According to the Bible, the conversion of Paul occurs when he is walking on the road to Damascus and suddenly has an encounter with the resurrected Jesus. My question is, did this encounter occur before or after the Ascension? The Ascension is where Jesus is said to have ascended bodily into Heaven 40 days after the Resurrection?

If it happened after the Ascension, how would it have happened? I thought Christians believe that Jesus won't come back to Earth after the Ascension until the Second Coming. Am I wrong about that? Did Paul just have a vision of Jesus rather than having a physical encounter with Jesus' resurrected body?


4 Answers 4


Have you considered what the narrative in Acts, 9:1-9, records?

The Conversion of Saul [NRSV]

1 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Paul, and those in whose company he was traveling, heard the Lord, but, as verse 7 makes clear, they saw no one. So it was not so much a vision, as it was like divine interactions with others of the prophets, such as those prophets in the Old Testament, and John in the new, who testified, "The word of the Lord came to me ...".

Further, we know that Saul journeyed to Damascus after the stoning of Stephen the Martyred Deacon, who was elected after the election of Matthias, who which was after the appearance of Peter and John in the temple, all of which was after the Ascension of Our Lord, narrated at the close of the Gospel of St. Luke.

  • OK, I've seen a lot of a claims that Paul physisically met the resurrected Jesus. Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 6:11
  • 1
    Be that as it may, that's not what Scripture says about the matter.
    – brasshat
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 10:09

Saul's conversion from a disbeliever to a believer happened after Christ's ascension. We know this from the bible account of Saul and Stephen in Acts.

Christ ascended 40 days after His resurrection.

To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: Acts 1:3

About 3 1/2 years later, Stephen opposed the unbelieving Hellenistic crowd. Saul was there helping as Stephen was killed.

And cast him [Stephen] out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. Acts 7:58

That Saul would convert later when Christ appeared to Him. Now, before getting into that, it is important to understand that Christ also appeared to Stephen during the same stoning.

But he [Stephen], being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Acts 7:55-56

Is it not beautiful love displayed as irony that Saul sees nothing, but later will see?

Acts 9:1-9 tells part of the story, but it is Paul (Saul renamed) who declares he saw Christ also. It is part of his authority as an apostle.

Christ blinds Saul, but Ananias to whom Saul is sent understands that Saul saw Christ.

And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. Acts 9:17

And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. Acts 22:14

Barnabas who is Paul's companion believes him.

But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Acts 9:27

And again, Paul himself declares he saw the risen Lord.

But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Acts 26:16

Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? 1 Cor 9:1

And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 15:8

Now, with that in mind that at least two people had seen the Lord after His ascension, what does it mean for people today? Specific to the OP, has the Second Coming already come and gone circa 34 AD?

No, what happened to Stephen and Saul and what happens at the Second Coming are two separate events.

Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Acts 1:11

He ascended in a cloud and will return in like manner.

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 1 Thes 4:17

Paul didn't confuse Christ appearing to him with Christ's Second Coming. Neither should we.

  • where do you get this time frame from? About 3 1/2 years later, Stephen opposed the unbelieving Hellenistic crowd. Saul was there helping as Stephen was killed.
    – user43707
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 14:35
  • @user43707 there's a few background reasons that aren't part of the question/answer. I can say that most commentators place Stephen's death from 31 to 35 AD, but Saul's conversion is dated to about 33 to 36 AD. That narrows the time frame to roughly 33 to 36. Given other things like temple in Onias, one can narrow it down to 33 (about 3 1/2 years later).
    – SLM
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 5:20

Keshav Srivasan - this thread is a little ovet a year old so I hope answers are still allowed. Appreciate your question - it is a good one. The creed that is cited is 1st Corinthians 15 v 3 - 7 (oh... the “v” stands for verse or verses. I am two lazy to put two dots down when referencing verses.). But the one verse that often gets blown back into the wind is the immediate verse following which is verse 8 - “Then last of all He was seen by me also, as one born out of due time.” Now, unless Paul was doing a Facetime session on his Ipad with Jesus, he really saw him. From my studies, Pauls conversion happened about or around two years after Christ was crucified. So my answer to you would be “yes”, he saw Christ after he headed on to heaven. Now, one final little bit of info here, according to Act 9 v 4-7, Paul even had a bit of a chat with Christ. Finally, Christ did not ever allow a personal disclosure of Himself in such a manner ever again. But, thanks - you brought up a really insightful great question! I hope my answer makes it to you after all this time. db


Daniel 12:11-12Young's Literal Translation (YLT) 11 and from the time of the turning aside of the perpetual [sacrifice], and to the giving out of the desolating abomination, [are] days a thousand, two hundred, and ninety. 12 O the blessedness of him who is waiting earnestly, and doth come to the days, a thousand, three hundred, thirty and five.

Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees in Matthew 12:32 said:

Matthew 12:32 King James Version (KJV) 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

It is stated that Stephen was a man full of the Holy Spirit. When he was brought before the council and spoke it was the words of the Holy Spirit that cut them to the heart and when they spoke against his words and stoned him, they were really speaking against the Holy Spirit and it was the Holy Spirit they were stoning.

In Daniel Chapter 12 we have the numbers 1290 and 1335, 1290 days is 3 ½ years plus 12 days. If the stoning of Stephen was the last straw (the determining abomination of desolation, then I believe Stephen was stoned 1290 days after Jesus was crucified (which ended the need for daily sacrifice, Hebrews 7:23-28 ).

Then perhaps there was an intense persecution of Christians after the stoning, which died down after an additional 45 days (at the 1335 days). This could also mark the date for the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus. Jesus used Paul to usher in the Age of Grace we now have through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:1-2), by revelation of the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory.

Perhaps another way to confirm the date of Stephen’s stoning is in Galatians. I believe Paul is measuring dates from his conversion (Galatians 1:15-16) therefore in Galatians 2:1 when Paul states that after 14 years he went again to Jerusalem to what is now referred to as the Jerusalem Conference in or about 50 A.D., then his conversion was in 36 A.D. (50-14=36) probably shortly (45 days) after Stephen was stoned.

As for the return(s) of Jesus, the scripture does not put a number on them, people have done that. I personally believe he returned in the clouds in 70 AD at the destruction or the Temple and Jerusalem as He told His disciples (Matthew 16:27-28 and Matthew 24:34). I do not believe Matthew Chapter 17 fulfills the Matthew 16:27-28 prophesy as some believe. He was with the disciples daily, in order to return in His glory he would have to go away and where were the angels, the disciples there apparently did not see them as said they would. There was no deceit in Jesus (Isaiah 53:9), He would not have deceived His disciples.

  • This is interesting information, although much of it is speculative. However, the exact number of days is not necessary to establish that Paul's conversion was well after Jesus' ascension, so it isn't clear that this really answers the question.
    – Bit Chaser
    Commented May 11, 2019 at 4:01

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