1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (that which is perfect), Part 4 (“abides”)

spiritual giftsFaith after Jesus returns

The argument that faith ends at the Second Coming is usually based on —

(Heb 11:1 ESV) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The idea is that if faith and hope expire at the Second Coming, then love lasts longer (making it greater?), but since faith and hope must “abide” beyond the duration of tongues, prophecy, and knowledge, these lesser gifts must have passed away at some time before Jesus’ return.

But Paul does not say that love lasts longer than faith or hope, and he is specific that tongues, prophecy, and knowledge will be destroyed at the Second Coming. Nonetheless, to be all-the-more certain of the conclusion, let’s see whether the traditional argument correctly interprets Heb 11:1.

This passage is often taken as a definition of “faith,” but it’s not. It’s a description of one element of faith: trust. I’m assured of things hoped for because I trust God’s promises. I’m convicted of the truth of things not seen because I trust God to have told the truth about such things.

The passage is not an exhaustive treatment of what faith is in Hebrews, ‘but a characterization of some key aspects of the faith of the OT witnesses’.

Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews (Pillar NTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 398. Other commentaries agree.

The point of the passage is that it takes faith to trust in promises not yet fulfilled. In a sense, we Christians need less faith than these Old Testament heroes because we’ve seen so many of God’s promises fulfilled, which they did not get to see.

(Heb 11:39-40 ESV) And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,  40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

What is it that the Old Testament heroes trusted in but did not see? “What was promised”? What did we receive — “better for us”– that they did not? Well, that “they should … be made perfect.”

“Made perfect” is a theme that courses throughout Hebrews. For example,

(Heb 10:14 NIV) For by one sacrifice [Jesus] has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

“Made perfect” describes the grace we find in Jesus by the power of his sacrifice. We are “made perfect forever” even though we are not yet fully holy. And this is the “something better for us” that was not provided the Old Testament heroes during their lifetimes. They did not live to see Jesus and his resurrection. Their forgiveness came by the power of the cross — which to them was far in the future.

Hence, this passage is not saying that faith ends at the Second Coming, but that the faith of the Old Testament heroes is greater than our faith because they believed in a salvation not yet realized in Jesus, while we believe in a resurrection that has already happened.

On the other hand, Hebrews turns to the Second Coming by the end of chapter 12. He is not saying that faith expired with the resurrection of Jesus! He is only saying that we need to appreciate how fortunate we are to have our faith better confirmed than the heroes of the Old Testament did — and to take courage by their example. Consider their sacrifice for the gospel long before the gospel was even announced in its fullness!

So can faith survive the Second Coming? Well, let’s try for a better definition. As I’ve covered here many times, “faith” in the Greek refers not only believing something to be true, but also having trust in someone’s promises, and most importantly, being faithful.

Can I be faithful after Jesus returns? Of course. Can I trust God’s promises after Jesus returns? Well, most of those promises will have been kept — but his promise is to keep his promises forever — to save me and to save me eternally. And so, yes, I’ll be with Jesus trusting him to continue to keep me save by his side forever.

Can I believe in something that I see? Well, did the Jews healed by Jesus have faith — even though they saw the healing with their own eyes? Of course. And after Jesus returns, I’ll believe that he is the Messiah sent by God. I’ll believe in the cross and the resurrection. I’ll make Jesus Lord. I’ll still have faith.

Hope after Jesus returns

(Rom 8:24-25 ESV)  24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Just so, it is traditionally argued that, based on this verse, hope must end at the Second Coming.

Again, the logic seems  impeccable — until we realize that Paul uses “hope” in multiple senses. “Hope” can be the feeling that I have that carries me on as I trust in God’s not-yet-fulfilled promises (as in Rom 8:24-25). But “hope” can also be what I hope for.

(Col 1:3-5 ESV) We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,  4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,  5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. 

And in that sense, hope never dies, but abides forever because what we hope for will abide forever. And we’ll always have hope — confident assurance — that Jesus will continue to honor his promises forever. Remember: New Testament “hope” is not “hope against hope.” It’s a confident assurance of God’s promises.


So I apologize for going all the around the world to get next door, but the interpretation of these passages is the primary argument against the interpretation of chapter 13 I argue for in the first post of this series.

I’ve never been convinced by the argument that “that which is perfect” refers to the New Testament or completed apostolic revelation. Until recently, I did not have the Greek tools to properly sort through the grammar — but now I see that Paul was plainly drawing a line at the Second Coming, and the major, conservative commentaries agree.

And so we just have to live with not having that argument available to disprove modern day miracles. But I’m good with that. I don’t know that I care to live in a world where God is no longer in charge.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians, Holy Spirit and Providence, That Which Is Perfect, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (that which is perfect), Part 4 (“abides”)

  1. Larry Cheek says:

    I am very positive that faith, hope will continue within Christians until he comes again in the way he described as he left in the cloud. I am also convinced that even though this body dies prior to his coming our spirits being still alive will have faith and hope. At that point as Christians and all of those who have ever lived, who lived a life that allowed Jesus to cleanse their sins are raised from the dead and transported followed by the living Christians to the place where Jesus has gone to prepare for our occupancy. Will the rapture be that event? Is Jesus really going to remove all Christians from the world prior to his second coming?
    If all those mentioned above are removed at a rapture, are they not totally secure from being judged at the throne, the picture I see in Revelation, those who have been cleansed by the blood of Christ?
    Rev 1:4-7 ESV John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, (5) and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood (6) and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (7) Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
    If mankind who have been cleansed, from verse 4-6 are already removed from the earth, then their visibility, notice every “eye will see him” would not be looking at this event from the earth. If this is expected to be a rapture of only the saved, notice this was written to the churches, exposing that they will be a part of this picture on earth. Will they not be exiting the earth as those who “wail on account of him” are watching?
    As all mankind who have been cleansed by the blood of Christ exit the earth, to go to be with Christ, what need would we have of the faith or hope that we would be in that number?
    Is this not where we would be going?
    Joh 14:2-4 ESV In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (4) And you know the way to where I am going.”
    If not what is Jesus message here? Would the faithful have to wait until another event to enter this place which Jesus is speaking?
    Or, are those who are removed from the earth still in need of being separated into categories of lost or saved?
    2Th 1:4-10 ESV Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. (5) This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— (6) since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, (7) and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (8) in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (9) They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, (10) when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
    It appears to me that the living Saints will be still here, from verse 7 and at the same time “day” verse 8 will be fulfilled.
    If this picture was true there would be no need for faith or hope beyond this day.

  2. Dwight says:

    I’m not sure the concept of faith and hope expiring at the second coming is true, in that they won’t like the OT law expire, but they will be fulfilled in realization. We hope for something…in the saints respect this is God and heaven. Our faith will be fulfilled in seeing all of this take place.
    The text never says that all of these faith, hope and love abide forever, but abide when tongues, prophesy and knowledge do not. It is showing contrast and it is a contrast that he is relating that relates to them. Not sometime at the end when it will no longer relate. The context is of them fighting amongst themselves with the gifts and then he says that as important as they are they are temporary in thier purpose when that which is “perfect” is come, but faith, hope and love are not temporary in thier purpose until thier purpose is met. If the perfect is Jesus, then Jesus who is perfect had already come. If in terms of completion, then we are looking at something being finished that doesn’t need more of it. If we argue that the knowledge today isn’t complete, then we are arguing that we need more knowledge and that we don’t have what we need more of it.

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