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My Full Preterist Response to John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” (Cessationist) v. Michael Brown’s “Authentic Fire” (Charismatic) Part 3 – Argument #1 An Exegesis of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12

Introduction:

In part 2 of this series responding to Cessationist Pastor John MacArthur (Strange Fire) and Charismatic Michael Brown (Authentic Fire) we looked at the various views of “that which is perfect” (1 Cor. 13:10) giving special attention to the errors MacArthur makes on the passage due to his commitment to a false religious system – i.e. Futuristic Premillennial Pre-Trib. Dispensationalism.  At this point I want to begin addressing Brown’s Charismatic arguments (that used to be mine).  Although we have spent some time on 1 Corinthians 13:10 and examining the various views, it is now time to give a more positive exegesis of the passage which will demonstrate that Dr. Brown and the modern Charismatic movement to be in doctrinal error.     

ARGUMENT #1 1 Corinthians 13:8-12

By far the most appealed to text by Charismatics to support that tongues and prophecy continue today is 1 Corinthians 13:8-12.  It is argued that since “that which is perfect” (the Second Coming & New Creation) has not arrived, then these gifts have not “ceased” yet.

While part of the argument is valid, it neglects to connect with it the exegetical fact that the NT places Jesus’ Second Coming and arrival of the New Creation to be a truly imminent event in the first century which closed the OC age in AD 70.

Let’s examine the context in which 1 Corinthians 13 rests, and then give a rigorous and positive exegesis of the passage.

 1).  1 Corinthians 1:5-8

“that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Corinthians were “eagerly expecting” Christ to come and “the end” (of the OC age) to take place in their lifetimes because that is what Jesus taught (as I covered in part 1 of this series – Matt. 10:22-23; 16:27-28; 24:34).

Christ through the Holy Spirit and the miraculous gifts were confirming the Corinthians until Jesus would be revealed and the end of the OC age arrived in AD 70.  If Christ’s coming and “the end” have not arrived, then this “confirming” the Church with the gifts continues.

The Corinthians would be “blameless” or “spotless” at Christ’s coming which brings with it the eschatological marriage and resurrection motifs (cf. Isa. 25:6-7).  Since Reformed theology has conceded to Full Preterism and their Futurist opponents, that the coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 24-25 and throughout the book of Revelation (along with the resurrection of Dan. 12:2) was fulfilled in AD 70, then the marriage, judgment and resurrection of the dead as described for us in Matthew 24:31; 25:1-13, 31-46; Revelation 19-21 was fulfilled in AD 70.  Reformed theology also teaches us that the NT does not teach that there are TWO eschatological marriages and TWO judgments and resurrections of the dead.  These two Reformed positions lead us to Full Preterism.

There are connections with this passage and 1 Corinthians 13:8-12.  Both involve the gifts lasting until the Second Coming arrives.  And both carry with them the marriage motif.  The Church would be “blameless” or “spotless” when Christ (the Groom) comes or when the Groom would “know” and consummate His relationship with His bride “face to face” (1 Cor. 13:10-12 – see comments by Holland later in the article).

Michael Brown – In Brown’s debate with James White and Sam Waldron, this was the first passage he opened with in those debates connecting it with 1 Corinthians 13:10-12.  James White literally never addressed these passages and Waldron attempted some explanation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (which made no sense) while avoiding it’s connection to 1 Corinthians 1:5-8.

John MacArthur (like White and Waldron) – willfully ignores that the passages is teaching that the charismata, gifts, and confirming process extends until Christ is revealed.  MacArthur should know that “Reformed” theology does allow for the interpretation that the coming of Christ here in 1 Corinthians 1:5-8 was fulfilled in AD 70?  Obviously this a more exegetical approach than what Pastor MacArthur has offered on it up to this point.

2).  I Corinthians 2:9

“However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things (of the NC New Creation) God has prepared for those who love him.”

Not all agree, but many exegetes point out that Paul combines Isa. 64:4 with the New Creation of Isa. 65:17 in this OT echo.   Paul in verses 10-14 teaches that the natural man could not accept these NC or New Creation “things” that were being revealed by the Spirit – because these were “spiritual truths.”  The natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit – the new birth or God’s people becoming a spiritual “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17/Isa. 65).

If the New Creation of Isaiah 65 is in Paul’s mind here, then we have a connection with the “face to face” of 1 Corinthians 13:12/Revelation 22:4.

 3).  1 Corinthians 3:22 YLT

 So then, let no one glory in men, for all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things about to be — all are yours,”

 Some commentators claim the “things” that were coming in the future for the Corinthians would be the blessings of the New Creation.  If so, then the Corinthians were “about to” receive them.

 4).  1 Corinthians 7:26-27, 29-31

“I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress (that Jesus predicted would come in their generation – Luke 21:12-17, 23)––that it is good for a man to remain as he is:  Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife.”  “But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world (OC world) is passing away.”

With the Jewish and Roman persecutions coming (the eschatological birth pains & persecution coming before the parousia), it was not a good time to get married and start a family.

