We are studying the subject of love in 1 Corinthians 13. In verses 1-3 Paul spoke of the preeminence of love. He says it is of more value than everything else. Life minus love is nothing. The love we are talking about is agape, or God's kind of love; a deliberate choice to act for the best interests of another person. That is indeed true love. It is to put another's need and fulfillment ahead of your own and to act deliberately to help fulfill that need. Then in verses 4-7 we saw the practice of love; both the positive and the negative aspects of the practical side of love. Then in verses 8-13 Paul talks about the permanence of love: love never fails. This is a controversial passage but hopefully we will find its study practical and helpful. Before we look at verses 8-13, I want us to spend our time this morning looking at the phrase, "that which is perfect," which occurs in verse 10.
1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NKJV) Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
What is "that which is perfect?" This is the crucial phrase in the whole passage. How you interpret verse 8 and verses 11 &12 is all dependent on how you interpret "that which is perfect." So we want to try to understand this phrase before we look at the passage. There are several interpretations attempting to explain the meaning of "that which is perfect."
1. Some say that "that which is perfect" refers to the completion of the Bible. It is the completed cannon of Scripture which is perfect. That is a very common interpretation. They tell us that in the first century they did not have the New Testament as we have it. They relied upon the teaching of prophets, evangelists, apostles and others who spoke bits and pieces of the mind of God, but as the complete written account of the mind of God took shape and form in the New Testament, all the need for these gifts would pass away. It is the claim of those who teach this that as the Word of God, as we think of it, came into being in the written New Testament, these gifts began to fade, so that all the gifts of prophesying and of tongues and of knowledge have all long since ceased and we are now shut up to the Word of God.
2. Some say that "that which is perfect" refers to the rapture of the Church. This is one of the more popular views.
3. Some say "that which is perfect" refers to the maturity of the Church. This view states that when the church reaches its maturity that's the perfect thing. This is just another way of identifying the rapture; at the rapture the church is made mature, perfect.
4. Another view says it is the Second Coming; that is that which is "perfect."
5. Some say it is the coming of the New Heavens and New Earth of Revelation 21 & 22; the New Jerusalem, which is the "perfect."
Now which is it? Is it the completion of the cannon, or the rapture, or the maturing of the church, or the Second Coming, or the New Heavens and New Earth? The answer is-- yes!
That which is perfect refers to the maturity of the body at the rapture of the church, which happened at the second coming of Christ, in AD 70; bringing in the New Heavens and New Earth which closed the cannon.
The word "perfect" is the Greek word teleion. The literature of the NT usually equates the Greek word teleion with maturity. In its eight occurrences in Paul's epistles, six are translated "mature." The phrase "that which is perfect" is often used in the Greek language to speak of purpose or a goal. In this context, it is the goal of God for the church. What was God's goal for the church?
Romans 8:29 (NKJV) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
It is that we be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ. That took place in AD 70, when the Lord returned, bringing in the New Heaven and Earth where we see Him face to face. So the coming again of our Lord for his people brought them to full maturity and closed the cannon of Scripture. If that is true, then what Paul tells us in verses 9 & 10 is this: the reason that spiritual gifts are transitory is that when we came into a face to face relationship with Christ, we entered into a perfect maturity and there is no longer any need for spiritual gifts. Gifts were for the purpose of maturing the body, and when the body is completely matured we will no longer need spiritual gifts.
Ephesians 4:11-16 (NKJV) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ; 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
According to this passage the gifts were to be used to bring the church from a state of infancy to adulthood. The word translated "mature" in verse 13 is the same word used in 1 Corinthians 13:10, teleion. The purpose of spiritual gifts is to build up the body; once the body is mature, we no longer need spiritual gifts. In this passage in Ephesians, maturity is defined as "attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." This happened at the Second Coming. The eschatological emphasis of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 must not be overlooked if Paul's argument and point of view are to be properly appreciated.
Can we prove that prophecy ended in AD 70, and thus all the gifts; and that the Lord Jesus Christ returned at that time bringing the church to full maturity and a face to face relationship? I think we can if we take a close look at some Old Testament verses. Let's start by looking at Daniel chapter 9. In Daniel 9, the 70 years for the Babylonian captivity was just about over.
