Paul’s Vision of Paradise
Paul wrote, “It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man 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. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”
“Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me” (2 Corinthians 12:1-6).
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul’s resumed his defense of his ministry which began in chapter 10:1. Thus far, as proof, he referred to his own experiences as a minister—his life and his sufferings for God’s sake. But now he presents the greatest proof—his direct and personal contact with the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the supernatural experience which exceeds anything experienced by his challengers.
It is clear that Paul was speaking of himself (verse 7). The apostle spoke of a vision that took place fourteen years earlier. He was “caught up” to Paradise – third heaven (the first “heaven” is the atmosphere, the second is that of the stars, and the third the abode of God and heavenly beings).
The reason Paul could not explain his experience, is because in vision, there is a full absence of awareness to earthly surroundings. The perception of things seen and heard in vision, and at times involvement in the acts presented, are completely as real to the awareness as the normal physical experiences of life. We don’t know why Paul didn’t write more about what he saw. Either he had been instructed not to disclose what he saw and heard or human language is inadequate to describe it (1 Corinthians 3:2).
Paul may have been disposed to speak more about the supernatural revelation he had received. From a human point of view, he certainly had every reason to “glory” in such an unusual honor, but humbly he didn’t do so. He understood that it was no credit to himself as a person (1 Timothy 1:15), and declined to take any praise to himself for receiving it.
Paul’s only reason for even speaking of the experience is to answer the charges of his opponents. He pleaded only to his personal life and character, with which they are familiar. He figured, this will be enough evidence of his apostleship, if they are willing to consider it.
In His service,