Caught up to the Third Heaven
Caught up to the Third Heaven
Words of Faith 12-22-17
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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2 Corinthians 12
I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows.  And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows--  was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.  I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.  Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.
How does one express their personal sense of call and vision without sounding haughty? It was a particularly difficult task for Paul considering all that God had done in his life. He was so utterly humbled by all that God had done in his life and all that God had revealed to him that he was reluctant to even share the experience. But he knew that his vision for the Gentile world was absolutely from God and his call of apostleship was rock solid.
Paul's amazing faith was grounded in his initial encounter with the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus. But this faith was deepened and cemented by a rapture experience that had occurred 14 years earlier before the start of the missionary journeys. He was "taken up" and shown the dwelling place of Christ and the believers who have died.
Some of what Paul heard he was forbidden to communicate, but some things revealed may have formed the foundation of Paul's theological brilliance that became Word of God for us.
No matter how dramatic this experience was, Paul realized that it was not something to boast about because it was a gift from God. The rapture experience was not in any way something he had earned or deserved. He was not somehow "meritorious.” This revelation was a matter of God's choosing that Paul should be the one to see and hear these things.
The experience no doubt contributed to Paul's conviction that "our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Cor. 4:17). When you have seen the glory of heaven, it changes the perspective on everything! It is not that this world does not matter any more, but that it matters only in how it relates to and points to eternity.
The depth of what the Apostle Paul had received from God can hardly be overestimated. He had a personal invitation from Jesus to get into the game. Then he had a personal revelation of grace that profoundly shaped half of the New Testament and all of the church for twenty centuries and a picture of heaven to drive him forward. He was not just another guy out there preaching some new spin or offering another sermon series. And the Corinthian believers needed to realize this.
Aside from being a marvelous revelation of who the Apostle Paul was and the things that shaped him, there is much that we can gather from this passage.
The image of paradise is so magnificent that it is indescribable. We need to hear that. The reality of eternity and a destiny with God puts everything into perspective. People of the world live as if there is no eternity and no resurrection after this life. Jesus told the Sadducees that this was a bad mistake (Mark 12:27). We are called to live as people that have an eternal view on things. We need to keep eternity in sight even as we deal with momentary troubles and
We need to listen to those who are called, not just those who say they are. We need to listen for those who have a genuine calling in their lives. They may not be the apostle Paul but they have a heart captivated by God. They may not operate in the same way as others or look successful in the way the world defines success, but if the heart is captured by God this is what matters.
We need to avoid leafy religion that has no fruit. This is what Jesus judged in the cursing of the fig tree (Mark 11:13-14, 20). The false apostles were leafy. They had all the credentials and pizzazz that one could want but they had no genuine right or calling to be ministering among the people of God.
Father God, thank You for the testimony of Paul. Thank You for the revelations that came to him and shaped him. Thank You for his humility, candor and caution. Help me to be shaped in similar ways by the Word of God and Your Spirit. Set my mind and heart on eternity while focusing me on my purpose here. In Jesus' Name.