Q. Who was the “man in Christ,” and what is meant by “the third heaven.” ?
2 Cor. 12:2-4
2 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.
3 And I know how such a man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows–
4 was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
From the context it appears that the “man in Christ” is the apostle Paul. By subtracting 14 years from the time of the writing of Second Corinthians we can place this event at about the time when Paul was stoned and left for dead at Lystra recorded in Acts 14:19-20. There is really no way to know for certain if this is indeed the event that makes reference to. If this is indeed the incident that Paul is referring to he is likely saying, “at the time of this vision I don’t know if I was dead or alive…..only God knows.” What he heard and saw he was not permitted to reveal.
The “third heaven” is simply a reference to the abode of God. The Jews in Paul’s day referred to the “first heaven” as the place where the birds fly, the “second heaven” as the place where the sun, the moon and the stars resided, and the “third heaven” as the place of God’s abode.