On another thread (https://eu.ltcmp.net/t/veredical-ndes/1061/1), Michael wrote:
Paul is quoting the prophet Isaiah: “And in that day the Lord GOD of hosts called for weeping and for mourning, for baldness and for girding with sackcloth. But instead, joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating meat and drinking wine: ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!’” (Isaiah 22:12-13) Paul’s argument is that if there is no resurrection of the dead (i.e., no making alive of all who die in Adam), then, just like the doomed inhabitants of Jerusalem before the Assyrian siege, we should focus all of our remaining time and energy on enjoying as much as possible the good things of life now, for at death it will all come to an end. But because of the resurrection, this life is not all we have.
On the contrary, I think Paul’s words here and elsewhere have direct bearing on this issue. It was because of his hope in the resurrection of the dead that Paul was willing to put his life in jeopardy on a regular basis (vv. 30-32). But if we go to heaven to enjoy God’s presence when we die without a resurrection being necessary, then Paul’s argument in these verses loses its force. Why not put oneself in “danger every hour” if, at death, one goes to heaven, as many Christians believe? But Paul’s argument is that if “the dead do not rise at all” it would be utter foolishness to hazard life in the cause of Christianity, as he and the other apostles did “every hour.” When Paul asks rhetorically, “What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus?” most Christians could reply, “At death you would be ushered into God’s presence in heaven, Paul!” But Paul’s rhetorical question indicates that he expected no “gain” or “advantage” if there was no resurrection of the dead. For Paul, it was the fact of the resurrection of the dead that made such an otherwise foolish way of life not really foolish at all, since the resurrection means that this life is not all we have.
As you acknowledge, the story of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable. This means it is a non-historical, fictional story that conveys a deeper truth. Now, Christ told this parable without the slightest suggestion that he believed people were actually conscious in Sheol/Hades (as you’re probably aware, Hades is employed in the NT as the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol). The fact that Christ made use of a certain Jewish belief (a belief which likely originated during the intertestamental period of Israel’s history and was a part of the Pharisee’s oral tradition in Christ’s day) for the purpose of a satirical parable directed against the Pharisees is no evidence that Christ sanctioned as true the unbiblical beliefs on which the parable was based. And your argument that Christ told this parable “without the slightest suggestion that belief in an intermediate state is false” proves too much. Do you think Christ believed that, after death, the “immortal souls” of the righteous are actually carried by angels to “Abraham’s bosom” (which, in the parable, is quite literally at Abraham’s side) to be comforted, while the “immortal souls” of the wicked are in fiery torment? Or that “disembodied souls” have eyes, bosoms, fingertips and tongues (and apparently nerves if they can experience the kind of physical anguish that the rich man thought a drop of water would alleviate)? Or that there is literally a “great chasm” in Hades which was put in place by God to keep people’s souls from traveling back and forth? Or that, in spite of the “great chasm” that is said to be between them, the souls of good and wicked men are close enough to see and converse with each other for as long as the intermediate state lasts? Do you think the righteous souls in “Abraham’s bosom” must, for the entirety of their stay in this place, hear the cries of the tormented wicked without being able to do anything to ease their pain? If so, Hades must be a pretty hellish place for those more godly and tender-hearted souls who cannot help but feel compassion for those undergoing such torments, while being unable to do anything to alleviate their suffering. And in the words of one Universalist author, “the rich man in hell felt a merciful interest in the welfare of others that found not a response or an equal in heaven.”