5).  1 Corinthians 10:11

 “Now all these things happened to them as examples (or “types” DARBY), and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”

The NCV translates, “…They were written down to teach us, because we live in a time when all these things of the past have reached their goal.”

The NLT, “…They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.”

And although the Greek word mello is not in the text, the GNT has the right idea as far as imminence is concerned, “…For we live at a time when the end is about to come.”

Michael Brown – oddly cites 1 Cor. 10:11 as alleged evidence that WE are still in the last days awaiting the end of the age and therefore the gifts continue.  He writes,

“Could anything be clearer? Were the apostles mistaken in what they wrote?”[1]

Of course since Paul couldn’t have been “mistaken” and wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (being “led into all truth”), then Paul was teaching that the “eschaton” and end of the OC age would be fulfilled within the lifetimes of his first century audience!  And therefore, it couldn’t be any clearer that the miraculous sign and revelatory gifts ceased at that time.

There is a connection here with 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, in that Paul was teaching the promises contained in the OT (that would include the Second Coming, end of the age, & arrival of the NC age) would reach their end and or the goal would be reached within the lifetimes of the Corinthians.

6).  1 Corinthians 14:21-22:

In the Law it is written, “BY MEN OF STRANGE TONGUES AND BY THE LIPS OF STRANGERS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE, AND EVEN SO THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO ME,” says the Lord.  So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.

John MacArthur – Of this passage MacArthur writes,

“When the apostles spoke at Pentecost and were heard in their own language by Jews from many countries (Acts 2:7-11), those Jews should have known that God’s judgment was imminent.  His judgment had fallen on rebellious Israel [through the Assyrians] and then on rebellious Judah [through the Babylonians].  How much more would if fall on those of His people who now had crucified the Son of God?  In AD 70 that great judgment fell, when Jerusalem was utterly destroyed by the Roman general Titus.  “…After the destruction of Jerusalem, and especially of the Temple, the reason for tongues ceased to exist.  The judgment of which it was a sign had come.  After the Pentecost manifestation of tongues, Peter, by implication, reminded his hearers of that judgment:  “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36; vv. 22-23).”[2]

What John fails to discuss is that when God came on the clouds in judgment upon Israel and Judah through the Assyrians and Babylonians, He used apocalyptic and symbolic language.  So why isn’t the coming of Christ and the language in Acts 2:20-23, 40 also apocalyptic which are inseparably connected to the exhortations that follow for them to be saved from their “corrupt generation” that crucified Christ?!?

If Paul and the Corinthians were expecting an imminent judgment of God in AD 70, then why doesn’t the imminence in 1 Corinthians point to that event?

 The connection between 1 Corinthians 13-14 should be obvious.  Per MacArthur, if Paul is placing the event of AD 70 to be the point at which tongues “ceased,” then AD 70 should be seen in 1 Cor. 13:8-12 as well!

7).  1 Corinthians 15:

“We” – Paul has a first century expectation (not a 2,000+ years and counting) of Christ’s parousia in view (1 Cor. 15:23, 51), because Christ taught His parousia would take place in that contemporary generation (Matt. 24:27-34).

The end will come” 1 Cor. 15:24 – Commentators are correct to understand this to be “the end” in connection with the resurrection of Daniel 12 and the “end of the age” in Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 13 & 24.  And yet at the same time it is “orthodox” and “reformed” to believe “the end” and resurrection of Daniel 12 was fulfilled spiritually at the end of the OC age in AD 70!  The Full Preterist view harmonizes these two competing and yet common sense orthodox views into one.

Gordon Fee in his commentary on 1 Corinthians puzzles over the grammar and tense Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 15:

“The grammar of this sentence is somewhat puzzling…” “The sentence literally reads, “The last

enemy is being destroyed.”[3]

And yet the Greek and grammar being in the present passive indicatives could give these verses the following meaning: “if the dead are not rising,” (vss. 16, 29, 32), “But God is giving it a body,” (vs. 38) and, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is being sown in corruption; it is being raised in incorruption:  It is being sown in dishonour; it is being raised in glory: it is being sown in weakness; it is being raised in power:  It is being sown a natural body; it is being raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (vss. 42-44).

This doesn’t sound like Paul has a biological resurrection at the end of world history in view.  But since Reformed Partial Preterists believe there was a spiritual, progressive, covenantal resurrection taking place between AD 30 – AD 70 – they might want to begin surrendering 1 Corinthians 15 to us as well?

The connection between 1 Corinthians 13 & 15 is that both passages are describing an “already—becoming—not yet” eschatological process.  Just as the Corinthians were in the process of “seeing” God’s face through a mirror (spiritually), they were also in the process of “rising” and being changed and transformed into His image (again a spiritual fulfillment).

8).  In 2 Corinthians 3-4:

There is a contrast of OC glory and NC glory in these chapters — the OC glory under Moses house (that shown through his face), and the in-breaking and surpassing NC glory brought through Jesus, seen (through a mirror) in His face.

