As you continue your study of the Scriptures you will discover that the book of First Corinthians describes nine manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the Christian. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 gives a list of these spiritual gifts. A challenge you will face as a Christian is whether or not these gifts are applicable to the believer today. This challenge is raised by the following passage.
“Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).
Because of the passage above you will discover there are two camps of Christians insofar as the meaning of this passage. There are Christians who believe that the spiritual gifts have ended and are not a part of our Christian life today. This group of Christians is referred to as “cessationists,” that is, the gifts of the spirit have ceased. The second group of Christians believe that the spiritual gifts continue today, that group being known as “Charismatic Christians” or often they refer to themselves as “spirit filled Christians.” This group is also described as being “Pentecostal Christians” because of the manifestation of the spiritual gifts on the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-21).
The disagreement over this issue is the result of interpreting what the phrase “when the perfect comes” means in 1 Corinthians 13:10. It is my understanding that this phrase was referring to the coming into effect of the New Covenant. The book of First Corinthians was written, according to modern scholarship, in the Spring of AD 55. The Old Covenant was passing away at that time and the New Covenant was coming into effect. By AD 70 the Old Covenant had completely passed away as it was inferior to the New Covenant which was PERFECT! see the Scriptures that follow.
“But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better (the New Covenant), since it is enacted on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).
“For if that first covenant (the Old Covenant) had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second” (New Covenant) (Hebrews 8:7).
“In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first (the Old Covenant) as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete (the Old Covenant) and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). And it did in AD 70!
“When the perfect comes,” referring to the New Covenant, was the end or cessation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We need, however, to flesh out this understanding in greater detail.
The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost was a temporary, transient period of time that had both a discrete beginning and ending. Let us examine some of the details.
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days, I will pour out my spirit” (Joel 2:28, 29).
Peter, speaking in divine Scripture, states that the events of Pentecost were none other than what the prophet Joel had spoken of in the passage above! Additionally, notice that there are some timing words included in the verse that purposely avoids saying that these events would be something that is long lasting or eternal by the phrase, “in those days.”
“…this (referring to the pouring out of the Spirit) is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:16-18).
Notice very carefully the words of Peter. He states the timing of the event. It was to happen in the last days. We must ask ourselves what “last days” are being referred to? From our study of the covenants we remember that this terminology is what is used to describe the last days of the Old Covenant. This is further clarified by the following.
“…you (those in Corinth to whom Paul is writing this letter to – see verse two) are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you (the Corinthians ) wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ (an event that took place in AD 70 at the Parousia of Christ); who will sustain you to the end (of the Old Covenant), guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (we have already described “the day of the Lord” in other writings on this web site). With this information we understand that the gifts were tied to the soon to come Parousia of Christ that was about to occur in AD 70. At the time Paul is writing (AD 55) he is stating that the Corinthians are not lacking in any of the spiritual gifts. However, notice the language Paul uses. “…as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, “who will sustain you to the end” of the Old Covenant whereby they would be “guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The language looks forward to the soon Parousia of Christ. The Parousia of Christ is being portrayed as the end point of the spiritual gifts.
In Ephesians 1:13, 14, Paul writes that the gift of the Holy Spirit was to seal the believers in those days with the promised Holy Spirit as a guarantee of their inheritance of salvation until they acquired possession of it (salvation) which was to take place at the Parousia of Christ. The Holy Spirit was poured out to gather the church of the first-born to Christ at His Parousia. Christ’s Parousia in AD 70 along with the destruction of Jerusalem resulted in the gifts of the Spirit to cease to be manifested.
“…as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
The way into the spiritual sanctuary had not yet been opened because the present age (the Old Covenant) had not yet been eliminated!
“By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary is not yet opened as long as the outer tent (or tabernacle referring to the Temple in Jerusalem) is still standing (which is symbolic of the present age) (referring to the Old Covenant). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper” (Hebrews 9:8, 9).
But when Christ acting in the office of the high priest of the New Covenant came, He entered once for all into the spiritual Holy Place with His own blood thus securing eternal redemption. Note that redemption is only completed when Christ ascended into the Heavenly Holy of Holies with His blood and then came out again just as the Old Covenant physical high priest did! If Christ has not yet come back (returned, Parousia, presence) then our salvation is not yet complete!
“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent, (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11, 12).
Christ is the only mediator of the New Covenant so that those who have been called receive the promised eternal inheritance redeeming them from the transgressions under the first covenant!
“Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). And pass away they did in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the ending of the Old Covenant!
NOTE: As you finish this Learning Activity written by man you should heed the actions of the believers at Beroea of the Bible who “Examined the scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).