Let’s read 2 Corinthians 12:1-6, “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.”

In this portion, the Apostle Paul speaks of how he ‘knew a man’ and speaks of an incident that had happened fourteen years earlier. He speaks of a man who was “caught up to the third heaven.” Paul is not able to discern whether the body of this man was taken to heaven, or whether his spirit was taken to heaven. As we continue to read of this incident, it becomes obvious that Paul is speaking of Himself. It was he that was caught up to the third heaven, the place of God’s abode.

Because of false teachers that had come among the Corinthians and had largely been accepted as authoritative, Paul realized the need to defend his apostleship. We read in 2 Corinthians 10:8, “For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed.” He had already defended his authority and apostleship in his first letter to the Corinthians. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:1, “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?” In this second letter to the Corinthians, he must defend himself against the false teachers. In chapter 11, he speaks of how he had suffered so greatly because of the responsibility that had been put upon him by the Lord. I encourage you to read chapters 10-12 to get a good understanding of what is being said by Paul as he was led of the Lord to write. In chapter 11, Paul stated that if he must draw attention to himself to prove his apostleship, he would glory only in his infirmities, or sufferings. He then relates a humiliating event in verses 32-33, “In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.”

How mortifying it must have been for this apostle to have to be put into a basket and let down outside the wall of the city to escape with his life! Yet, he endured such things for the sake of the Gospel. Then, he goes to the opposite extreme in chapter 12, telling of how he was transported into Heaven. This event was so astounding that he couldn’t even tell if he was there in the body, or just in his spirit. In his humility, Paul spoke of himself in the third person, “I knew a man.” This is not so unusual. Consider how John described himself in John 13:23, “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.” We know, of course, that John never mentions his own name in his Gospel, but humbly refers to himself as the one whom Jesus loved. Paul had kept this story to himself for 14 years without ever mentioning it. But now, in order to show his true authority, he speaks of it. When did this happen? Scholars differ on when this incident might have occurred, but many agree that it most likely happened as recorded in Acts 22:17, “And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance.” Considering the date of the writing of this epistle and the date of Paul’s return to Jerusalem, it is possible that this is when Paul’s visit to Heaven occurred.


Finally, let’s read 2 Corinthians 12:7, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” As Paul relates his story, it becomes evident in this verse that he was speaking of himself. (241.6)