II Corinthians 12:1-10
I (the apostle Paul) must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29007A" data-link="(A)”>revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29008B" data-link="(B)”>in Christ who fourteen years ago was <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29008C" data-link="(C)”>caught up to <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29008D" data-link="(D)”>the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29008E" data-link="(E)”>God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29009F" data-link="(F)”>paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29009G" data-link="(G)”>God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29011H" data-link="(H)”>except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29012I" data-link="(I)”>I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.
7 So <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29013J" data-link="(J)”>to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-ESV-29013a" data-link="[a]”>[a] <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29013K" data-link="(K)”>a thorn was given me in the flesh, <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29013L" data-link="(L)”>a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29014M" data-link="(M)”>Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29015N" data-link="(N)”>“My grace is sufficient for you, for <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29015O" data-link="(O)”>my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29015P" data-link="(P)”>the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29016Q" data-link="(Q)”>For the sake of Christ, then, <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29016R" data-link="(R)”>I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29016S" data-link="(S)”>when I am weak, then I am strong.
Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary:
There can be no doubt the apostle speaks of himself. Whether heavenly things were brought down to him, while his body was in a trance, as in the case of ancient prophets; or whether his soul was dislodged from the body for a time, and taken up into heaven, or whether he was taken up, body and soul together, he knew not. We are not capable, nor is it fit we should yet know, the particulars of that glorious place and state. He did not attempt to publish to the world what he had heard there, but he set forth the doctrine of Christ. On that foundation the church is built, and on that we must build our faith and hope. And while this teaches us to enlarge our expectations of the glory that shall be revealed, it should render us contented with the usual methods of learning the truth and will of God.
Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:
Visions and revelations of the Lord.—It need scarcely be said that the history of the Acts is full of such visions (Acts 9:4-6; Acts 16:9; Acts 18:9; Acts 22:18; Acts 23:11; Acts 27:23). One other instance is referred to in Galatians 2:2. There is scarcely any room for doubt that this also had been made matter of reproach against him, and perhaps urged as a proof of the charge of madness. In the Clementine Homilies—a kind of controversial romance representing the later views of the Ebionite or Judaising party, in which most recent critics have recognised a thinly-veiled attempt to present the characteristic features of St. Paul under the pretence of an attack on Simon Magus, just as the writer of a political novel in modern times might draw the portraits of his rivals under fictitious names—we find stress laid on the alleged claims of Simon to have had communications from the Lord through visions and dreams and outward revelations; and this claim is contrasted with that of Peter, who had personally followed Christ during his ministry on earth (Hom. xvii. 14-20). What was said then, in the form of this elaborate attack, may well have been said before by the more malignant advocates of the same party. The charge of insanity was one easy to make, and of all charges, perhaps, the most difficult to refute by one who gloried in the facts which were alleged as its foundation—who did see visions, and did “speak with tongues” in the ecstasy of adoring rapture (1Corinthians 14:18). It may be noted as an instance of St. Luke’s fairness that he, ignorant of, or ignoring, the charge of madness that had been brought against St. Paul, does not grudge the Apostle of the Circumcision whatever glory might accrue from a true revelation thus made through the medium of a vision (Acts 10:10-11).
Gary: The Apostle Paul was a man of visions and revelations. He even made the assertion that everything he preached had been received by divine revelation directly from Jesus Christ. Paul states in his epistles that he did not learn anything from the other apostles.
The questions is: How do we know that Paul’s revelations and visions came from the All-Mighty Creator…or that Paul was simply mad and invented them in his deranged mind? Ellicot’s commentary above demonstrates that even in his lifetime, there were Jews and Christians who thought Paul was mentally unstable or as we would say today…completely nuts. What proof do we have today, 2,000 years later, that the people in Paul’s day who swore he was a basket case were wrong? Paul even was on the outs with the leader of the apostles, Peter, often making belittling remarks about the Rock, upon which Christ would build his Church.
So if Paul was mad when he believed he was teleported to the Third Heaven, maybe he was equally mad when he saw and heard bright lights speaking to him on the Damascus Road. Christians cling to Paul’s statement “have I not seen the Christ?”. For without Paul’s statement of “seeing” Jesus, we have no other verifiable first hand testimony of anyone seeing the resurrected Jesus.
Are there enough indications both in the writings of Paul’s critics and in his own writings to consider Paul a very non-credible witness? To the unbiased mind, I would have to say, “yes!”.