27 Mar 2012

Eye Has Not Seen...Or Has It?

Heaven will be a wonderful place, won't it? Filled with things we can hardly conceive, and experiences we can't possibly imagine.

These thoughts are often connected with Paul's words to the Corinthians:

However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" 1 Cor. 2:9

On the surface this would seem to be an appropriate connection. However, nothing in this verse should immediately direct our thoughts toward heaven. In fact, Paul had something completely different in mind as he wrote these words. Paul is actually calling our attention to something we have right now. Look at the very next verse:

but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. 1 Cor. 2:10

The Persistence of Memory
Salvador Dalí (1931)

We might initially read this verse and think, "Oh, yes, God has revealed to us through the Scriptures some of what heaven will be like - no more sickness, no more tears, no more death (Rev. 21:4). So while we don't fully understand what God has prepared for us, we have some general ideas."

Again, I'd like to suggest that these verses have nothing to do with heaven. Instead, we should dig a little deeper, looking more closely at what Paul is writing. Paul is in the midst of explaining the nature of his message to the Corinthians. The gospel he proclaims is not like the wisdom they may hear from other philosophers; it's not the political emancipation expected by the Jewish people. In fact, it's not something a lot of people readily comprehend.

None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Cor. 2:8

Why didn't they understand it? Paul's gospel message has been hidden from men because it doesn't fit into their typical way of thinking. Unless God opens their eyes to see, the gospel just doesn't register with them.

No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 1 Cor. 2:7

Where does Paul get such an idea that God would hide the gospel so men can't see it? Verse 9 is actually a quotation from the Old Testament (Isaiah 64:4) that Paul uses as a defense of his thinking.

Paul is saying to any detractors, "The message I preach doesn't make sense to you because the Spirit hasn't opened your eyes to see it." But for those of us who have believed, our eyes now see clearly, our minds comprehend plainly. This thing that "God has prepared for those who love him" is not heaven, but Jesus crucified for the forgiveness of sins. What God had prepared in Isaiah's day, He presented in Paul's.

This is not to say that God hasn't prepared wonderful things for us in heaven, but as we read the Scriptures we should always be careful that we don't accidentally read meaning into words that wasn't originally intended. Doing so can actually cause us to miss a greater truth.