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1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (ESV):

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love

When shall we see "face to face"? What is meant by this and when will this happen?

According to Myron J. Houghton, in his article A Reexamination of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (available here):

Thus, when the complete (revelation) comes, the (gifts of communicating) partial (revelation) pass away (they are no longer necessary). Both what is complete and what is partial are revelational. So "the perfect" refers to completed revelation.

"Face to face" describes the clear and direct revelation of oneself which believers today possess when they look into the mirror of Scriptures, God's completed revelation.

Emphasis mine. Notice how Houghton (a cessationist) claims that believers are already capable of seeing face to face today. According to Hougton, the capacity to see face to face and the perfect are already here, available to us through the completed canon of Scripture. No need to wait for a second coming.

Similar views are shared, for example, by Andy Woods, in his article The Meaning of "The Perfect" in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (available here), and by Bruce Compton, in his article 1 Corinthians 13:8–13 and the Cessation of Miraculous Gifts (available here).

Does this view have merits? Are other views more or less compelling?


Related questions:

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  • @Dottard - good suggestion, I added a few references. Sep 9 at 0:11
  • You quoted: >"believers are already capable of seeing face to face today. The capacity to see face to face and the perfect are already here, available to us through the completed canon of Scripture. No need to wait for a second coming. "< I agree. We now have the completed scripture by Paul We begin to see the face of God through His Word. Part of that is no longer looking at Christ after the flesh.
    – Sherrie
    Sep 12 at 17:26

12 Answers 12

5

Earlier in the same book, we have 1 Corinthians 8:3 English Standard Version

But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

1 Corinthians 13:

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

I.e., fully known by God. I believe Paul is expressing the idea of seeing God face to face. Similar idea is expressed by John in 1 John 3:

2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

When shall we see "face to face"?

Ultimately, when Christ appears in his second coming after we have been resurrected with the new body and new eyesight.

Moses was said to know God face to face in Deuteronomy 34:

10b no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face

Before that happens, I have no problem agreeing with:

"Face to face" describes the clear and direct revelation of oneself which believers today possess when they look into the mirror of Scriptures, God's completed revelation.

In fact, I practice this daily :)

17
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator, can you point out exactly where I have contradicted the cessationist position?
    – Tony Chan
    Sep 9 at 14:42
  • The thing is that many cessationists believe that "the perfect" and seeing "face to face" all point to the closing of the Biblical canon, not the second coming of Christ. See the references I included in the question. Sep 9 at 19:51
  • 'many cessationists believe that "the perfect" and seeing "face to face" all point to the closing of the Biblical canon'. My answer has not contradicted this.
    – Tony Chan
    Sep 9 at 20:14
  • But your answer says that we will see face to face after the second coming, not after the canon is closed, right? Sep 9 at 21:15
  • 1
    Both can be true :)
    – Tony Chan
    Sep 9 at 21:16
5

When shall we see Jesus "face to face"? The simplest direct answer is found in Rev 22:3, 4 -

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be within the city, and His servants will worship Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.

To be with Jesus is the primary reward of the saved saints of God. There are a series of references that support this idea as well such as:

  • Job 19:25-27 - I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
  • Isa 25:9 - And in that day it will be said, “Surely this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He has saved us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited. Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
  • John 14:1-3 - “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God a ; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
  • 1 Cor 13:12 - For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. [Quoted by the OP.]
  • Col 3:4 - When Christ, who is your a life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
  • Heb 9:28 - so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
  • 1 John 3:2 - Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

APPENDIX - The Wicked.

The above obviously concerns the righteous. By contrast, the wicked will ask to be destroyed when Jesus appears the second time as recorded in Rev 6:15-17. This is consistent with the Bible teaching that only the righteous will be with God and the Lamb forever, Rev 21:7, 8, 27, 2 Peter 3:13.

UPDATE, at the OP's suggestion.

