"No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him" (1Cor.2:9).
Familiar words to many, and they often stir in us a vision of hope for what lies ahead when we go to heaven and get to see Jesus face to face. It is a good hope. One that sustains us in difficult times.
But we need to read the next verse — "These things God has revealed to us through His Spirit." Paul is not talking about our future. He is quoting an ancient statement that Isaiah referred to in his writings (64:4) about things that were not yet known in their time. And Paul says that these amazing things have now been revealed. So the obvious question is, "What previously unknown wonders is he talking about?"
The answer has already been given in Paul's reference to his gospel, the Good News that Jesus has powerfully conquered sin and death so that we could be united with Him. For Paul, union with Christ was paramount to his message (Col.1:27; 3:4; Phil.1:21). Such a possibility was unthinkable under the Old Covenant which put tremendous distance between people and God despite His presence in the Tabernacle. Only a handful of men in the Old Testament could be said to be filled with the Holy Spirit — Moses, Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha pretty much round out the list. Even the prophets were mostly messengers, not carriers of the presence of God. What no eye had seen and no person had known was what it would be like to be indwelt by the very power and presence of God. This was the revelation embedded in the New Covenant, which Paul proclaimed endlessly as the means to a life we could not otherwise imagine (see Eph.3 for this same theme).
I am reminded of the wonderful story, Anne of Green Gables, in which this young girl begins her life as an unwanted orphan and by the end of the story she is a daughter, deeply bonded to her new family as strongly as if she had been born to them — a bond that was unimaginable at the beginning of the story.
This is our hope, our life, our God. Who would have thought such a thing was possible!