This article is to explore the incredible rewards Paul experienced by his trips into Heaven.
As a psychologist, I am always interested in descriptions of peoples’ authentic experiences and naturally that includes Paul’s. As the Pentecostal, Kenneth Hagan often said about direct experiences, “The man with the experience beats the man with the theology.” Or, as another famous writer wrote: “It is best not to have a good theology, you might mistake it for being a good Christian.” And, Paul says about his message: Gal. 1:12 (Msg) “I didn't receive it through the traditions, and I wasn't taught it in some school. I got it straight from God, received the Message directly from Jesus Christ. “
Searching for experience, I was baptized at age 11 by Southern Baptists, attending church until the customary hiatus of the university. I returned to the church and attended a Southern Baptist seminary. Later I continued my spiritual search through Buddhism, Hinduism, metaphysics, the writings of native spiritualists and finally returning to Christianity becoming a sacramentalist in the English Catholic Church. During that journey through other religions, true to my first calling as a psychologist, I always practiced their spiritual disciplines and did have the experiences they described.
Through all my search, I puzzled as to why, unlike Paul, there were no direct experiences in my Christianity. Then around the age of 55, I spoke in other tongues. As I have described in earlier writings, (See MY EXPERIENCE) that is when I was ushered into that divine encounter with God that I had always longed for. That experience of Pentecost has also granted me insight into the experiences of the New Testament writers, all of whom themselves were pentecostal. Because I had learned that all the spiritual systems I had studied have initiation rites that carried the practitioners into the spiritual dimension, I will always wonder what took me so long to realize that from its very first day, Christianity did as well–baptism plus the pentecostal experience.
I now understand that what I believed was Paul writing theology was not theology at all, but actually his descriptions and the results of his direct divine encounters.
If I parallel my journey through the legalism of my Baptist youth (never knowing for sure if I was in right standing with God,), to Paul’s attempts to win God’s favor by keeping the Torah, I think I understand him better.
For Paul his real life began on the road to Damascus and mine began in a little store front church.
With Paul, the power of God knocked him to the ground. With me, the power flattened me to the floor. With Paul, he had a direct encounter with Jesus in the heavenlies. With me, I had a direct encounter with God the Father and I don’t know where I was.
As I take my experiences and compare them with Paul, I truly believe they were the same; so now the psychologist in me begins to examine Paul’s experience.
Backing up for a minute. I have this fantasy that when I meet Paul, he will tell me the following. “Don, I was riding along on that donkey in what you psychologists call a state of sleepy reverie. The strangest thought occurred to me. ‘What if these people I am persecuting are on to something? What if God did raise the Hebrew Jesus from the grave? I even went so far as to address the question to their Jesus. ‘O.K. if you are alive, let me know’. (The fantasy includes that thought because the following statement was important to Paul: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, . . . . thou shalt be saved.”) Continuing: “The next second I was on the ground, then ushered straight into the presence of Jesus in the heavenlies. I WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE VEIL!” (2 Cor. 12:2)
I ask myself what it must have been like for Paul to realize he was through the veil. His first thought almost had to have been: “What am I doing still alive?” I should have been barbecued!
To digress for a moment--I don’t know if Paul had studied Plato, but Plato’s thought permeated that part of the world in which Paul traveled. Plato had written an allegory of prisoners in a cave. They only saw the shadows of the real world outside their cave and according to Plato, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to seeing reality. When someone understands that the shadows on the wall are not reality at all, he is then able to perceive the true form of reality making the shadows.
For Plato, our material world of change known to us through sensation are shadows of the real world. The real world are the forms making the shadows.
In Platonic fashion, Paul tells us in Hebrews 8:5 that the temple on earth with its curtain between the priest and the Inner Sanctum was actually “a shadow” of a real temple which is in Heaven. Paul has told us that everything he learned was by direct experience, so it follows that he was there in the real temple and knew it.
Describing the earthly temple as the shadow of the real temple. . . .” (The priest) serves unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. (Heb 8:5)
“But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper." (Hebrews 9:7-10)
Even the earthly Most Holy Place was said to be so holy that if someone brought in an unclean sacrifice, or someone not eligible entered, he could be struck dead. In order for the unclean not to go into the Holy of Holies, legend even had it that a rope was tied around the priest to pull him out if he was killed.
So, if you are Paul and you find yourself in the real Holy place and still alive, there can be only one conclusion: a sacrifice has been made and accepted–a perfect sacrifice--one with out spot or blemish. Standing before him is Jesus, obviously Himself, not dead. It follows: “This one has to be that perfect sacrifice. “
Paul can then declare: “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. …But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:24-26)
Now here comes the wonderful part: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place . . . .by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain,” (Heb. 10:19)
That declaration is not theology, it is his direct experience! Even more incredible it explains to us where we are now and how we are having divine encounters! We are passing back and forth through the curtain!
Which brings us to the next awareness that Paul must have had. If I am through the veil. If I am on the other side and still alive, then obviously an acceptable sacrifice has been made. Also, it follows that standing here within the Holy of Holies, I can legitimately know I have somehow gone through that whole cleansing ritual. Paul declares: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.“ (Heb. 10:22)
What I am doing next in this article is to give Paul’s descriptions of the person who is on the other side of the veil. I have collected all the descriptions I can find that Paul uses. At the same time, I call to your attention, that it is obvious that those to whom he is writing have shared those same experiences and so Paul is not even bothering explaining them.
