The Berean Expositor
Volume 48 - Page 44 of 181
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The Second Epistle to the Corinthians
12: 1 - 10.
pp. 6 - 10
We continue with our consideration of Paul's vindication of his ministry with respect
to his opponents in the Corinthian church. He has already shown that this ministry was
more than equal to that of his critics both in faithfulness and personal suffering and
In chapter 12: he passes on to visions and revelations of the Lord. This suggests that
his enemies were also claiming to have such visions and revelations, but here again his
experience far outweighed theirs. He is so averse to personal boasting and the exaltation
of self that he begins to speak of himself impersonally:
"I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I know not; or
whether out of the body, I know not; God knoweth), such a one caught up even to the
third heaven" (II Cor. 12: 2, R.V.).
The A.V. "I knew a man" is incorrect here and also in verse 3. This gives the
impression that the man referred to was no longer known to Paul!
We have already noted that the book of the Acts records a number of appearances of
the Lord Jesus to the Apostle, but the one he is dealing with here cannot be equated with
any of these, unless we add our own thoughts and ideas to Luke's narrative, and this we
refuse to do. Nor must we make the mistake of identifying these `fourteen years' with
the fourteen years of Gal. 2: 1. If we go back from the probable date of the epistle we
arrive at the time when Paul was sent to Tarsus and then fetched by Barnabas from
Tarsus to Antioch (Acts 9: 30; 11: 25).  About this time he was caught away to the
third heaven. The Greek verb is found in Acts 8: 39 where it is stated that "the Spirit
of the Lord caught away Philip" who was found later on at Azotus. It is also used in
I Thess. 4: 17 which describes the Lord's parousia, His arrival on the earth, to set up the
earthly Kingdom. Those believers who are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet
the Lord in the air and then return with Him in His triumphal procession to the earth in
power and great glory attended by the angels of heaven.
The expressions `the third heaven' occurs only here in the N.T., but one must not
forget the phrase `all heavens' in Eph. 4: 10 in connection with the Lord's ascension.
While we sometimes read of heaven in the singular in the Bible, describing the whole
heavenly sphere, yet this is obviously subdivided into sections, otherwise Eph. 4: 10
and II Cor. 12: 2 are meaningless. We cannot tell how many sections there are, for this
is not revealed*, but there must be at least three or more. Peter, in his second epistles
refers to (1) the heavens that were of old [II Pet. 3: 5], (2) the heavens and the earth that
are now [verse 7] and (3) a new heaven and a new earth yet to be created wherein
dwelleth righteousness [verse 13].
{* - It is interesting to know that in Jewish writing about the time of Christ, seven heavens were
enumerated. cf. The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, "The Testament of Levi", chapter 3.}