I note that the comments of some are helpful here but before considering them let me list another parallel use of the same word translated "perfect", τέλειος, in 1 Cor 13:10. Eph 4:13 -

until we all may attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a complete [τέλειος] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

Ellicott observes this about 1 Cor 13:10 -

(10) That which is perfect.—This verse shows, by the emphatic “then,” that the time when the gifts shall cease is the end of this dispensation. The imperfect shall not cease until the perfect is brought in. (See Ephesians 4:11-13.)

The question then revolves around, when does the completion or perfecting occur? Note the comments of Albert Barnes:

But when that which is perfect is come - Does come; or shall come. This proposition is couched in a general form. It means that when anything which is perfect is seen or enjoyed, then that which is imperfect is forgotten, laid aside, or vanishes. Thus, in the full and perfect light of day, the imperfect and feeble light of the stars vanishes. The sense here is, that "in heaven" - a state of absolute perfection - that which is "in part," or which is imperfect, shall be lost in superior brightness. All imperfection will vanish. And all that we here possess that is obscure shall be lost in the superior and perfect glory of that eternal world. All our present unsatisfactory modes of obtaining knowledge shall be unknown. All shall be clear, bright, and eternal.

Gill is more succinct -

But when that which is perfect is come,.... When perfect knowledge of God, of Christ, and of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven shall take place; which will not in this life, but in that which is to come. So the Jews say that at the resurrection, upon the reunion of the soul and body

That is, in this sinful, imperfect, incomplete life, we are seen and known imperfectly and we see and understand Christ imperfectly (1 Cor 13:12). In the next life all this is changed. Until then we must rely upon divine providence and revelation to fill the gap with spiritual gifts.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

APPENDIX - Alternate views

The above position suggests that "the perfect" is associated with the great eschaton, the second coming of Jesus because it is at this time that all things will become new (Rev 21:1-4). Other views (according to the links provided by the OP) include

  • the completion of the Bible canon
  • the maturity of the church which no needs divine revelation
  • the separation of the church from Judaism
  • the completion (cessation) of spiritual gifts

The problem with all of these is they cannot be deduced from Scripture as the language of Paul in 1 Cor 13 is never used in these senses. [However as shown above, the opposite is true of non-cessationism.] There are further problems:

  • why is the separation of the church from Judaism (which effectively occurred in Acts 15) signify the perfect or mature? There was more revelation afterward and many more gifts of the Spirit afterward.
  • in what sense does the closing the Bible canon (which is not stated in the Bible) signify the perfect or maturity of the church? Subsequent church history has indicated anything but a mature and complete church given some of the atrocities which the church has perpetrated! Indeed, many would argue that the great church reformation begun in the 16th century, and still continues, is a direct consequence of divine leading.
  • I have been unable to find any justification for saying that either all spiritual gifts cease with the apostolic era, or that some gifts cease with the apostolic era. There is simply no Bible support for this position. Indeed, Paul says:

1 Cor 1:7 - Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As best I read plain language, this clearly says that spiritual gifts would continue until our Lord returns.

3

It appears to me that the passage is a reference to the completion that takes place when we see Jesus face to face. It looks like the view that it refers to the canon came about in the 19th century through the writing of Robert Govett, 1813–1901. Gary Shogren did a nice overview of the patristic interpretation of the "perfect" that can be found here. See also the research paper by Rodney Decker which lists the later arguments for the "perfect" being a reference to the completion of the canon. You can find it here.

Normative & durative cessationists have a difficult time explaining why patristic claims to the occurrence of the full range of the charisms continued, in many but not all places, well after the last canonical apostle died and the formation of the canon was authorized. If the early church saw this passage as a reference to the canon, why didn't some sort of reference to it being the case occur in the patristic tradition?

