"The Vision of Paradise"
"It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago — whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows — such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me".
"The Thorn in the Flesh"
" And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong".
"Signs of an Apostle"
"I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds. For what is it in which you were inferior to other churches, except that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong!"
"Love for the Church"
"Now for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.
But be that as it may, I did not burden you. Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you by cunning! Did I take advantage of you by any of those whom I sent to you? I urged Titus, and sent our brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?
Again, do you think that we excuse ourselves to you? We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification. For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbiting, whispering, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced. (NKJV)_
Paul's Vision: "3rd heaven" Paul's affliction: “A Thorn In the Flesh”
I. Paul’s Vision: “Caught Up in Heaven” (Verse 1-6)
A. Since you have issues with my boasting…and accuse me of being a braggart.
Rather than brag I’ll share….. (vs.1)
Note: Paul in Chapter 11 had already given one instance of infirmity and persecution which might expose him to ridicule in 2 Corinthians 11:33. Now gives another one connected with a glorious revelation; but he dwells not on the glory to himself here, but on the infirmity which followed it, as displaying Christ's, power.
1. A “vision” I had. “Visions” are ”Symbolic” representations of “spiritual” and “celestial” (angelic) things, in which God conveys those “matters” that of the “deepest importance” to the individual are displayed to the “eye” of the mind (imagination) of a person by a variety of emblems, (signs, symbols, actions and behaviors of the people, animals, places or objects in whole, part, in contrast of , or in harmony with the nature and properties of which serve to illustrate those “spiritual things”.
2. “Revelations” An “oral” revealing of events through words, symbolic language, or speech from God which promises a “manifestation” of people, judgments, events, or things that were not known before that only God can both make known and bring to pass. That is because these revelations are a part of His inscrutable counsel.
B. The Vision: “A Man in Christ in Heaven” (vs. 2-6)
1. Happened about 14 years ago (between 41 and 43 AD.) (2 Corinthians was written about 55-57 AD.) This was his second visit to Jerusalem according to Acts 22:17. (vs. 2)
2. May or may not have been an “out of body experience”- Paul was either in a “glorified state” with a “glorified body” and out of his physical body or he was in his physical body and “caught up” (raptured) into the 3rd heaven Either way Paul was serious about what he said happened! (vs. 3)
3. Paul heard words in paradise he was not permitted to repeat or was not capable of speaking (unutterable by mortal man) In other words; Paul meant to say that he could not attempt by words to do justice to what he saw and heard. The use of the word "words" here would seem to imply that he heard the language of exalted praise; or that there were truths imparted to his mind which he could not hope to convey in any language spoken by people.
4. Paul declared that he will only “boast” in his “infirmities” and speak the truth (vs.4-6)
For your Information: In concerning the rapture Paul experienced, it happened in 2stages:
1. Paul was caught up into 3rd heaven first and was limited as to what he was permitted to see in the 3rd heaven. (because he was to return to earth and complete his living and missionary journey)
2. From “ the 3rd heaven, Paul was then caught up into “paradise” which is a place in the innermost realm of where the throne of Jehovah and heaven resides according to Luke 23:43 and Revelation 2:7. (The “tree” of Life is located in God’s paradise)
3. Concerning “Heaven” itself, according to Scripture, there are 3 known heavens.
a. 1st heaven makes up the atmosphere, the stratosphere and the clouds.
b. 2nd heaven makes up the planets and their moons as well as the solar system(s).
c. 3rd heaven is where the Glory of God shines continually and where His “reigning” throne is located. Heaven is described as having streets paved with gold, having 12 gates. 24 reigning elders. And a city that is 4 squared.
4. Concerning Paul not describing heaven or what he heard, there are at least 5 possible reasons what he didn’t:
(a) This encounter of heaven was designed to give Paul much needed divine support from God because of the many fiery he was about to endure.
God called him to a great missionary work that required tremendous dedication and was very laborious, required him to travel to foreign lands and ultimately cost him his life. According to Barnes Notes Commentary, “God gave him such views of heaven that he would be supported in his trials by a conviction of the undoubted truth of what he taught, and by the prospect of certain glory when his labors should end”. It was for his eyes only and not to be shared or talked about in detail.
(b) It is always difficult to describe what we have not seen, even on earth, so that we shall have any very clear idea of it:
The same would be true of heaven. Even though we read in the Bible the way heaven is described, it’s still difficult (based on the way we imagine it to be) to accurately describe heaven in detail with our weak faith being what it is
(c) There are great truths which it is not the design of God to reveal to human beings.
