Paul Spent Time with God in the Spiritual Realm and So Can We
In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth he makes a cryptic statement about going to the third heaven. He doesn’t know if it’s an out of body experience or not (2 Corinthians 12:2).
This is the only verse in the Bible that uses the phrase third heaven. What does it mean? By looking at other uses of heaven in the Bible, we find three applications.
- Sometimes heaven refers to the sky. This is the first use of heaven.
- Other times heaven refers to the sun, moon, and stars. This is the second use of heaven.
- Another instance refers to God’s dwelling place. This is the third use of heaven.
This means that Paul went to heaven for a time—whether in body or in spirit, he’s not sure—and then returned to earth. It seems too fantastic to be true.
I’ve not told this to too many people, but I believe I’ve also been to the third heaven. Several times. Like Paul I’m not sure if this was in my body or out of it. Though a few times I did have a physical form when I was there.
At first, I only had a fleeting awareness of my presence in heaven before returning to earth. Sometimes I’d bow at the foot of Father God’s throne, stretching out my hand to touch his foot in reverence. Occasionally I’d succeed, but usually my straining to reach the Almighty fell just a bit short.
After that I had a couple of longer experiences in the third heaven. I can’t describe them other than to say they were glorious and euphoric. I didn’t want to leave. These occurred when I was fasting and praying.
Then one day—again while fasting and praying—I desired to visit heaven, but God said no. He explained that if he allowed me to return, I’d want to spend too much time there, which would detract from what he wants me to do here on earth. I get that. He was right, of course.
One day—when my work here is done—I will return to heaven and stay there forever. It will be glorious, euphoric, and so much more—too wonderful to describe or comprehend.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.
Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.
One reply on “The Third Heaven”
Personally, I think Paul was thinking of Cephas’ visionary experience because of the references “in Christ” and “God knows” and because this is the 2nd letter to the Corinthians. Here’s the third heaven passage in 2 Corinthians verse 12: “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 it I do not know, but God knows.”
In Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians 1: 11-13, Paul writes: ‘…some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: Individuals among you are saying, “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos,” “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?’
Paul answers this question in a letter to the Galatians saying: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Whether or not people are still alive when they have altered states of consciousness is still an ongoing debate. When they regain consciousness, they relate what they saw and heard as you did Peter. However, I think what Paul, Cephas and Apollos were about was offering proof…that the Messiah had come in an indivisible triune form that was eternal.
Paul wrote to the 1 Thessalonians 4: saying. “we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who are without hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we also believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. By the word of the Lord, we declare to you that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will be the first to rise. After that, we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.
So perhaps the 3rd heaven is an altered state of reality when one has lost touch with one’s body or has left it temporarily. And perhaps Paul was thinking about the eternal reality that dawns with the second coming of Christ. When people wake up from their slumber, some will have been asleep for centuries and they will wake up first and of course they will have a new body. Others who died “clinically” or had an out of body experience…will come back to consciousness and have the same body, and will likely have a renewed sense of purpose and wonder.
Whether or not this is only an “in the air” experience is a matter of faith because Paul also writes in the first letter to the Corinthians: “For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men.(1 Corinthians 15: 16-19)
So I think being alive in Christ means believing and trusting that you will keep falling asleep and waking up as a new creation as long as there are disciples “rooted in the Bible and the Gospel” who believe and encourage one another to believe Christ was raised.
Therefore Peter. Thank you for writing and encouraging your readers to READ the BIBLE so that they will be conscious and deliberate about their faith.