When and how did Paul receive so much knowledge of the revelation and sayings of Christ; as He stated in Galatians 1:12 “I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ”. Galatians 1:16 “to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man”. And in Galations 1:18: “Then after 3 years I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter..” Could he have spent this 3 years with the risen Christ to have attained so much knowledge? Much like the apostles spent 3 years with Christ before he was crucified. the use of numbers (3 years in this case) are very significant in the Bible. Could he have learned this much from the one dramatic encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, or do you think he had other encounters with the risen Christ…i.e. during the 3 years before he went up to Jeruselem?
An excellent question. Remember first that Paul was an expert in all things Jewish.
Philippians 3:4-6 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (NKJV)
So many of his insights have their foundation in his training but, as you point out, he himself claimed inspiration and revelation from Christ. His encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9.5) qualified him to be an Apostle. It does seem like a brief event, so did Paul have other personal encounters with Jesus. We find the answer in 2Corinthians:
2 Corinthians 12:2-4 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (NKJV)
It is evident, though Paul doesn’t specifically say, that he is talking about himself. He tells us of an event where “a man” was caught up to the “third heaven”. In that time, men spoke of different levels of heaven, anywhere from 3 to 7 different ones. The first heaven would be the clouds and sky; the second would be out in “space”.
The third heaven was beyond this, so undoubtedly Paul was speaking of a place that was not of this world or within our “dimension”. He was caught up into Heaven which is confirmed by describing it as “Paradise”. No doubt while he was there Paul was in the presence of God and Jesus.
Then we find the answer to your question:
2 Corinthians 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. (NKJV; emphasis mine)
Paul had received an “abundance of revelations” and for this, God gave him a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble. In other words, Paul had seen, heard and learned such wonderful things that God felt it necessary to inflict him with some sort of physical ailment or demonic oppression in order to keep him from being boastful or prideful – a natural tendency for someone who was the recipient of such an honor.
It would seem that the “trip to heaven” was necessary to instill the courage and conviction that Paul would need for arguably the most difficult task in Church history (second to Christ’s crucifixion obviously). Having been to heaven and seen the “truth” first-hand, Paul would not be deterred from taking the Gospel to the world.
During that event, he received an “abundance of revelations” which allowed him to write many of the books of our New Testament including the verses you allude to.