No Eye Has Seen A God Besides You

Posted by on Apr 1, 2016 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Isaiah_6

“But as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

1 Corinthians 2:9

Not Primarily About Heaven

It seems that this verse is often taken as a commentary on the joys and glories of eternity (“Heaven”), which then leads to people saying things like, “Well, we just can’t imagine what’s heaven will be like, so there’s no reason to think hard about it…”

While it is, I think, certainly true that our hearts have not and can not imagine the fullness of the joy of the New Heavens and Earth, that is not what this passage is talking about. At least, it is not directly talking about our eternal state. I do think–as we will see–that it has implications for our eternal state, but that is not the main point Paul is making in verse 9.

No Eye Has Seen A God Besides You

The reference Paul is making here is to Isaiah 64:4,

“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for Him.”

In its original context, this passage refers to YHWH and especially emphasizes His saving works for His people (see Isaiah 63:7-14 and 64:2-3). The point Isaiah is making is that, by His acts of revelatory redemption throughout salvation history (the Exodus, Sinai, the preservation of a people in the wilderness, etc.), the Lord has revealed Himself to be a God unlike any that anyone has ever seen or imagined, because He acts for those who wait in desperate dependence on Him. YHWH is utterly unique and surpasses all other gods in the glory and beauty of His identity, an identity that He has made known through His redeeming work. That is what Isaiah was referring to when he said these things. We have to assume, then, that Paul had something similar in mind. But do Isaiah’s words fit into Paul’s context? Yes, I think they do.

Paul has just been talking about the wisdom of God that is given by the apostles who preach Christ crucified and risen, who preach the “word of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18). This is a wisdom that the natural mind cannot receive, as was made evident when the leaders of the world condemned and crucified the Lord of Glory (1 Corinthians 2:8). The inability of the Jewish and Gentile leaders to perceive the power and wisdom and glory of God in Jesus Christ is what moves Paul to quote Isaiah…Isaiah who is talking about how no eye has seen any God besides YHWH.

Isaiah in Paul’s Context

I think, then, there are at least two ways Isaiah’s passage fits into Paul’s context.

First – the “rulers of this age” are among those who have not seen, have not heard, and have not perceived. However, it is not that they have not perceived any other God besides YHWH (as Isaiah says), but that they have not perceived YHWH as God at all….they are blind to His glory, and this is why they crucified the incarnate God. Paul is drawing on an implication present in Isaiah’s statement, namely, that there must be some who have not seen or perceived the unique glory of YHWH, which is why they worship the gods who, in comparison to YHWH, are no gods at all. Paul understand the rulers of this age to be among that number, which was made manifest when they blindly slew YHWH incarnate.

Secondly, I think Paul is saying that–just as YHWH was made known as the matchless and only true God through His works of OT redemption–so too He has now made Himself known climactically as the only true God through His eschatological work of redemption: the cross of Jesus Christ. No one has seen, no ear has heard, and no heart has imagined the glory (wisdom and power) of God that would be revealed in Christ crucified. No one could have anticipated that this would be the great act of redemption that YHWH would work for those who had been waiting for Him. And once He has done this work, once He has loved to the utter most, once the Son has been poured out in death, once every enemy has been trampled down through resurrection, and once God the slain-and-risen has taken His seat at the Father’s right hand, then truly it can be said–as never before:

“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for Him.”

In verse 9 Paul is, I believe, speaking not directly about our eternal home, but rather about the revelation of the wisdom of God that is given in Jesus Christ crucified and risen. He is talking about the communication of God’s heart that comes to us through the cross. No one anticipated this, no one could have imagined this, and no one now can imagine the depths of further unfolding that remain to be perceived in the Wisdom and Power made known to us at the cross. God revealed in Christ crucified and risen (eschatological redemption) is that which no eye, ear, or heart could anticipate.

Final Implications

But, with that in mind, we can say it points to our experience of the new Heavens and Earth as well, because, what will be our joy in eternity but God Himself, exponentially known and enjoyed in Christ by the Spirit with the saints throughout all of creation? He is the joy, the vitality, the life of eternal life (John 17:3). God is what God has prepared for those who love Him. And since these verses in Corinthians refer to God made known through the redemption of the cross, we can legitimately affirm that they also refer to our eternal joy in the New Heavens and Earth….a joy that we can already begin to feast upon in this life by the indwelling, Christ-revealing, love-enabling, unity-giving Spirit of God within us.

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