Christians take shortcuts in their understanding of the Bible far more often than they think they do. They learn the letter of the text without mining very deeply into what the text means and how they ought to apply it. They let teachers and pastors do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to a doctrinal understanding of the Bible. They embrace a respected preacher’s understanding of a passage as their own. One passage this is commonly done with is 1 Corinthians 2:9, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have they entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.”
Sometimes folks take these shortcuts as a matter of laziness—they are too lazy to think for themselves. Sometimes as a matter of fear—they are afraid to think for themselves. But frequently Christians take them in an accidental way with the best of motives, similar to the way a man takes what he honestly believes is a shortcut on a trail, but winds up on a different trail. In such instances, the interpretation looks like it is headed in the right direction, so they go with it. They have no idea that they are on the wrong path until either someone points it out or they discover to their own embarrassment that they have wandered off the right trail.
So what is the shortcut that men take with 1 Corinthians 2:9, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have they entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him”? I have listened to men hundreds of times over the past four decades—from the pulpit and in conversation—insist that this verse means that we have no idea what heaven and the eternal state will be like and that all thoughts on the subject are futile speculation.
Why are men oblivious to the very next verse? 1 Corinthians 2:10 states, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” Did you catch that! This verse claims the exact opposite of the common understanding. It claims that God has revealed, not concealed, “the things [He] has prepared” for us! This is a stunning revelation that ignites a burning in the heart of the spiritually minded to know more. Eye has not seen, but we have been given revelation.
So where and how did God reveal the glorious future he has prepared for us? Through prophets and apostles with new revelation that you can find on YouTube? No! Through dreams and visions? No! Through the same medium he has revealed everything else he wants us to know for our pilgrim journey—in the New Testament. Scattered throughout its pages are glimpses and windows of the future glories that await us.
Revelation 21:1-6, for instance, mentions the new heavens and earth, the New Jerusalem, God with men, no tears or sorrow or pain, and the fountain of life. Revelation 21:7 adds, “He who overcomes shall inherit THESE things.” Now some may be inclined to understand these things mystically—the truth is spiritual gobbledy-gook which bears no resemblance to what these terms mean in our present reality. I’m sorry. I can’t go there. I take these things at face value. Not only do we inherit an existence without tears and pain (which all take literally), but we inherit a real city (far more marvelous than our imagination can imagine), and we inherit a renewed earth and a renewed heavens (the entire universe)—an infinite universe which reflects the infinite nature of God. The fact that we inherit the universe implies space travel and exploration.
1 Cor. 15:44 informs us, “It is sown a soulish body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a soulish body, and there is a spiritual body.” And Philippians 3:21 adds, “who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body.” Our resurrection body will be spirit dominated instead of soul dominated. And our body will be a body—physical, tangible, substantial—like the body the Lord Jesus had after his resurrection. In that body he could walk through a wall or sit in a chair. He could enjoy food but was not dependant on it. We will be able to interact with the physical creation, but will not be limited by it. We would not be given such a body were we not intended to interact with physical creation.
Matthew 6:19-20 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” This implies that we will have possessions in eternity. Possessions made of materials that decay or rust or otherwise deteriorate down here. And possessions that thieves would target down here. Now some try to void the literal sense of this passage by claiming that the treasure is Christ himself. But this runs headlong into what the text says about the treasure. Thieves don’t set their sights on stealing Jesus. And Jesus isn’t susceptible to moths and rust. Hyperspiritual interpretations always get flattened by the steamroller of contextual consistency.
I could multiply the passages, but these three are a good start on encouraging believers to take at face value the passages in the New Testament which address the eternal state. Eye has not seen, but there are things we know through revelation. We shall not cease to be human beings. We shall be glorified human beings in a glorious utopia. We shall not lose our souls, but shall keep them unto life eternal. And these precious promises are designed to inspire us to apply ourselves as passionately in the things of Christ for eternal gain as worldly men apply themselves in worldly things for temporal gain.
Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.
Lee W. Brainard
P.S. For those interested in prophecy, I have strengthened and expanded my blog post on the restrainer, and I have posted an article on the use on monon (μόνον) in 2 Thess. 2:7 as illustrated from Josephus.