The object is to communicate enough to win us, to comfort us, to support our faith, not to reveal all. In eternity there must be boundless truths and glories which are not needful for us to know now, and which, on many accounts, it would not be proper to be revealed to man. The question is not, do we know all, but have we enough safely to guide us to heaven, and to comfort us in the trials of life.
(d) There is enough revealed of heaven for our guidance and comfort in this world. God has told us what it will be in general.
It will be a world without sin; without tears; without wrong, injustice, fraud, or wars; without disease, pestilence, plague, death; and it is easy to fill up the picture sufficiently for all our purposes. Our “finite” view of heaven should be a world where all shall be pure and holy, free from all that we now behold that is evil, free from pain, disease, and death. Heaven is a world where "friends never depart, and enemies never come;" a world of harmony and love—an eternal place where the wicked will cease from troubling and the weary shall be at eternal rest. Our highest hopes are met when we can keep heaven in our view while we are tried and persecuted down here on earth.
(e) God’s purpose is simply that we shall here walk by faith and not by sight.
We are not to see the reward, nor to be told fully what it is. We are to have such confidence in God that we shall assuredly believe that, he will fully reward and bless us, and under this confidence we are to live and act here below. God designs, to try our faith, and to furnish abundant evidence that his people are disposed to obey his commands and to put their trust in his faithfulness. Besides, if all the glories of heaven were revealed; if all were told that might be; and if heaven were made as attractive to mortal view as possible, then it might appear that his professed people were influenced solely by the hope of the reward. “Eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things God has laid up for them that love Him.
II. “Thorn in the Flesh” A “Satanic” Messenger (verses 7-10)
A. The “thorn” was given
1. To prevent “self exaltation” above measure. (Big-headed) self-lifting, esteeming yourself higher than you should.
2. Too much fondness of friends- neglect of the mission given by God.
3. To keep his “pride” in check. We see through a glass darkly.
4. Paul sought the Lord 3 times to remove the thorn. (vs.8)
5. God denied the request and simply said: “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness”! (vs.9)
B. For this reason: Paul said: (vs.10)
1. I will boast in my infirmities so the “power” of Christ can rest upon me.
2. So I can take pleasure in my infirmities (in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses), for Christ's sake.
3. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
III. The “Signs” of an Apostle (verses 11-13)
1. “I had to vindicate myself!” You should have “commended” me. (given me credit) even though I have given among you the most ample proof of my apostolic commission. (vs.11)
2. Signs, wonders, working “Miracles” evidence of my Apostleship. (vs.12)
3. I have conferred on you the highest favors of the apostolic office. In these respects you are superior to all other churches. In one respect only are you inferior-it is in this, that you have not been burdened with the privilege of supporting me. If you had had this, you would have been inferior to no others. (vs. 13)
IV. Paul’s Love for the Church (verses 14-21)
A. Concerning all Accusations against Paul: Paul’s responses
1. I’m coming a 3rd time seeking for you to be saved , not your property (money) unlike those false apostles who you embraced who came after your property (money) and not concerned about your salvation from sin. (vs. 14)
2. I’m coming as a “loving” father would give all he had for his children even though I don’t receive the same love in return from you. (vs.15).
3. I haven’t burdened you, even though you accuse me of being about making money off the fellowship (filthy lucre) tricking you with deception by having others take up a collection for me even though I didn’t get it directly from you. (vs.16)
4. I haven’t financially benefitted from you by sending any preacher to work with you and for you to pay them so they can pay me. (vs. 17)
5. I only sent Titus to you and he treated you the same way I have. (vs. 18)
B. Owing No Apologies Concerning our ”alleged behavior (verses 19-21)
1. We make no apologies for our conduct. We did nothing wrong to you. I did not send Titus to you because I was ashamed or afraid to come to you. What we did, we did it for your edifying. (vs.19)
2. I SENT Titus because I didn’t want to come and find you still living perverted lives. And have to come as a disciplinarian and not as a loving friend. (vs.20)
3. And when I come again, I fear that God will humble me and allow me to be affected with deep sorrow by what you still might be doing, in the same manner that I have been buffeted by the apostles of Satan who have perverted your minds. There are some of you who haven’t repented yet! There is still a total relaxation of church discipline. I’d hoped not to find debates, envy, wraths, strife, backbiting, whisperings, swellings, tumults and seditions.: (vs. 21)
There had to been a total relaxing of discipline in the Corinthian church. How else such abominations could not have been tolerated in the Christian church. Even though what’s implied here in this verse could only been in the case of a few; yet the many were still not properly disciplined, else these were cast out. On the whole, this church seems to have been a composition of excellences and defects, of vices and virtues; and would not serve as a genuine model for a Christian church.
Dr. William Edward Boddie