Lightning & Scorpion's Prophecy
Did Jesus and Paul see similar visions of Satan appearing as a flash of lightning, where Jesus discerned this was Satan falling from heaven (Luke 10:18-19) but Paul saw the same flash on the wilderness road to Damascus, heard it say "I am Jesus" and Paul assumed it was Jesus? See Acts 9:5-7 and Acts 22:6.
In both instances, those other than Jesus and Paul did not share the vision of the lightning. Jesus had to inform the 70 of this event of Satan falling like lightning. Paul too had companions who saw no one.
The parallel of the experiences is striking.
Both Jesus and Paul use the term for a flash of lightning (see below) and in both instances those with them did not observe the event. In the case of Jesus, the bright-lightning falling from heaven is identified with Satan, but in the case of Paul because Paul is told by the light "I am Jesus" Paul trusts it is the true Jesus.
Standing alone, this might not be convincing. But it corroborates our Lord Jesus' warning in Matthew 24 that after His ascension, Jesus would not appear in the wilderness in a private vision. Instead "every eye on earth" would see Him when He comes again. (See link). Hence, the account in Luke 10 about Satan falling like lightning, when the Greek words are compared to Acts 9 and 22, weighs again toward concluding that what Paul saw was an imposter Jesus. Thus the flash of lightning in both instances was likely Satan.
Luke 10: Of Lightning and Scorpions
In Luke 10:18, we read: "Then He said to them [the seventy witnesses He had sent out], I saw the Adversary, Satan falling as lightning (astraphe – as a bright beam or ray of light) from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample upon serpents and scorpions (skorpios – poisonous insect) and upon the whole of the hostile enemy’s power. And absolutely nothing will harm you." (Luke 10:18-19)
When the disciples were out healing people, Jesus saw this light from heaven, but the 70 disciples evidently did not see it. Jesus had to inform them about it. The disciples' work had a victory over Satan. Thus, this vision of Jesus of Satan was a private one which the disciples did not see. But Jesus saw it and Jesus recognized the lightning was Satan's appearance. This will become important later.
Now compare Paul’s depiction of what he experienced - with Greek word combinations amplified:
"It happened. I was traveling and approaching Damascus, around noon, then suddenly nearby a burst of lightning (periastraphai – a flashing light, from peri, about, near, concerning, and on account of, and astrape, lightning, a beam or ray of bright light) from heaven, an intense light about me (eme)." (Acts 22:6)(amplified literal)
And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. (Acts 22:6 KJV.)
Strong's 4104 says periastraphai is from "periastrapto: flash around like lightning."
Paul’s depiction of a flash of lightning from heaven is exactly as Jesus had described how Satan appeared to Jesus - falling as lightning from heaven. Paul even used the same words -- the only difference being a grammatical attachment of an adverb peri to astraphe.
And Paul's companions' experience of this lightning was identical to the experience of the disciples of Jesus regarding Jesus' private vision: they too did not see it. For Jesus saw Satan's form as lightning but those disciples around Him did not see anything at all. Similarly, the lightning Paul assumed represented the true Jesus, Paul's two companions did not see anyone in such light:
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. (Acts 9:7.)
And as a result, the two companions of Paul were not blinded: "My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me." (Acts 22:11.) Obviously, the two men did not see the light (or as intensely), as Acts 9:7 says, because, as Acts 22:11 implies, they were not blinded by it.
Was this flash of lightning Paul experienced actually an encounter with Satan disguised as Jesus? It appears the similarities of their experiences are striking, and thus this is Jesus' clue left behind to make us weigh whether Paul met Satan, not Jesus, on the road outside Damascus.
Furthermore, Paul himself provides unwittingly a reason to think this great light was Satan masquerading as Jesus. Paul said in 2 Cor 11:14:
"And [do] not wonder for indeed, he, the Adversary Satan changes his appearance (metaschematizo – masquerades, disguising himself, transforming his image) into a spiritual, heavenly messenger (angelos – divine representative) [of] light (photos)." (2 Corinthians 11:14 (amplified literal)
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. (2 Cor. 11:14 KJV)
This derives from Ezekiel 28:17 where we learn that Satan had the characteristic of a bright light:
Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.
What About The Skolops That Satan Used To Chastise Paul Toward Humility?
Additionally, Jesus gave His disciples the express "authority to trample upon serpents and scorpions" in the context of confronting Satan’s power. While a serpent makes sense due to its spiritual associations, why did Jesus add "scorpions"? Would Jesus say this to help us later notice Paul was afflicted by a stinger-equivalent of a scorpion by Satan, by Paul's own admission? And yet Paul was told by the Jesus who Paul served that Paul would not be free from Satan's chastisement with this SKOLOP stinger?
Paul claimed that his pride was held in check by Satan because: "I was given a sharp pointed prod (skolops – such as a scorpion’s stinger) in the flesh, a messenger [Angel in Greek] of Satan in order that he would strike and torment me in order that I not become overly conceited." (2 Corinthians 12:6-7) (For our thorough discussion of this verse, see this webpage.)