As in 1 Corinthians 13:12, the mirror theme is likewise present,

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from (OC) glory to (NC) glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18).

In context, it is clear what the Corinthian believers were beholding in a mirror – God in the face of Jesus:

“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6)

This transformation from “glory to glory” and beholding the Lord’s face in the context of 2 Corinthians 3-4 has to do with the transformation of the Old and New Covenants and men’s standing before God within them (during the transition period AD 30 – AD 70). But note this was not a physical “seeing” (in a mirror), and nor was the church “being transformed” into Christ’s image in any physical or biological way.

9)  2 Corinthians 4:18—5:1-10, 17

Paul taught that their eschatological hope was “unseen” and thus spiritual when it would arrive (2 Cor. 4:18).  This is in harmony with Jesus’ teaching that when He and His kingdom would arrive in their “this generation,” that it would not be an event that could be seen with the physical eye, because the realm of fulfillment would be spiritual and realized “within” (Lk. 17:20-21ff.; Lk. 21:27-32).

Paul is not finished with contrasting the OC with the NC in chapters 3-4 — his contrast continues into chapter 5.  The earthly house of which they were groaning in was the OC house made by hands.  The eternal and spiritual house in heaven of which they were awaiting to be clothed with is the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21.  The NIV captures the tense in (Rev. 3:12) as the NJ already being in the process of “coming down” prior to Christ’s imminent coming in AD 70. The NJ is a perfect cube (Rev. 21:16) communicating that it is the Most Holy Place – where God’s “face to face” presence can be experienced (Rev. 22:4).

Paul is teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that God’s people coming into covenant relationship with Him is the fulfillment of the New Creation promises of Isaiah 65.  Nothing to do with a transformation of the physical planet.

As with the covenantal contrast and context of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 and 2 Corinthians 3-4, this already–becoming–not yet covenantal context can be seen between 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 and 2 Corinthians 4:18—5:17.

Exegesis of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12

 Let’s look at our passage in it’s chiasm structure and then how I see it being broken down in it’s OC vs. NC contrasts – via my chart.

 Chiasm Structure:

A1 – Charity never faileth:

but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail;

whether there be tongues, they shall cease;

whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away (Three things to cease in AD 70).

B1 – 1).  For we know in part,

and we prophesy in part (OC/NC AD 30-70 Transition).

2).  But when that which is perfect is come,

then that which is in part shall be done away (NC AD 70      Parousia/Fulfillment).

C – 1).  When I was a child,

I spake as a child,

I understood as a child (OC/NC AD 30-70 Transition).

2).  I thought as a child:

but when I became a man,

I put away childish things (NC AD 70     Parousia/Fulfillment).

B2 – 1).  For now we see through a glass, darkly (OC/NC AD 30-70 Transition)

2).  but then face to face (NC AD 70 Parousia/Fulfillment)

1).  now I know in part (OC/NC AD 30-70 Transition)

2).  but then shall I know even as also I am known (NC AD 70 Parousia/Fulfillment)

A2 – 13 And now abideth

faith, hope, charity,

these three;

but the greatest of these is charity (Three things remain in NC age).

The passing of the immature OC/NC Transition Period between AD 30 – AD 70 The NC Fulfillment and maturity when OC passed away and NC fully arrived in it’s mature state in AD 70
1.  OC/NC Transition process – Revelation through prophecy, tongues, & knowledge would cease when the perfect comes. 1.  NC Fulfillment – Faith, hope and love would remain after the perfect comes.
2.  OC/NC Transition process –  Know in part until the perfect comes. 2.  NC Fulfillment– Know fully when the perfect comes.
3.  OC/NC Transition process – Is likened to being a child learning and growing to become a man. 3.  NC Fulfillment – Becoming a mature man.
4.  OC/NC Transition process – Seeing [God’s face] through a mirror unclearly 4.  NC Fulfillment – See [God’s face] clearly.
5.  OC/NC Transition process – Know God in part. 5.  NC Fulfillment – Know God & be known by God fully.

Paul begins in verse 8 by telling us that NC love is superior to three things that are involved in the OC/NC transitionary process and that will pass away – prophecy, tongues and knowledge.  Then he closes the chaism in verse 13 by informing us that NC love is even greater than other things that will continue in the NC age such as a hope and faith.

Let’s begin by breaking down what would cease in AD 70 and why.

 1).  Prophecies would cease:

 The Arndt-Gingrich Lexicon defines propheteuo here in 1 Corinthians 13:9 as to – “proclaim a divine revelation.”  And of prophetes – “prophet as the proclaimer and interpreter of the divine revelation…”[4]

This is in harmony with how OT prophecy and prophets functioned.  OT prophets and prophecy were to be 100% accurate and contained elements of brining forth divine revelation – God placing His very words into the mouths of the prophets. This creates serious problems for Charismatics whom claim that their “prophets” who utter “prophecy” today (as directed by this passage) contain error – some admitting up to 80% error!  They also try and reassure us that they are not like the last days cults who believe their prophets (such as Joseph Smith of LDS) are brining forth ongoing divine revelation.  Yet in order to try and reassure us of this, they have to begin re-defining the meaning of prophecy their alleged “prophets” are uttering today.

I find it ironic that MacArthur accuses Charismatics of giving their modern day gift of “prophecy” a new and un-miraculous meaning in our text, and yet he claims this gift is still taking place today except in the form of preaching (not in the miraculous form Paul has in view here).

2).  Tongues would cease:

The Liddle-Scott Lexicon confirms what we see as the obvious throughout the book of Acts in that the gift of tongues was a known human language –  “a tongue, i. e. the language used by a particular people in distinction from that of other nations: Acts 2:11;…”[5]

Paul also informs us in 14:5 that when tongues are properly interpreted they are on the same level as prophecy (i.e proclaiming divine revelation).

One that spoke in tongues uttered “mysteries” (1 Cor. 14:2).  Of the twenty-eight times “mystery” is used in the NT it always has the meaning as something that was once hidden but is now revealed.  Since tongues were known foreign languages he who spoke in an untranslated tongue – it was unknown or only known to God.  Therefore, the emphasis for Paul is to have it translated so it may edify the body.

It is interesting to note that when the Pentecostal movement first began, they thought they were speaking known human languages as depicted in Acts 2.  Therefore, Charles Parham sent them into the mission field only to have them return completely devastated in that no one understood their gibberish.  Ever since that time, Pentecostals and Charismatics have sought to re-define the Biblical meaning of tongues.

Since most Charismatics today do not believe that their tongue speaking is on par with giving divine revelation – as in developing the NT cannon, they have to come up with novel interpretations of passages and un-miraculous definitions for their “tongues.”  A very common one is that their gibberish is not a known human language (as demonstrated throughout the book of Acts), but rather the “tongues of angels” (1 Cor. 13:1).

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels” (1 Cor. 13:1) – Commentators such as Adam Clarke are closest to the truth when they bring to light the Jewish mindset on this subject:

“To speak with the tongues of men, among the Jewish interpreters, means, to speak the languages of the seventy nations. To the praise of Mordecai, they say that he understood all those languages; and they require that the fathers of the Sanhedrin should be skilled in many languages that they may not be obliged to hear any thing by an interpreter. Maim. in Sanh., c. 2.

To speak with the tongues of angels, they thought to be not only an excellent gift, but to be possible; and highly extol Jochanan ben Zaccai because he understood them.”[6]  

When we begin studying the languages of men and angels, we need to begin in Genesis 11 and how the Jews understood this historical event. They understood that there were 70 angels that came down from heaven with God to confuse man’s one language and make it 70 (one angel residing over the seventy nations). They understood the angels to be in charge of teaching these new languages to the 70 nations. Therefore, the angles no doubt had the most knowledge of these languages and therefore spoke them with the utmost of eloquence (something those at Corinth esteemed).

When angels spoke in the OT and NT it was always in human languages. Because of their intelligence and master of men’s languages, when they spoke it no doubt was very eloquent (something the Corinthians esteemed in their pride).

It should also be pointed out that the Jewish belief within Paul’s day on how angels communicated is different than the Charismatic interpretation.  Many Jews believed angels had a language of the heart and mind (didn’t use sounds etc… – they are spirit beings).  So to assume that the gibberish of Charismatics today is what is being spoken (literally with literal mouths in heaven) by angels is not the Jewish concept.

So as we saw with prophecy, once again we have Charismatics having to “re-define” the meaning of tongues to support their experiences and what they think it is.  They imagine, due to their experiences, that tongues should be seen as some kind of private prayer language of pure “angelic” gibberish (not known human languages).  This simply cannot be supported using a grammatical historical hermeneutic.

Parallels between Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12-14

MacArthur does do a great job connecting the speaking of tongues in Acts with 1 Corinthians as being known foreign languages,

“In Acts, Luke uses laleo (“to speak”) in combination with glossa (“tongues”) four different times (Acts 2:4, 11; 10:46; 19:6).  In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul uses forms of that same combination thirteen times (1 Cor. 12:30; 13:1; 14:2, 4, 5 [2x], 6, 13, 18, 19, 21, 27, 39).

These linguistic parallels carry added significance when we consider that Luke was Paul’s traveling companion and close associate, even writing under Paul’s apostolic authority.  Because he penned the book of Acts around AD 60, roughly five years after Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians, Luke would have been well aware of their confusion regarding the gift of languages.  Certainly Luke would not have wanted to add to that confusion.  Thus, he would not have used the exact same terminology in Acts as Paul did in 1 Corinthians unless what had happened at Pentecost was identical to the authentic gift Paul described in his epistle.

