Question: "What does it mean that eyes have not seen what God has planned for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9)?"
Answer: In 1 Corinthians 2:9, the apostle Paul made a statement that has thrilled and intrigued believers for many generations: “But as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived’—God has prepared these things for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, CSB). As part of a more extensive teaching about the difference between human wisdom and the wisdom in the message of the gospel, Paul borrowed from the book of Isaiah: “For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” (Isaiah 64:4, NLT).
The believers in Corinth were relying on human wisdom to deal with problems in the church. They were valuing worldly intelligence and philosophy above the Christian message. Paul taught that God’s wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10, 12–14) and only understood by the spiritually mature. If the world’s rulers had understood the message of the gospel, they would never have crucified Christ: “Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord” (1 Corinthians 2:6–8, NLT).
Paul summed up mature Christian wisdom as the message of the gospel: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV). Wisdom is the message of Jesus Christ crucified. Long before the world began, the heavenly Father chose to send His Son to die on a cross and become the way of salvation. And in His inscrutable wisdom, God planned to bring along all those who love Him to share in His glory.
This is what no ordinary human eyes have seen—the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. No unregenerated ears have heard and received the truth in the gospel message of salvation. No unenlightened minds have perceived the mysteries of God, for they are beyond human thinking. True wisdom that pierces the senses can only be received and understood through a special revelation from the Spirit of God: “For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets” (1 Corinthians 2:10, NLT).
Just as the Corinthians relied on worldly wisdom, many Christians today still search in all the wrong places for discernment and insight. We think we are making wise decisions, all the while ignoring the counsel of God’s Word. Just as Paul wanted the Corinthians to grow up into maturity, God calls us today “to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15, ESV).
God wants to do so much more for us, in us, and through us if we let Him have His way: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20–21).
Many Christians apply 1 Corinthians 2:9 as a promise of future blessings in heaven. This application has merit, but our heavenly home was not the immediate context of Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 2:9 or of the prophecy in Isaiah 64:4. The primary meaning of eyes have not seen what God has planned for those who love Him points to the mystery of the gospel, which is not understood by natural means. The human mind cannot comprehend it because God’s Spirit alone reveals it.
Paul rightly applied Isaiah’s words to support his case that only the spiritually mature can grasp the mysteries of God. Those who see from an earthly perspective with human eyes have not seen all the blessings God has prepared for His children. More beauty and worth are in the message of the gospel than anyone can comprehend apart from the Holy Spirit. The unsaved truly do not know what they’re missing. But there are still unseen wonders that even mature believers are yet to apprehend. Such is the richness and depth of God’s plan of salvation.
If we apply what no eye has seen to what awaits us in heaven, we can correlate it to many rewards promised in Scripture. James speaks of one such anticipated marvel that God has prepared for those who love Him: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
Even though God has revealed some of His glory to us (1 Corinthians 13:12), the human mind cannot fully grasp the marvelous blessings God has in store for His children. Since the Bible does not tell us a lot about heaven, limited details dim our view. Whatever wonder we’ve seen before, heaven’s guaranteed to be better. Whatever joyous news we’ve heard already, heaven’s news reaches far beyond. Even the most incredible wonders we can dream up fade before the realities God has planned for those who love and follow Him. We know it will be the most incredible experience of our lives to be with the Lord in heaven, but for now, we can only imagine how outstanding it will be.