1 Corinthians 2:9


Sermon preached on March 15, 2015 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

What does your future hold? Where are you going to spend eternity? Are the promises of God true—will we go to Paradise, as Jesus told the criminal on the cross? What about your loved ones who have died believing in the Lord. Are they okay? Are they happy, are they blessed? Are we going to be reunited with them?

The world today tries to take you away from Christianity. Most of the time they will tell you that it's all fairy tales—that it's not based on reality.

Sometimes their attack on your faith is more subtle. They will tell you that even if what you believe turns out to be true—it's not going to be that good after all. A few weeks ago I read an article online (Salon) by Valerie Tarico. The title caught my attention,

"10 Reasons Christian Heaven Would Actually Be Hell"



I actually don't recommend that you read the article because parts of it are very crude and inappropriate—but I'll give you some of the points she made. She knows something of biblical teaching, for the first list on the page is a list of six about heaven that is somewhat accurate. But the conclusions she draws from them are all wrong. For example, she comments on Revelation 21:21, which says,

"The twelve gates were twelve pearls,
each gate made of a single pearl.
The great street of the city was of pure gold,
like transparent glass."

She says,

"Gems and streets of gold are the product of a limited imagination."


Doesn't she know that these things are symbolic indicating the splendor of our eternal dwelling? Gregory Beale says of the pearls and gold, that this, (Revelation: NIGTC, p. 1089)

"adds to the ability of the city to reflect the luminous glory of God. [The descriptive words] underscore the resplendent nature of the materials of the city and hence the city's intrinsic trait of reflecting God's glory…"



A second point she makes showing that heaven would be hell is that,

"Most people there will be embryos and toddlers."



She deduces that from the common Christian belief that all children who die in infancy go to heaven. Although a lot of Christians believe that, it's not something the Bible explicitly teaches and it may not be accurate. But even if we grant her point, does she really think that these people will be embryos and toddlers in heaven? She can't imagine that God could make them into fully developed human beings? I think she is the one with the limited imagination.

A third point also shows her limited imagination. She writes,

"Perfection means sameness. Much of what makes life worth living is the process of learning and discovery, growth and change… The problem is, perfect means finished and complete. It means there's no room for improvement—for change and growth. Perfection is sterile, in every sense of the word."



Perfection doesn't necessarily mean sameness. In certain ways we're all going to be different in heaven. We're still going to be individuals and have our own personalities. Secondly, perfection doesn't preclude growth. Jesus was perfect, yet Luke 2:52 tells us that the boy Jesus,

"grew in wisdom and stature,
and in favor with God and men."

She's totally mistaken on the point that perfection precludes growth. We are going to dwell in heaven with God forever and ever. God is infinite. We will spend a delightful eternity learning more and more about Him, about His creativity in new heaven and the new earth.

A fourth point she makes is,

"Forget physical pleasures like food, drink, sleep… Eating, drinking… each of these physical pleasures depends on hunger of one sort or another. Ice water tastes most heavenly when you are hot and thirsty. Falling asleep is most delicious when you simply can't stand to be vertical any longer. The reality is that our bodies and brains are made for each other and optimized for life on this planet where our pleasures are linked to survival."



This is very limited thinking on her part. If God arranged it so that even on this earth, corrupted by sin as it is—that we can find pleasure and relief in a drink of ice water after work or exercise—do we really think that we won't find such delights on the new heaven and new earth? In Revelation 19:9 the apostle John wrote,

"Then the angel said to me,
'Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited
to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'
And he added, 'These are the true words of God.' "

Some of the joys of heaven are compared to a wedding feast. And in Matthew 8:11 Jesus said,

"I say to you that many
will come from the east and the west,
and will take their places at the feast
with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
in the kingdom of heaven."

Heaven is compared to a wedding feast. I'm not sure how much is symbolic but it is clear that it means that we're going to be fully satisfied. We're not going to be deprived—but our physical, social and emotional needs are going to be fully met.

The last point that Ms. Tarico makes about heaven actually being hell is,

"This heaven goes on forever."



She can't imagine that immortality is something to be desired. She writes,

"Could an omnipotent god create an afterlife that was actually some form of paradise? Perhaps."



That's her answer— 'perhaps'. How different were the words that Jesus said to His disciples in John 14? He said, (verses1–4)

"Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God; trust also in me.
In my Father's house are many rooms;
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I am going there to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back and take you
to be with me that you also
may be where I am."

We are going to be with Jesus and enjoy what He has prepared for us. Ms. Tarico may discount that—but those of who know Jesus certainly should not. We should believe the promises because we know they are true. That's one of the points that the apostle Paul is making in our text. He wrote, (1 Corinthians 2:6-10)

"We do, however, speak a message
of wisdom among the mature,
but not the wisdom of this age
or of the rulers of this age,
who are coming to nothing.
No, we speak of God's secret wisdom,
a wisdom that has been hidden
and that God destined for our glory before time began.
None of the rulers of this age
understood it, for if they had,
they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
However, as it is written:
'No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived what God has prepared
for those who love him'—
but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit."

The text that Paul quotes here is from Isaiah 64:4. It says,

"Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those
who wait for him."

The main theme of the verses is that

no human being is able to understand divine revelation without God's help.

Gordon D. Fee writes, (1 Corinthians, NICNT; p. 109)

"God's wisdom can be known only by God's people because they alone have the Spirit."



