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When Did Paul First Meet Jesus?
The Pharisee Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus is one of the most well-known events of Bible History. Saul had been a deadly enemy of Christians, but the Christ Himself brought about his conversion, after which Saul became known as Paul - not only one of the greatest Christians that ever lived, but a man who was given to write, through his Epistles, much of the New Testament record.
"I am Jesus whom thou persecutest"
But when did Saul/Paul first meet Jesus? On the road to Damascus? Perhaps, but as a Jerusalem Pharisee, it would have been nearly impossible for Saul to not have encountered the Messiah during the time of His ministry - and it was the Pharisees who were the foremost members of the ruling council that had the Christ judicially assassinated. When Jesus said, on the road to Damascus, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest," it was after Christ's resurrection when no one could persecute Him; Jesus may have made the statement as a reminder of what Saul had done prior to and during Christ's killing. Saul very likely debated with Christ in Jerusalem (Christ's encounters with the Pharisees are described in detail - and the Pharisees were always humiliated by the Truth that Christ spoke), debates that Saul lost - hence his violent hatred for Christ and then Christians.
"9:1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 9:2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 9:3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 9:4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
"9:10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias.
Understandably, the Christians were at first fearful of the man who had been such a lethal threat to them, but when they realized what had happened, they thanked The Lord and accepted Saul as a brother in Christ. Ironically, but predictably, the Christian-haters from whom Saul was delivered then sought to kill Saul.
"9:20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. 9:21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? 9:22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.
Fact Finder: After his conversion, how did Paul become one of the greatest servants of Christ that ever lived?