Question: In your article on heaven, May 2011, you stated that the man in 2 Corinthians 12:2 was "no doubt" Paul himself. |

Question: In your article on heaven, May 2011, you stated that the man in 2 Corinthians 12:2 was "no doubt" Paul himself.

TBC Staff

Question: In your article on heaven, May 2011, you stated that the man in 2 Corinthians:12:2 was "no doubt" Paul himself. May I ask for some clarification? Paul had stated that the prophets never lose mental control (1 Corinthians 14:32). They did not go into trances, comas, or out-of-body experiences. If that is a true interpretation, then Paul would have known whether he was in the body or out of the body. There was a person who had such an experience in Revelation:10:1-4. John was also caught up into the third heaven (Revelation:1:10) and given words he could not reveal--the third heaven, not pertaining to altitude, but time, as Peter explained in 2 Peter:3:6,7,13. As best as I can interpret, Paul never spoke of himself in the third person, as the case would be in 2 Corinthians 12. It seems that 2 Corinthians:12:5 clarifies beyond doubt that this man was not Paul. If I am missing something, please let me know.

Response: It seems very likely to be the case that the Apostle Paul is referring to himself in 2 Corinthians:12:2-7. First of all, it is a very personal account of an exalted experience, and Paul, in his humility, seems to use the third person to temper any glory that might be bestowed upon him. Verse 7 clearly indicates his reluctance to boast lest he himself be exalted. Why should Paul himself need a "thorn in the flesh" if he were speaking of another man's revelation?

Additionally, it would certainly not be out of characternor out of biblical contextfor Paul to speak of himself in the third person. John ("the beloved") appears to have done so (John 13:23;19:26;20:2;21:7, 21:20). In like manner, Paul wrote, "Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities...lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me" (2 Corinthians:12:5-6).

Regarding your statement that "prophets never lose mental control," you've missed the context of 1 Corinthians:14:32: "And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets." That verse simply indicates that the prophets, i.e., teachers or preachers, have control of what they say and when they are to say it, so that there is no confusion or disorder in a gathering of believers. Acts 10:10 and 11:5 declare that Paul and Peter, both prophets, had trance experiences.

One of the most striking aspects of this entire account is that while Paul clearly intended to speak about "visions and revelations of the Lord" (v. 1), in the end, he not only "failed" to describe what he saw, but he was also forbidden to repeat what he had heard! (Obviously, he was redirected by the Holy Spirit, in much the same manner as was Jude in verse 3 of his epistle).

The Word of God gives many examples of believers who have had supernatural spiritual experiences. We know that what they experienced was true because it was reported to us in the Scriptures, God's objective truth. Spiritual experiences in the Lord for believers today are personal and subjective and therefore cannot always be validated objectively. Two criteria that must be applied are: 1) Are the experiences supported by Scripture in general through teaching or example? and 2) Is the specific content reflective of the character of God, His Word, and His love for those who have committed or will commit their lives to Him? Allowing spiritual experiences to take precedence over God's Word will lead one down an experiential or mystical pathway to delusion and worse.