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2 Corinthians 4:18 - Meaning?

Explain what are temporal and eternal things.

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(All quotations from the New King James translation unless stated otherwise).

2 Corinthians 4:18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

The things which are seen are the things of this present life.

The things which are not seen are the things that God has promised in the future. We can only ‘see’ them with the ‘eye’ of faith. Faith is belief that what God has promised he will certainly fulfil.

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Abraham was commended for his faith.

Romans 4:21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness."

By faith he looked forward to Jesus’ day. Jesus was his promised offspring.

John 8:56 "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."

God told Noah that he was going to destroy the earth with a flood and Noah believed him and acted accordingly.

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Jesus was the promised Messiah that Old Testament prophets and many men of faith believed was to come. They saw him with the eye of faith but did not live to see him in the flesh.

Matthew 13:17 "for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

In context Paul is explaining to the Corinthians that the afflictions of this life are endurable because we can look forward to what God has promised to those that endure to the end.

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment (temporary), is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,

We are sustained by hoping for the things which as yet have not happened.

Romans 8:24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

What we have been promised is eternal life following resurrection from the dead.

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.

The promise is that at Christ’s return, the dead (in Christ) will be raised incorruptible and those that are still alive in Christ will be changed from mortal to immortal.

1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." 55 "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

This has not happened before, but we believe it will happen. What we see at the moment are the trials of everyday life with no visible tangible evidence that God is in control. The order of things that we see is nonetheless temporary and will one day pass away to be replaced by the kingdom of God. By faith we await the return of Christ to set up that which will last forever.

The sense of the word translated ‘look’ in 2 Corinthians 4:18 can be seen in Philippians 2.

AV Philippians 2:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

We are not to look (set our heart / concentrate) on this life which is temporary but look (set our heart / concentrate) on the promised life to come which will be eternal; and live our lives accordingly. Paul explains what will happen in the future.

1 Corinthians 15:20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For "He has put all things under His feet." But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

All this is seen only with the eye of faith but in time it will all become a reality.
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

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I hope this helps.
Glenn Smith
 
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