The Third Heaven
2 Corinthians 12: 1-5
By: Mike Stokes
The space shuttle Endeavor lifted off at 8:56 am on May 16 on it’s final flight. Soaring into the morning sky, through Earth’s atmosphere and into stellar space, the six-man crew bound for the International Space station. Endeavor’s commander Mark Kelly, husband of, Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford, D-Arizona, recovering in Houston after being shot in January outside a Tucson, Arizona, grocery store. Actually the space station is not very far away, in terms of space travel. Man has been to the moon, 240,000 miles away, that too, is not very far compared to the distance to, say, Mars.
Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, informs us of some space travel he has done. Why was Paul allowed to go into outer space, and why did he reluctantly tell us about it? At the time of Paul’s writing, Corinth had been invaded by false teachers, many with impressive credentials. The people were impressed by some of the false teachers testimonies, abilities and experiences. The people of Corinth needed to be reminded that Paul was worth following. So, Paul added a postscript to his resume, getting their attention with a credential he’d never revealed before.
V1 “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory.” He is saying, “I am compelled to boast, normally it is not advantageous.” “Vision” refers to things seen. “Revelations” refers to things heard.
V2 “I knew a man…” Meaning himself, he is writing in the third person. “above fourteen years ago,” literally 14 years ago. This Epistle was written in 55-57 AD, this brings the vision to 41-43 AD, the time of his second visit to Jerusalem Acts 22:17.
V4 “..caught up into paradise…” Literally heaven, the abode of God. Since he designates it as the “third heaven” then we can extrapolate that the second heaven is outer space of the constellations, and the first heaven is where the birds fly. “Unspeakable” Not in themselves, otherwise Paul could not have heard them; but as the explanation states, “Which is not lawful for a man to utter.” They were for Paul’s personal comfort, not communication to others. Much like, a person may hear and know more than they can communicate to others.
Imagine, Paul had actually been in the presence of the Lord, but for fourteen years he kept it to himself. Even at this writing he is reluctant to let people know about it. He doesn’t capitalize on his experience, no plans for a made-for TV movie, no book coming out. He was forced to tell this experience to defend his Apostleship. So, we have three eye witness reports about heaven: John on the Island of Patmos was caught up into heaven, he wrote about what he heard and saw; Paul went up to heaven and said nothing about what he heard and saw; Jesus came down from–The Third Heaven–and said more than anyone, and we know his account is true.