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Paul's Visions and Revelations

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Good News Translation (GNT)


  2  I know a certain Christian man who fourteen
   years ago was snatched up to the highest
   heaven (I do not know whether this actually
   happened or whether he had a vision - only
   God knows).
  3-4  I repeat, I know that this man was snatched
   to Paradise (again, I do not know whether this
   actually happened or whether it was a vision -
   only God knows), and there he heard things
   which cannot be put into words, things that
   human lips may not speak.
  5  So I will boast about this man - but I will not
   boast about myself, except the things that
   show how weak I am.
  6  If I wanted to boast, I would not be a fool,
   because I would be telling the truth.
   But I will not boast, because I do not want
   any of you to have a higher opinion of me
   than you have as a result of what you have
   seen me do and heard me say.
  7  But to keep me from being puffed up with
   pride because of the many wonderful things
   I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment,
   which acts as Satan's messenger to beat me
   and keep me from being proud.
  8  Three times I prayed to the Lord about this
   and asked him to take it away.
  9  But his answer was: "My grace is all you need,
   for my power is greatest when you are weak."
   I am most happy, then, to be proud of my
   weaknesses, in order to feel the protection
   of Christ's power over me.
10  I am content with weaknesses, insults,
   hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for
   Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am


Commentary taken from
'The Applied New Testament Commentary'

Paul's Vision and His Thorn

     2 Corinthians Chapter 12:2-10

Fourteen years before writing this letter, Paul had a vision or revelation of heaven. That revelation was so amazing that Paul can't even speak about it in an ordinary way. Instead of saying, "I had a vision," Paul says: "I know a Christian man who had a vision". We know that Paul is referring to himself when he says this, because in verse 7 he writes: To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh.

The revelation was this:
A man (Paul) was caught up to the third heaven (verse 2). The third heaven is a Jewish expression, which means a place where God is present. According to Jewish belief in Paul's time, the "first heaven" was the sky and the "second heaven" was the universe. According to that belief, then, the "third heaven" signifies the spiritual heaven where Jesus sits on the right hand of God and where believers in Jesus will live with God forever.

In this revelation Paul is not sure whether his body was taken up into this third heaven, or whether only his spirit was taken up.

What is Paradise?
Many Bible scholars think that Paradise is a place believers in Jesus go to as soon as they die.
There, without a body, the souls and spirits of believers remain until the end of the world, at which time Jesus will come again and give each believer a new resurrected body.

Notice, in verse 4, that Paul says he was caught up to (into) Paradise; but in verse 2, he says he was caught up to (as far as) the third heaven. In the Greek, Paul uses two different words for "to" in these verses. He seems to be saying that he was taken "into" Paradise, but that he only reached "as far as" the third heaven but not into it.

Many Bible scholars believe that this shows that Paradise and the third heaven are two different places. but other scholars believe that Paradise and the third heaven are really the same place.

The Bible gives us very little description of life after death. Therefore, it is not possible to be certain about this matter. Paul says that he is not permitted even to talk about it! Paul writes: I will boast about the revelation that God had given to me. But Paul will not boast about himself. If Paul boasts about himself, it will be about his weaknesses

Paul could legitimately have boasted about his accomplishments, because his boasting would have been completely true. He had established many churches. He had received many gifts from the Holy Spirit. He had performed many signs, wonders and miracles. But even though all this was true, Paul will not boast about it, lest others begin to praise him instead of praising God

Paul does not want to exalt himself. He remembered Christ's teaching: "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted".

The thorn in Paul's flesh and the messenger of Satan mentioned here are the same thing. Paul does not say what the thorn in his flesh was. But we can understand that it was some kind of special trial or human weakness that afflicted Paul.

It is to our advantage that Paul does not tell us exactly what his thorn was. Because if we knew, we might then be tempted to say: "I don't have any 'thorn' like that; therefore, Paul's teaching here about his thorn has no relation to me."

But, in fact, this teaching about Paul's thorn is extremely important for us, because every Christian has some kind of "thorn" or "thorns." That is, every one of us has some kind of bodily or mental weakness. Through this weakness, we are made humble.

God cannot easily work through a person who is conceited and proud. Thus we can see that although God gave Paul amazing gifts and experiences, He at the same time gave Paul a "thorn" to keep him humble.

Let us, therefore, not complain about our "thorn," whatever it might be. That thorn has been given to us for our spiritual benefit.

Because of our thorn, our weakness, God's power will be more visible in our lives.

Paul says here that his thorn is a messenger of Satan; that is, his thorn has been sent by Satan. But let us not forget that Satan is always under God's ultimate control. Satan cannot send us any kind of trouble or suffering - without God's permission (Job 1:6-22; 2:1-10).

God always overcomes evil with good in the lives of those who love Him.

Like Paul, we can pray that our thorn might be taken away. Perhaps God will take away one or more of our thorns. But God will leave at least one thorn with us, that we might remain humble and always dependent on God's power.

No matter what our weakness is, God will always give us sufficient grace to do His will The weaker we are, the greater will God's power appear in us. Paul not only endures weaknesses, he takes delight in them!

Paul does not seek such hardships and difficulties for his own spiritual benefit, as the followers of other religions do. Rather, everything Paul seeks is for Christ's sake alone.

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