The Bible’s View
‘Eye Has Not Seen nor Ear Heard’—What?
“CLOSE your eyes and imagine the most beautiful scene you can,” said the minister to his audience, “and the blessings of the New Order will be even grander, for the apostle Paul said, ‘Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.’” Certainly such was a thrilling prospect. But is this what the apostle Paul had in mind at 1 Corinthians 2:9? Was he talking about the unimaginable blessings of God’s new order? If not, then to what was he referring?
Let us consider the context. The apostle addresses the congregation at Corinth. According to Bible commentator Matthew Henry, “Some of the ancients tell us that the city abounded with rhetoricians [speech makers] and philosophers.” Influenced by so-called ‘wise men’ and ‘debaters,’ some in the congregation may have endeavored even to imitate these philosophers with the same “extravagance of speech.”—1 Cor. 1:20; 2:1.
The apostle Paul shows that such wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, and then he reflects on his own teaching. No, not with “persuasive words of [men’s] wisdom” did he teach them. He preached something of real importance. “We speak God’s wisdom in a sacred secret, the hidden wisdom, which God foreordained before the systems of things for our glory.”—1 Cor. 2:4, 7.
This “sacred secret” or “hidden wisdom” is far superior to anything contrived by men. In fact, it contains knowledge of things God had purposed before any of the nations existed, “before the systems of things.” It was at that time, after the sin of Adam and Eve, that God “foreordained” or purposed a deliverer for mankind. In the first recorded Bible prophecy, he foretold that the “seed” of the “woman” would “bruise” the head of the superhuman creature who, by means of the serpent, misled Eve, resulting in a world of sin and death. Such bruising would mean a crushing of Satan and the removal of all the human ‘groaning and pain and futility’ and pave the way for a righteous government to rule all mankind. This would really solve man’s problems and vindicate God’s name.—Gen. 3:15; Rom. 8:20-22.
But who would this “seed” be? This remained unanswered for centuries. Finally it became apparent that it was none other than Jesus Christ. How faith-strengthening now to know that the great Deliverer had appeared and that through his resurrection we have a guarantee of the removal of sin and imperfection!—Acts 17:31.
What philosophy of men could compare with this profound truth? It was of such importance that, had the rulers of that day known of or accepted in faith this “sacred secret,” they would not have “impaled the glorious Lord,” argued the apostle Paul. The death and resurrection of Jesus paved the way for all the other features of this great “sacred secret” to be realized, indicating the future complete undoing of Satan and his works.—1 Cor. 2:8; Heb. 2:14.
Who was it that knew this precious truth? Whose “eyes” had been opened and whose hearts were receptive so as to appreciate the understanding of this vital “sacred secret”? “To us God has revealed [such] through his spirit,” said the apostle Paul. (1 Cor. 2:10) It is not to the great men of the world, the intellectuals with their sophisticated “wisdom,” but to humble persons whom God chose and who were helped by his spirit.
To stress what a blessed relationship they had, Paul quoted from Isaiah 64:4, saying: “But just as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen . . .’” Is it not obvious by the setting of 1 Corinthians 2:9 that Paul was talking about having an insight into this “hidden wisdom,” an insight that none of the rulers or those esteemed great in the eyes of the world had?
The setting of Isaiah chapter 64 provides further evidence for this conclusion. Isaiah describes how Jehovah performed wonderful acts for his friends. There was no other god ‘heard of by the ear or seen by the eye’ that really performed for those that ‘waited for him’ or had faith in him. Commentator Albert Barnes makes a similar observation, saying:
“The idea is in the Hebrew not what God has prepared or laid up in the sense of preserving it for the future; but what he had already done in the past. No god had done what he had; no human being had ever witnessed such manifestations from any other god. . . . The sense of the whole verse is, that God in his past dealings had given manifestations of his existence, power, and goodness, to those who were his friends, which had been furnished nowhere else.”
Yes, His friends had an insight into God’s activities that others in general did not have. They had opportunities to see intimately the outworkings of Jehovah’s purposes.
Paul was now establishing a similar point with the Corinthian congregation. By the help of God’s spirit, they had been privileged to understand the meaning of God’s “sacred secret.” Out of all people, he had chosen to reveal these lofty thoughts to them.
Just think of some of the exalted truths that were revealed to those first-century Christians. Imagine knowing that a group would be taken from among mankind to become rulers with Jesus in heaven, to be a part of the “seed” of deliverance. Included in this would be even non-Jewish persons, people from all nations and races. How thrilling!—Gal. 3:29; Eph. 1:8-14; 3:5, 6.
One exciting thing after another was revealed to that class of humble disciples. So, let the so-called ‘wise men’ and philosophers of that day babble on with their “extravagance of speech” about nothingness. These Christians were unique possessors of the most important knowledge on earth.
Yet, after the first century, God did not stop revealing an understanding of his grand purpose. Consider some of the “deep things of God” that true Christians clearly see in these “last days.” The knowledge that God’s kingdom with Christ on the throne was established in 1914 and that Satan and his demons were cast out of heaven and are now bringing heavy woes to the earth is clearly understood by Jesus’ followers today. Despite the agonizing conditions of this world, they today have a clear vision of God’s new order of righteousness as being near at hand.
So the minister who quoted those words, ‘eye has not seen nor ear heard,’ should properly have pointed out that the apostle Paul was not here referring to the glorious things of the New Order that their eyes and ears might someday perceive. Rather, the apostle was calling attention to the treasures of spiritual wisdom relating to the ‘sacred secret of the seed’ that were beyond the comprehension of the eyes and ears of unenlightened worldlings.