Did Paul Die and Come Back?

nmpauxI have been reading the book of Acts. When I came to chapter 14 suddenly for the first time something occurred to me. On checking my thoughts on the Net, it seems I wasn’t the only one!

In Lystra, where Paul and the others has gone to escape the persecution in Antioch, Paul was stoned by some of the Jewish elders of Antioch who had travelled there on purpose to harass him.

My thought was this: when Paul was stoned by the Jews and left for dead, did he actually die? And was THIS the time he later referred to as his visit to heaven:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. (2 Corinthians 12:2–4)

That man was clearly Paul himself as verses 6 and 7 show.

The Timing Matches

The date of the stoning in Lystra was about 45-46 AD and the letter to the Corinthians was written – yes – 14 years later. The timing matches.

The stoning is reported here:

Acts 14: 19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.

The more I think about it, the more feasible it seems. For one thing, the Jews knew how to stone somebody, as it was a part of their religious system – Stephen had been killed by such a stoning. (Acts 7)

This was not a random mob attack but a supposed penalty for blasphemy. Therefore it was designed to kill, not wound. The Jews who wanted to kill Paul (Acts 14:4-6) would hardly have tossed a few rocks and then walked away.

They not only stoned Paul to the point of death but then dragged his lifeless body out of town as well. How many injuries do you think he must have sustained during all that?

Afterwards, it seems the disciples also believed Paul to be dead. In their love and concern, they gathered around his lifeless body, perhaps praying, perhaps mourning – the way people do today who have witnessed a tragic accident or murder.


No Intensive Care Then

If it had been in this day and age, the disciples doubtless would have summoned an ambulance as fast as possible and Paul would have been in intensive care after a number of operations to re-set his broken bones, stitch his open wounds, and relieve the pressure of blood from his brain. But not having those facilities, at least they could provide a decent Christian burial with honours.

Paul was as good as dead (the bible reports) and even if just badly injured, how likely is it that Paul would survive for more than an hour or two?

But now read what happens next.

Verse 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

paul-and-barnabas2Paul got up, and walked back into the city! (Imagine the news reaching those hateful Jews – “Paul’s not dead, he’s returned, and he’s fine”).

Does that sound like a man who has been stoned within inches of his life?

Paul walked back into Lystra, and the next day he’s back on his missionary journey again, along with Barnabas, ready to preach the gospel and encourage the churches. This at the very least is a miracle.

But is it even more – a resurrection, as with Lazarus?

I found it interesting that Paul’s message now contains information about the coming tribulation. The disciples at this early stage mostly believed that Jesus would return to them, overthrow the opposition, and set up the Kingdom within their lifetime. Paul now seems to have been shown different information as he tells the churches that they must strive to “continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (verse 22)

However, Paul did not speak of what he experienced during that crucial time (unless he spoke privately to fellow apostles). It is 14 years after the event that we learn of it in the letter to the Corinthians. Even then, he is wary of saying too much.

But did he receive in Heaven from God himself the information he later wrote of in Thessalonians and other letters, about the coming Tribulation, the state of the world just before the Coming of Jesus, and the signs leading to the appearance of Antichrist? I feel it might be so.

God may have allowed this experience to strengthen Paul against the suffering he would experience on his missionary journeys. Having been given a glimpse of the heaven that awaited him, he could face the most relentless and severe suffering that dogged every day of his life.

In some ways, Paul experienced a Rapture.

Since the disciples were watching his body on the road, it seems like only Paul’s spirit was “caught up” – he uses the word HARPAZO which is also used for the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

The “third” heaven in Jewish and Greek thinking was the dwelling place of God, since the first was the atmosphere, and the second was outer space (or perhaps the lower spiritual realm of the fallen rulers of this planet).

Thus Paul tells us that he visited God, and heard inexpressible things – things that he either could not or would not share on earth. Words which, Paul said “it is not lawful for a man to utter”.

He says the words he heard were “unspeakable” and it was not “lawful” to share them. This implies some kind of prohibition.

“And heard unspeakable words” … The word which is rendered here as “unspeakable” may either mean what cannot be spoken, or what ought not to be spoken. The word means unutterable, ineffable; and whichever idea we attach to it, Paul meant to say that he could not attempt by words to do justice to what he saw and heard.

“Which it is not lawful for a man to utter” [Margin, “Possible.”] The word is most commonly used in the signification of lawful. Thus, Matthew 14:4, “It is not lawful for thee to have her.” Acts 16:21, “which it is not lawful for us to observe;” … it probably means moral possibility; that is, propriety, or it means that it is right. It seems to me, therefore, that the word here rather means … that there was some reason why it would not be proper for him to have attempted to communicate those ideas. [Source]

If Paul was prohibited from sharing the information, one reason may have been the content, if it contained (as I suggested earlier) prophecies of the End.

