2 Corinthians 4:18
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) While we look not at the things which are seen.—The “while we look” is, according to the Greek idiom, the condition of what had been stated in the preceding verse. The “look” is that of one who contemplates this or that as the end or goal for which he strives. The “things that are seen” are, of course, all the incidents and circumstances of the present life; the “things that are not seen” (the very phrase of Hebrews 11:1) are the objects of faith, immortality, eternal life, the crown of righteousness, the beatific vision. These things are subject to no time-limits, and endure through all the ages of God’s purposes. The others are but for a brief season, and then are as though they had not been. Striking as the words are, they find an echo in the words of a contemporary seeker after wisdom: “These things (the things which most men seek after),” says Seneca (Ep. lix.), “are but objects of the imagination, and present a show of being but for a time . . . Let us give our minds to the things which are eternal.”

2 Corinthians

LOOKING AT THE UNSEEN

2 Corinthians 4:18
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Men may be said to be divided into two classes, materialists and idealists, in the widest sense of those two words. The mass care for, and are occupied by, and regard as really solid good, those goods which can be touched and enjoyed by sense. The minority-students, thinkers, men of ideas, moralists, and the like-believe in, and care for, impalpable spiritual riches. Everybody admits that the latter class is distinctly the higher. Now it is from no disregard to the importance and reality of that broad distinction that I insist, to begin with, that it is not the antithesis which is in the Apostle’s mind here. His notion of ‘the things that are seen’ and ‘the things that are not seen’ is a much grander and wider one than that. By ‘the things that are seen’ he means the whole of this visible world, with all its circumstances and relations, and by ‘the things that are not seen’ he means the realities beyond the stars.

He means the same thing that we mean when we talk in a much less true and impressive contrast about the present and the future. To him the ‘things that are not seen’ are present instead of being, as we weakly and foolishly christen them, ‘the future state.’ And it makes all the difference whether we think of that august realm as lying far away ahead of us, or whether we feel that it is, as it is, in very deed, all round about us, and pressing in upon us, only that ‘the veil’-that is to say, our ‘flesh’-has come between us and it. Do not habitually think of these two sets of objects according to that misleading distinction ‘present’ and ‘future,’ but think of them rather as ‘the things that are seen,’ and ‘the things that are not seen.’

I. Now, first, I wish to say a word or two about what such a look will do for us.

Paul’s notion is, as you will see if you look at the context, that if we want to understand the visible, or to get the highest good out of the things that are seen, we must bring into the field of vision ‘the things that are not seen.’ The case with which he is dealing is that of a man in trouble. He talks about light affliction which is but for a moment, working out a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, ‘while we look at the things which are not seen.’ But the principle on which that statement is made, of course, has its widest application to all sorts and conditions of human life.

And the thought that emerges from it directly is that only when we take the ‘things that are not seen’ into account, and make them the standard and the scale by which we judge all things, do we understand ‘the things that are seen.’ That triumphant paradox of the Apostle’s about the heavy burdens that pressed upon him and his brethren, lifelong as these burdens were, which yet he calls ‘light’ and ‘but for a moment’ is possible only when we open the shutter of the dungeon which we fancied was the whole universe, and look out on to the fair land that stretches beyond. A man who has seen the Himalayas will not be much overwhelmed by the height of Helvellyn. They who look out into the eternities have the true measuring rod and standard by which to estimate the duration and intensity of the things that are present. We are all tempted to do as villagers in some little hamlet do-think that their small local affairs are the world’s affairs, and mighty, until they have been up to London and seen the scale of things there. If you and I would let the steady light of Eternity, and the sustaining pressure of the ‘exceeding weight of glory’ pour into our minds, we should carry with us a standard which would bring down the greatness, dwindle the duration, lighten the pressure, of the most crushing sorrow, and would set in its true dimensions everything that is here. It is for want of that that we go on as we do, calculating wrongly what are the great things and what are the small things. When, like some of those prisoners in the Inquisition, the heavy iron weights are laid upon our half-crushed hearts, we are tempted to shriek, ‘Oh, these will be my death!’ instead of taking in that great vision which, as it makes all earthly riches dross, so it makes all crushing burdens and blows of sorrow light as a feather.

