Here is the entire, encouraging verse: “But as it is written: 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.”
According to those words which the apostle Paul penned to the church of God in Corinth, God has prepared something. He prepared it for people who love Him. And, it was unseen and unheard by humans.
That sounds like a description of heaven. Heaven is God’s prepared kingdom (Matthew 25:34), the heavenly crown is for those who love the Lord (James 1:12), and using our physical senses, heaven remains unseen and unheard to us. Yes, as we say, heaven “checks those boxes.”
Deeper investigation, however, leads us to a different conclusion about what humans had not seen or heard. What is the context of 1 Corinthians 2? That is a vital question in understanding verse nine.
Throughout the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul is speaking about wisdom. He sets forth a clear contrast in two types of wisdom: (1) the wisdom of the world and (2) the wisdom of the Lord. On the one hand, the apostle writes about “the wisdom of the wise” (1:19), which he further describes as “the wisdom of this world” (1:20), “human wisdom” (2:4), and “the wisdom of men” (2:5). Such wisdom is rooted in humans: we might dub it human philosophy, human self-reliance, or humanism.
God’s wisdom is different. The wisdom of God shows mankind the Christ and His cross (1:23,24,30). The Lord’s wisdom crushes man’s and makes mankind look foolish when it endeavors to be wise/ intelligent without the Lord (1:19,20). Do not miss this truth: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (3:19).
What message had God brought to Corinth through His servant, Paul? It is called “the word of God” (Acts 18:11). It also is described as “the gospel” (1 Corinthians 1:17), “the testimony of God” (2:1), as well as “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (2:2).
What about as we move closer to our text in 1 Corinthians 2:9, the passage which touches on what God has prepared, but humans have not experienced? Look at the two preceding verses, which begin a section in which Paul writes about God’s wisdom-mystery: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (2:7,8). Again, going back to the first chapter, this wisdom-mystery of God stands in contrast to man’s efforts to be wise without God in the picture.
We might think of it this way: what man can know on his own cannot match what God has revealed. Let us highlight some of the truths which the apostle sets forth in this context about God’s wisdom-mystery:
God’s wisdom-mystery was ordained by Him before the ages (2:7).
God’s wisdom-mystery was hidden in Him (2:7; cf. Ephesians 3:9).
God’s wisdom-mystery was searched by the Spirit: “For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (2:10).
God’s wisdom-mystery was revealed to inspired men through His Spirit: “But God has revealed them [the things which humans had not seen or heard, rdc] to us through His Spirit” (2:10).
God’s wisdom-mystery was received by those inspired men: “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” (2:12).
God’s wisdom-mystery was spoken/taught by inspired messengers: “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (2:13).
In the context of 1 Corinthians 2 and the entire new covenant, God’s “mystery” was not something which was beyond humanity’s comprehension. Rather, it was a message that had been unrevealed in the past, that is, during the Old Testament era. God’s plan to save mankind by the gospel through the Christ and in His church was never known in its completeness by Abraham, Isaiah, and Malachi. It was revealed in the first century by the Holy Spirit to holy apostles and prophets. The Bible says so (Ephesians 3:5,6). Once it was revealed to inspired messengers, they in turn shared it with others.
Because God has revealed His truth-mystery- wisdom, humans now have access to it, we can understand it, and we can obey it. Thank God for His unveiled wisdom-mystery, a plan by which we can enjoy the spiritual blessings which He arranged for us in the Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Those are the matters which humans who lived prior to the first century had neither seen nor heard. It now makes sense, right?
— Roger D. Campbell