Thursday, September 23, 2010

Caught Up to the Third Heaven (2 Corinthians 12)

From John MacArthur:
"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. And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. (2 Corinthians 12:2--4)

Paul had received many visions in his life, six of which are recorded in Acts (9:3--12; 16:9--10; 18:9--10; 22:17--21; 23:11; 27:23--24). He had also received the gospel he preached by revelation (Gal. 1:11--12). But the vision he was about to describe was the most amazing and remarkable of them all. With characteristic humility, he related it in the third person, writing, I know a man in Christ. Obviously, Paul was that man, as verse 7 indicates.

The vision took place fourteen years before the writing of 2 Corinthians, which was in late a.d. 55 or early a.d. 56, putting it sometime between Paul's return to Tarsus from Jerusalem (Acts 9:30) and his commissioning by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1--3). Little is known about that period of Paul's life except that during it he ministered in Syria and Cilicia (Gal. 1:21). God may have granted him this personal experience to steel him against the suffering he would experience on his missionary journeys. Having been given a glimpse of the heaven that awaited him, he could face the most relentless and severe suffering that dogged every day of his life. Now, after fourteen years of silence, Paul was apparently relating the vision for the first time..."

No comments: