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Praying in the Spirit: That Glorious Day When Tongues are Not Needed: Until Then … Part 2

Hoping to render this verse useless to “the perfect equals the parousia” understanding, cessationists usually support this argument: The Pentecostal-charismatic interpretation is inconsistent in interpreting “face to face” literally and “reflection” figuratively. To be consistent, seeing Christ face-to-face should also be taken figuratively. Also, it is argued that Pentecostals and charismatics gratuitously supply “Christ” here, as the object in the mirror; instead we should supply what we normally see in a mirror—our own selves (it is not explained how one then sees oneself face-to-face, even figuratively; Judisch, p. 51; Gromacki, p.127; Reymond, p.35). The last part of the verse—“know fully, even as I am fully known”—is of necessity ignored by cessationists. I have been unable to find a cessationist theory that deals with the “full knowledge” phrase that accompanies “the perfect thing.”

Actually Pentecostals have no trouble viewing both “face-to-face” and “reflection” as figurative representations. “Face to face” need not require a literal nose-to-nose encounter between the Christian and the glorified Christ. Rather “face to face” may convey the idea of a direct perception of God as opposed to the valuable but fragmentary and indirect knowledge we have of Him through the gifts of the Spirit. It is true that Christ is literally in the perfect kingdom that He brings, but there is no reason to press for a literal, individual, face-to-face encounter, though this may become gloriously literal. I suspect that the face-to-face encounter to which Paul refers in this illustration will occur in that moment our backs shall “face” this partial, imperfect, and painful world never again to experience it and our eyes shall “face” that complete, perfect, and painless eternal world of His presence never again to experience anything but it.

In that day, when the perfect appears, all will know as they are known and an end will come to denominations and factions. Until then every gift of the Spirit should be used to receive even the bits and pieces of knowledge that God would grant us.

Cessationist Judisch complains that Pentecostals arbitrarily supply “Christ” as that object seen dimly in the mirror, when in fact the normal image we see in a mirror is that of our own face. But as Judisch says, the Pentecostal-charismatic interpretation does not take the mirror illustration literally. Furthermore, Paul does not mention an image in the mirror. Judisch supplies image to thwart the Pentecostal-charismatic interpretation. In reality, the reflection in the imaginary mirror is not a point of Paul’s illustration. The point is the unclear image produced by today’s mirror (spiritual gifts) compared to the clear and direct perception that will occur when the perfect appears. When the perfect does appear, all imperfect and partial knowledge will disappear.

Has this happened? As a result of the completed Scriptures, do we know as God knows us (not omnisciently, of course, but “face to face”)? As a result of a “matured” Church, do we know as God knows us? No, we do not have this full revelation. In that day, when the perfect appears, all will know as they are known and an end will come to denominations and factions. Until then every gift of the Spirit should be used to receive even the bits and pieces of knowledge that God would grant us.

First Corinthians 13:1 2b (“Then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”) so forcefully rebuts the cessationist theories that revisions are appearing. One claims that Paul’s first illustration (childhood-manhood) refers to the Church matured by completed revelation and his second (the “reflection”) refers to the parousia. Since Paul wasn’t sure which would appear first, he allowed for both. The appearance of either would signal the end of tongues, prophecy, and knowledge (Thomas, JETS, pp. 8l-89). The most straightforward interpretation is that of the Pentecostal-charismatic’s. Why use complicated devices to get around it?

Issue #8: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love,” verse 13. No one denies that love is eternal. At issue in this verse is the understanding of the word now and the disposal or retention of the two virtues faith and hope in eternity. Is the Greek word translated now to be understood as referring to time (“Today, these three remain”) or to logic (“Now in fact, these three remain”)? If now is interpreted temporally, it implies a contrast in time—the now of the three virtues (faith, hope, and love) with the then of the three gifts (tongues, prophecy, and knowledge). This interpretation is made to oppose the continuity of the gifts to our day by claiming that faith and hope, unlike love, will be done away with at the parousia. Therefore, if faith and hope are to outlast tongues, prophecy, and knowledge and if faith and hope cease at the parousia, then the gifts must cease before the parousia. The questions are: Is now to be taken temporally or logically? and Do faith and hope cease when Christ comes? (Dillow, pp. 123-124; Edgar, p. 344; Judisch, pp. 46-48; Thomas, pp. 113-115).

As Figure 1 indicates, the vast majority of commentators take now in its logical sense and believe that faith and hope are eternal. The only reasons for arguing otherwise are Paul’s references to the dissolution of hope when it is fulfilled and faith when it becomes reality (see Romans 8:24; Hebrews 11:1; 2 Corinthians 5:7). But the contexts of these verses clearly do not point to the parousia. To the contrary, the contexts are, painfully, speaking of this world. It may be true that in His presence certain hopes we have may be fulfilled and particular beliefs we now hold by faith may become certainties, but this in no way eliminates every facet of hope and faith.

Is not faith also trust in God? Will we no longer trust Him? Will all of eternity be experienced in a moment so that it is improper to speak of expectations in heaven? In the words of Gaebelein and Mare, “Trust… in the Lord begun in this life will continue forever and … hope in the Lord begun now … will expand and issue into an eternal expectation of his perfect plan for our eternal existence with him” (p. 270).

The cessationists’ application of the three verses in question (Roman 8:24; Hebrews 11:1, 2 Corinthians 5:7) in an absolute sense to 1 Corinthians 13:13 is done at the expense of the contexts of every verse involved. This is one reason why almost every commentator rejects the temporal use of now in verse 13. If contexts do not matter, then I might point out 1 Thessalonians 5:8, where faith and love are inseparably joined as the Christian soldier’s breastplate!

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Category: Spirit, Summer 2000

About the Author: Robert W. Graves, M. A. (Literary Studies, Georgia State University), is the co-founder and president of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting Pentecostal scholarship through research grants. He is a Christian educator and a former faculty member of Southwestern Assemblies of God College in Waxahachie, Texas, and Kennesaw State University (adjunct). He edited and contributed to Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture and is the author of Increasing Your Theological Vocabulary, Praying in the Spirit (1987 and Second Edition, 2017) and The Gospel According to Angels (Chosen Books, 1998).

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