Paul in Heaven?
When II Corinthians 12:1-7 is thoroughly examined, it is obvious that the person who was taken up in a vision to the "third heaven" was the Apostle Paul himself!
In the eleventh chapter of II Corinthians, Paul explains his physical sufferings and persecutions. In chapter 12, however, he begins to relate some of his spiritual experiences. Notice that in the first seven verses the pronoun "I" is mentioned fourteen times! In the very first verse, Paul says, "... I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord." This is clear from II Corinthians 12:7 where Paul said, "I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from the Adversary to pound away at me, so that I wouldn't grow conceited" (Jewish New Testament).
Paul begins to tell about his vision in verse 2 by saying, "I know ["know" is the correct translation, not "knew," which can be verified by checking the original Greek] a man in union with the Messiah who fourteen years ago was snatched up to the third heaven; whether he was in the body or outside the body I don't know, God knows" (JNT).
Paul is speaking about himself! He was "caught up to the third heaven" -- in vision. This "third heaven" is where YEHOVAH God's throne is. The vision was so vivid and realistic that he was unable -- at the time -- to tell whether he was taken bodily to heaven, or whether he was merely seeing it in his mind's eye. But YEHOVAH's Word provides the answer! "NO MAN has gone up into heaven; there is only the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man" (John 3:13, JNT).
Please note that the phrase "come down from heaven" does not prove that he was formerly a God (God #2) in heaven, who gave up his Divinity and was sent to earth by the Father (God #1) to be born as a human baby. Rather, it was this most special HUMAN BEING who was "sent from heaven" -- that is, "from YEHOVAH God" -- chosen and commissioned to accomplish the all-important work of becoming our savior.
But why speak of seeing the third heaven by using the roundabout" I know a man"? Paul gives the answer in II Corinthians 12:6, "If I did want to boast, I would not be foolish; because I would be speaking the truth. But, because of the extraordinary greatness of the revelations, I refrain, so that no one will think more of me than what my words or deeds may warrant" (JNT). Paul simply didn't want others to think of him as some great, exalted personage! By speaking indirectly ("I know a man") he emphasized this point.
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