Do you think Christ really believed any of this? If you believe that there is but one detail of this parable that is not true about the intermediate state of the dead, then your argument (i.e., that because Christ did not “dispute the premise” that the dead are conscious in Hades during the intermediate state, it must therefore mean he believed this) is seriously undermined. For Christ did not dispute anything he mentioned in the parable. But this does not mean he believed any part of the parable’s content to be based on fact. There is no reason to think that Christ believed one word of the parable to reflect the truth about the actual state of the dead. And if the Pharisees to whom he spoke continued to believe that the dead are conscious in Sheol/Hades, then we have no reason to think Christ would have attempted to correct their mistaken view. It simply wasn’t Christ’s mission to personally and directly correct the superstitions and erroneous beliefs to which the Jewish people held in the 1st century. It’s also unlikely that the disciples would have understood Christ to have been putting his “stamp of approval” on the Pharisaic opinions on which the parable was based, especially once they realized it was a parable directed against the very persons who believed and taught such things. By formulating a parable out of their own beliefs about the intermediate state, Christ more forcefully rebuked his unbelieving opponents. It is as if Christ said to the Pharisees, “Since you believe the dead are conscious in Hades (contrary to what is said in your own inspired Scriptures), then allow me to introduce the testimony of your beloved patriarch, Abraham, to condemn you according to your own false beliefs.” And that is just what he does when he has Abraham declare to the rich man, “If they [the rich man’s brothers] do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (And of course, when the real Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus later during his ministry, that’s exactly what happened). Jesus wasn’t telling this fictional story to teach the Pharisees doctrine or sanction their unscriptural beliefs. By framing a parable based on the Pharisees’ own beliefs regarding the intermediate state of the dead, Jesus condemned not only their covetousness and self-righteousness, but their unwillingness to “hear Moses and the Prophets” - for in “Moses and the Prophets” the conscious existence of the dead is not taught or revealed. (For more on my understanding of this parable, see here: https://eu.ltcmp.net/t/the-parable-of-the-rich-man-and-lazarus/680/1)
Now, if the dead are conscious, then I believe this would have to be revealed to us by God, for our own observation indicates otherwise. Apart from a divine revelation, we have no good reason to think that when a person dies they are still conscious and aware. Rather, we have every reason to think that the exact opposite is the case. That is, the appearance is that, when a person dies, they (i.e., the living and conscious person) are, in a very real sense, “no more” (Gen. 42:13, 36; Ps. 39:13; Lam 5:7; Matt. 2:18). And unless it is taught in Scripture that, appearances notwithstanding, those who die are still conscious, then all we have is our own vain speculation (along with some unsubstantiated anecdotal evidence). And when we are coming to Scripture to find out what it has to say about this subject, I see no good reason to assume that death is not really what it seems to be (i.e., the termination of a person’s living, conscious existence). That man possesses an “immortal soul” (or what have you) that survives the death of the body in a disembodied state of existence would require a revelation from God. Without such a thing being revealed to us we could have no certain knowledge of it, and I submit that no one can point to any place in Scripture where this doctrine first appears, or is first revealed to mankind. One would expect that such a widely-held view among Christians would appear prominently in the pages of Scripture, and that the doctrine would be introduced to us early in the divine record in no uncertain or ambiguous terms. But this is not the case at all. With the exception of the account of Lazarus and the rich man (which is a parable from start to finish), the Bible is wholly silent with regards to the idea of the dead being conscious. And while I admit that I could be wrong about what happens after we die, I believe that if I am in error it’s not because I should have simply taken for granted a view that seems so contrary and counter-intuitive to what my own experience, observation and God-given senses indicates. I think the burden of proof should be on those who hold that death is not what it appears to be (i.e., the end of one’s conscious existence as a human being) but instead introduces us into more “life” (or at least a conscious existence that seems pretty indistinguishable from a living state of existence) To use the words of Solomon, there is nothing “under the sun” which suggests that this is at all the case.
