In 1 Corinthians 2:9, the Apostle Paul shared a message which is often used to inspire hope and wonder in the minds of those whose Christian loved ones have passed into eternity. He says, “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.” For many Christians, this verse declares heaven to be unimaginably beautiful and glorious beyond our wildest dreams, but I think we do heaven a disservice if we neglect the context of Paul’s statement in this verse. He goes on to say in verse 10, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” Clearly, the truth about what God has prepared for those who love him is something Paul wants all believers to understand.
Just what exactly should we understand? Paul describes it as “the testimony of God” (2:1), which he further defines as “the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages” (2:7). While it might seem like Paul is speaking in riddles or sharing some grand secret which is difficult to comprehend, he is in fact referring to Jesus Christ, “the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1:24). Specifically, it is Christ as the crucified and risen Son of God who is the focus of all that God has prepared for those who love him.
In recent years, there have been a slew of books describing so-called “near death” experiences of men and women (even children) who claim to have died and gone to heaven, only to return to life on earth and share their story of heaven. While many have read these books and been encouraged to think about the incredible beauty, indescribable music and joyous reunion with lost loved ones in heaven, we ought to view these books as unnecessary at best and harmful at worst. According to Paul, the unimaginable wonder of heaven is not streets of gold, angelic choirs or a sea of crystal, it is the presence of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And this truth is found, not in the visions of people who claim to have had some unexplainable experience, but in the very Word of God.