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A Foretaste

In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, the apostle Paul revealed to the Corinthian church an experience he had 14 years earlier wherein he was “caught up” into paradise, the third heaven. Paul could not recollect whether it was an out-of-body experience, or whether Jesus had transported his body. Many believe this happened when he was stoned, left for dead outside the city of Lystra (Acts 14:19-20). 

Paul said he “HEARD unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (12:4). Was Paul saying (1) he would be in violation of a heavenly trust if he shared what he HEARD, or (2) human language was incapable of capturing its essence? 

Contrast this with the vision of Isaiah when he saw the LORD “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1-9). In that passage, Isaiah shares what he SAW, what he HEARD, things he SAID and what the Lord SAID to him. But in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says nothing about what he might have seen, and nothing about what he actually HEARD, except that it would be unlawful for him to attempt to share it. 

Think about it! If Isaiah was able to reveal the glories of his vision—things both SEEN and HEARD, how marvelous, how transcendent must have been the things Paul HEARD but was unable to reveal? Note Paul did NOT say he couldn’t remember what he HEARD, but that he was simply not at liberty to share it with another human. 

God gave Paul a FORETASTE of glory to come beyond this life that I’m sure served as a motivator to keep him faithful despite the “infirmities” he endured during his ministry. When the Romans were about to sever his head from his body, perhaps he recalled what he had HEARD years earlier and what he was about to HEAR again. One day we believers in Jesus will get to HEAR the things Paul HEARD. 

Another truth we learn by contrasting Isaiah’s vision with Paul’s is that what a man does in response to what he HEARS is far more significant than what he does based on what he SEES! Faith comes by HEARING, and HEARING by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). And without faith, it is impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6).


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