To have tried to explain to the Apostles that despite their dedication to the preaching of the gospel, they would not see Jesus return, would experience nothing but increasing persecution, and would all ultimately be martyred would surely have discouraged them too much.

Likewise to tell the Church that it would be thousands of years before victory came, and that the world must descend into utter depravity and godlessness first, would have been disheartening to say the least.

Whatever Paul heard, he wrote and said nothing that we know of. The mystery remains. However, I believe we can fix the occasion of Paul’s visit to Heaven to Lystra when he was literally stoned to death.

23 thoughts on “Did Paul Die and Come Back?

  1. I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, however 2 Corinthians was written in AD 55-56 latest. Fourteen years prior to that would be AD 41-42. That would put Paul at the church in Antioch 4 years prior to Paul and Barnabas leaving for their first mission journey which began in AD 46. Also, something to consider, signs and wonders were for authentication of the Apostles mission and ministry. If Paul had been miraculously healed or raised from the dead, that would be a fact that Luke would not fail to mention. More likely than not Paul was merely left for dead, and then seeing believers standing around him, he was encouraged enough to get up. I’m doing research for a college paper on the subject, otherwise I might not have given it any speculation.


  2. Tricia, thanks for sharing your insights on this topic. Obviously, whether Paul was dead or simply near death is a matter that’s not essential to our Christian faith. That said, I skimmed through people’s responses, and I didn’t see anyone addressing the 2 Corinthians 12 passage you quoted. In the spirit of “rightly dividing the word of truth”, I want to point out that you made a simple mistake in skipping over verse 5. Verse 5 explicitly states that Paul was not speaking about himself.

    Verse 2: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven…”
    Verse 5: “I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.”

    That said, I still think you have some good insights on Acts 14. It’s entirely possible that Paul was dead.


  3. Thank you. This morning, after listening to Charles Price I was given exactly the same message. I also checked the dates etc. And came to the same conclusion. The thorn was likely his eyesight. Also; the Elders were experts at stoning so would have checked pulse and breathing before concluding death. Paul was “called to the third heaven” and then, most likely, resurrected. That totally explains him getting up and walking. All was healed except his eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The bible is true, inerrant word of God, Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus , he was blinded by Jesus, for 3 days, Ananias was sent to him by God, Paul was anointed . Paul was chosen by God to be his vessel, he began his new life in Christ as the Apostle. He suffered many things for Christ.


  5. I am very glad I stumbled on your article. Very well written! 👏 I too have been buried in the scriptures and….I just don’t know about oh Paul. I know I’ll get flayed but everyone for this but I can’t speak pulpit regergeta. Paul says a LOT of false things. He claims to love Christ but states that men with long hair are a disgrace and detestable… Jesus had long hair, so did Matthew, and John and Peter and etc… That offends me. Jesus says call no man your father but good the Father, Paul instructs everyone who follows his teachings…his….teachings, that he is their spiritual father. Jesus says when I’m gone, I’m gone, I’m not coming back until the end but there will be one who comes from out of the desert preaching or prophesying in my name, he is false. Do Not Believe Him. And Paul on the road to Damascus, WELL AFTER CHRIST ASCENDED is blinded by an angel of light (that John warns us about in Rev and we are warned about in several other places) and “changed”. Gets a new name, is unblinded, then comes out from the house of Judas, aka Arabia, aka the desert and suddenly this worse than Nero, Hitler, Stalin, Saul of taursus has seen the light, personally had Jesus come teach him, (even though Jesus says that’s not going to happen) and is now your spiritual father! So everybody believes him? He goes against so much of what Christ teaches, he’s full of himself, squared up with Peter and John! Now I’m reading that he was Stoned… And it’s like you said, there’s No way he could have survived that! Not without God or that “angel of light” (that Jesus beheld come down like lightening) there to heal him. This is literally one of the only articles I’ve been able to find, at the moment is the only article, that talks about Paul being dragged out after being Stoned to death and is actually brave enough and wise enough to connect the dots that is being laid out there quite literally in Black and white. And I know I must sound horrible, but I’m not trying to be one of those “people” who think they know it all and come to other people’s works and be all snotty… I’m really not. I’m just now starting to see Soo much falsehood in people I was “taught” to believe in. It’s a little hard to swallow, I feel…. Kinda like a fool, and am realizing that it TRULY is in Christ ALONE! Jesus says that we are to test everything and if we find it to be good hold steadfast to it and… This Paul…. To me his fruit is pretty rotten. I’m just thankful my eyes weren’t decieving me when I read he’s been Stoned and dragged and presumed Dead and even more thankful that you seen it too! God bless and I’m sorry if I offended anyone who reads this. And believe me, if anyone has actual VALID proof that I’ve got it wrong, please please please please show me. I welcome it I really do. Again God bless


    • To Ama; thanks for your interesting comment, and I believe you that you aren’t deliberately being contentious. Clearly you’re aware that your point it controversial amongst believers, &/or perhaps atheists too 🙂 Well, that’s why I find it interesting, so please allow me to share my thoughts also.

