In 1 Cor. 2:9 Paul writes:
- “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
This verse, quoted from Isaiah 64:4, is commonly interpreted as a reference to the indescribable beauty of heaven that is beyond man’s ability to comprehend. “The things which God has prepared” are thought of as the future state of eternal glory for the believer.
However, the context reveals that Paul is not speaking of heaven nor things that are unknown. This is clear from v. 10:
- “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (NKJ; emphasis added).
The Apostle is addressing the inability of carnal man to grasp spiritual truth through the natural senses of seeing, hearing, and common intellectual processes. He elaborates this point by saying:
- “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” (v. 14; NKJ).
But the things which are our eyes, ears and mind cannot comprehend have been revealed to us by the Spirit of God. Paul teaches that it is only the Spirit, who searches the deep things of God and knows the thoughts of God (vv. 10-11). He goes on to say:
- “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (NKJ; emphasis added).
From this it is also evident that the “things which God has prepared” are present, not future; already revealed (by the Spirit), not hidden.
The focus of this passage is not so much on “the things which God has prepared,” but on the means by which they are perceived. It is not through human perception through our natural senses but by the Spirit of God that the things of God are revealed to the mind of man that we might have the mind of Christ (v. 16).
A prime example of this is the revelation of Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” received by Peter (Mt. 16:17). He had lived in intimate connection with Jesus for almost three years, but on this occasion his insight into the person of Christ was unconfused by the cacophony of public opinion and distorted ideas. How did he receive such insight? By what he saw and heard during his time with Jesus? Was it the result of astute deduction arising from his own reflective thinking? Not at all. Jesus, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father which is in heaven” (16:18). “Flesh and blood” in this instance is a figure of speech equivalent to Paul’s “eyes, ears, and mind” in 1 Cor. 2:9. The Father revealed this to him by the Spirit.
Throughout the second chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks of the God’s hidden wisdom” that is not of this age, which he speaks to those who are mature (vv. 6-8). He contrasts the mystery of God’s wisdom with the wisdom of men that is unreliable (v. 5, 7-8; 11-14).
In light of this, it is easier to understand Paul’s prayer for the believer in Eph. 1:17-19:
- “… that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”