Summary: In this vision Paul is caught up to heaven & received communications & revelations that he can not make known (CIT). This was to him, & to all who believed his word, a more reliable evidence of the favor of God upon an apostle than anything prior
2 CORINTHIANS 12: 1-6 [GAINING PERSPECTIVE Series]
A JOURNEY TO PARADISE
Paul now moves to the account of a remarkable spiritual experience which was granted him as an apostle by the Lord. He was reticent to write about this experience but has been forced to substantiate his apostleship. In order to avoid exalting himself Paul describes his experience in the third person rather than the first person.
Still this boasting refers not to what Paul had done, but to what God had done. Paul is simply the subject of the visions & revelations granted by God. In this vision Paul is caught up to heaven & received communications & revelations that he can not make known (CIT). This was to him, & to all who believed his word, a more reliable evidence of the favor of God upon an apostle than anything prior mentioned.
I. COMPARE VISIONS AND REVELATIONS, 1.
II. CAUGHT UP TO HEAVEN, 2-4.
III. CURRENT EVIDENCE, 5-6.
What Paul says in verse 1 he is forced to say so that the Corinthians might look at Him from God’s perspective. “Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.”
Paul's reticence increases as he discloses what was probably the most intimate and sacred of all his Christian experiences. The apostle reiterates that he speaks of himself only because circumstances have compelled him to do so. Like Paul's external credentials his parading of visions and revelations was not profitable or an exercise in futility because it would not build individuals up.
If his adversaries falsely claimed to have received their teaching directly from God Paul could truly claim this was the case. Paul had repeated visions (Acts 9:3; 16:9, 18:9,22:17, 27:23f) and claimed to speak by direct revelation (1 Cor. 11:23, 15:3; Gal. 1:12; Eph. 3:3).
Revelations is apocalypses [αποκάλυψις;-απο- from away and κάλυπτω - to cover] literally “to remove the cover, to unveil.” It is the unveiling of something hidden which gives light and knowledge to those who behold it (Eph. 3:3, Rom. 16:25). It can be special insight into spiritual truth (Eph. 1:17). Revelations are more general than visions. One might have revelations without having visions but one never has visions without revelations. Visions, dreams and trances are hard to distinguish. A vision comes to one in an ecstatic state (Isa. 1:1; Ezek. 12:27) and bring revelation knowledge. The experience points to a special awareness of God concerning what He is doing or going to do.
Paul mentions these here to show the supreme height to which he was raised through these ecstatic experiences in the Lord. This boast is not of his ability or superior power, for it was all the Lord’s doing.
[Paul’s vision of Paradise and his affliction of pain are connected with “infirmities” of 11:30. How is it that Paul takes pleasure in his infirmities? The answer is that they constitute a reminder of something that, no doubt, stands out as the most incredible experience of his life. To counter balance these exalting experiences he was also given a "thorn in the flesh" (v7) so that he would not glory in himself but in the God of all grace.]
II. CAUGHT UP TO HEAVEN, 2-4.
One vision, which Paul now tells, stands out from the rest on account of its extraordinary character. His ecstatic episode in which he had been transported to Paradise begins in verse 2. “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago-whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows -such a man was caught up to the third heaven.
A single incident is relayed. Although this person is not mentioned by name, it is clear that Paul is speaking of himself because the context demands it. This experience was completely unsought by him. It has been fourteen years since its occurrence and this is the first time he publically spoke of it, let alone boasted of it. Fourteen years prior to this letter would be about 44 AD. So it was not his Damascus Road experience. It would seem to fit with his apparent stoning to death at Lystra (Acts 14:19). We know Stephen had an ecstatic or heavenly vision during his stoning (Acts 7:54-60), but we cannot be certain when this one occurred because of the limited information supplied. [Others date it to the time when he was at Tarsus, waiting for the Lord to point out his work, somewhere between Acts 9:30 and 11:25. So if you want a vision of heaven just be stoned for preaching the word.]
Paul is sure his remarkable experience occurred but uncertain whether the rapture experience was in the body or out of the body. Body rapture is not regarded as impossible. Two instances are recorded in the Old Testament, Enoch (Gen 5:24, Heb. 11:5) and Elijah (1 Kings 2:11, Mk. 9:4) and in the New Jesus Christ was bodily raptured into heaven. At any rate such a one was caught up (Gk harpazo, “to snatch away”). The term is used in regard to Philip in Acts 8:39 and the Rapture, in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. “Caught up” is a form of the Greek word harpazōg, the same word used in 1 Thess. 4:17 in reference to the rapture of the church. Paul was “raptured” to the third heaven.