Updated: Jun 5
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I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
This is the Epistle selection to be read aloud on the sixth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 9], Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. This will follow either the Track 1 pair of readings from 2 Samuel 5 and Psalm 48, where David became King of Israel and occupied Jerusalem and then sang, “Trembling seized them there; they writhed like a woman in childbirth, like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them.” If that pair is not selected, the Track 2 will offer a pairing from Ezekiel 2 and Psalm 123, where Yahweh called to Ezekiel to become His prophet and tell those lost how to be found; with David singing, “To you I lift up my eyes, to you enthroned in the heavens.” All readings will accompany the Gospel reading from Mark 6, where Jesus said, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”
I wrote deeply about this reading and posted a very informative analysis [which can be read on this website] in 2018. It reflects upon the language that is clearly speaking of an out of body experience [OBE]. I conject that the “person in Christ” along with Paul was Barnabas; and, the experience happened after they had been stoned by angry Jews and left in a heap, presumed dead. While in that state of being near dead, their souls left their bodies; although they would return to life, physically recover and continue their ministry.
I strongly urge all who are truly invested in their Christian education to read what I wrote in 2018 here. Based on insights I have just recently had come to me, based on the other reading preceding this one – from Second Samuel and Ezekiel – I will now add to what I posted three years ago. Nothing written in 2018 is invalid because of these new findings; but I see no need to repeat those views that have already been stated, which are also most beneficial.
In the Greek that was written by Paul and translated as “was caught up to the third heaven” and “was caught up into Paradise” a form of the word “harpazó” is used each time. That word means “to seize, catch up, snatch away.” As such, “was caught up” denotes Paul and his fellow in Christ “were seized by force, in an open display of force.” [Strong’s Definition and HELPS Word-studies] This does not mean both displays of force came from the same source, especially since one was relative to “third heaven” and the other to “Paradise.”
The evidence of this comes when Paul clarified the first forcible taking as coming from “this such a thing as far as a third spirits.” Here, the words translated as “third heaven” are making a statement about the “third” of the angels [the “heavenly”] who rebelled against Yahweh and were cast down into the earth. The meaning must be seen as Paul saying it was human beings whose souls were under the influence of these demonic angels that forcibly attempted to stone Paul and Barnabas to death, for the things they were preaching in ministry. Therefore, evil influences forced both souls to leave their bodies of flesh.
When Paul then clarified the second “forcible snatching,” he wrote: “into this Paradise.” In that, the capitalized Greek word “Paradeison” is written, which elevates the meaning to a divine level of understanding that must be recognized. Thus, a word that simply means, “a park, a garden, a paradise,” or (from ancient Persian) “enclosure,” the capitalization makes this be a reference to the Garden of Eden.
In the same way that Paul and Barnabas had their souls forcibly separated from their bodies of flesh, stoned by instruments of Satan in the worldly realm, their souls were then forcibly sent to a place that is part of the worldly realm that has been prepared by Yahweh for pure [clean] souls still in possession of a body of flesh. Whereas neither Paul nor Barnabas were taken as bodies of flesh to this place [because those bodies lay stoned, bloodied and appearing dead], they saw each other’s soul as if still in possession of the bodies of flesh they each recognized as one another. Thus, Paul wrote [twice], “whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows;” saying that because their bodies were so real in this vision that it was impossible to tell the difference between reality and an illusion.
When Paul then wrote he and Barnabas “heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat,” the use of “ēkousen arrēta rhemata” goes beyond “heard things that are not to be told.” The words actually translate to state, “heard [God’s voice as an] unspoken message.” That says the voice of Yahweh filled their souls with insight, beyond what a brain would limit one’s soul from hearing. It says the lesson of Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden likewise did not hear Yahweh speaking to them through audible means. They too "heard the unspoken."