Here are the words and phrases they use as they share with one another what was happening to them. I have collected them by books and am using the Power New Testament (3rd Ed) because the translator William J.Morford is revealing the Jewish Roots.
Experiential direct experiences from Book of Romans (in the order they appear)
We took grace; power of God; power of the Gospel; Torah is written in their hearts; Jewish inwardly; circumcised in his heart; without Torah the righteousness of God has been revealed; blessed are the lawless ones who have been forgiven; making righteous the one who has faith in Jesus; made righteous by faith; evidence of His righteousness; abundance of grace; gift of righteousness; old unregenerate man was crucified; body of sin condemned; sin will not rule you; you have been set free from sin; you have your fruit into sanctification; serve in newness of spirit; rejoice together in the Torah of God with respect to the inner man; righteousness; Jesus set you free; Spirit dwells in you; the spirit is alive because of righteousness; you took a spirit of adoption as children we cry “Abba Father”; Spirit bears witness with our spirit; spirit sighing in ourselves; Spirt helps together with us in our weakness; makes known the riches of his glory; Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; sanctified with ongoing effect by the Holy Spirit; fill you with joy and peace when you believe.
Experiential direct experiences in 1 Corinthians (in the order they appear):
been made holy; testimony of the Messiah was confirmed in you; called out into fellowship with His Son; message of the cross is the power of God; proclaiming the power and wisdom of God, Who became wisdom from God in us, righteousness and also holiness and redemption; has revealed them to us through our spirit; so that we would know the things freely given to us by God; and this is what we are speaking, not in teachings with words of human wisdom but in teachings of the Spirit; But natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to know, because they are discerned spiritually; but we have the mind of Messiah; we know what He has taught; Spirit dwells in you; washed and made holy; made righteous by the name of the Lord Jesus Messiah and by the Sprit of our God;
Experiential direct experiences in 2 Corinthians (in the order they appear):
Who is in you since He was proclaimed by us; One who establishes us with you in Messiah; Who has anointed us; Who has sealed us, and has given the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts; revealing everywhere through us the fragrance of the knowledge of Him; but whenever someone would turn toward the Lord, the veil is taken away; where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom; and we all by raising the veil are transformed from glory to glory; just as by the Spirit of the Lord to behold for one’s self the glory of the Lord; reveal the knowledge of the glory of God; and the One Who worked the same thing in us is God; the One Who gave us the pledge of the Spirit; since we are always confident; a new creation; the one who reconciled us to Himself through Messiah; He placed in us the message of reconciliation; would know the righteousness of God by means of him; you must not ever touch the unclean; then I will take you in
Experiential direct experiences in Galatians (in the order they appear):
so that we would be made righteous by faith; we could take the promise of the Spirit through faith; sent the Spirit of His son into our hearts crying “Abba Father;”
Experiential direct experiences in Ephesians (in the order they appear):
the One Who blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies by Messiah; glorious grace by which He favored us: given you a spirit of wisdom and revelation for your knowledge of Him; eyes of your heart have been enlightened for you to have known what is the hope of his inheritance; the riches of His glory; while we were dead to our sins, He made us alive in Messiah; caused us to sit down together in the heavenlies; introduction to the Father by means of one Spirit; set apart apostles; in whom we have boldness and access; strengthened in power by His Spirit working in your inner man; to make the Messiah live in your hearts though faith; when you have been rooted and established in love, so you would be able to seize, according to the power which works in us for our benefit; grace was given to each one of us; put on the new man, the one which has been created corresponding to God in the righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Experiential direct experiences in Phillipians (in the order they appear):
fruit of righteousness; consolation of love,; if any fellowship of the spirit; righteousness of God based on faith; surpassing worth of the knowledge of Messiah Jesus My Lord; peace of God which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your thoughts and purposes on Messiah Jesus; the God of peace be with you; the One Who strengthens me;
Experiential direct experiences in Colossians (in the order they appear):
growing in the knowledge of God; Whom we have the redemption and forgiveness of sins; He made peace through the blood of his cross; which is being worked in me in power; certainty of the understanding, in knowledge of the mystery of God, of Messiah; you took the Messiah, Jesus the Lord, to be joined with you; constantly filled through Him; He made you alive;
Experiential direct experiences in 1 Thessalonians (in the order they appear):
our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit; with joy from the Holy Spirit; You and God are witnesses; Who is working among you who believe; the Lord might enrich you and might abound your love; the One Who sanctifies you; establish your hearts blameless in holiness; the God of peace purify you completely in all respects.
Experiential direct experiences in 2 Thessalonians (in the order they appear):
He would fill you with every delight of goodness and work of faith in power; first fruits in salvation by means of sanctification of spirit; obtaining the glory of our Lord Jesus Messiah; Who loved us and by His and by grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope; the Lord of Peace give peace to you.
Here is what Paul prayed for us using the Greek word “epignosis–epi meaning “beyond” “gnosis” means knowledge. The translation used here is by a Greek scholar who translates “epignosis.” as “realization”. Colossians 1: 9,10, 2:2: “Therefore we also, from the day on which we hear, do not cease praying for you and requesting that you may be filled full with the realization of His will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, you are to walk worthily of the Lord for all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in the realization of God…that their hearts may be consoled, being united in love, and to all the riches of the assurance of understanding, unto a realization of the secret. (Greek “mysterion”) of the God and Father, of Christ.” Merritt
And all of God’s people say “Amen.”