The fact that Paul noted “various kinds of tonuges” in 1 Corinthians 12:10 (NASB) does not imply that some are real languages and other are merely gibberish.  Rather, the Greek word for kinds is genos, from which we derive the word genus.  Genos refers to a family, group, race, or nation.  Linguists often refer to language “families” or “groups,” and that is precisely Paul’s point:  there are various families of languages in the world, and this gift enabled some believers to speak in a variety of them.  In Acts 2, Luke emphasized that same idea in verses 9-11, where he explained that the language that were spoken came from at least sixteen different regions.

Other parallels between Acts and 1 Corinthians 12-14 can be established.  In both places, the Source of the gift is the same—the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4, 18; 10:44-46; 19:6; 1 Cor. 12:1, 7, 11, et al.).  In both places, the reception of the gift is not limited to the apostles, but also involved laypeople in the church (cf. Acts 1:15; 10:46; 19:6; 1 Cor. 12:30; 14:18).  In both places, the resulting message can be translated and thereby understood, either by those who already know the language (as on the day of Pentecost—Acts 2:9-11) or by someone gifted with the ability to translate (1 Cor. 12:10; 14:5, 13).

In both places, the gift served as a miraculous sign for unbelieving Jews (Acts 2:5, 12, 14, 19; 1 Cor. 14:21-22; cf. Isa. 28:11-12).  In both places, the gift of language was closely associated with the gift of prophecy (Acts 2:16-18; 19:6; 1 Cor. 14).  And in both places, unbelievers who did not understand what was being spoken responded with mockery and derision (Acts 2:13; 1 Cor. 14:23).  Given so many parallels, it is exegetically impossible and irresponsible to claim that the phenomenon described in 1 Corinthians was any different from that of Acts 2.  Since the gift of tongues consisted of authentic foreign languages on the day of Pentecost, then the same was true for the believers in Corinth.”  (MacArthur, Strange Fire, Ibid., 140-141).

3).  Knowledge would cease:

 In harmony with prophecy and tongues, this refers to a miraculous gift of knowledge given by God in which one understood the meaning of an OT passage as it related to the NC “mystery.”  For example, James interpreting Amos 9 as the Gentile inclusion into the one NC Body/Temple (Acts 15:12-17).  Even John Wesley understood the miraculous gift of knowledge was “…an extraordinary ability to understand and explain the Old Testament types and prophecies.”[7]

Daniel prophesied of a time in which “many will go here and there to increase knowledge” (Dan. 12:4). This is not referring to airplane/space travel or addressing absolute knowledge of technology or all knowledge in general as many Dispensational Charismatics have fancifully speculated.  It is a knowledge of Messiah and His kingdom that is in view.  In context, this is connected with the Great Commission or evangelism of the shinning stars (Pastors and Evangelists) in v. 3 that spread the gospel (the mysteries of the Kingdom) between AD 30 – AD 70 throughout the known Roman world.

Unlike the early transitional church, we are not seeking knowledge in the OT as to how OT prophecies were being and would be fulfilled in the NC age – that is, as they pertained to the “mystery” (i.e. the Jew / Gentile union in ONE Body).  That OC body of knowledge was fulfilled in AD 70 and its covenant “soon disappeared” in AD 70 (Heb. 8:13).  The NC mature Man/Body stands complete and independent of the Old post AD 70.

John MacArthur on when tongues would cease v. prophecy and knowledge:  I remember attending MacArthur’s college and finding it odd that C.W. Smith who taught Greek and 1 and 2 Corinthians objected to MacArthur’s Greek arguments and exegesis of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12.  MacArthur claims that tongues died out on its own by AD 70 while we still have prophecy (which he “re-defines” as merely preaching the Word today) and knowledge today – that will one day cease when the New Creation arrives.  Trying to support this eisegesis just because Paul uses two Greek words for “done away” or “cease” (katargeo or pauo) is about as convincing as some Partial Preterists trying to justify that there are two different comings of Christ (one in AD 70 and one at the end of world history) mentioned in Matthew 24:27, 30 because two different Greek words (parousia and erchomai) are used.  The exegetical fact of the matter is that the ONE Second Coming event (which is described with two different Greek words) would be fulfilled in that AD 30 – AD 70 contemporary “this generation” and that in our text here all three (prophecy, tongues and knowledge) would be done away or would cease when “that which is perfect” would come.

Katargeo simply means to “be done away,” “to cease” “to make invalid,” “to abrogate” “to annul,” or to “be free from a law.”  Per Paul the wisdom and rulers of his present OC “this age” were in the process of passing away (1 Cor. 2:6).  The last enemy “the death” was in the process of being annulled or being destroyed when “the end” of the OC age would take place at Christ’s parousia (1 Cor. 15:23-26).  God was in the process of giving the Corinthians victory over “the (OC) law” (vss. 55-57).  Paul in His second letter to the Corinthians continued to teach that the OC law was in the process of “passing away” or being annulled (2 Cor. 3:7, 11, 13, 14).