But, on the other hand, do not let us forget that this same standard which thus dwindles, also magnifies the small, and in a very solemn sense, makes eternal the else fleeting things of this life. For there is nothing that makes this present existence of ours so utterly contemptible, insignificant, and transitory, as to block out of our sight its connection with Eternity. And there is nothing which so lifts the commonplace into the solemn, and invests with everlasting and tremendous importance everything that a man does here, as to feel that it all tells on his condition away beyond there. The shafting is on this side of the wall, but the work that it does is through the wall there, in the other chamber; and you do not understand the cranks and the wheels here unless you know that they go through the partition and are doing something there beyond. If you shut out Eternity from our life in time, then it is an inexplicable riddle; and I, for my part, would venture to say that in that case, the men who answer the question, ‘Is life worth living?’ with a distinct negative, are wise. It is a tale told by an idiot, ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,’ unless the light of ‘the things not seen’ flashes and flares in upon it.

Further, this look of which my text speaks is the condition on which Time prepares for Eternity.

The Apostle is speaking about the effect of affliction in making ready for us an eternal weight of glory, and he says that is done while, or on condition that during the suffering, we are looking steadfastly towards the ‘things that are not seen.’ But no outward circumstances or events can prepare a weight of glory for us hereafter, unless they prepare us for the glory. Affliction works for us that blessed result, in the measure in which it fits us for that result. And so you will find that, only a verse or two after my text, Paul, using the same very significant and emphatic verb, writes inverting the order of things, and says ‘He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God.’ So that working the thing for us, and working us for the thing, are one and the same process. Or, to put it into plain English, our various duties and circumstances here will prepare the glory of Eternity for us if they prepare us for the glory of Eternity. But only in the measure in which these outward things do thus shape and mould our characters do they work out for us ‘an exceeding weight of glory.’

It is often thought that a man has been so miserable here that God is sure to give him future blessedness to recompense him. Well! ‘that depends.’ If he has used his miserableness as he will use it when he lets the light of ‘the things not seen’ in upon it, then, certainly, it will work out for him the blessed results. But if he does not, then, as certainly, it will not. Whilst there are many ways by which character is hammered and moulded and shaped into that which is fit to be clothed upon with the glory that is yonder, one of the foremost of these is the passing through things temporal with a continual regard to the things that are eternal. If you want to understand to-day you must bring Eternity into the account, and if you want to use to-day you must use it with the light of the eternal world full upon it. The sum of it all is, brethren, that the things seen cannot be estimated in their true character, unless they are regarded in immediate connection with the things that are unseen; and that the things seen will only prepare an eternal weight of glory for us when they prepare us for an eternal weight of glory.

II. And so, I note that this look at the things not seen is only possible through Jesus Christ.

He is the only window which opens out and gives the vision of that far-off land. I, for my part, believe that, if I might use such a metaphor, He is the Columbus of the New World. Men believed, and argued, and doubted about the existence of it across the seas there, until a man went, and came back again, and then went to found a new city yonder. And men hoped for immortality, and believed after a fashion-some of them-in a future life, and dreaded that it might be true, and discussed and debated whether it was, but doubt clouded all minds, until One, our Brother, went away into the darkness, and came back again, in most respects as He had gone, and then departed once more to make ready a city in which all who love Him should finally dwell, and to which you and I may be sure that we shall emigrate. It is only in Jesus Christ that the look which my text enjoins is possible.

For not only has He given a certitude so that we need now not to say ‘We think, we hope, we fear, we are pretty well sure, that there must be a life beyond,’ but we can say ‘We know.’ Not only has He done this, but also in Him and His life of glory at God’s right hand in heaven, is summed up all that we really can know about that future. We look into the darkness in vain; we look at Him, and, our knowledge, though limited, is blessed. All other adumbrations of a life beyond must necessarily be cast into the metaphorical forms or the negative symbols in which the New Testament abounds. We may speak of golden pavements, and thrones, and harps, and the like. We may say: ‘No night there, no sighing, nor weeping, no burdened hearts, no toil, no pain, for the former things are passed away.’ But a future life which is all described in metaphors, and a future life of which we know only that it is the negation of the disagreeables and limitations of the present, is but a poor affair. Here is the positive truth, ‘To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me on My throne.’ ‘We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’ And beyond that nearness to Christ, blessed communion with Christ, likeness to Christ, royalty derived from Christ, I think we neither know nor need to know anything about that life.

Not only is He our sole medium of knowledge and Himself the revelation of our heaven, but it is only by Him that man’s thoughts and desires are drawn to, and find themselves at home in, that tremendous thought of immortality. I know not how it may be with you, but I am not ashamed to confess that to me the idea of eternal continuance of my conscious being is an awful thought, rather depressing and bewildering than delighting and attractive. I, for my part, do not believe that men generally do grapple to their hearts, with any gratitude or joy, that solemn belief of immortal life unless they feel that it is life with, and in, and like, Jesus Christ. ‘To depart’ is dreary, and it is only when we can say ‘and to be with Christ’ that it becomes distinctly ‘far better.’ He is, if I may so say, at once telescope and star. By Him we see Him; we see, seeing Him, that the things that are unseen all cluster round Himself and become blessed.

III. And now, lastly, this look should be habitual with all Christian people.

Paul takes it for granted that every Christian man is, as the habitual direction of his thoughts, looking towards those ‘things that are not seen.’ The original shows that even more distinctly than our translation, but our translation shows it plainly enough. He does not say ‘works for us an exceeding weight of glory for,’ but ‘while’ we look, as if it were a matter of course. He took it for granted as to these Corinthians. I wonder if he would be warranted in taking it for granted about us?

Note what sort of a look it is which produces these blessed effects. The word which the Apostle employs here is a more pointed one than the ordinary one for ‘seeing.’ It is translated in other places in the New Testament, ‘Mark’ them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample, and the like. And it implies a concentrated, protracted effort and interested gaze. A man, standing on the deck of a ship, casts a languid eye for a moment out on to the horizon, and sees nothing. A keen-eyed sailor by his side shades his eyes with his hand, and shuts out cross-lights, and looks, and peers, and keeps his eyes steady, and he sees the filmy outline of the mountain land. If you look for a minute, not much caring whether you see anything or not, and then turn away, and get your eye dazzled with all those vulgar, crude, high colours round about you here on earth, it is very little that you will see of ‘the things that are not seen.’ Concentrated attention, and a steadfast look, are wanted to make the invisible visible. You have to alter the focus of your eye if you are to see the thing that is afar off.

There has to be a positive shutting out of all other things, as is emphatically taught in the text by putting first the not looking at ‘the things that are seen.’ Here they are pressing in upon our eyeballs, all round us, insisting on being looked at, and unless we resolutely avert our eyes, we shall not see anything else. They monopolise us unless we resist the intrusive appeals that they make to us. We are like men down in some fertile valley, surrounded by rich vegetation, but seeing nothing beyond the green sides of the glen. We have to go up to the hill-top if we are to look out over the flashing ocean, and behold afar off the towers of the mother city across the restless waves. Brethren, unless you shut out the world you will never see the things that are not seen.