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  • 1
    I want to be sure Im understanding: no one claimed the perfect meant finishing up the bible.. until the 1800’s ?! And now almost all of reformed theology is running around with that nonsense claim?
    – Al Brown
    Sep 13 at 22:55
  • 1
    Al, that is correct. From what I have read. Reformed normative & durative cessationists don't really care about early church historical interpretations of Scripture. In contrast, the Lutheran view is: “As can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church universal, or from the Church of Rome, as known from its writers.” (Conclusion of first half of the Augsburg Confession) And: “In doctrine and ceremonies we have received nothing contrary to Scriptures or the Church universal.” (Conclusion of the second half of the Augsburg Confession).
    – Jess
    Sep 14 at 2:53
  • From a past answer i wrote: “I see it as too compatible with the growing, very subtle view of one’s faith as a philosophy of life, of spirits and demons and God as anthropomorphisms of fears on the one hand and healthy behaviors and wisdom on the other. Angels and spirits and demons and the devil are all quite real. God is real. This bizarre view that he backed off so dramatically and no one noticed for so long can be (albeit somewhat cynically) viewed as being twenty percent of the way to atheism. At a minimum it is no coincidence that it grows as philosophical monist materialism does.”
    – Al Brown
    Sep 14 at 16:53
  • Now are tongues any different? The only question remaining is whether tongues are distinct. After verse 8, all discussion of tongues stops. It only talks of hearing, prophecy and knowing. So what does that mean if any?? || Does a loving God never speak directly to any with any detail at all, never let His saints cast out unclean spirits, never speak through anyone directly? Does He only act through our personalities as a vague positive influence? And why the retreat? Longer I consider this, I see it as a horrible dangerous heresy.
    – Al Brown
    Sep 14 at 16:54
  • One last question: are denominations cessationist?
    – Al Brown
    Sep 14 at 17:02
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When shall we see "face to face"? 1 Corinthians 13:12

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV)

Understanding this text requires paying attention to its contrast of seeing through "a glass" with "face to face." The first of these metaphors leads to a clearer understanding of the second.

Biblical Usage of "A Glass"

The word "glass" (KJV) can also be translated as a looking-glass, or as a mirror. But the Bible helps us understand what this word means.

The Perfect Law of Liberty

James describes the "glass" as follows:

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (James 1:22, KJV)

For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: (James 1:23, KJV)

For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. (James 1:24, KJV)

But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:25, KJV)

The "glass" is a figure or symbol of the law of God. And what does looking into the glass tell us? It shows us our imperfections, helping us to see where we are not in harmony with God's law.

In the Old Testament sanctuary system, we find an intriguing truth connected with this.

And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the looking glasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. (Exodus 38:8, KJV)

The purpose of the laver, or washbasin, was to wash away every defiling particle of dust before one could enter the holy place of the sanctuary. Being made of the "looking glasses," this laver would have given a faithful reflection of any uncleanness or defilement that needed to be washed. Those who washed themselves at the laver were seeing "as in a glass."

The Law Is a Mirror

The Law of God shows us the truth, but it has no power to actually change us; even as a mirror gives a faithful reflection, but cannot alter our image one iota. As we look into the mirror of God's law, we see where our characters need to be refined and corrected. As we look at this transcript of God's character, we are encouraged to become more like Him.

By Beholding, We Become Changed

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18, KJV)

But we are presently beholding "as in a glass." We do not see God's full glory. Simply looking into His law, we see our defects and set our sights on the standard of righteousness. As we seek to obey God's commandments, we are changed, and made ready for that day when we will see Him face to face.

Seeing Face to Face

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2, KJV)

And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:3-5, KJV)

Addressing the Cessationists

Those who believe that "perfect" means that all scripture has been given, that the scriptures are complete, and that no more scripture will ever be given, are setting limitations upon God that the Bible does not support. First, the word "perfect" is not limited to the idea of "complete." It can mean just what it says: pure, undefiled, unblemished, and holy. Secondly, the perfect "law" was already given at Mt. Sinai. If perfection meant that no more scripture should come afterward, we should have no scripture outside of the Torah. But the Bible makes no statement authorizing man to "canonize" the scripture such that God can add nothing more to it.

Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7, KJV)

If God could no longer reveal anything to His servants the prophets, it would mean that He could also no longer do anything. Obviously, that would put God into an impossible box--for God cannot be contained by such short-sighted thinking on the part of man.

