Patricia Hofer

St. Paul and NDE’s

Describing what happened to her during her “near death” experience in To Heaven and Back, Mary Neal wrote, “… it is impossible for me to adequately describe what I saw and what I felt. When I try to recount my experiences now, the description feels very pale. I feel as though I am trying to describe a three-dimensional experience while living in a two-dimensional world” (71).

Some Christians might question the validity of “near death” experiences. Such experiences don’t always fit comfortably into Christian doctrinal practice; there are believers who doubt them altogether. And we do need to realize that some of these experiences are more credible and helpful than others.

But when Paul talks of being “caught up to the third heaven” or of being “caught up into paradise,” what is he describing to us? We Christians don’t dismiss the “unexpressible things” Paul hears in his conversation “with the Lord” (NIV 2 Cor. 12:1-4). And his wonderful conclusion: “For when I am weak, then am I strong” (NIV 1 Cor. 12:10).

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