In what sense was the apostle Paul “caught away to the third heaven” and “into paradise”?—2 Cor. 12:2-4.
At 2 Corinthians 12:2, 3, Paul refers to a certain man who was “caught away to the third heaven.” Who was that? Writing to the Corinthian congregation, Paul stressed that God was using him as an apostle. (2 Cor. 11:5, 23) He then mentioned “visions and revelations of the Lord.” Paul did not in that context mention other brothers. Thus, he was logically referring to himself as being the man who had received visions and revelations.—2 Cor. 12:1, 5.
So Paul was the one who was “caught away to the third heaven” and “caught away into paradise.” (2 Cor. 12:2-4) He used the term “revelations,” which suggests a revealing of what will exist in the future.
What did Paul see as “the third heaven”?
In the Bible, “heaven” can refer to the physical heavens. (Gen. 11:4; 27:28; Matt. 6:26) But “heaven” is also used in other senses. Sometimes it refers to human rulership. (Dan. 4:20-22) Or it can refer to divine rulership, such as through the Kingdom of God.—Rev. 21:1.
Paul saw “the third heaven.” What was the point? The Bible occasionally repeats something three times for emphasis, to show intensity, or to imply added strength. (Isa. 6:3; Ezek. 21:27; Rev. 4:8) It seems that in speaking of “the third heaven,” Paul was stressing a superlative, an exalted, form of rulership—the Messianic Kingdom by Jesus Christ and his 144,000 corulers. (See Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 1, pp. 1059, 1062.) As the apostle Peter wrote, we are awaiting the “new heavens” according to God’s promise.—2 Pet. 3:13.