First, I don’t think the question is whether or not there is an “intermediate state” between death and resurrection. Rather, the question should be, “Are we conscious during this state or not?” And while I would dispute your assertion that the “only scriptural evidence” for there being no consciousness during the intermediate state is from the Psalms and Ecclesiastes, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that this is correct. Well then what do the Psalms and Ecclesiastes teach about the nature of man and death? From these sources alone we may conclude the following: When man dies he begins to return to the dust of the earth from which he was made (Ps 90:3; 104:29; 146:4; Eccl 3:18-21; 12:7). Death frees men from their oppressors (Eccl 4:1-3). Those who are dead are “no more” (Ps 39:13). While the living know that they will die, the dead know nothing (Eccl 9:5). Their love and their hate and their envy have perished (v. 6). “Sheol” is where the dead reside (Ps 6:5; 16:10; 30:3; 31:17; 49:15; 88:3; 89:48; 116:3; 139:8; Eccl 9:10), which is called man’s “olam (age-abiding) home” (Eccl 12:5). There is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol (Eccl 9:10). Sheol is sometimes referred to as “the pit” (Ps 30:3, 9; 55:23; 88:4, 6; 103:4). Man’s nephash (“soul”) goes to Sheol (Ps. 16:10; 30:3; 49:15; 86:13; 89:48). Sheol is described as a place of corruption (Ps 16:10) and destruction (Ps 40:2; 55:23) where one’s form is “consumed” (Ps 49:14). Those who are in Sheol are said to be “dust” (Ps 30:3, 9). Sheol is represented as being a place of silence (Ps. 3:17; 6:6; 30:10; 88:13; 94:17; 115:17) and darkness (Ps 88:12). God’s steadfast love and faithfulness is not declared in Sheol, and his wonders and righteousness are not made known there (Ps 30:9; 88:10-12). Those who reside in Sheol have no remembrance of God (Ps. 6:5; 88:12) and do not praise him (Ps 6:5; 30:9; 88:10-12; 115:17).
Now, you suggest that some of the verses from the Psalms which some see as evidence that the dead aren’t conscious may simply be teaching nothing more than that the dead are unable to “praise God among the living.” But where is it taught in the Psalms or anywhere else in Scripture that the dead are able to praise God among the dead? That is, where is it taught that the dead are able to praise God in any way whatsoever? That the Psalmist didn’t think the dead had any capacity to praise God is clear from Ps 6:5: “For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?” Here it is evident that the reason why those in Sheol do not praise God is because in death there is no remembrance of God. How could those in Sheol (the dead) praise a being of which they have no remembrance? And in Ps 30:9 it is implied that the dead do not praise God because they have returned to dust - and of course, dust can’t do anything. In Ps 88:10-12 it is implied that the dead do not praise God because they are in “Abaddon” (a place of destruction) and “the land of forgetfulness.” And in Ps 115:17 it is implied that the dead do not praise God because they are silent.
You also suggest that the statements made in Ecclesiastes which may be seen as evidence that the dead aren’t conscious are simply “the logical conclusions Solomon drew from what he could see under the sun.” But where is the Scriptural evidence that the logical conclusions Solomon drew regarding the state of the dead was inaccurate or incomplete? That is, where is the Scriptural evidence that Solomon’s observations do not present the “full truth” concerning the state of the dead? Let’s start with the rest of the OT. I believe the general tenor of the OT is entirely consistent with both the Psalms as well as Solomon’s observations regarding the dead, and that the rest of the inspired authors - from Moses to Malachi - take for granted rather than attempt to disprove or shed further light on what the Psalms and Solomon have to say about the state in which the dead are in. A perusal of the OT would leave one with the impression that Solomon’s understanding of the state of the dead was the “orthodox” view among the Hebrews during much of Israel’s history.
Again, Solomon believed that “the dead know nothing” (Eccl 9:5) and that “there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol” (v. 10). But is this understanding of the state of the dead in unison with what is taught in “the Law and the Prophets” to which Christ referred during his ministry? Well, when Abraham breathed his last, where does Moses say he (Abraham) went? In Genesis 15:15, God tells Abraham, “You shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age” (Gen 15:15). Here, Abraham’s “going to his fathers in peace” is equivalent to him being “buried in a good old age.” And in Genesis 25:8, we read, “Then Abraham breathed his last, and died in a good old age - an old man full of years. And he was gathered to his people.” But what kind of people were his ancestors? In Joshua 24:2, we learn that they were idol-worshipping pagans. The expression “and he was gathered to his people” is explained by Jacob in a later chapter: “Then he [Jacob] commanded them and said to them, ‘I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite…There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife’” (Genesis 49:29, 31). This is in perfect harmony with what Solomon states. When Abraham breathed his last and died, where was he? Answer: he was buried in a cave, and thus joined his ancestors who had died and been buried before him.