Daniel 9:1-2 (NKJV) In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; 2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
In verses 1 & 2, Daniel had calculated the number of years of the Babylonian captivity based upon the prophecy of Jeremiah 29:10. He knew that the time was near and he went to God in prayer asking God to remember his covenant and restore Israel. The restoration of Israel is at the heart and core of Daniel's prophecy. The angel was sent to speak unto Daniel and this is what he said:
Daniel 9:24 (NKJV) "Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy."
Daniel was told that 70 weeks had been determined on his people Israel, and city Jerusalem. By the end of this prophetic time period God promised that six things would be accomplished. One of the things that Daniel was told would happen by the end of that period was that God would "seal up vision and prophecy". If you have done much study using commentaries, you know that there is little that Bible scholars agree on. That gives great force to this phrase, which has almost unanimous agreement of Bible scholars across the board. The Hebrew commentaries are in agreement on the meaning of to "seal up vision and prophecy" -- they say it means to give or reveal, it is the process of inspiration, but it's not just that, it also means to confirm by the fulfilling of the prophecy. Keil and Delitzsch, highly respected Hebrew authorities, state in volume 9 page 344 that "seal up vision and prophecy" means -- "Prophecies and prophets are sealed, when by the full realization of all prophecies prophecy ceases, no prophets any more appear." What does "seal up vision and prophecy" mean? Hebrew scholars agree that it means the end and complete fulfillment of all prophecy.
Even John Walvard, who is Mr. Dispensationalists, says this -- "probably 'seal up vision and prophecy' is best understood to mean the termination of unusual direct revelation by means of vision and oral prophecy. To seal means that no more is to be added and that what has been predicted will receive Divine conformation in the form of actual fulfillment."
To "seal up vision and prophecy" clearly means to give prophecy and fulfill it. Daniel's prophecy then, tells of the time when all prophecy would cease to be given and what had been given would be fulfilled. When would this be? Daniel's vision ends with the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 AD (v26). Let's compare Daniel 9: 25-27 with Matthew 24:15 and following where Jesus said the Abomination of Desolation and his coming would occur in his generation.
Daniel 9:25 (NKJV) "Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. 26 "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
Who is, "the prince who is to come," of verse 26? Some say this is the beast. The nearest antecedent for the coming prince in verse 26, would carry us back to the "Messiah the Prince" (verse 25), who was cut off (verse 26). Therefore, Christ becomes the one and only "Prince" in the whole context. The "people of the prince" speaks of the Jewish people who were the ones responsible for the destruction of the city Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70, when all of the facts of biblical and secular history are considered.
Daniel 9:27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate."
In the middle of the 70th week, comes the abomination that makes desolate. When this happened, prophecy ceased. We know from the teaching of Jesus when this happened.
Matthew 24:15-16 (NKJV) "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
The "abomination of desolation" is referring to the Roman army in the holy place, which is the city of Jerusalem.
Matthew 24:21 (NKJV) "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.
"Then" - being when the Roman armies surrounded and laid siege to Jerusalem in AD 70. There is no tribulation to equal what happened in AD 70, prior to it or after it. The great tribulation is over, it happened in AD 70.
Matthew 24:34 (NKJV) "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.
"This generation" -- the generation that Jesus was speaking to. The generation that was listening to Jesus speak would experience all he had spoken of, including the great tribulation and His Second coming.
So Daniel tells us that his vision ends with the destruction of Jerusalem, which would bring an end to all prophecy. This is exactly what Luke tells us.
Luke 21:20-22 (NKJV) "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 "Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 "For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
All prophecy was to cease, and be fulfilled by the time Jerusalem was destroyed, which happened in AD 70. What Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 13, is prophecy will end when the perfect comes; this is what Daniel said hundreds of years earlier. Prophecy will cease at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, when the Lord returns with power and glory.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NKJV) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
Paul says in verse 13, "till;" there again you have termination. Daniel says prophecy would cease, and Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4.
If "seal up vision and prophecy" means to give and fulfill all prophecy, and if all prophecy is not yet fulfilled then; all prophecy has not yet been given. That would mean that there is still prophecy being given, which would mean that the Bible is not compete, and that the Charismatics are right; God is still speaking through the gift of prophecy. Can you live with that?
The charismatic gifts of the Spirit were to continue throughout the last days according to:
Acts 2:16-20 (NKJV) "But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
The last days began at Pentecost and ended in AD 70. The charismata were to continue until the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. If the Lord has not yet come and the Last Days are still in progress, then the charismata still have to be around. The Holy Spirit was to perform His revelatory functions as Paraclete until Christ returned.
John 14:26 (NKJV) "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
John 16:13-14 (NKJV) "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 "He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.
If Christ has not yet returned, then the Holy Spirit must still be doing His job of revealing all truth. All the revelatory gifts of the Spirit would still be around and the cannon of inspired scripture would not be complete. But if the cannon of Scripture was complete in the first century, then the gift of prophecy ceased as well. To further emphasis this point look with me at:
1 Corinthians 1:5-8 (NKJV) that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Are the "revelation," "the end," and "day" of the Lord still future? If so, then all the gifts of the Spirit must still be available today because it says that we would not come short of any of them while waiting for the Lord to return. Let's remember the principle of audience relevance -- Paul was speaking to the Corinthians in the first century, THEY were eagerly waiting the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Lord returned in AD 70, the Last Days ended and so did the gifts.
Believing that Christ has not yet returned, makes holding the position that SOME of the gifts have ceased indefensible. Believing the last days ended in AD 70, and that the destruction of Jerusalem was God's "Revelation of Jesus Christ" completely removes the dilemma and inconsistency! Preterists are not consistent unless they believe the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased, and the futurists are not consistent unless they believe that all of the gifts are still available. You can't say that the perfect has not yet come but that the gift of prophecy has ceased. That is INCONSISTENT!
Let's look at some other Old Testament Scriptures that show us when prophecy was to cease.
Isaiah 51:1-3 (NKJV) "Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug. 2 Look to Abraham your father, And to Sarah who bore you; For I called him alone, And blessed him and increased him." 3 For the LORD will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in it, Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
Isaiah is calling Israel to remember the Abrahamic promise. The Abrahamic promise involved the redemption of Israel, true spiritual Israel. Who is Zion? It is the heavenly Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, the true Israel of God.
Hebrews 12:22 (NKJV) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,
Isaiah 52:7 (NKJV) How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
We know this is a Messianic prophecy because Paul quotes it in Romans 10:15. Now watch the next verse.
Isaiah 52:8 (NKJV) Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, With their voices they shall sing together; For they shall see eye to eye When the LORD brings back Zion.
Isaiah said that Israel would be in a face to face position when God, in fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise, redeemed Israel. Israel was to see eye to eye when the Lord restored her. When was the Lord going to restore Israel? At the consummation of the 70 weeks of Daniel 9, which was the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Daniel 9:24-27 (NKJV) "Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy. 25 "Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. 26 "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate."
Israel would see eye to eye when the Lord restored her. Isaiah said in 52:8, the Lord would restore Israel at the consummation of the 70 weeks; which was the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, according to Daniel 9:24-27. Six blessings are promised at the restoration of Israel.
"Finish transgressions"- in the New heaven and earth, which came at the end of the seventieth week, transgression would be "finished." Through the covenant of mercy, the New Covenant, the curse of the law would be removed.
"Make an end of sins "- Ezekiel prophesies of the time when an end would be made of Israel's sins. A time when Israel would be "clean."
Ezekiel 36:24-28 (NKJV) "For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. 28 "Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.
This prophecy is synchronous with the seventieth week of Daniel, and the new heaven and earth of Revelation 21. This is the promised New Covenant.
"Make reconciliation for iniquity"- or "to cover iniquity." The sins of Israel would be atoned for and covered or forgiven of God. It would be a time of redemption.
Romans 11:26-27 (NKJV) And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins."
