2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—
Paul’s vision of verse 1 occurred fourteen years previous to writing Second Corinthians (somewhere between AD 41-43). He speaks of it as in the third person (2 Co 12:7). He did this so that he would not glorify himself. The apostle refers to his eternal status “in Christ” as a Christian. The apostle did not deem himself as someone great, but just as a fellow Christian “in Christ.”
whether in the body I do not know,
Paul was not sure whether his vision was in his physical body or a spiritual experience.
or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—
Only God knew whether Paul’s vision was in his physical body or not.
such a one was caught up [raptured] to the third heaven.
The apostle was caught up to the “third heaven” in this vision. This action was not at his initiative, but God did it to him. The term “caught up” is the same word for the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The “third heaven” is the abode of God Himself.
3 And I know such a man—
Paul was reluctant to speak about his experience of translation into the presence of God. We will find who this “man” is in 2 Corinthians 11:7; it was Paul himself.
whether in the body or out of [apart from] the body I do not know,
Paul repeats his statement from verse 2.
The apostle was comfortable with either option.
4 how he was caught up [raptured] into Paradise
The Holy Spirit carried him to Paradise. He did not voluntarily go to Paradise on his own accord or power. It was something God did.
and heard inexpressible words,
Paul understood the words in the visions; otherwise, he would have grasped the revelations. However, these words were ineffable for him to communicate.
which it is not lawful [permitted] for a man to utter.
Paul was not allowed to speak of the vision he saw per se. The revelation was for him personally. God had a special message for him solo.
Special spiritual experiences should glorify God.
Great experiences from God are not the result of our worthiness or spiritual achievements but are for the glory of God. The true indicator of a ministry is not in ecstatic experiences, but to what degree it is accurate with God’s Word and winning non-believers and building the church.