Again, when Moses breathed his last, where was he? It is answered in Deut. 31:16: “Behold, you shall sleep with your fathers.” We see the same thing said of David (1 Kings 1:21 and 2:10; cf. Acts 13:36), of Solomon (1 Kings 11:43; 2 Chron. 9:31), of Asa (1 Kings 15:24; 2 Chron. 16:13), of Jehosaphat (1 Kings 22:50; 2 Chron. 21:1), of Azariah (2 Kings 15:7), of Jotham (2 Kings 15:38; 2 Chron. 27:9); of Abijah (2 Chron. 14:1), of Uzziah (2 Chron. 26:23), of Hezekiah (2 Chron. 32:33), of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14: 31; 2 Chron. 12: 16) and of Josiah (2 Kings 22:20). All went to the same “place” (i.e., Sheol) where they are represented as being asleep with their ancestors. The same thing is said of the unrighteous as well. It is said of Jeroboam “that he slept with his fathers” (1 Kings 14:20; 2 Kings 14:29), of Abijam (1 Kings 15:8), of Baasha (1 Kings 16:6), of Omri (1 Kings 16:28), of Ahab (1 Kings 22:40), of Joram (2 Kings 8:24), of Jehu (2 Kings 10:35), of Jehoahaz (2 Kings 13:9), of Joash (2 Kings 13:13), of Jehoash (2 Kings 1 4:1 6), of Menahem (2 Kings 15:22), of Ahaz (2 Kings 16:20), of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:18; 2 Chron. 33:20) and of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:6). Of course, the dead are not literally “sleeping”; this is figurative language. The dead are said to “sleep” and to “fall asleep” because those who die look as if they’re falling asleep, and those who are dead look as if they’re sleeping. But one major difference between a sleeping person and a dead person is that, in the former, there is still brain activity. In the latter, however, all brain activity has ceased.
It is clear from all these texts that all people – whether pious or profane, believer or pagan, righteous or unrighteous - are said “to sleep with their fathers.” Jacob - a believing, righteous man - desired to “lie with his fathers” (Gen. 47:30), and his death is called being “gathered to his people” (49:29, 33). And speaking of the wicked it is said, “He shall go to the generation of his fathers” (Ps. 49:19). This is said not only of single individuals, but of whole generations (Judges 2:10). When persons are said to go to their fathers at death (Gen. 15:15) and to go down to their children who were dead (Gen. 37:35; cf. 42:38; 44:29, 31), nothing more is meant than that they joined them in the grave, where all alike return to the dust of the earth (Gen 3:19; 18:27). As David’s death was quickly approaching, he told his son Solomon that he (David) was about to “go the way of all the earth” (1 Kings 2:2; cf. Josh 23:14). That is, after his death David knew he would return to the dust. And of course, David’s fate after death would later be contrasted with that of the Messiah’s, who it was prophesied would not see corruption after death: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Ps 16:10; cf. Acts 2:24-31). Here, the Messiah’s “soul” (i.e., the Messiah himself) not being abandoned to Sheol is equivalent to him not seeing “corruption” (which refers to God’s preventing Jesus’ body from undergoing decomposition in the tomb by raising him from the dead after 3 days).