When did Christ come out of Zion? Not at his first coming, but at his second coming. Daniel said that these things would happen at the destruction of Jerusalem, and Paul says they would happen when Christ comes out of Zion.
"Anoint the most Holy"- or the "holy of Holies." The "holy of Holies" was fifteen feet in length, width, and height, or a perfect cube. It symbolized the dwelling place of God. When the earthly tabernacle was destroyed in AD 70, the heavenly tabernacle, the new Jerusalem, was opened to believers.
Hebrews 9:8 (NKJV) the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.
The New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 is a perfect cube.
Revelation 21:16 (NKJV) The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal.
The perfect cube of the holy of holies now finds its fulfillment in the perfect cube of the city of God.
Now, Paul says that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit would cease when Israel would see face to face (v12). Therefore the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased at the consummation of the 70 weeks. We cannot divorce Israel's promise of seeing eye to eye from 1 Corinthians 13, and therefore, we must acknowledge the first century cassation of the miraculous gifts.
Isaiah 62:10-12 (NKJV) Go through, Go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, Build up the highway! Take out the stones, Lift up a banner for the peoples! 11 Indeed the LORD has proclaimed To the end of the world: "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him.'" 12 And they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; And you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.
This is the same theme of Isaiah 52:8, they shall see eye to eye when the Lord brings back Zion. Now look at verse 11: "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him," Now let's go to:
Matthew 16:27-28 (NKJV) "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."
Whose salvation was Jesus to be? He was to be Israel's salvation. Is he the promised redeemer of Isaiah 62:11? I don't think anyone would argue that? In Matthew 16:27 Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 62:11. Now, Isaiah 52:8 and 62:11 both speak of the same time and event, the redemption of Israel at the coming of the Lord. Jesus, quoting Isaiah 62:11, said that his coming for the salvation of Israel, when Israel would see face to face, would be in the life time of his first century disciples. When Israel saw face to face, the miraculous would cease, and this was to happen in the life time of the first century disciples at AD 70, when Jerusalem was destroyed.
If Matthew 16:27-28 was fulfilled at Pentecost, as some say, then the miraculous ended at Pentecost, which is when they began.
So what have we seen? Paul said that prophecy would cease when the perfect came. Daniel said prophecy is to end at the destruction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. Therefore, the "Perfect," of verse 10, has come! The "perfect" referred to the Second Coming of Christ that took place in AD 70, bringing in the New Heaven and Earth, where we see Him face to face. So the coming again of our Lord for his people brought them to full maturity and closed the cannon of Scripture. Which means that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit have come to an end. The gifts were for the period of the "last days;" when the last days ended, so did the gifts.
Someone asked me, "If we don't have spiritual gifts today, then why do we need you?" Implying that if there is not the gift of teaching today, what is my role as a pastor? Did Old Testament Israel have pastors and elders? Yes, they did. Did they have spiritual gifts? No. The New Testament church is to have pastors and elders, also. There is no spiritual gift requirement for an elder. It simply says he must be" apt to teach." Meaning that he knows and can handle the Scriptures, to teach sound doctrine, and be able to refute error.
There is a lot of confusion today about Spiritual gifts; do you know why that is? It's because they were for the last days, and when the last days ended, so did the gifts. This is why so many believers have no clue as to what their gifts are, they don't have one.
Listen carefully to the definition of spiritual gifts: A spiritual gift was a God-given capacity through which the Holy Spirit SUPERNATURALLY ministered to the church. If the gift of teaching was functioning today, wouldn't all teachers be saying the same thing? If it is a supernatural function of the Holy Spirit, would the Holy Spirit be teaching different things?
The talents and abilities that we have, come form God and are to be used for His glory. God providentially leads, guides, and uses us for His glory. Spiritual Gifts were for the age of immaturity, they are no longer needed or given.
I have good news for you, you can stop wasting your time trying to figure out what you Spiritual Gift is, and just be busy serving Him with all the talents and abilities He has given you. The perfect is come and love is a priority in this age. Let's focus on loving one another. "The greatest of these is love."