The next segment that follows this, as “ha ouk exon anthrōpō lalēsai,” then confirms this, because rather than saying “that no mortal is permitted to speak,” those words translate as saying, “which not possible a man [one of the human race, thus a soul in a body of flesh] to tell.” The reason “a man” is unable “to tell” what was “heard in unspoken message” is the brain is uncapable of recalling everything that can be exposed divinely to a soul. It is not so much ‘secret stuff’ said by Yahweh, as much as it is the limitations a body of flesh keeping it from processing that which is beyond conscious memory capabilities.
If Paul and Barnabas had been told secrets that could never be told to anyone else, then Paul would have been breaking some unstated pact with God by writing this to the true Christians of Corinth. For him to then write, “I will be speaking the truth,” that says everything his soul “heard [from God’s voice]” would only be the “truth.” As the "truth," it would be foolish for Paul to know “truth” and then be told to keep it to himself. The purpose of ministry is to spread the “truth of Yahweh,” so others will hear “the truth” and be led to their own close personal relationship with Yahweh. By being the messenger of the truth, it would be wrong for others to desire a relationship with Paul, as if he were the source of the truth, when the source of all truth is Yahweh.
Paul then exposed that what he “heard in the unspoken message” was “kai these surpassing excellence of those unveilings.” This says the boiled down “truth” was not to be “elated,” not "surpassing excellence." The truth of the Greek word written [“hyperairōmai”] said Paul was not to become “arrogant” or “self-important” from having so much revealed to his soul. It wasn’t that Paul could not tell anyone the truth he was told. Instead, it was Yahweh telling Paul not to get the ‘big head’ [I like to call this “Big Brain Syndrome”] and start running around like a pope, cardinal, bishop or Episcopal priest waving a wand over all sinners, saying ”You all get to go to heaven now. That’ll be $100.” Knowing what is true and then acting all high and mighty about it is not why Yahweh shares His truth.
All truth told to Paul was given to him for the purpose of exposing it, with the caveat being along with the truth comes the thorn in his flesh. The Paul who physically walked from town to town preaching the truth was the Paul would often be seen as coming himself as a “messenger of Satan.” This is like how the scribes told Jesus his healing and other miracles were due to Beelzebub possessing him. Certainly, Paul was not a “messenger of Satan,” because he had been told the truth and he wanted to please Yahweh by spreading the truth; and, he did just that. Still, some of the people who Paul told the truth to came out with stones and condemnations for having broken the law, so he would be arrested from time to time, if not stoned to death. Jesus knew this same affliction.
The reason this “thorn” was placed in the flesh of Paul was to keep Paul from ever turning into some flimsy excuse for a priest of Yahweh. To be a priest in the flesh meant to know rejection in the worldly domain, because being in the Garden of Eden meant being a soul separated from its body of flesh. If returning to the world of sin were to become some false expectation of Heaven on Earth, then there would never be any motivation to marry Yahweh, receive His Anointment as Sacred and Set apart as Holy, becoming a body of flesh where His Son Jesus could be resurrected. To be Jesus reborn, one had to always know the pain of the thorn that was being rejected as a prophet of Yahweh, because Satan’s messengers would always bring torment to the pious.
When verse eight says, “Three times I appealed to the Lord about this,” the Greek word “Kyrion” must be read as Paul recognizing the “Lord” of his body of flesh was Jesus. The general title of “Lord,” as a capitalized word, gives it the divine elevation as Jesus being the “Lord” of all Saints ever born into the flesh. The use here says Paul's soul separating from his near death body allowed that soul to hear the voice of Yahweh, who was not his “Lord.” Yahweh was the Husband of Paul's soul, thereby his “King.” Jesus was the physical "Lord" that Paul prayed to after returning to life; as pain was not a sensation felt by Paul's soul in "Paradise." After visiting Eden and hearing unspoken lessons of faith, Paul returned to life and ministry; and, it was after that return that he prayed to "Lord" Jesus for help.
The use of “tris,” as “three times,” is both a number of times Paul “begged,” but the symbolism of “three” must also be seen as a reflection of “a third,” where the fallen angels become the challenge facing all who have married their souls to Yahweh and been reborn as His Sons. The number “three times” says all times when the thorn of Satan’s messengers caused pain to pulse through Paul’s body, Paul begged Jesus to make it stop.
