The Apostle Paul was nearing the end of his third missionary journey when he wrote his Second Epistle to the Church at Corinth. Carefully read his testimony in the inspired text.
“I know a man in Christ who was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether he was in the body or out of the body, I don’t know; God knows. I know that this man—whether in the body or out of the body I don’t know; God knows— was caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a human being is not allowed to speak. I will boast about this person, but not about myself, except of my weaknesses. For if I want to boast, I wouldn’t be a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:2–10).
Where was he “fourteen years” before writing Second Corinthians? Where was the Apostle Paul “fourteen years” earlier when he “was caught up into paradise” to hear “inexpressible words?” Where was he when Satan pounded him unmercifully, with crippling blows that brought him to his knees, crying for mercy? Where was Paul when he pleaded, again and again and again for relief from “a thorn in the flesh?”
Where was he? Paul was probably in Tarsus, his hometown.
“When the brothers (in Jerusalem) found out (about the plot to kill Saul), they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus” (Acts 9:30). Many scholars believe that he may have remained there for four or five years before being called to Antioch (Acts 11:25).
Maybe Saul returned to the tentmaking business, toiling day after day with the other skilled craftsmen. While he worked, he witnessed, telling everyone about Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God and salvation that was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Most assuredly he spent every available moment in the synagogue boldly proclaiming the resurrected Jesus.
I’m guessing that there were rabblerousers in Tarsus, just as there had been in Damascus and Jerusalem. Maybe, just maybe, they arrested Saul and beat him. Maybe they flogged him. Later, Paul reported that he had been flogged five times and beaten with rods three times (2 Corinthians 11:24-25). Maybe one or more of those cruel treatments occurred in Tarsus. And maybe, laying beaten and bloody, near death, the one who had earlier meted out these same torturous treatments, was mercifully and graciously transported into the glorious presence of his Lord and Savior. Maybe, worshipping at the nail-scarred feet, Paul felt the touch of the Almighty and heard the lasting promise, “My gracious is sufficient.”