For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18)
The apostle Paul saw the world in a certain way. That’s the only reason he can say what he does in 2 Cor. 4:17–18.
He sets up a comparison (which he says is no comparison at all). There are the pains of this present life — the sufferings he calls “this light momentary affliction.” And then there is the eternal weight of glory being prepared for us. There is the present reality of hardship compared to the future promise of everlasting good — a promise that will far exceed the experience of our pain. Our future good will be more real to us than any agony in this life. But the important difference is that the pain is right here and now, while the good is out there and coming.
Paul can see the suffering, but the eternal weight of glory — the consummation of God’s new creation — he can’t see that. Not yet. But do you recognize what Paul is doing?
He tells us in verse 18: “we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Let’s Look with Paul
Paul knew that what we see in this life is not necessarily what we get. He looked around him at all his hardships and difficulties, but he lived and went about his days keyed into another level of reality. What he saw in this life — and what we see in differing degrees — is confusion and brokenness. But what he saw in the life to come — and what he wants us to see — is an eternal weight of glory, never-ending glory that goes beyond any measure of fame in this world.
Paul lived in this hope, looking to the future reality of a new world with Jesus: no sin, no pain, no tears. Paul looked to that future day when we will be in the very presence of God, and he wants us to look with him. If we, like Paul, could understand that what you see is not always what you get, we will not lose heart. We will live and invest in the eternal, giving our hearts and souls to God alone.
Hope Secured, Faith Empowered
This is our call — to fix our gaze on the eternal weight of glory ahead. But that may sound a lot easier than it is. How do we look ahead? What does that mean? It means we see Jesus — the one whose light shines when all else fades.
The Bible tells us that Jesus, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus looked to the eternal — and he did it for us. He went to the cross and died in our place. He took all of our sins upon himself and bore God’s wrath, the judgment we deserved. He was crucified, dead, buried, and then raised on the third day. And he did this to save us, to make us his own, and to change the way we live in this transient world.
Jesus came to secure our hope in the everlasting good of his presence, and he came to empower our faith to take hold of that hope now, to make us love him from the inside-out, to long for his will above else — as we look not to what is seen, but to what is unseen.