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2 Corinthians 12:4

ESV and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.
NIV was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
NASB was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
CSB was caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a human being is not allowed to speak.
NLT that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.
KJV How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
NKJV how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

What does 2 Corinthians 12:4 mean?

This passage describes an amazing supernatural experience that happened to Paul 14 years before writing this letter. He makes no mention of this even in his other letters. He is only doing so now because the false apostles have been boasting about their own supernatural experiences. Perhaps they have even questioned Paul's legitimacy as an apostle because he does not talk about his "visions and revelations" very often.

Although Paul is telling the story, he is deeply concerned not to use it as a form of self-promotion. Rather, he initially describes it vaguely, as happening to "a man." Paul does not want to make his name great because of what God showed him. He wants to make Christ's name great. But if telling the story will help the Corinthians continue on the path of Christ, he will tell it.

Paul has written that he was caught up to the third heaven or paradise, the place where God dwells. He does not know whether this happened to him physically or in some kind of out-of-body experience. He is convinced that it really happened to him, though, and that God knows exactly how it happened.

Now he writes that while he was there, he heard inexpressible things which cannot be told. In other words, God revealed specific information to Paul, but Paul is forbidden from revealing this information to anyone else. John was given a similar command to keep certain details silent when being given his revelation (Revelation 10:4). As a result, we do not know what Paul was shown.

Some commentators wonder if the vision applied only to Paul, perhaps predicting how he would suffer, based on what Christ said at Paul's conversion in Acts 9:16. Others speculate that Paul received a kind of first-person training from the risen Christ to equip him for his ministry. The other 12 apostles were trained by Christ during his time on earth. Perhaps Paul was trained, in part, by Christ during this time.

Whatever information Paul received, this enhances his repeated teaching that our temporary suffering in this life is not worth comparing with the glory believers will experience in eternity (2 Corinthians 4:17).
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