"that he was caught up into Paradise and heard unspeakable words which a man is not permitted to speak." (2 Cor 12:4)
What does Paul mean by "paradise"? Is it different from "heaven" or "the third heaven"?
The word “paradise” ( paradeisos) occurs three times in the New Testament (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor 12:4 and Rev 2:7). It occurs often in the Septuagint (the Greek Translation of the Old Testament). It is a word which had its origin in the language of eastern Asia, and which has been adopted in the Greek, the Roman, and other western languages. In Sanskrit the word “paradesha” means a land elevated and cultivated; in Armenian, “pardes” denotes a garden around the house planted with trees, shrubs, grass for use and ornament. In Persia, the word denotes the pleasure gardens and parks with wild animals around the country residences of the monarchs and princes. Hence, it denotes in general a garden of pleasure.
In the New Testament is applied to the abodes of the blessed after death, the dwelling-place of God and of happy spirits. Some think Paul uses the word “paradise” to mean something different from the phrase “the third heaven”. But there is no good reason for this supposition. The only difference is that this word implies the idea of a place of blessedness; but the same place is undoubtedly referred to (after Barnes). The Jewish writers had no less than four paradises, as they have seven heavens. But there is no point spending time on elaborating further. There are also those who think that paradise refers to the Catholic concept of purgatory but I am not even going there.
Many ancients writers supposed the third heaven and paradise to be two distinct places, and that the apostle had two separate raptures. Clemens Alexandrinus, reads the words thus, "I knew a man in Christ caught up to the third heaven and from thence to paradise". Theophilact says, "from the third heaven he was immediately called up into paradise". Some modern writers have suggested there were two raptures on the basis of the prepositions used. Paul is said to be caught "up to" the third heaven, and caught "up into" paradise. They suggest
he spoke of "visions" and "revelations" in the plural. Then they suggest he calls this vision an "abundance of revelations" ( 2Co_12:7). But as it was at the same time on the same date 14 years before actually suggests one occasion is being described.
Further it has been suggested that there is no account of what he saw or heard in the third heaven, but a reference to what he heard in paradise.
If there had been two raptures, it is for sure Paul would have distinguished them and told us that he was caught up twice.
Which only goes to prove that we can make too much of what Paul or God do not want us to know. More on that tomorrow. I personally think that the commentators are getting carried away placing too much significance on trivial things.
I will leave you to ponder the significance of the differences between heaven and paradise. If you think there is something significant I have missed out or failed to tell you, or things you find out from your further digging, kindly inform me. I am always keen to know more of the depth of Scripture. Tomorrow we will move on to unutterable things. I am not sure at this point how I will utter unutterable things. Probably the best way is to write them down and then at least they will not be uttered. Enough of this foolishness.
When in doubt, just take the next small step.
Life is too short to waste time procrastinating.
Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.