Notice also that in the above verses, the person who died is identified with the body that is buried. And we see this identification throughout Scripture. It seems as if the inspired writers understood that a person is constituted by his body, and not by some other “part” of him that can leave the body at death. According to Scripture, when a man’s “spirit” (i.e., his life) “departs” from him and returns to God, it is the man himself who is said to “return to the earth” (Job 10:9; Psalm 90:3; 104:29; 146:4). But it is the man’s body that “returns to the earth,” not his spirit/life (which is said to “return to God”). Therefore, a human person is constituted by his body, and not by his spirit. Consider the following example: When Jesus died, his spirit/life returned to God, its source (Luke 23:46), and his body was buried in a grave (Matt 27:59-60). After his death, Jesus was always said to be wherever his body was, not where his spirit or life went (Matt 12:40; Acts 2:39, 13:29; 1 Cor 15:3-5). Therefore, it follows that Christ was and is constituted as a human person by his body, and not by his spirit/life. The same is said of other people as well, such as David. In Acts 2:29 we read, “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.” Similarly, Paul states in Acts 13:36, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption.” Here we see that the person, David, is identified with what had been buried and ultimately “saw corruption” - not some disembodied “part” of David that is conscious somewhere in the universe or in heaven.
Continuing on with our brief survey of the OT teaching on the state of the dead, in Job 3:11-19 we read:
Job’s language above seems strikingly similar to what we read in both the Psalms and Ecclesiastes. Like both David and Solomon, Job speaks of the dead just as we would speak of people in a graveyard. And just like David, Job describes those in Sheol as “dust”: “If I hope for Sheol as my house, if I make my bed in darkness, if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’ where then is my hope? Who will see my hope? Will it go down to the bars of Sheol? Shall we descend together into the dust?” (Job 17:13-16) It is evident that Job is using typical Hebrew parallelism: to go down to “the bars of Sheol” and to “descend into the dust” is the same thing. Job also refers to the sleep of the dead as being “in the dust” (Job 7:21). And like in the Psalms, Sheol is also referred to as a place of destruction (Job 6:8) and as “the pit” (Job 17:14; 33:28) - probably an allusion to the burial places among the Hebrews, which were deep pits or caves. Sheol is also described by Job as “the land of darkness and deep shadow, the land of gloom like thick darkness, like deep shadow without any order, where light is as thick darkness” (Job 10:20-22; cf. Job 3:16; 17:13; Ps. 88:12).
In Job 14:10 the following question is asked: “Man breathes his last, and where is he?” There can be no doubt that Job’s question is spoken of all people without exception; thus, to answer this question is to know what happens to all at death. Fortunately, we do not have to search far for an answer to Job’s question, for he answers it himself in vv. 11-15:
It is evident that Job believed the dead resided in the same place that Solomon believed all mortals were destined: Sheol. But what is Sheol? While several derivations for the Hebrew word she’ohl’ have been offered by Biblical scholars, it was probably derived from the Hebrew verb sha’al’ meaning “to ask, request” – a reference to the insatiability of the grave, which is always asking or craving more (Hab 2:5). And when we consider how the word is consistently used in Scripture, it becomes evident that Sheol should not be understood as an otherworldly realm of ghosts and disembodied spirits. Rather, when used in a literal sense in the OT, the word simply denotes the grave in general - i.e., wherever the dead reside (and inevitably return to dust unless this process is interrupted), whether it’s in a keber (a burial place or a graveyard - Gen 23:7-9; Jer 8:1; 26:23) or elsewhere (Gen. 37:35; Isa 14:9, 11, 15, 19). But because burial (whether in caves or elsewhere) was the typical way in which the Hebrews disposed of their dead, Sheol is spoken of as being beneath the surface of the earth (Ps 63:9; 86:13; Prov 15:24; Isa. 7:11; 57:9; Ezek. 26:20; 31:14; 32:18; Prov 15:24). And like the caves and other burial places used by the ancient Hebrews, Sheol is said to have a mouth or place of entrance: “As when one plows and breaks up the earth, so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol” (Ps 141:7) - i.e., at the mouth of the grave. “Therefore Sheol [the grave] has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure, and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude will go down, her revelers and he who exults in her” (Isa 5:14). Since it refers to the grave, Sheol was thus described as marking the point of greatest possible distance that persons could