Boasting is necessary. It is not profitable, but I will move on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who was caught up into the third heaven 14 years ago. Whether he was in the body or out of the body, I don’t know, God knows. 3 I know that this man—whether in the body or out of the body I don’t know, God knows— 4 was caught up into paradise. He heard inexpressible words, which a man is not allowed to speak. 2 Corinthians 12:1-4
What? The third heaven? Right here in the middle of Paul’s commentary on boasting he throws in something unusual I had never noticed. The third heaven? I knew this needed more researching. Eager to understand, I whispered in the middle of our home school classes to a close friend and asked, “What’s the deal with this third heaven?” (Sometimes you just can’t wait). She didn’t have the answer, but we had a quiet discussion about it and I researched it later (as did she). This is another beautiful thing about the word of God. It sparks conversation, wonder and discussions with others that can bring us closer to Christ.
I discovered that the Jews call the sky “first Heaven”, space and the stars are the second Heaven and everything beyond that is the third Heaven. Essentially, Third Heaven is what most of us consider “Heaven” and where our Creator and his angels reside.
I had never considered this aspect of Jewish culture. If I’ve learned nothing else this year, I’ve discovered that one or two small words can bring great understanding if we pause, reflect and dig deeper into their meaning.
It’s quit an example really, here Paul is telling the crowds about a man who was caught up in Heaven. He isn’t sure if he actually went physically or if it was just a vision, but he is positive he saw paradise and returned to tell about it. Was it what we call a near death experience? Was he just a privileged prophet who was allowed a vision of Heaven? It isn’t clear, but I’m thankful those two little words (third heaven) stopped me in my tracks as I read 2 Corinthians and spurred me on to greater knowledge of the Jewish people and the word of God. To me, this is why the Bible is truly a living book, every single time I pick it up there is something new to discover or something I’ve overlooked in the past. I wonder what else God has in store for us this week in our study of His word?