      To say that Paul is false is a drastic claim, I’d very careful about believing that yourself, in my opinion, because Paul penned one third of the new testament, & God through Paul and others wrote 100% of the scriptures, or so most Christians believe. I’m only saying this because I feel that you wouldn’t want to miss out on the truth found in God’s word, and also because you don’t want to be one who has blasphemed the Holy Spirit.

      Now, I’m not claiming to be any kind of bible expert, just a believer who takes what he hears with a pinch of salt… to taste. So, I agree with you in some respects, because I too don’t like some of Paul’s attitudes, and even less Peter’s, and for that matter most pastors whom I’ve listened too (with a few exceptions). Actually now that I’m reflecting on that idea, I don’t much care for the demeanor of all of the profits and the God of the old testament either. hrmn :/ this is conflicting.

      I don’t like how Paul inserts his own opinions (at least he distinguishes between his and God’ at one point), and I especially don’t like Peter’s archaic middle eastern cultural customs; “no woman shall teach a man” for example. And every other pastor I’ve heard inserts there own views, opinions, cultural backgrounds, education level, etc into their teachings. It makes you wonder, how can anyone be believed or trusted, and quite frankly they can’t, none of us can, no one really knows but God.

      Some claims in the bible which I find impossible to triangulate; Jesus promises the disciples that they will see him return in their life time with power, & they all continue to believe that for the rest of their lives, presumably until a couple of generations had passed, and we were all still here. There are many many other examples but I can’t be bothered listing any more. That’s the one I find the hardest to deal with because it was Jesus who said it, or maybe it was misunderstood or mistranslated, I don’t know.

      My conclusion is to relate directly to God through Christ and the Holy Spirit as best I can, (because if that’s not possible then what’s the point of believing at all) I don’t put preachers on a pedestal, they simply aren’t worthy and will always let you down. As for trying to reconcile the various contradictions within the bible and doctrinal points of contention, I tend to just leave it alone nowadays. Find the truths that speak to you, there are some beautiful scriptures that will melt your heart when the father shows them to you. Above all else the bible points to one thing; Jesus. ..and isn’t he awesome!


    • 2 Peter 3:15-17. Paul was accepted by the Apostles. Keep seeking the truth and don’t let your preconceived ideas prevent you from seeing the truth. God Bless Brother.


  6. Tricia – great article. I would like to point out that Jesus was the first to be resurrected. Lazarus and possibly Paul were raised from the dead to die again. Christ began resurrection. But once Christ rose from the dead, never to die again, that was resurrection.


  7. Very humble of you, but we are supposed to examine Scriptures and I feel that you were doing that, rather than skimming the surface. When people are dedicated as you are, the Lord may show connections missed by others. I find this inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Since the Bible is silent on much of the speculation of your article, I would think God did not reckon it to be important for us to know. While it might be interesting (to us) to think about such things, there are so many more important issues upon which we should put our focus and spend our time thinking about.
    God bless.


    • Thanks for your thoughts. I will strive to confine myself to really important things in future! Although, personally I never find any new insights into the bible text trivial, and what the Holy Spirit leads me to “speculate” might just be an important matter to some readers. You never know.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I thought your article was very inspiring, and from the Holy Spirit. I was researching this for confirmation of what the Holy Spirit had already revealed to me. Thanks for sharing; many will see it and probably many will not, i pray that all will see it, because there is great significance to this. I love the way you laid it all out. Like you started out with Acts 14: 4-6, and verse 4 the beginning will probably reflect the response to this article, though i pray not. Verse 4—But the multitude of the city was divided and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles….Again thank you for sharing, because to me when there is that much evidence, beginning with the Holy Spirit, the (Time Line), (severity of the attack) and the rest your article it is very important!!!, and you do know. but your so kind, and hopefully i did not offend anybody but if i did, talk to father about and he will help clear it up.


    • “Jesus saves” is all that you need to know, but it doesn’t make you a strong Christian. Did you miss the “study to show yourselves approved” part, too? Or the part where Peter warns that remaining a weak Christian leads to their own destruction? Shame on you!


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