Paul's thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan
2 Corinthians 12:6-8
Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say. To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
Thorn figuratively is a constant disturbance or annoyance. Thorns came out on plants after the fall of men in Eden.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
'But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.
Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you."
What is Paul’s Thorn on his Flesh or Messenger of Satan?
Paul lived a unique life here is his resume:
2 Corinthians 11:24-26
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.
As impressive as this is, it is not complete many more things happen in his life after he wrote this.
Snake bite Acts 28:3
Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.
Stoned to Death Acts 14:18-20
Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.
Paul, was a unique man, a chosen apostle, he talks about a man that might actually himself. 2 Corinthians 12:2-3
“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.” And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.
All these occurrences might have something in common, what happened to Paul when he was stoned to death? Did he go to heaven? Did he see thing he could not understand, things that he could not share? He comes up as a pillar of Christianity even when he was not one of the original disciples. We know the disciples changed when the say the Christ resurrected. Paul’s life was changed when he say Jesus in Damascus and maybe again when he was stoned to death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,
If you have gone to heaven would you want to come back?
Nobody knows what Paul’s thorn was, only him and God and the messenger. The trip to paradise might be the reason. An extreme circumstance requires an extreme solution. Paul was enduring his personal torment to keep him focused in the greatest task asked of men. Paul could be the single most tormented martyr enduring continual discomfort, pain, and hard work for a long part of his life in the faith. I am only depicting the worst case scenario. That what he wrote was tormenting him was exactly what he described.