Now, as I have said, the Apostle regards this conscious effort at bringing ourselves into touch, in mind and heart and faith, with ‘the things that are not seen’ as being a habitual characteristic of Christian men. I am very much afraid that the present generation of Christian people do not, in anything like the degree in which they should, recreate and strengthen themselves with the contemplation which he here recommends. It seems to me, for instance, that we do not hear nearly as much in pulpits about the life beyond the grave as we used to do when I was a boy. And, though I confess I speak from limited knowledge, it seems to me that these great motives which lie in the thought of Eternity and our place there, are by no means as prominent in the minds of the Christian people of this generation as they used to be. Partly, I suppose, that arises from the wholesome emphasis which has been given of late years to the present day, and this-side-the grave effects of Christianity, upon character and life. Partly it arises, I think, from the half-consciousness of being surrounded by an atmosphere of scepticism and unbelief as to a future life, and from the most unwise, inexpedient, and cowardly yielding to the temptation to say very little about the distinctive features of Christianity, and to dwell rather upon those which are sure to be recognised by even unbelieving people. And it comes, too, from the lack of faith, which, again, it tends mightily to increase.

Oh, dear brethren! our consciences tell us what different people we should be if habitually there shone before us that great, solemn issue to which we are all tending. Variations in the atmosphere there will always be, and sometimes the distant outlines will be clearer and sharper than at others, and the colours will shine out more distinctly. But surely it should not be that our vision of the Eternal should be like the vision that dwellers amongst the mountains have of the summits. They say that some of the great peaks of the world are swathed in mist all day long, and that only for a few moments in the morning, or for a brief space in the evening, does the solemn summit gleam rosy in the light. And that, I am afraid, is very much like the degree in which most of us look at ‘the things that are not seen’ and so we are feeble, and we do not understand ‘the things that are not seen’; and we do not get the good out of them.

Dear brethren, let us turn away our eyes from the gauds that we can see, and open the eyes of our spirits on the things that are, the things where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Surely, surely, it is madness that when two sets of objects are before us, the one lasting for a moment, and then dying down into black nothingness, and the other shining on for ever; and when our ‘look’ settles whether we shall share the fate of the one or of the other, we should choose to gaze with all our eyes and hearts at the perishable and turn away from the permanent. Surely, if it is true that the things which are seen are temporal, common-sense, and a reasonable regard for our own well-being, bid us look at the eternal ‘things which are not seen,’ since only so can the light and the momentary afflictions, joys, sorrows, or circumstances, work out for us, and work us for ‘a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’2 Corinthians 4:18. While we look — That is, this weight of glory will be wrought out for us while we look, or provided we look, namely, by faith and expectation; not at the things which are seen — Men, money, honour, pleasure, the things of earth; for to look at these will only render us more earthly and carnal, more unfit for the heavenly state; but at the things which are not seen — God, Christ, grace, glory; the things of heaven: to look at which with faith, desire, and expectation, will naturally tend to render us more heavenly, holy, and divine, in our intentions and affections. The word σκοπεω here used, and rendered to look, properly signifies to look or aim at a mark which we intend to hit, or an object which we wish to lay hold on, and consequently endeavour to obtain; our English word scope, or mark aimed at, is derived from the same Greek theme. For the things which are seen, &c. — As if he had said, We have great reason to desire, expect, and aim at the latter, rather than the former; for the former, being visible, are also temporal, or temporary and transient; but the others, which are invisible, are eternal, and therefore suited to the duration of that immortal soul which God hath given us, and in the felicity of which our true happiness must consist. This quality of future happiness, that it is eternal, not only implies that its joys and glories will have no end, not even after a duration hath passed beyond all computation of numbers, or conception in thought, but also that these joys will suffer no interruption or abatement whatever, in the course of a duration absolutely everlasting. 4:13-18 The grace of faith is an effectual remedy against fainting in times of trouble. They knew that Christ was raised, and that his resurrection was an earnest and assurance of theirs. The hope of this resurrection will encourage in a suffering day, and set us above the fear of death. Also, their sufferings were for the advantage of the church, and to God's glory. The sufferings of Christ's ministers, as well as their preaching and conversation, are for the good of the church and the glory of God. The prospect of eternal life and happiness was their support and comfort. What sense was ready to pronounce heavy and long, grievous and tedious, faith perceived to be light and short, and but for a moment. The weight of all temporal afflictions was lightness itself, while the glory to come was a substance, weighty, and lasting beyond description. If the apostle could call his heavy and long-continued trials light, and but for a moment, what must our trifling difficulties be! Faith enables to make this right judgment of things. There are unseen things, as well as things that are seen. And there is this vast difference between them; unseen things are eternal, seen things but temporal, or temporary only. Let us then look off from the things which are seen; let us cease to seek for worldly advantages, or to fear present distresses. Let us give diligence to make our future happiness sure.While we look ... - Or, rather, we not looking at the things which are seen. The design of this is, to show in what way the afflictions which they endured became in their view light and momentary. It was by looking to the glories of the future world, and thus turning away the attention from the trials and sorrows of this life. If we look directly at our trials; if the mind is fixed wholly on them, and we think of nothing else, they often appear heavy and long. Even comparatively light and brief sufferings will appear to be exceedingly difficult to bear. But if we can turn away the mind from them and contemplate future glory; if we can compare them with eternal blessedness, and feel that they will introduce us to perfect and everlasting happiness, they will appear to be transitory, and will be easily borne. And Paul here has stated the true secret of bearing trials with patience. It is to look at the things which are unseen. To anticipate the glories of the heavenly world. To fix the eye on the eternal happiness which is beyond the grave; and to reflect how short these trials are, compared with the eternal glories of heaven; and how short they will seem to be when we are there.

