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Paul's Visit to Heaven

 

REJOICE AND PRAISE GOD!

The Book of Acts relates how the apostle Paul was stoned to death.  “And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.  Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.”  Ac. 14:19, 20.  I heard once that people who are stoned are taken to a certain place where there is a depression in the ground and the people stood above the victim.  Rocks and stones thrown from above have much greater force.  Sometimes, there was even a platform high above the victim, from which large stones were dropped.

You can be sure that Paul was in terrible physical condition when he was dragged out of the city.  He was probably bleeding from wounds all over his body and especially his head.  He died.  Yet, the very next day “he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.”  Verse 20.   Not only did God bring him back to life, He miraculously healed the great apostle.  How else could Paul have walked to another city the next day?

During the fourteen years immediately following, the apostle Paul endured many incredible trials and sufferings

             Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool)  I am more, in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.  Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.  Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”  2 Co. 12:23-27.  

We marvel over what Paul suffered and endured.  In the very next chapter he says,

             I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.  And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) how  that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.  Of such an one will I glory, yet of myself I will not glory but in mine infirmities.  2 Co. 13:2-4.

 

The apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians when he was in prison in Rome and about to be tried.  He knew that his time on earth was about to end.  In Philippians 1:21, he says, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.  For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.  Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”  The apostle had a longing to be with Christ in heaven, and was unafraid of the future no matter what it held for him. 

Despite his sufferings and imminent death he exhorted: “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.”  Phil. 4:4.  He said further, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. ” Phil. 4:6-7.  “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.”  Phil. 4:13.

How could the apostle have such peace, joy and confidence in the midst of turmoil and the possibility of execution?  What gave him such great faith? 

Many Bible scholars have traced Paul’s journeys backwards fourteen years in time and concluded that Paul was talking about himself in 2 Corinthians 13:2-4.  He was the man who had been taken to paradise.  When the apostle was stoned to death, God took him to heaven where he saw and heard what awaited him after he finished his course on earth.  It was so wonderful, that he could not speak of it.  Words could never explain what he saw and heard.  It would be an injustice to even try.

We too, as Christians, have a future in heaven that is so wonderful that there are no words that can adequately describe it.  Whatever happens to us on earth is nothing compared to our reward in heaven where we will be with Christ forever.  Most of us are not afraid of dying, but we dread the suffering.  Yet, trials and sufferings are more precious than gold.  1 Pet. 1:7.  Why?  It is because God is perfecting you and will do so until the very end.  It is because the Lord loves us and He wants the absolute best for us when we get to heaven.  There are many levels of reward in heaven and He wants you to be as high as you possibly can.  “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.”  Heb. 11:35. 

History records that many early Christians stepped forward and revealed that they were Christians so that they could be martyred for Christ and receive a better reward in heaven.  Many thousands were cruelly burnt at the stake, split apart, killed by the sword and mangled by bears, lions and tigers.  All knew that glory awaited them in heaven.

God has a purpose for each one of us.  Whatever that purpose is, let us strive to fulfill it.  Even old age has its virtues.  Wisdom, gentleness, knowledge, understanding, compassion, patience and faith often grow stronger with age.  Even though we may think that there is only grief and suffering as we grow old, there is also peace, joy and closeness with our Lord Jesus if we do not falter.  No matter what lies ahead, there is glory waiting for each one of us, if we endure.

None of us can ever come close to what the great apostle suffered and endured with rejoicing.  He served as an example for later Christians, including us.  In truth, all of the disciples did likewise.  Be encouraged and endure with patience, faith and joy, no matter what God has purposed for you.  Glory is on the other side, where there will be no more sickness, suffering or death.  We will not go to our heavenly home one second sooner or later than what God has assigned to us.  Meanwhile, continue to fight the good fight for the Lord Jesus. 


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