What is the “third heaven” in which the apostle Paul talks about in his second letter to the Corinthians? Let’s look at the text.
“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know God knows. And I know that this man whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.” 2 Corinthians 12:2-4
The term third is generally accepted as the heaven in which God lives. Some say it is the highest level of heaven contrary to the popular “seven or even nine heavens.” Paul is the man in which he is describing, it is interesting that Paul with all of his ambitions to change the world and win over the people with the message of Christ would not try to explain what took place during this experience. He does state he heard inexpressible things which he is not permitted to tell. What we do know is that the event took place fourteen years prior to his writing of the letter. This more than likely indicates many of his methods and beliefs about Christianity may have been based on this life altering event. It may have taken place a multitude of times, we just do not know. But why mention the event at all if he could not speak of them? Some in fact believe this was an event that defined his life, giving him even more legitimacy as an apostle of Jesus Christ, this was a struggle for Paul who was often looked upon as an illegitimate apostle. Many other preachers were critical of Paul, he expressed in the previous chapter a long explanation of his friction between himself and who he calls “super-apostles.” I think it is fair to say Paul is using this experiences to help bring legitimacy to his ministry and position. Paul seems to let go of his ego placing himself as just one part of an amazing experience, then going on to later discuss his “thorn in the flesh.” It is disappointing that Paul chose not to go into detail about his experience instead choosing to stay silent about the mysteries. Paul also could be using this discussion as a way to gain leverage with the Corinthians who were steeped in the mystical arts and mystery schools of the time. This would be appealing to the Corinthian church. I will just take him at face value and believe he could not speak of the divine experience, it may have been virtually impossible for Paul to explain what he had seen. So glorious and magnificent, words of such wisdom that what Paul witnessed is only the tip of the iceberg of the heavenly experience in which awaits us all.
Two other Biblical figures come to mind when discussing visions into the heavenly realms that is of Ezekiel and Daniel. The visions of these two men were much more detailed but still strangely blurred. Ezekiel sees God in some type of heavenly contraption or throne with descriptions of non-earthly beings. (Read Ezekiel chapter 1) Daniel similarly sees heavenly creatures and is shown mysterious visions in which many try hard to explain. But can we explain them? And if it was supposed to be explained wouldn’t it not be easier if God would have just gave us better instructions? I will answer that God did indeed send better instructions he sent them with the incarnation of Jesus Christ. All that we need to know of the father is found in the Christ, if you have seen him you have seen the Father. The gospels beautifully lay out the plan of God and the needed insights to live out a Christian life. I think we must remember that we are children of God, but the key word “children” must be understood as we have not yet completed our stay in the earthly proving grounds, we are still bound to the flesh and unable to fully be set free from it till it wears out and dies.
What about today, can we experience visions of Biblical proportions? My answer is yes, I think we are capable of connecting with the universal consciousness that is God through many different means while I am not 100 percent of any, nor can I completely verify, yet it is through faith that we believe anything at all. Some would say that DMT or Dimethyltryptamine which is naturally produced in the human brain is a sort of gateway substance which some say allows the connection of our Spirit to the divine. This chemical can be released both externally by smoking, or drinking the chemical, or internally through prayer, mediation, or various forms of yoga. Other psychedelic substances such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms which may give the user a similar experience but at a much less potency, none the less the author believes that psychedelics and other exercises which release DMT into the body is some sort of gateway into the spiritual realm. The brain is a powerful tool in which our spirits use which this author personally believes we have only tapped into just the beginning of our psychic development.
So what does all of this mean to Christians? Well it means a lot. It means that our minds have the ability to look into the unknown, that God can reach out to us through visions both internally and externally as Paul himself did not know if he was out of the body or in the body. As Christians we do not base our Christianity on supernatural experiences but through faith. Although I think that it is honorable to seek out supernatural experiences for it is our place to do so as children of God. We are much more “powerful” than we think, we are not just a body, but a spirit. We are more than likely all interconnected with each other and God. Quantum physics is proving this more and more every day. Through mass communications and articles such as this, spiritual mysteries do not have to be something that only the few understand but something we humans can try to understand and practice in order to make a better world.