I Can Only Imagine
but just as it is written [in Scripture], “ Things which the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man , All that God has prepared for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, who obey Him, and who gratefully recognize the benefits that He has bestowed].”
1 Corinthians 2:9
Some of us sit in church week after week singing the songs and listening to the sermons, but in our hearts, we secretly doubt that all the promises about heaven really apply to us. Yeah, they sound great, we tell ourselves, but they’re for the rest of the people sitting here, not me. The overwhelming reality of our sinfulness makes us feel as if we’re beyond God’s grace and heaven is only a pipe dream.
The wonderful, optimistic promise Paul quoted was written- don’t miss this-to the Corinthian believers. They were the most prideful, blatantly selfish, brazenly sexual, least mature believers in the world, but Paul’s faith in the transforming grace and power of God extended even- maybe especially-to them. The promise of eternal life applied to them!
What are some things God has prepared for us in eternity? Too often, we think of heaven as a place where people wear robes and play harps or sit through endless church services. These ima don’t sound very inviting! Instead, an accurate picture of heaven is one of adventure, variety, and creativity. God promises us new bodies that are like Jesus’ resurrected body( 1 Corinthians 15:42-49; 2 Corinthians 5:1-3). Will we levitate and pass through solids? We’ll see.
Jesus said He was leaving earth “to prepare a place” for us(John 14:2). We don’t know exactly what heaven looks like, but we do know that we will rule with Him over the new heaven and earth.
I’ve we really understood heaven, we would be most unhappy and unsatisfied with life on earth. We would rebel against our earthly limitations. If we saw heaven, we could not bear this earth. That’s why heaven is forever; we cannot bear to leave it after we get there.
C. L. Allen
Most people when they quote this scripture stop short of the full quote. Let me provide it for us:
“And when I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming to you the testimony of God [concerning salvation through Christ], I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom [no lofty words of eloquence or of philosophy as a Greek orator might do]; for I made the decision to know nothing [that is, to forego philosophical or theological discussions regarding inconsequential things and opinions while] among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified [and the meaning of His redemptive, substitutionary death and His resurrection]. I came to you in [a state of] weakness and fear and great trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom [using clever rhetoric], but [they were delivered] in demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit [operating through me] and of [His] power [stirring the minds of the listeners and persuading them], so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom and rhetoric of men, but on the power of God. Yet we do speak wisdom among those spiritually mature [believers who have teachable hearts and a greater understanding]; but [it is a higher] wisdom not [the wisdom] of this present age nor of the rulers and leaders of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the wisdom once hidden [from man, but now revealed to us by God, that wisdom] which God predestined before the ages to our glory [to lift us into the glory of His presence]. None of the rulers of this age recognized and understood this wisdom; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written [in Scripture], “ Things which the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man , All that God has prepared for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, who obey Him, and who gratefully recognize the benefits that He has bestowed].” For God has unveiled them and revealed them to us through the [Holy] Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things [diligently], even [sounding and measuring] the [profound] depths of God [the divine counsels and things far beyond human understanding]. For what person knows the thoughts and motives of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So also no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the [Holy] Spirit who is from God, so that we may know and understand the [wonderful] things freely given to us by God. We also speak of these things, not in words taught or supplied by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual thoughts with spiritual words [for those being guided by the Holy Spirit].”
1 Corinthians 2:1-13
Paul is saying that the plans and works of God is beyond mere human comprehension. In keeping with Proverbs 3: 4,5 which tells us to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not lean to our own understanding, Paul is telling us that the wisdom of God is higher and greater than any earthly wisdom. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul is telling them that their faith did not rest in the wisdom or eloquent philosophy. He wasn’t trying to convince them to receive Christ with eloquent words or “enticing speech” with great persuasion. Instead He proclaimed that his preaching was “in the demonstration of the Holy Spirit operating in me and of His power stirring the minds of the listeners so that their faith would not rest on the wisdom and rhetoric of men but on the power of God.”
It is this setting that He tells us that “eye has not seen nor ear heard and neither has it entered into the hearts of men the things God has prepared for those who love Him.” Paul is telling us that even our wildest imaginations, we simply can’t grasp what God has in store for us. Now that makes sense for God is so much greater and eternity is so much more that any human can fathom. We could stop reading here as some do and think that we can never know what God has for us until we get there. But Paul doesn’t stop the conversation here. The next words he writes change the entire understanding of this verse. “For God has unveiled them and revealed them to us through the Holy Spirit who searches all things.” Can we just say wow? God withholds no secrets from us but we need the Holy Spirit to reveal and help us comprehend all that God has in store for us.
To hold to the idea that we just have blind faith isn’t in keeping with this whole passage. Only if we separate the one verse from the rest can we draw the conclusion that we can’t ever know or understand what the future holds. Besides that, if we aren’t supposed to know, why did God give John the Revelation or why did Paul get taken up to heaven and shown things that he couldn’t tell about?
Dear child of God, the Father wants is to know what’s waiting for us. Not some vague hope or some human created idea of the new heaven and earth, but for each of us to be shown by the Holy Spirit the things of God.
Again hear what Paul has to say about the matter:
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the [Holy] Spirit who is from God, so that we may know and understand the [wonderful] things freely given to us by God.”
Well, there you have it as plain as it can be stated. So for us as Christians, our future holds no fear or dread but excitement and joy beyond measure. Allen says it well when he says that if we ever got a glimpse of heaven, all our desire to remain on earth would vanish like smoke. No wonder John responds to the announcement that Christ was coming soon with “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”
As a hospice chaplain I sat beside a number of saints as they were ending their life on earth and preparing for entrance into heaven. It was an amazing experience to watch their faces literally glow with joy and excitement. In that moment they forgot their pain and suffering and somehow whatever they were seeing was moving them beyond this world. There were times when they would whisper that they could see Jesus and where He was was indescribable. They would try to describe lights and flowers that they had never seen in this life. And when their last breath left, the image of peace and joy remained imprinted on their face. For them heaven was no longer an imagination, it was their reality.
One day we will know fully all that God has for us, but until then if you will just pay attention to the Holy Spirit, He will begin to make know to you all that God has in store for you in the world to come.
That’s what Paul was trying to tell us and if we can begin to see the incredible love and grace of God toward us, we will begin to believe that His promises are for us just as much as they are for others. Our confidence in qualifying for heaven will rest in the work of Christ not in our efforts. Once we know that, our service for God becomes a delight and privilege rather than duty and obligation. Once we accept that the blood of Jesus was sufficient to pay for our sins and that by trusting Him, our names are written in the Book of Life, we enjoy the liberty and freedom from the fear of our future. Why don’t you ask the Holy Spirit to settle the issue in your heart today? Ask Him to reveal your status and place in the kingdom of God. Ask Him for the assurance of your salvation. Let the Holy Spirit reveal to you all the truths of God. You’ll be amazed in the wisdom and knowledge God will give to you by the Holy Spirit. Don’t sell yourself nor God short. Go back and read again what Paul tells us about God making known to us what He has prepared for us.
Dr. John Thompson