The Bible in Context: 1 Corinthians 2:9

1 Corinthians 2:9 is a favorite verse for those who like to talk about the future joys of heaven.  It sounds great:

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him –

When read all by itself, it sounds like our future eternal home is going to be something that is otherworldly.  It is going to be something that we cannot even imagine.

When we stop to really look at the verse in its biblical context, it really says little, if anything, about heaven.

The context for this verse begins back in 1 Corinthians 1:18 where Paul says that the “word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing.”  The world listens to the Christian message and laughs it off as foolishness.  Jewish folks, who read their Old Testament Scriptures, cannot accept the Christian message of a crucified Messiah because it does not fit their understanding of the Scriptures and their expectations of the Messiah.  Greeks (all non-Jews) cannot accept a crucified and resurrected Savior because it makes no sense.  Dead people do not come back to life.  It is foolishness.

Paul goes on in chapter 2 to make the point that we do not come to a saving understanding of the gospel through manmade wisdom because natural wisdom rejects the gospel as nonsense.  In our verse, 1 Corinthians 2:9 Paul argues that the gospel message is beyond our natural wisdom.  This is Paul’s point when he says that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined”.  The eye, the ear, and the heart (the inner person) are the natural means of gaining wisdom.  But these means do not bring us to the truth of the Christian gospel.  We need something more.

In 1 Corinthians 2:10, Paul tells us what it is that we need.

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

We need to work of the Spirit within us to reveal the truth and beauty of the Christian gospel.  Paul goes on later in 2:14:

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Paul’s concern in 1 Corinthians 1-2 has little or nothing to say about our eternal home.  He is concerned to speak of the folly of the cross of Christ; the Christian gospel.  The world says it is foolishness.  The Spirit convinces us of its saving power.

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