Pauo means to “cease” or “come to a complete end.”  Per the writer to Hebrews, the OC law was a shadow of the NC things that were “about to” come (Heb. 10:1 – Greek mello is used).  The OC law could not have “stopped” (pauo) (v. 2) until it had been fulfilled or the NC better things which were “about to come” would reach their fullness.  In Hebrews 9 we learn that the OC still had a “legal standing” or was still being “imposed” until Christ would appear a second time at the end of Israel’s OC “last days” age (Heb. 9:8-28).  The OC was “ready to vanish” at Christ’s “in a very little while” Second Coming (Heb. 8:13; 10:37).

4).  “But when that which is perfect (Greek telios) comes, the imperfect disappears”:

Telios (“that which is perfect”) – simply means that which has reached its end, mature, goal, complete, wanting in nothing.

Those that are telios “mature” in 1 Corinthians 2:6 are those that are not following the ways of their current OC “this age,” but are following the “wisdom” that comes from the NC “things” or way of life – per Paul’s preaching.

The Romans were no longer to be thinking or “conformed” to the ways of the OC “this world,” but be transformed in their thinking so as to understand what God’s telios “perfect” will was for them.  In context, Paul had just discussed the “mystery” on how “all Israel” was going to be saved – Jew/Gentile NC inclusion in chapter 11.  Now the Romans are exhorted to live a life of NC love in this reality and exercise their gifts as ONE body (cf. Rms. 12:2-21).

 1 Corinthians 13 / Ephesians 2–4:11-13 Parallels

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of THE [NC Christian] faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect (Greek teleios) man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” (Ephs. 4:11-13)

This maturity process of the “perfect man” (the Church – Body of Christ) was the “mystery of Christ” in which both Jews and Gentiles would become fellow citizens and be mutually built up as the New Covenant Temple:

“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a HOLY TEMPLE  in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Ephs. 2:19-22).

Here the “perfect’s” arrival is equivalent to when a man becomes mature (just as we have here in 1 Cor. 13) and when the “unity of THE faith” arrives.  In the context of Ephesians the “unity of the faith” should be seen as the fulfillment of the “mystery” – that is the NC Jew / Gentile oneness.  Post AD 70 there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile.  I don’t think there is any disagreement that the “unity of the faith” comes when the “age to come” arrives.  And yet Paul expected the NC age as “about to” come in the lifetimes of his audience: “not only in this age, but also in the one [age] about to come.” (Ephs. 1:21WUESTNT).   Paul describes the NC “age” (Grk. aion) as “without end” (Ephs. 3:20-21), and yet futurism believes it is the age that will come to an end in our future.

The arrival of the “that which is perfect” and “the unity of the faith” are synonymous events.  The unity of the faith does not mean when we are all in heaven we will believe the same thing perfectly.  Nor does the existence of many denominations disprove that the unity of the faith is already present.  In its historical context, the unity of the NC Christian faith came in AD 70 when it matured to a place where it no longer has the scaffolding of the OC structure supporting it.  Post AD 70, it stands on its own (apart from the OC system) and is a complete and mature Temple/Man.

1 Corinthians 13 / Hebrews 9 Temple Imagery & Covenant Contrast Cont.

In studying our word “perfect” in connection with contrasting temple and covenant imagery we shall now cover one last passage in the NT where telios is used where those same motifs are picked up.

“And the lesson which the Holy Spirit teaches is this—that the way into the true Holy place is not yet open so long as the outer tent still remains in existence. And this is a figure—for the time now present—answering to which both gifts and sacrifices are offered, unable though they are to give complete freedom from sin to him who ministers. For their efficacy depends only on meats and drinks and various washings, ceremonies pertaining to the body and imposed until a time of reformation.  But Christ appeared as a High Priest of the blessings that are soon to come by means of the greater and more perfect (Greek telios) Tent of worship, a tent which has not been built with hands—that is to say does not belong to this material creation” (Heb. 9:8-11WEY).

Once again we encounter the “perfect” (Greek telios) in the context of contrasting the Old Covenant with the New.  In this particular context in Hebrews, the Old Covenant represents the Holy Place while the New Covenant is represented by the Most Holy Place – in which complete and full access was soon to come. Also the theme of seeing God’s face is implied since when access into the Most Holy Place would be granted, is when this perfect face to face experience would be realized.  A futurist interpretation of this contrast can be found in the comments of the JFB commentary,

“The Old Testament economy is represented by the holy place, the New Testament economy by the Holy of Holies.”

Some Greek scholars do support that this text is teaching the Old Covenant had an “imposed” “legal” “standing” (symbolized by the presence of the Holy Place) until the time of reformation which would “soon” be upon the Hebrew audience.  This validates the earlier context of the validity and readiness of the passing of the OC law (Heb. 8:13) and what Jesus taught concerning the legal validity of all the jots and tittles of the law to be in force until all had been fulfilled (Matt. 5:17-19).  Again, this is what we see in Revelation 21:15-16 through chapter 22 in that the New Jerusalem/Bride is the City described as a perfect cube–The Most Holy Place coming down – by which God’s presence would be with man again.  This is when the seventh trumpet is blown and the “mystery” (unity in the NC kingdom is fulfilled and access to the ark or Most Holy Place is granted (Rev. 10:7; 11:19) – again, with the NJ becoming that Most Holy Place (Rev. 21:16).

