Paul’s Footsteps #210

Footsteps #210

“I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. ” NLT (2Cor.12.2)

2Cor.12:2.Where is the third heaven? The third heaven is, I believe, a reference to the very abode of God. Reconciling that with God’s omnipresence is beyond the scope of this space. The first heaven is the atmosphere that is our home. The second heaven is outer space, the stellar heavens (Gen1:1). And the third heaven is where God is. I don’t know if that is a place (as we normally think of a location) or if it’s another dimension–it’s not important. Clearly, Paul went somewhere that no other human being has gone before or since. When did this happen? Paul gives us one measure of time–it happened 14 years before he wrote this letter. I wish the time markers in Scripture were better because it might be helpful to know exactly what Paul was doing 14 years before. Maybe that would give us a clue as to how and why this happened. Was it a bodily experience or a spiritual one? We don’t know, because Paul himself didn’t know. He says, “Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know–God knows.” It doesn’t matter. He was so swamped by the beauty and joy all around him in Paradise and by the awe and splendour of it all that he was unaware of whether his body was even there. One last question: Why did God give Paul this experience if He isn’t allowed to tell anyone about it? Of course, he is finally allowed to mention it here in this passage, though he divulged no details. But I think there is a good answer to this question. Virtually every day of his ministry life Paul suffered for his faith. He needed that experience of glory early in his ministry life to prepare him for the difficult years that lay ahead and to see him through it all.  Because of the proximity of this vision and his mention of “the thorn in the flesh,” it seems probable that the two experiences are somehow related. After praying 3 times he was given the words of 2Cor.12:7-9. Ask 3 scholars about this passage and you will come up with 4 opinions.

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