The things which are seen - The things here below; the things of this life - poverty, want, care, persecution, trial, etc.

The things which are not seen - The glories of heaven, compare Hebrews 11:1.

The things which are seen are temporal - This refers particularly to the things which they suffered. But it is as true of all things here below. Wealth, pleasure, fame, the three idols which the people of this world adore, are all to endure but for a little time. They will all soon vanish away. So it is with pain, and sorrow, and tears. All that we enjoy, and all that we suffer here, must soon vanish and disappear. The most splendid palace will decay; the most costly pile will moulder to dust; the most magnificent city will fall to ruins; the most exquisite earthly pleasures will soon come to an end; and the most extended possessions can be enjoyed but a little time. So the acutest pain will soon be over; the most lingering disease will soon cease; the evils of the deepest poverty, want, and suffering will soon be passed. There is nothing on which the eye can fix, nothing that the heart can desire here, which will not soon fade away; or, if it survives, it is temporary in regard to us. We must soon leave it to others; and if enjoyed, it will be enjoyed while our bodies are slumbering in the grave, and our souls engaged in the deep solemnities of eternity. How foolish then to make these our portion, and to fix our affections supremely on the things of this life? How foolish also to be very deeply affected by the trials of this life, which at the furthest can be endured but a little longer before we shall be forever beyond their reach!

The things which are not seen are eternal - Everything which pertains to that state beyond the grave:

(1) God is eternal; not to leave us as our earthly friends do.

(2) the Saviour is eternal - to be our everlasting friend.

(3) the companions and friends there are eternal. The angels who are to be our associates, and the spirits of the just with whom we shall live, are to exist forever. The angels never die; and the pious dead shall die no more. There shall be then no separation, no death-bed, no grave, no sad vacancy and loss caused by the removal of a much-loved friend.

(4) the joys of heaven are eternal; There shall be no interruption; no night; no cessation; no end. Heaven and all its joys shall be everlasting; and he who enters there shall have the assurance that those joys shall endure and increase while eternal ages shall roll away.

(5) it may be added, also, that the woes of hell shall be eternal. They are now among the things which to us "are not seen;" and they, as well as the joys of heaven, shall have no end. Sorrow there shall never cease; the soul shall there never die; the body that shall be raised up "to the resurrection of damnation" shall never again expire. And when all these things are contemplated, well might Paul say of the things of this life - the sorrows, trials, privations, and persecutions which he endured, that they were light, and were for a moment." How soon will they pass away; how soon shall we all be engaged amidst the unchanging and eternal realities of the things which are not seen!