be from the heavens (Job 11:8; Amos 9:2; Ps. 139:8) - hence the expressions “depths of Sheol” (Deut. 32:22; Ps. 86:13; Prov 9:18) and “depths of the pit” (Ps. 88:6; Lam. 3:55; Ezek. 26:20, 32:24), which denotes the lowest places of burial. Moreover, the contents of Sheol are such as can belong only to the grave. We read of gray hairs (Gen 42:38; 44:29, 31), gray heads (1 Kings 2:6, 9), bones (Ps 141:7; Ezekiel 32:27), sheep (Ps 49:15), goods (Num 16:32-33), and swords and other weapons of war (Ezekiel 32:27). Worms and maggots are also spoken of as if present in Sheol (Job 17:13-14; 24:19-20; Isaiah 14:11). And notice that Korah and his company were said to go down to Sheol “alive,” which would make no sense if Sheol denoted the abode of disembodied spirits in the “netherworld.” But when Sheol is understood to mean “the grave,” what we’re told in Numbers 16:32-33 makes perfect sense. Korah and his company simply went down alive to the place where their corpses would reside and ultimately return to dust.
Echoing the words of the Psalmist, the prophet Isaiah refers to the grave as “the pit of destruction” and adds, “For Sheol does not thank you; death does not praise you; those who go down to the pit do not hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day” (Isa 38:17-19). Here, Isaiah contrasts the dead (who do not thank, praise, or hope in God) with the living. But why don’t the dead do any of these things? Answer: because they’re dead - and as anyone who has seen a corpse could tell you, the dead don’t do anything except “rest in peace.” But what about Isaiah 14:9-10, where the dead are said to greet and speak to the slain king of Babylon?
This is obviously figurative language. Just as the earth and trees are represented as singing, talking and rejoicing at the downfall of the king of Babylon, so the grave itself is personified and described as being “stirred up” to greet its newest inhabitant, and as rousing its slumbering inhabitants to do the same. The imaginary scene being described is that of dead corpses - not “disembodied spirits” - being awakened from their “sleep” in the grave (hence the reference to “maggots” being laid as a “bed” beneath the king, and “worms” being his “covers”). The entire seen is imaginary and poetic, not literal. Just as trees do not literally speak, neither do dead people. The same goes for Ezekiel 32:21, where certain “mighty chiefs” are figuratively represented as saying to slain Egyptians “out of the midst of Sheol” (i.e., out of the midst of the grave): “They have come down, they lie still, the uncircumcised, slain by the sword.” Of course the slain Egyptians “lie still” in Sheol - they’re corpses. As in Isaiah 14, figurative, poetic language is being employed; the dead cannot literally speak to each other. The dead know nothing, and there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol.
But what about the story of Saul and the medium of En-dor (1 Sam 28:1-25)? Well if Samuel actually appeared to the medium and spoke to Saul, then it simply means he wasn’t dead at that time. In other words, if Samuel really made an appearance then it means God temporarily raised him from the dead for the purpose of rebuking Israel’s wayward king. To this it may be objected that the narrative suggests that only the medium could see Samuel. But this is no objection to Samuel’s having been raised bodily from the dead, because mediums at this time used large holes in the ground from which they pretended to summon the ghosts of the dead during their séances (the word for this ritualistic hole in the ground used by ancient mediums is an “ob”). According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, “In its earliest appearances (Sumerian), ob refers to a pit out of which a departed spirit may be summoned. Later Assyrian texts use this word to denote simply a pit in the ground. Akkadian texts describe a deity that is the personification of the pit, to whom a particular exorcism ritual was addressed. Biblical Hebrew attests this word 16 times.” Similarly, the Journal of Biblical Literature has this to say on the word ob: “Initially, the term may have hinted of a “hole” from which dead spirits ascended from the spirit-world to earth’s environment to communicate with the living, with the word eventually being used for the spirits themselves.” (Hoffner, 385-401). Thus, if Samuel was indeed bodily present as a result of being temporarily resurrected by God, there’s no reason to think he would have been visible to Saul (at least, not initially). But I have some doubts as to whether Samuel was actually present at all; it’s possible that the medium was simply deceiving Saul, and that the inspired author is describing Saul’s visit to the medium from Saul’s own perspective. bertgary.blogspot.com/2009/05/ps … -fake.html
But the only “clear promise of life after death” in all of Scripture is the promise of the resurrection. Neither in the OT nor in the NT is there any other “promise of life after death.”