 5).  “…then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  Marriage / Temple Motif

Reformed theologian Tom Holland believes bride purchase (and not slave purchase) is in view in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, and Paul again uses bridal and wedding terminology in addressing “the perfect” here in 1 Corinthians 13,

“That this relationship between the temple and the bride is part of the apostle’s thinking is supported by the Hebrew word for bride, kallah, meaning ‘the complete’ or ‘perfect one’.  This is probably the thinking behind Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 13:9-12.

This suggestion is also supported by his reference to knowing, a term constantly used throughout Scripture of the marriage relationship.”[8]

And again,

“This divine marriage is the eschatological goal of the redemption that is in Christ.  An echo of it surfaces [again] in 2 Corinthians 5:5 where Paul speaks about the church being prepared for the coming change when she will not be found naked.  A further factor that has probably hindered the identification of the wedding theme is the tendency to interpret the passage from an individual perspective.  This is not because the grammar demands it, but because tradition has dictated it.  As we have seen, the believer is never called the bride of Christ, but the church is.  If this is a corporate argument, then the reference to a wedding garment is consistent and makes sense of the flow of the argument.  The passage closes with the statement that God would dwell with them (2 Cor. 6:14-18), temple imagery, which is always, as we have seen, closely connected to the theme of the church being the bride of Christ.”[9]

I agree with Holland’s observations here.  Paul is not done with his corporate covenantal contrasts in 2 Corinthians 3, and it extends up to 2 Corinthians 6:16 – when Paul identifies the church as the NC tabernacle/temple of Ezekiel 37:27.  In 2 Corinthians 5 the “earthly tent” from which they were “groaning” during the transition period is the OC house/temple/system, and their desire to be clothed with the building/house from above, is the completed/matured NC temple/system.  The wedding takes place in an AD 70 “shortly” and “soon” time frame in Revelation 21-22 whereby the heavenly dwelling comes down from heaven and clothes the church (who is on earth).  The New Jerusalem is the “perfect” Bride in the shape of the Most Holy Place, therefore post AD 70 we have access to God’s “face to face” presence.

OT Ecoh – Isaiah 52:8:

 “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.”

The Jews understood this passage to be referring to the resurrection.  In context we again have the theme of the arrival of the New Jerusalem and the Church putting on her wedding garments because this is the time of the wedding (Isa. 52:1-2; 61:10).

1 Corinthians 13 / Revelation 21-22

 No More Death, Tears, and Pain

The obvious objection is given in that if the arrival of the New Jerusalem and New Creation of Revelation 21-22 and the “face to face” of 1 Corinthians 13:10-12 arrived in AD 70, then how can it be said that there is no more death, tears and pain today?

Before I begin I should note that it is Reformed orthodoxy (ex. John Lightfoot, Kenneth Gentry, Gary DeMar, Keith Mathison, R.C. Sproul, etc…) to believe that the passing of the first heaven and the first earth in Revelation 21:1-3 with there being no more sea is referring to the passing of the OC “heaven” and “earth” in AD 70 and not the physical planet and or solar system.

In regards to Revelation 21:4 (YLT) we read that “the death shall not be any more.” Every Reformed commentator agrees that this verse, along with 1 Corinthians 15:54–55, is describing a future-to-us end of “the death,” and that “the death” refers to the death that came through Adam in Genesis 2:17. The Douay-Rheims translation renders that verse: “But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day so ever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.” The Good News Translation makes it clear when “the death” would take place: “. . . except the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad. You must not eat the fruit of that tree; if you do, you will die the same day.”

“The death” that came through Adam the very day he sinned was spiritual and not biological. (See David Green’s discussion of this verse in his response to Strimple.) The abolition of biological death was never the purpose of Christ’s redemptive work.   In 1 Corinthians 15:55–57 (YLT) we read, “Where, O Death, thy sting? Where, O Hades, thy victory?’ And the sting of the death is the sin, and the power of the sin the law; and to God—thanks, to Him who is giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Whenever Paul uses the definite article “the” in front of “law,” he is referring to Israel’s old covenant Torah. As 1 Corinthians 15:57 indicates, the Law was not abolished at the cross; but it was “soon” to disappear, through the power of the Cross, at Christ’s Parousia in the end of the old covenant age (Heb. 8:13–10:37).

Because “the death” is spiritual death (alienation from God) realized through the commandment-breaker Adam and amplified or increased under the Law of Moses (the old covenant), we can see how God gave His elect the victory over “the death” in the end of the old covenant age of condemnation. The fact that men die physically is in no way evidence that the “spiritual conflict” of “the death” continues for the church throughout the new covenant age.

God’s people under the old covenant, unlike God’s people today, experienced covenantal and spiritual death (cf. Hosea 13:1–14; Isa. 25–27; Eze. 37). What made physical death dreaded for the saints under the old covenant was that they died with the awareness that their sins had not yet been taken away. In the new covenant creation, Jesus promises that whether we biologically die in Him or biologically live in Him, we “never die” (John 11:25–26). This was not the case before Christ.