Remarks

1. Ministers of the gospel have no cause to faint or to be discouraged, 2 Corinthians 4:1. Whatever may be the reception of their message, and whatever the trials to which they may be subjected, yet there are abundant sources of consolation and support in the gospel which they preach. They have the consciousness that they preach a system of truth; that they are proclaiming that which God has revealed; and, if they are faithful, that they have his smiles and approbation. Even, therefore, if people reject, and despise their message, and if they are called to endure many privations and trials, they should not faint. It is enough for them that they proclaim the truth which God loves, and that they meet with his approbation and smiles. Trials will come in the ministry as every where else, but there are also special consolations. There may be much opposition and resistance to the message, but we should not faint or be discouraged. We should do our duty, and commit the result to God.

2. The gospel should be embraced by those to whom it comes, 2 Corinthians 4:2. If it has their reason and conscience in its favor, then they should embrace it without delay. They are under the most sacred obligation to receive it, and to become decided Christians. Every man is bound, and may be urged to pursue, that course which his conscience approves; and the gospel may thus be pressed on the attention of all to whom it comes.

3. If people wish peace of conscience, they should embrace the gospel, 2 Corinthians 4:2. They can never find it elsewhere. No man's conscience is at peace from the fact that he does not repent, and love God and obey the gospel. His heart may love sin; but his conscience cannot approve it. That is at peace only in doing the work of God; and that can find self-approbation only when it submits to him, and embraces the gospel of his Son. Then the conscience is at ease. No man ever yet had a troubled conscience from the fact that he had embraced the gospel, and was an humble and decided Christian. Thousands and million have had a troubled conscience from the fact that they have neglected it. No man on a death-bed ever had a troubled conscience because he embraced religion too early in life. Thousands and million have been troubled when they came to die, because they neglected it so long, or rejected it altogether. No man when death approaches has a troubled conscience because he has lived too much devoted to God the Saviour, and been too active as a Christian. But O how many have been troubled then because they have been worldly-minded, and selfish, and vain, and proud? The conscience gives peace just in proportion as we serve God faithfully; nor can all the art of man or Satan give peace to one conscience in the ways of sin, and in the neglect of the soul.

continued...

18. look not at—as our aim.

things … seen—"earthly things" (Php 3:19). We mind not the things seen, whether affliction or refreshment come, so as to be seduced by the latter, or deterred by the former [Chrysostom].

things … not seen—not "the invisible things" of Ro 1:20, but the things which, though not seen now, shall be so hereafter.

temporal—rather, "for a time"; in contrast to eternal. English Version uses "temporal" for temporary. The Greek is rightly translated in the similar passage, "the pleasures of sin for a season."

Two things support the spirits of Christians under trials;

1. The eyeing of him who is invisible; this supported Moses, Hebrews 11:27: He endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

2. The seeing by the eye of faith the things which are invisible; the things which God hath prepared in another world for those that love him; the things which eye hath not seen, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.

For (saith the apostle)