Where in Ecclesiastes do you see it taught that man’s actions are not brought into judgment by God in this life, and that post-mortem punishments are required to “balance” things out?
If one already presupposes that one’s consciousness is not dependent on the brain and continues to exist after a person dies, then I can see how Paul’s words here could be understood as evidence for this. But I don’t think Paul believed this, and I don’t think this is a correct interpretation of what he says here. First, it is evident that Paul is talking about a vision of the “third heaven,” where God dwells (the first and second heavens are likely the heavens which are visible during the day and during the night, respectively). Now, by “in the body” I think we both agree that Paul meant “bodily.” That is, for Paul to have been caught up to paradise “in the body” would mean that Paul was physically caught up to paradise in a similar way as Philip was transported to another location by God’s spirit (Acts 8:39-40). But what did Paul mean by the expression ektos tou sōmatos (“outside of the body”)? Is there a sense in which Paul could speak of himself as having been “outside of his body” when caught up to paradise without meaning that some “part” of him (e.g., an “immortal soul”) actually left his body? I think so. If Paul’s being caught up to the third heaven was a vision similar to those visions described in Acts (e.g., Acts 9:10-12; 10:3, 9-19; 11:5; 16:9; 18:9; cf. 12:9), then Paul could be said to have been “outside of his body” at the time since, from Paul’s perspective, he (with “he” meaning the man, Paul, and not some disembodied “part” of Paul) was caught up to heaven while his body remained on earth. That is, if in a vision Paul experienced himself as leaving this earth and travelling beyond both the first heaven and the second heaven to the “third heaven” while his body “stayed behind” and did not actually go anywhere, then he could speak of himself as having been “outside of his body” (or “apart from his body”) during the experience. Understood in this way, the expression “in the body” would have implied that Paul’s visit to paradise was an objective experience, and the expression “outside of the body” would have implied that it was a subjective experience. That is, by the expression “outside the body” I believe Paul simply meant “in a vision.”
Consider Ezekiel’s account of his own visionary experience:
Here Ezekiel describes a vision he had while sitting in his house with the elders of Judah sitting before him. What Ezekiel experienced was that of being “lifted up between heaven and earth” by the Spirit, and then being shown various things. Was Ezekiel in some sense “outside of his body” when he was “lifted up between heaven and earth?” Yes, he was. From his perspective Ezekiel left his house and the earth itself. While in his mind Ezekiel experienced himself being “lifted up between earth and heaven,” his body didn’t go anywhere; it stayed in his house. So Ezekiel could have referred to himself as having been “outside of his body” during this time, since in the vision he experienced himself being somewhere other than where his body was (which remained seated in his house before the elders of Judah). But unlike Ezekiel, Paul evidently wasn’t sure if what he experienced was a vision or not - hence his uncertainty of whether he was “in the body” (as Philip was when he was physically caught up from the earth) or “outside of the body” (as Ezekiel was during his vision). Moreover, if (as you suggest) Paul had actually been stoned to death (although we’re not told he was actually dead - Acts 14:19), then it is certain that he did not receive any visions at this time, since the “dead know nothing” (Ecc. 9:5).