September 23-24 will be when I get to address the supporters at Camp Elim in Colorado (their “Heritage Retreat).” These posts give me the opportunity to work on my messages which will be from 2 Corinthians 12.
Let’s look at our text one more time:
We don’t need their testimonies — we have the Word of God to guide us.
The first challenge in Living Now in Light of the Future is that we have a biblical view of boasting (vv. 1-6).
Let’s notice our second challenge from this text and it is that we would have —
II. A Clear Focus on the Future! (vv. 2 & 4 & 7).
In these verses Paul tells us that his tour of heaven was very real, but he was not sure whether he was literally taken to heaven or he experienced a vision of heaven given to him by the Lord. One could ask, what difference would it make? His experience was genuine — and he learned several truths from it.
What does he say about his experience? First of all, he says he was “caught up to the third heaven” (v. 2). Later he says he was “caught up to paradise” (v. 4). Obviously those moments were real and he was in a real place (if he was “out of the body”) or he was shown a real place (if he was “in the body”).
What did he experience there? We are given two extremely succinct statements:
(1) He “heard inexpressible things — things that no one is permitted to tell” (v. 4). We verbal creatures think that all of life can be explained or described with mortal words. We deceive ourselves and we shrink our view of heaven by our conversation. Some experiences are beyond words. And if heaven, the abode of God, doesn’t fit that description, it is unworthy of our thought. But what if just a glimpse overwhelmingly convinces us, not just of heaven’s reality, but of its auditory superiority to any sounds we have ever heard — or could ever utter?
(2) He saw “surpassingly great revelations” (v. 7). We often cavalierly use superlatives when they are deserved or earned. “That was the best meal I have ever had!” “That concert left me breathless!” “He was the greatest Christian that ever lived!” When we have “used up” all our superlatives for merely earthly things, what words are left to speak about eternity? What visual descriptions remain that could be used about heaven?
Paul’s trip to heaven was not given to him to satisfy his curiosity — or to convince him that “heaven is real.” The text doesn’t tell us why gave him this experience. Perhaps as an expression of God’s grace God lets Paul hear and see the future. And it changes his life! But the changes in Paul’s life are very different from those described in the heaven tour books.
To receive a “clear focus on the future” for Paul meant keeping the experience to himself for 14 years and staying faithful in his ministry. We will notice two major impacts that his vision of heaven had on him in our next several posts.
The Challenge Today: It’s not wrong for the believer to think about heaven and what life will be like in the New Heavens and the New Earth. Sounds and sights will superscede our imaginations. We read in I Corinthians 2 —
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him.”