the things which are seen, which fall under the senses of men, they

are but temporal, and of a temporary duration; but the invisible things, the

exceeding and eternal weight of glory, which are before mentioned, they are of an eternal duration, and therefore much to be preferred before those things which endure but for a moment. While we look not at the things which are seen,.... These are the things of this world, such as riches, honours, pleasures, profits, &c. which are visible to, and strike the senses of a natural man, and are temporal, endure but for a time, are transitory, fleeting, and quickly gone. To "look" at these things is to desire them, set the affections on them, and to make the enjoyment of them a man's chief scope and aim; and when this is the case, afflictions cannot be said to work for such, or to work them for an eternal weight of glory; but when believers have their eyes and hearts taken off of these things, they either look not at them, or with contempt upon them; "while", and when they are in such frames of soul, afflictions are operating for their future good. Or by these things that are seen may be meant afflictions themselves, the cross, with all that belongs to it; which also are discernible by the outward senses, and are but for a time. Now a believer is not to stand looking and poring upon his afflictions; for while he does so, they work impatience, murmurings, repinings, unbelief, &c. but when and while he looks off of these to Christ, and to what he has done and suffered, and to the glories of another world, and to the recompense of reward, he not only finds himself supported under his present afflictions, which he does not so overlook as to despise; but he also finds his heart seeking after, and his affections set upon, and his faith, hope, and expectation raised in the views of things above, where Christ is: and so he is kept looking

at the things which are not seen; by the corporeal eye, nor by the eye of carnal sense and reason; only by the eye of faith, which is "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen": and these things, the joys and glories of heaven, "are eternal"; will last for ever, will never end; all which is great encouragement to faith and patience under the present afflictive dispensations of Providence.

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 4:18. μὴ σκοπούντων ἡμῶν τὰ βλεπόμενα f1κ.τ.λ.: while we look not at the things which are seen (cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 5:7), but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, sc., for the moment, but the things which are not seen are eternal, sc., for the ages; cf. Romans 8:24, Hebrews 11:1. Wetstein quotes a good parallel to this splendid sentence from Seneca (Ep. 59); “Ista imaginaria sunt, et ad tempus aliquam faciem ferunt. Nihil horum stabile nec solidum est … mittamus animum ad ea, quae aeterna sunt.”18. while we look not] Rather, since we look not, do not fix our attention.

at the things which are not seen] The Christian habitually views all that comes before him from the standpoint of the invisible world, which is revealed to him by the Spirit from within. See 1 Corinthians 2:9-10; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 1 John 4:5-6. Also Hebrews 11:1.

for the things which are seen are temporal] Rather, temporary, i.e. they last, and are intended to last, but a season.

but the things which are not seen are eternal] Here was the secret of the Apostle’s confidence. The invisible truths of which he was persuaded, which lay at the root of the Resurrection of Christ, and therefore of the moral strength he felt within him and was enabled to impart to others, rested upon no uncertain basis, but upon the unchangeable Will of the Eternal God. See notes on ch. 2 Corinthians 1:19-20.2 Corinthians 4:18. Σκοπούντων) while we look, etc. Every one follows that to which he looks as his aim [scopus from σκοπέω.]—μὴ βλεπόμενα, things, which are not seen) The term, ἀόρατα, things invisible, [incapable of being seen] has a different meaning; for many things, which are not seen [μὴ βλεπόμενα, things not actually seen now], will be visible [ὄρατα], when the journey of our faith is accomplished.—γὰρ, for) This furnishes the reason, why they look at those things, which are not seen.Verse 18. - While we look not at the things which are seen. The Greek suggests more of a reason, "Since we are not gazing at things visible" (see 2 Corinthians 5:7). Things which are not seen. The negative is the subjective negative. It expresses not only the fact that now these things are not seen, but that it is their nature to be unseen by the bodily eyes. Temporal. That is, temporary, transitory, phantasmal, a passing world; for which reason we do not fix our gaze or our aim upon it. But the things which are not seen are eternal The clause is important, as showing that eternity is not a mere extension of time, but a condition qualitatively different from time. The "things eternal" exist as much now as they will ever do. We are as much living in eternity now as we ever shall be. The only difference will be that we shall then see him who is now unseen, and realize the things which now are only visible to the eye of faith. This is one of the passages of St. Paul which finds a close parallel in Seneca ('Ep.,' 59). "Invisibilia non decipiunt" was, as Bishop Wordsworth tells us, the inscription put at the end of his garden arcade by Dr. Young, the poet.



Seen - not seen

Compare the beautiful passage in Plato's "Phaedo," 79.

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