Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 2 * BOOK 32
PAUL’S GLIMPSE OF GLORY – PART 2
We’ll pick right up where we left off, and were going back for a moment to II Corinthians Chapter 12. Then we’ll go back and look at our other reference with regard to verse 2.
II Corinthians 12:2
“I know a man in Christ (in other words a true born again believer) above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.”
I was in the process of showing how the Scriptures lay out all three of the heavens. We looked at the verse about the first heaven in Genesis at the close of the last lesson. Now if you will go back with me to the Book of Deuteronomy Chapter 4. Remember the first heaven refers to our atmosphere. But the second heaven is the area of the stars, and we get a view of that in verse 19.
“And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars even all the host of heaven,…”
Now that’s not the Heaven that we normally think of as the abode of God, but rather the second heaven. It’s not the area where the birds fly, and it’s certainly not the abode of God. Now if we can come back to II Corinthians we will find that Paul will delineate the third Heaven as being Paradise. Again we will chase down some Scriptures on Paradise. But for now II Corinthians Chapter 12, and going on into verse 3.
II Corinthians 12:3,4a
“And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4. How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful (or permitted) for a man to utter…”(or repeat)
Now we have to get an understanding of Paradise in the Old Testament and New Testament to realize that the apostle here is so in accord with all of Scripture. You remember when we were teaching these things in the Old Testament we taught that in the Old Testament economy the atonement Blood of Christ had not yet been shed, and animals blood could not do anything but cover the sin. So the Old Testament believer could not go up into the presence of God when he died, but rather he went down into Paradise. We’re going to show you now that this is the right direction to look at it. Here in Matthew 12 we find Christ is in His earthly ministry. Jesus is speaking.
“But he answered and said unto them, `An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas; 40. For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.'”
So the moment Jesus died He went down, not up. So everything concerning Paradise in the Old Testament economy until after Christ’s resurrection was down to this area in the center of the earth. We get another little window of that in Luke Chapter 16:19. Now I’m sure you’ve all heard sermons on this so I’m not showing you anything new. All of this helps us understand what Paul now teaches with regard to Paradise compared to what it was in the Old Testament and during Christ’s earthly ministry.
“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores. 21. And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23. And in hell…”
Hell in the Old Testament in the Hebrew word was ‘Sheol,’ in the Greek it was Hades, in English it’s hell. They all mean the same thing. All three of these words ware simply the abode of those who had departed this life. A lot of people go to churches who use the apostles creed, and they ask the question, “What does it mean when we repeat our creed, and it says that we believe that Jesus died, was buried, and descended into hell. Do you mean that Jesus when He died went down into hell fire?” No He did not go into hell fire. But Jesus did go down into the Paradise side of hell. And here is what I’m talking about in this passage.
“And in hell he (the rich man) lift up his eyes, being in torment, (he was an unbeliever) and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (two believers) 24. And he cried and said, `Father Abraham, (the rich man must have been a Jew to say that) have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25. But Abraham (he, too, is in hell, but not in the torment side but rather the Paradise side.) said, `Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.’ 27. Then he said, `I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: 28. For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29. Abraham saith unto him, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30. And he said, `Nay father Abraham; but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31. And he said unto him, `If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.'”
So remember in hell at that time one side was torment and the other side was Paradise. Now come back for a moment to the Book of Ephesians Chapter 4, and we’ll see what happened. And while you’re looking for Ephesians I’ll remind you of another statement that Jesus made from the Cross. And one of the thieves was talking to Jesus.
“And he said unto Jesus, `Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.’ 43. And Jesus said unto him, `Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.'”
In Paradise that day they went down and joined the saints that were waiting for this great work of atonement. Now since the atoning Blood had been shed and Christ has spent these three days and nights in Paradise, now look what Paul says happened.
“Wherefore he saith, `When he ascended up on high, [that is after His resurrection] he led captivity captive, [well who had been in captivity? Well those believing Old Testament saints. They were held in the Paradise side of hell waiting for the atoning Blood. which had now been shed.] and gave gifts unto men. 9. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10. He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)”
See how that fits with Jesus’ account in Matthew Chapter 12? And here Paul puts the cap stone on it that before Jesus ascended to glory, He descended into Paradise and took those who were captive with Him.
Now come back with me to II Corinthians Chapter 12. Now when Paul says that when he went up to Paradise, you see this is confirmation of the fact that Paradise is no longer down in the center of the earth, but now it’s in glory. In fact let’s look for a moment at II Corinthians Chapter 5. Now here is the lot of the present day believer when they die. It has been ever since Christ ascended.
II Corinthians 5:8
“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
Now if he’s going to be present with the Lord, where is he hoping to go? Paradise! Because Paradise is now in Heaven as we understand Heaven. Have you got that? Now coming back to Chapter 12. Paul has now gotten a glimpse of Heaven as we normally think of Heaven. With all of it’s beauty, and no doubt with all of the music. Now I love good music, and I think when we hear good music here on earth that it’s just a sampling of what we’re going to experience when we get to glory. Now, evidently, Paul had full exposure to all this. He saw the glories, he heard the magnificent things as we see in verse 4.
