Third Heaven

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Question: What is “the third heaven,” and who was the man who was “caught up to” it?

Answer: Paul was talking about himself, without mentioning himself directly–perhaps to avoid boasting about his remarkable vision. The phrase “the third heaven” refers to the celestial kingdom (See D&C 76:96-98)

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2 Corinthians 12:2-4

2 I knew a man in Christ [Paul himself] above fourteen years ago [over fourteen years ago], (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I [Paul] cannot tell: God knoweth;) [I couldn’t tell whether or not I was in my body when this happened] such an one caught up to the third heaven (one who was taken up to the celestial glory).

3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I [Paul] cannot tell: God knoweth;)

4 How that he [Paul] was caught up into paradise (the third heaven), and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter (talk about).

Note: Joseph Smith confirmed that the “man in Christ” was Paul himself. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 301 and 304-305)

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LeGrand Richards, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

...In the few minutes that I have left I would like to mention one or two examples of Satan’s deceptions. We hear constantly that all we have to do is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and we will be saved. The advocates of this doctrine take for their justification the statement of Jesus to the malefactor on the cross when he said, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43.) (The Prophet Joseph Smith indicates that the word paradise as it appears in the Bible should have been translated as “the world of spirits.”) They think that they can all be saved just by acknowledging Jesus as the Christ. If they only understood the scriptures!

Paul was caught up into the third heaven (and there cannot be a third heaven if there isn’t a first and a second) and he was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words, “which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” (See 2 Cor. 12:2–4.)

Let us consider then the statement made by Jesus to the malefactor: “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (or in the world of spirits). The apostle Paul tells us that there are three heavens above the world of spirits, and Jesus said: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you … that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2–3.)

The prophet Alma, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, discusses the condition of the soul between death and the resurrection, and he states this: “Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.” (Alma 40:14.)

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The world does not understand this, but if you will trust the scriptures, Jesus did not take the malefactor to heaven. He took him to the world of spirits, and there are three heavens above that, according to the Holy Scriptures. Why did he take him to paradise (the world of spirits)? It was a great gift and recognition at his hand because of what the malefactor had said on the cross.

Then the apostle Peter tells us where he went that day when he was crucified: “… he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, Which sometime were disobedient, … in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” (1 Pet. 3:19–20.)

So instead of the malefactor having to wait for years and years like those who were wicked in the days of Noah, the Savior took him with him that very day to the place where he could hear the gospel preached. Peter tells us that “for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 4:6.) And that is where the malefactor went with the Savior that day, but there are three heavens above that to which Jesus did not take him...

At the present time, people are preaching all over the world that all you need to do is to confess that Jesus is the Christ, but that is not what Jesus said. He said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

He said, “Many shall say to me at that day [speaking of the day of his second coming], Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

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“And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:21–23.)

Paul tells us, “Though he were a Son yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Heb. 5:8–9.)

Then John “saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: … and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” John also wrote: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him. …” (Rev. 20:12, 6.)

You see that does not come just by confession that you believe in Jesus Christ. You have got to do the works and be judged according to your works...

During this conference you have heard the testimonies of all my associates here bearing witness that the Prophet Joseph did seek after him and he did find him. And I want to bear my witness as one of his representatives, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, that I know that he has visited this earth and we have his revealed truth. We have that of which Peter spoke when he said, following the day of Pentecost, that the heavens must receive the Christ “until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:21.) We are the only church in the world that claims such a restitution, and there is a great difference between a restitution and a reformation...

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Then I thought of the Day of Pentecost when Peter preached to all of those people there, and they heard the gospel preached in their own language and in their own tongue and they were pricked in their hearts and they cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37.) He did not tell them to come up and confess. He said: “Repent, and be baptized … and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:37–39.)

And they cannot be baptized unless there is one having authority that is recognized in the heavens, like Jesus said to his Twelve: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you. …” (John 15:16.) “… and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:19.)

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Sources: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 147; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 2, Volume 3, by David J. Ridges, 212; Excerpt from General Conference, October 1972, “Strange Creeds of Christendom,” by LeGrand Richards, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.