’s Christian Bookstore in King, NC. Many other good books are available from Gullion’s Christian Bookstore in King, Walkertown, and Statesville, NC.