Thus under the old covenant, the residents of Jerusalem wept because they did not have a lasting atonement or eternal redemption. They longed and groaned for the day of Messiah’s salvation. Until that day would come, they knew their sins were not put away (Heb. 9:26–28; 10:4, 11). The promise that there would be no more mourning or crying or pain does not refer to any and every kind of mourning, crying, and pain. It refers to mourning, crying, and pain concerning God’s people being dead in sin under the condemnation, curse, and slavery of God’s law. That sad Adamic state is no more. In the Son, God’s people are “free indeed” (Jn. 8:36).

As Athanasius wrote in his Festal Letters, iv. 3, “For when death reigned, ‘sitting down by the rivers of Babylon, we wept,’ and mourned, because we felt the bitterness of captivity; but now that death and the kingdom of the devil is abolished, everything is entirely filled with joy and gladness.”

Under the old covenant, when David or the nation was exiled from Zion and God’s city and temple, there was much inner pain, weeping, and bondage that followed (2 Sam. 15:30; Ps. 137; Isa. 14:3; Isa. 22:4–5; Jer. 9:1; 13:17; Jer. 22:9–10; Lam. 1:16; Joel 2:17). Under the new covenant, the heavenly country and Jerusalem are not subject to being made desolate or shaken by invading armies as was the old (Isa. 62:4; Heb. 12:27–28). The concept of the gates of the New Jerusalem always being open, even at night (Isa. 60:11; Rev. 21:25), is not merely a picture of evangelism; it is also a picture of security for the residents of God’s City. The believer, through faith in Christ, is the new covenant creation and it is impossible for him to be exiled from the City (2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 3:12; 22:12). The new covenant believer is characterized as one whose weeping has ended, because God has forever taken away his sin and united Himself with him (Isa. 60:20; 65:14, 18–19; Jn. 17:21–23).

Christians in the new covenant world do not shed tears in agony and cry out to God to save them from the Adamic Death of Sin, as Jesus Himself did on our behalf (Heb. 5:7). “The sting [pain] of the Death” cannot harm us anymore (1 Cor. 15:56) because the power of Sin has been removed through Jesus, the Law-Fulfiller who clothes us and indwells us. Now we live and reign with Christ in the new covenant world, wherein dwells the Righteousness of God.

Reformed Partial Preterism has acknowledge that the Church does see God’s face right now according to Revelation 22:4 because this was fulfilled in the AD 70 “shortly” and “quickly” coming of Christ in vss. 6-7.  They cite 2 Corinthians 3:18 for support that the Church was already seeing God’s face spiritually prior to AD 70.  Therefore, there is every exegetical reason to believe that post AD 70, the Church is now seeing God “face to face” more clearly (spiritually) per Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:10-12.

 Conclusion

Since the Second Coming of Christ happened when Jesus and the NT authors promised it would (“this generation,” “soon” “quickly” “shortly,” etc…), this event brought with it the arrival of the New Creation and maturing of the NC age as it separated itself from (by fulfilling the promises of…) the OC age – by AD 70.  Therefore, the Church continues to see God’s face spiritually except more clearly than it had when the OC age overlapped with the NC age between AD 30 – AD 70.  The miraculous and revelatory gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge served their foundational purpose for the early church – and therefore have “ceased.”

Charismatics such as Michael Brown, Sam Storms, and Mike Bickle have had to “re-define” what biblical tongues and prophecy are in the NT in order to try and validate their non-miraculous “tongue” speaking and their 80% failure rate with prophecy within their movement.  Non-charismatics such as James White, Sam Waldron, and John MacArthur simply have no apologetic and offer no sound exegesis of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 to prove these gifts have ceased.  MacArthur is also guilty of having to “re-define” the gift of prophecy because of his Premillennial Pre-Trib. Dispensational biases (that we looked at in part 2).  It is our prayer that these men will begin seeing 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 through fulfilled NC eyes – and stop torturing the text through their Charismatic and or Pre-Trib. Dispensational eyes.

[1] Brown, Authentic Fire, Ibid, 196-197, 222.

[2] MacArthur, THE MACARTHUR NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY 1 CORINTHIANS (Moody Bible Institute, 1984), 382.

[3] Gordon D. Fee, THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS, p. 756.

[4] W.F. Arndt and F.W. Ginrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago:  University of Chicago, 1957), 730.

[5] https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/greek/gwview.cgi?n=1100

[6] Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Bible, http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/clarke/co1013.htm

[7]  Charles Wesley, see Hymn – “Let earth and heaven combine.”

[8] Tom Holland, CONTOURS OF PAULINE THEOLOGY A RADICAL NEW SURVEY OF THE INFLUENCES ON PAUL’S BIBLICAL WRITINGS, (Scotland, UK:  Mentor Imprint by Christian Focus Publications, 2004), 120-121

[9] Holland, Ibid., 121.

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