Paul asked the person He assumed was the Lord to take it away, but this Lord refused. "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. 12:8-9.)
Why is this an important passage to consider? How does it undermine Paul?
Skolops in Greek is obviously related to the Skorpios which means scorpion. See Concordance of NT. The stinger of a scorpion qualifies as one type of skolops because skolops means "anything pointed." (Umberto Quattrocchi, CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names (Taylor & Francis, 1999) at 2436.)
Had Paul meant thorn, the precise word is "Skolos," which means "thorn or prickle." (Quattrocchi, id., at 2436.) Skolops, by contrast means "anything pointed." Id., at 2436. Another word for “thorn” which Paul could have used, if thorn were truly intended, was the word akantha which is the term used by other New Testament writers when referring to thorns. And stauros meant a stake of wood, large or small. So we should not necessarily indulge that Paul meant a 'thorn' or anything woodlike.
What also points at the view that Paul likely meant it was a 'stinger,' or 'scorpion's stinger' was Paul says it was sent by a "Messenger [Angel] of Satan" as a chastisement to keep Paul humble. For scorpion's stingers were used for chastisement in Solomon's time. In III Kings 3:11 (Septuagint chaptering), the advice given by young men to Solomon on how to deal with backsliders was to tell them "I will chastise you with scorpions" -- in Greek, skorpios. And given Paul says this skolops is from Satan to chastise him, it appears Paul was alluding to that function of a scorpion's sting.
The book of Revelation also mentions scorpion's stingers as a form of "tormenting" someone, which Paul said was Satan's purpose in giving him the "SKOLOPS." See Rev. 9:10 (locusts of the pit "had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months.")
Hence, Paul was afflicted by a SKOLOPS -- a word that can and likely meant scorpion's stinger, or was likely understood that way by Paul's audience. Then the fact Jesus said scorpions in Luke 10:18-19 would not hurt those specific disciples, including the 12 apostles, gains importance. Jesus left us a message from which we could deduce Paul was not a disciple / apostle precisely because Paul suffered from a scorpion's stinger from which the "Jesus" Paul served (and whom Paul assumed was the true Jesus) would not release him.
Why Would Satan Want To Help The True Jesus?
But even if the skolops from Satan visiting Paul does not relate to Jesus' remark about "skorpios," there is even a bigger problem for Paulinists to consider. If Paul knew the true Jesus, why didn't that Jesus liberate Paul from Satan's dominion over Paul? Of course, if it is a false Jesus whom Paul met, we can see why Satan would want to keep Paul humble because excessive pride is a true turn-off when audiences hear arrogant talk. In court, a witness must not come off cocky or no one will believe them. Hence, Satan had a self-interested motive that Paul remain humble.
Another way to examine this is to flip the issue over: why did Satan want to help Paul become a more humble and believable witness for the true Christ? He would not. Yet, Paul clearly said this was Satan's purpose in giving Paul this chastisement in the flesh. Hence, Paul did not think it through enough (but we can): if what Paul is saying is true about Satan's purpose, then Paul could not conceivably be serving the true Jesus. Paul had to be serving a false Jesus.
These points alone, regardless of the issue over SKOLOPS' meaning, prove that Paul did not know the true Christ. We have a webpage that exclusively focuses upon this issue, and the commentators who betray their knowledge that this verse is highly problematical for Paul's validity.
Jesus told us that He saw a lightning from heaven that none of the 70 saw, and Jesus said it was Satan. Paul had an identical or similar experience, but assumed the lightning was Jesus. Paul's companions too did not see anyone, similar to the 70 who had not seen what Jesus was talking about. In Jesus' case, we know this lightning flash was Satan. In Paul's case, what are we to think? In light of the passage of Matthew 24:24-27 pointing at Paul's experience in the wilderness as invalid (see our discussion), it is abundantly clear that Jesus and Paul saw the same type of lightning from Heaven: Jesus identified it as Satan. Paul assumed it was Jesus, but it was still Satan - the angel of blinding light. (See "Who is The Angel of Blinding Light?")
In further corroboration, in the same passage of Luke, Jesus tells His disciples including the apostles that scorpions will not hurt them. However, Paul suffers a life-long skolops stinger -- easily understood by a 1st century audience as a scorpion stinger - in his flesh to serve Satan's goal to keep Paul humble. Paul admits this which makes this even more troublesome. And the Lord whom Paul assumed was Jesus and whom Paul served would not release Paul from this "skolops" from Satan. Thus, one must truly wonder about who was this Lord Paul assumed was Jesus. For the true Jesus promised to the contrary that no such harm would come to the 70 disciples (which included the apostles)
It thus appears that Luke 10, in conjunction with Matthew 24, strengthens the confidence of our conclusion from Matthew 24 that Paul did not meet the true Jesus on the wilderness road to Damascus.