II Corinthians 12:4
“How that he was caught up into paradise, (into the third Heaven) and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”
In other words God said, “All right Paul I’m letting you see and hear, but you can’t repeat it, you have to keep it to yourself.” Now verse 5.
II Corinthians 12:5,6
“Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 6. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; (Paul is remembering what God had instructed) for I say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be or that he heareth of me.”
What’s Paul saying? If God had permitted him to repeat what he had seen and heard, what would the human race have done with the apostle Paul? They would have worshipped him. The apostle Paul is just as human as you and I. Never does Paul expect worship from any of his converts. He’s not God. So this is one of the failures of mankind, and this is why I’m sure that Noah’s Ark has never been discovered. You know what would have happened. The world would flock to worship something like that, and the same way with many other things that God has seen fit to keep hidden because of the way the human heart is. Well if Paul could have rehearsed with any of his people, or even to the Roman world in general, of what he had seen and heard they would have fallen down and worshipped him, so God wouldn’t permit that. So He put the stigma on Paul that he couldn’t repeat what he had seen and heard.
Now again this happened fourteen years back from where we are studying. Now put all this together. When this man was going through intense suffering, from whippings and so forth what do you think constantly sustained him? What he saw and heard in glory. And on top of that how many times the Lord Jesus appeared unto him like he did at Corinth, when the Lord said unto him, “Don’t give up Paul, I have a great number of people in this place.” And the time they were about to be shipwrecked on that trip to Rome and a lot of the prisoners were about to be put to death for fear they would escape. That’s when Paul just brought everything under control and said, “Look, God has appeared to me and not a life is going to be lost.” So the Lord Jesus communicated with him often. Paul had these things of the supernatural to compensate for all his trials and all of his sufferings. Now you and I don’t have that, but he did, and so when he would come through these beatings he could just remind himself, “But just look what I’ve got coming.” Let’s go back to the Book of Romans for a moment and look at Chapter 8 and we’ll begin with verse 18. Romans was probably written about 10 years after Paul got a glimpse of glory. So now look how he could write with full understanding, even though it’s inspired by the Holy Spirit.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time (see how plain that is now?) are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Believers just can’t seem to get that through their heads. Even though we may shun a lot of the world’s pleasures, and we may not enjoy some of the things that the world thinks are enjoyable, is it worth it? Well you better believe it. Because no matter what we suffer even if we suffered to the extent that the apostle Paul suffered, we would still be able to say, “Oh but it’s worth it because of the glory that is waiting for us.” And it’s not just going to be seventy years to compensate for seventy years down here, but rather it’s forever. Some pastor in our audience sent me a chart that he had made and an at the very end of the chart he had eternity, ages upon ages, a time without end. We may have to suffer yet some day, we don’t know, but if we do that’s what has to hold us up. No matter how much we suffer it’s going to be worth it all, because of the glory that’s going to be revealed to us someday. Now there is also another scripture that we can use for this in I Corinthians Chapter 2. And again, remember this was written long after this tremendous experience. And I’m not taking away from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I feel every word in this Book is Holy Spirit breathed, but remember, as men wrote their personality, their personal feelings were also evident.
I Corinthians 2:9
“But as it is written, `Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.'”
What a promise, and God can’t lie. So we can rest on it that the day is coming when we are going to experience things like what Paul had the privilege to see. I think Paul was just bursting to tell us what he had seen back here in II Corinthians Chapter 12. Oh how he would like to have shared at least some of it, but he couldn’t, and that’s the reason because they would have worshipped him. Now coming back to II Corinthians Chapter 12. To make sure that Paul never forgot what does God do? Gives him a thorn in the flesh.
II Corinthians 12:7
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations,…”
See how plain that is when you know now what he is talking about? What was the abundance of the revelations? Well, first the revelations of these doctrines of Grace, the Gospel, and the Church Age teachings that he got to share, but on top of that he got a glimpse of glory, a revelation, and the man is bursting to tell about that experience. And yet God says in so many words, that, “I don’t want you to get the big head, I don’t want you to get proud, and so I’m going to give you a thorn in the flesh to keep you humble.”
II Corinthians 12:7b
“…there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”
Now the Greek makes it so much stronger. I’m not a Greek scholar, but a few of these verses I go back and do a little study on. Do you know what Paul is actually calling here this thorn in the flesh? It was like being crucified. It was that kind of a constant pain. It was as if he was constantly suffering crucifixion. Now that is what the Greek actually implies. In order to keep Paul humble, the Lord had given him a thorn in the flesh that was like an impalement that he had to live with: and he’s already had it over fourteen years. And we have to assume that he carried it to his death. Now there’s a lot of controversy from various points of view as to what his thorn in the flesh was. Some of them are absurd, and some make some sense, but the one that I still stand on is this: I think he had a vicious case of pink eye. It was very common in the ancient world and they didn’t have the antibiotics and so forth, and it would lead to his repulsive appearance. Those matterly eyes effected his eye sight as we see in the Book of Galatians.
“Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.”
Why would they want to give him their eyes if he didn’t have a need for them? Then the next one is in Chapter 6.
“Ye see how large a letter (large print) I have written unto you with mine own hand.”
Who uses large print? Blind people.