Charles Hodge puts it this way, Paul (Corinthians, p. 37)

"preached the hidden wisdom of God, which none of the princes of this world knew; he taught what no eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived. That is, he preached truth undiscovered by human reason."



That's why so many unbelievers get it wrong. They do not grasp the wisdom of God. They cannot. It is only revealed by the Spirit.

There are many things I admire about smart people. The gift of intelligence that God has given them is incredible because it's so helpful to society. You all know that I love computers. I remember once I was helping Marg with her computer and when I got her problem fixed she said something like,

"Wow. You're really smart."



I said,

"No. The guys that are really smart are the ones that made the computer possible."



The people who invented and designed the microprocessor, the memory chips, the operating system, the programs that the computer runs—they're the really smart guys.

I admire smart people. People that are brilliant have a special place in my heart because the gift that God gave them is incredible. I'm currently reading a book about Alan Turing, the father of modern computers. He worked for the British government during World War II at Bletchley Park, breaking the German secret codes. They were very successful at Bletchley Park and were often able to read the German codes in real time. Everyone who worked at Bletchley Park in a code breaking capacity was a genius. They recruited people from many disciplines and they all worked together. I saw an interview with a guy who worked there and he said when they were working on a problem, sometimes someone would come up with a solution and he's say to himself,

"Why didn't I think of that? I should have thought of that."



But he said he never thought that when Alan Turing came up with a solution. He said that Turing's solutions were so insightful, so unusual, so brilliant, that it was never, "Why didn't I think of that?" but more of a, "How did he ever come up with that?" Mere geniuses saw that Turing was operating on a much higher level than them.

But Turing, like many brilliant people today, rejected Christianity. Does that mean that I should follow their lead and reject it too? No, not at all. They are all brilliant in certain ways. But all of them are missing the wisdom of God. With all their brilliance, their eyes have been blinded, their ears have been closed, their minds have been dulled by Satan so that they have not seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:23,

"but we preach Christ crucified:
a stumbling block to Jews
and foolishness to Gentiles,"

And just before that he wrote, (1 Corinthians 1:18)

"For the message of the cross
is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved
it is the power of God."

So the lesson for us is that

we must rely on this wisdom from God which comes from the Spirit.

This is not the product of human imagination. Or as the apostle Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:16–19,

"We did not follow
cleverly invented stories
when we told you about the power
and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For he received honor and glory
from God the Father when the voice
came to him from the Majestic Glory,
saying, 'This is my Son, whom I love;
with him I am well pleased.'
We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven
when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
And we have the word of the prophets
made more certain,
and you will do well to pay attention to it,
as to a light shining in a dark place,
until the day dawns and
the morning star rises in your hearts.
Above all, you must understand
that no prophecy of Scripture
came about by the prophet's own interpretation.
For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man,
but men spoke from God
as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

Christians, appreciate what the gospel is—the wisdom and revelation of God.

The world doesn't want us to believe. But the gospel is the greatest story ever. (John 3:16)

"For God so loved the world that
he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

Thank God that God has opened your eyes to the glory of Jesus and the glory of the gospel.

Secondly,

you Christians ought to have great trust in God's care for you—both in the present and the future.

The focus of the passage is God's care for His people. The NIV translates it,

"what God has prepared
for those who love him—"

The idea here is that (Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, 1 Corinthians, PNTC; p. 128)

"God prepares things beyond human comprehension for those who are his."



We should apply this two ways.

First, regarding your loved ones who have died in the Lord, you ought to have great comfort and joy.

Calvin says of our text, (1 Corinthians, p. 57)

"It will not be out of place to say that the prophet, having mentioned earthly benefits, was led on by thinking of these to a general statement, and indeed to glory in the spiritual blessedness, which is laid up in heaven for believers."



Believers who have departed—they are with the Lord. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8) To depart and be with the Lord is better by far. (Philippians 1:23). All the promises of future happiness and glory are true. Jesus is preparing a place for us. It's going to be glorious—far beyond what we can imagine. Calvin writes, (1 Corinthians p. 57)

"It can also be said that this is an argument from less to greater. For if mans' mind cannot attain to the measuring of God's earthly gifts, how much less will it reach the height of heaven?"



Revelation 21:1–4

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,
for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,
and there was no longer any sea.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride
beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice
from the throne saying,
Now the dwelling of God is with men,
and he will live with them.
They will be his people,
and God himself will be with them and be their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death
or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away."

But secondly, you should have great trust in God's care for you right now.

Herman Bavinck writes, (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, p. 542)

"All the benefits that Christ has acquired for his own [people] are not just bestowed in the state of glory but are in principle already granted here on earth."



John Calvin says of the passage that Paul quotes, (Isaiah 64:4, Calvin, 1 Corinthians, p. 57)

"In this passage, the prophet remembers how wonderfully God always come to His people's assistance when they were in need, and exclaims that His favors to the godly are beyond the comprehension of the human mind."



You are in the hand of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. His blessings to you, His care for you is beyond what you conceive. You don't know what to pray for? God's got that covered. In Romans 8:26–27 Paul wrote,

"In the same way,
the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
We do not know what we ought to pray for,
but the Spirit himself intercedes
for us with groans
that words cannot express.
And he who searches our hearts
knows the mind of the Spirit,
because the Spirit intercedes
for the saints in accordance with God's will."

It's like that with every aspect of our lives. God has prepared such protection, such care, such love, such glory—that it surpasses our present understanding. Rejoice in Jesus.