Seeing the Unseen
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…

I. THE HABIT OF MIND HERE DESCRIBED. The apostle speaks, not of an act or effort, but of a steady mental habit which he had formed - an intentness of regard in a particular direction. He describes it in a form that sounds paradoxical, but the thing meant is well known to all experimental Christians. The things seen and not seen in this passage are not the visible and invisible by mortal eyes, as in Romans 1:20. The things not seen in the verse before us are so, not because they cannot be seen, but because the time has not yet come for their manifestation. The things seen, from which St. Paul turned away his eyes, were the toils and afflictions endured by him as a servant of Christ. The things not seen were the rewards of faithful service at the coming of the Lord - the "weight of glory." And the habit here indicated is that of looking off from labours and sufferings to the glorious appearing of the Lord, and the bright "recompense of reward." It is the highest form of looking on the cheerful side of things. As this is a habit, it must be formed by degrees and by reiterated efforts. By bending the mind as much as we can towards the future with Christ, we must train it to habitual expectation and desire.

II. THE REASON ASSIGNED FOR FORMING THIS HABIT. "For the things which are seen are," etc. St. Paul reflected that "the sufferings of the present time" were, after all, of short continuance. The affliction he endured was only for a moment as compared with the eternity before him. So he felt that he would outlive and triumph over all his trials. They were temporal, and so could not reach into the life beyond or mar the hope laid up for him in heaven. Was not this the way with the Divine Master himself? For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame. And so should all who are his bear the cross and endure patiently, because the time will not be long and the things not seen are eternal.


1. Elevation of the tone of life. Life is as its motives are; and the motives come from the convictions, fears, and hopes that are strongest in the mind. A superficial religion has not power enough to cleanse the heart or ennoble the principles of conduct. But a formed habit of regarding the things eternal as those to which we hasten must raise and refine the character. "Every one who has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure." And this is no selfish hope, no egotistical ambition. It is the hope of being crowned along with all who love his appearing, and of being rewarded along with all the faithful servants of the King.

2. Consolation in hardship and adversity. Even when a lamp is not near enough to cast a clear light on our path, it is cheering to see it in a murky night; and so are we comforted as we look for the glory with Christ. We move towards it over ever so rugged a path. We steer towards it over ever so restless a sea. If we look at the things which are seen, the waves and the threatening rocks, we lose strength and courage; but with the eye fixed on the light of that blessed hope, we make straight for the harbour.

3. Preparation for departure hence. It is appointed to men to die. To take no thought about this appointment, and to occupy the mind with only the things that are seen, forgetting their transience, is to play the part of a fool. The wise man is he who, while fulfilling the duties of the passing time, looks much and steadily into the future, and so, when he departs, goes, not into regions unknown, but to the Saviour, whom he has loved and served, to wait with him and with all the saints for the resurrection and the glory. - F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: while we don't look 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.

On Eternity
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