Jesus spoke of the scriptures, and if they were scriptures in his time, they did not include the New Testament. Peter spoke of scriptures, to include Paul's writings, but did he consider his own writings to be scriptures? Did any Bible prophet say, or have authority to say, that he or she was to be the last prophet?

In fact, no true prophet even concerns himself or herself with the fact that he or she is a prophet. Prophets just give the message that God has told them to give. And God never gave a message that people should close the "canon." Contrariwise, God has given us messages for how to discern between true and false prophets, and telling us that in the last days the spirit of prophecy would be seen again. Consider Joel chapter 2.

The Spirit of Prophecy Continues

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: (Joel 2:28, KJV)

And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. (Joel 2:29, KJV)

And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. (Joel 2:30, KJV)

The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD come. (Joel 2:31, KJV)

CONCLUSION

The day when we see face to face can only be the day of God's appearing. The mirror of God's law is already perfect, and we can look into that mirror, behold its perfection, and become changed in preparation for that "great and terrible day" of Jehovah when He comes again.

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  • Appreciate all that careful, exact text. So interesting that it seems a shame to comment only upon my single word of questioning, but.. Seems like adding to the text here “telling us that in the last days the spirit of prophecy would be seen again.“ What was the basis for saying “seen again” as opposed to “seen”? Nothing you wrote seemed to imply prophesy was said to be stopping, esp when stating that no one said canon has been closed and no one said all prophesy is canonical.
    – Al Brown
    Sep 13 at 22:50
  • Why would God need to add anything? It's purpose is already fulfilled for all ages until Jesus returns - then the world will have the personal Word forever after.
    – steveowen
    Sep 13 at 23:22
  • 1
    @AlBrown If one does not use the term "again," doesn't that imply it hasn't happened yet? We have seen the spirit of prophecy, and there is no man who can tell God when to send it. Yes, I believe it continues and is present in our day. But Joel 2 also references "last days" specifically, seeming to indicate that God's spirit will be poured out in a greater measure at that time.
    – Polyhat
    Sep 14 at 2:45
  • @steveowen God is our Father. What father would write a book of instructions for his child and then not offer any further instructions? Do the coaches of olympic athletes not need to counsel with them at the olympics because all of their teaching and training has been complete before going? Do you feel you know the mind of God and can say with certainty that He has nothing more to add?
    – Polyhat
    Sep 14 at 2:48
  • Maybe you missed my point... The bible is God's word for all we have need of. It certainly doesn't tell us everything we want to know, but that is not important. When Jesus returns, we will have the personal Word - it cannot get any better than that. The bible will be redundant, just like the tabernacle or temple was made redundant.
    – steveowen
    Sep 14 at 3:15
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+100

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Cor 13:12

  • who do we see in a mirror? Ourself.
  • what does this have to do with seeing Christ? Let's see...

The context is the believer -

  • if I speak with the tongues...
  • if I have the gift of prophecy...
  • if I give away all my possessions...

All of this is pointless without love...

if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away with.

  • For WE know in part and (WE) prophesy in part
  • when I was a child...
  • when I became a man...

The context changes to a future time with,

but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away with v10

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. v15

While there is a variety of understandings possible from the words mirror, glass etc, the context remains the believer.

The focus is on, “the partial will be done away” in the believer’s life.

Paul is contrasting the present and the future - the now in our still corrupted and partly deceived state - yes found in Christ, holy and righteous, but with a deposit of the HS only, a down-payment only. We are equipped to minister with various gifts - they too are for this age only. They will be 'done away with', but love will remain.

When Christ returns and his trusting sheep are changed to immortal life like him, THEN, we will see ourselves, and everything else, truly and completely. This is when the 'perfect comes' - our change to new spirit life.

Who are we? We are all children of God - some are still of the devil, but God is sovereign over evil and its perpetrator.

