“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.” (II Corinthians 12:2)
I want to let you in on a secret, that may actually not be a secret to you, beloved reader. Paul is talking about himself. Whether it was on the road to Damascus or at a later point – we are not told. Simply because Paul, for modesty sake, does not want anyone to know (at least directly from his own self) that it was him that it happened to. And whether it was an actual physical experience or an experience where only Paul’s spirit was transported to a heavenly realm is also kept vague.
“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.” (Verses 3 – 4)
In the same vein, Paul does not feel that he (or whoever it happened to) is able to see with any certainty or within human understanding was said this person. So why does Paul mention it at all?! He is coming to that.
“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.” (Verses 5 – 7a)
If you remember, beloved reader, in this second letter to the Corinthians he is begging the believers to follow the teachings that he gave to them. And these teachings are not of his own creation but are based on the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is relaying the message he received, and he wants to be perceived as a reliable messenger but not at the cost of setting himself up in an exulted position. To that end, he reveals that he has a weakness.
“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.” (Verses 7b – 10)
And what was that weakness, you ask? Paul is not telling that either.
Let me say, I understand Paul’s reticence. If I reveal something of myself – it is to illustrate a point, illuminate an intersection of daily life and the spiritual life, or to create a bond between myself and my beloved readers. For my own self, I freely talk about my weakness; I have never asked the Divine to take away my weaknesses or infirmities. I have found the Divine’s grace sufficient of all things and all occasions; and freely & frequently come to the Lord God for help.