Dude, one thorn? Tell me when they put a crown of thorns on your head.
For Paul to then write that Jesus said to his prayers: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness,” it must be remembered that Jesus only spoke what the Father commanded him to say. Thus, when a soul is in its body of flesh, in a conscious state of existence and divinely possessed by the Spirit merging Jesus’ soul with one’s own soul, prayers to Yahweh go through the Son. Thus, Yahweh answers through the Son, who resides within one’s flesh. This makes a closer inspection of the Greek of what Jesus said to Paul be worthwhile.
Rather than being the fourth word and in the lower-case [as the NRSV translation shows], the first word spoken to Paul is a capitalized “Arkei,” which divinely elevates the root word that means, “ to assist, suffice” (Strong’s Definition) and “I keep off, assist; I suffice; I am satisfied” (Strong’s Usage) to a meaning that divinely says “(It is) Enough.” This means Jesus told Paul is it “Enough for your soul to be given the favor of my presence” [from “Arkei soi hē charis mou”]. In that, “soi” must be translated as “yourself,” where the “self” part must be understood as the “soul” that was Paul’s in his flesh. Therefore, no matter what pain Paul’s body of flesh felt, it was “Enough” of “Sufficient” for him to know no harm had come to his soul, because Jesus was there with his flesh.
When the second segment of this reply by Jesus says, “for power is made perfect in weakness,” the literal Greek can be read as saying, “that indeed ability with suffering brings fulfillment.” This then led Paul to tell the Corinthians, “So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
There, the actual first word written is “Hēdista,” which is capitalized and therefore elevated to divine meaning that is missed by showing it as an inconsequential lower-case word that says, “more gladly.” The divine meaning says Jesus told Paul “suffering brings fulfillment.” That made Paul immediately realize the presence of Jesus within was “Most pleasing” and no thorns in his flesh could ever take away from that superlative of “gladness.” For that reason, Paul would “boast about his sufferings, so his flesh could remain covered [like a “tabernacle”] in the Anointment of Yahweh, as one reborn in the name of Jesus Christ.
This led Paul to then conclude this chapter by writing, “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” In that, rather than contentment, Paul expressed his own “pleasure” or sense of “goodness” that came to him by way of “suffering, injuries, violence necessitated against him, persecutions and all distresses, which came because his body was representing one Anointed by Yahweh, as Jesus resurrected. Paul declared for however weak his flesh was, his soul [from “eimi” meaning his “existence”] was empowered with eternal life.
By seeing this message of Paul becoming clearly stated, it certainly becomes an appropriate companion reading fro the Gospel of Mark that has Jesus rejected by the Jews of the synagogue in Nazareth. The same rejection Paul faced, Jesus had faced long before. Still, this reading speaking of “the messenger of Satan” makes this be appropriate for the reading that had David move to Jerusalem, breaking the agreement that had been set between Abraham and the Jebusites.
The Jebusites must be seen as the keepers of the faith for Abraham’s descendants, so as long as Jerusalem remained theirs, Israel would be deemed holy land. David took that automatic blessing away, forcing the Israelites to forever marry their individual souls to Yahweh and be led as His wives, or suffer demonic possession that would reduce them to “the blind” and “the lame.” Those who stoned Paul and Barnabas, like those who rejected Jesus in Nazareth. In the same manner, the collapse of Judah witnessed by Ezekiel all came to be because after David sinned and died there was no longer a holy land to protect them.
As a reading selection on the sixth Sunday after Pentecost, when each and every soul should be married to Yahweh, been Anointed as His Son reborn, in divine possession by the soul of Jesus, a ministry like Paul’s should have begun and be ongoing. This reading says suffering is to be expected. Still, as long as one has met all the preconditions of Sainthood, then the presence of Jesus as one’s “Lord” will “Suffice” and the reward will be “Paradise.