We do not yet see who we are as the wonderful new creation God designed every human to become. (All are dead to sin, all will have one gracious opportunity to choose life)

What we see is a frail, proud, selfish person with many faults - all results of the darkness of the present world. We also see 'dimly' a new person emerging - a new creation in which Jesus lives by the spirit.

We can set this alongside,

when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1John 3:2

The only way to clearly see who we are is in Christ. He is truth and truth removes all deception. We are conformed to his image so that we can finally and truly be in the image of God! Rom 8:29

and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the LORD in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD.. 2Cor 3:18

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2Cor 4:4

Even still, believers share in this blindness - it remains in part and we see only dimly. We are not blind, but our spiritual vision is not yet remotely fully functional.

God speed the day when it will be!

1
  • Amen brother ...
    – Al Brown
    Sep 13 at 22:57
1

When shall we see "face to face"? 1 Corinthians 13:12

ESV 12" For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."

When shall we see "face to face"? What is meant by this and when will this happen?

Paul uses an analogy with mirrors, in Bible times mirrors were generally made of polished bronze, tin, and some other metals, they were useful for viewing an object, but one could not compare to looking directly at the object. Paul is illustrating that Christians at that time [ and today] are trying to understand certain spiritual matters and prophecies still unfulfilled, was limited. It was not yet God’s time to reveal certain things, so those Christians saw God’s purpose in hazy outline as if they were looking at a blurred reflection of it. Paul here contrasts looking into a metal mirror with seeing clearly, face-to-face. This will happen when Christians comprehend God’s purpose in its entirety as Bible prophecy is fulfilled.

1

Paul taught cessationism. The gifts will definitely cease, but the question is when. Those who are commonly known today as “Cessationists” believe that the gifts ceased upon the closing of the canon. They are right about that in the sense that no gift will alter what is currently accepted as the inspired Word of God. In other words, no prophecy that the most anointed and accurate prophet could utter will alter or contradict what is already contained in the Bible. But is this what Paul was referring to with his use of "the perfect" (τὸ τέλειον) in v. 10? Does his use of the subsequent metaphors in vv. 11-12 support that?

11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

Was Paul comparing the developing canon to speaking or reasoning as a child? Were the NT writings akin to seeing in a mirror dimly only until the canon was closed and then suddenly all was clear? Most of the early church fathers and Christians took an eschatological view of 1 Cor. 13:8-13. Those who didn’t, were often trying to prove that the perfect truth had been revealed to them so no further revelation would be needed. Didymus (Dialexis Montanista), and Irenaeus (Against Heresies), et al, called out the Montanists and the Gnostics for this error, for example,

Paul’s list of gifts of revelation are no longer used in the establishment of scripture, but they are still used to reveal truth and will continue to be used by those who desire to hear from God in that way until we are in his presence. Because of our sinful nature, even though we are in Jesus, we can not see God face to face and live, just like we can not look at the sun directly and maintain our vision. We have to see him through a reflection as with a mirror.

In our fallen state, we understand things very imperfectly. A prophecy or a word of knowledge, for example, is something that we could not have known which encourages us or strengthens us to continue in our quest to know God fully. When Jesus used this gift with Nathaniel, it opened his eyes.

John 1 49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

It is wonderful to see these gifts used, and others as well, to help convince people of the validity of the Gospel! What could be the purpose of limiting that powerful work of God by denying his ability to communicate knowledge and truth to us in a supernatural way just because the canon closed? Earlier in the book, Paul discussed the importance of power in the Gospel even over words.

1 Cor 4 19But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. 20For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.

The power evident through the gifts convinced many that what Jesus and the apostles were saying was from God. The world needs that confirmation just as much today as it did then, and Cessationists can provide no valid Biblical reason to support God taking his gifts away from the Church.

Nevertheless, the most important point in this passage is the primacy of love. The gifts will cease, but love will always endure. It believes and hopes all things. In fact, this presents another problem for the Cessationists. They have to admit that faith and hope will only cease at the end of the age, when we are living fully in the presence of the Object of our faith and hope. We don’t have to hope for something we have already received. If these have not ceased, then why should the gifts cease which help support our faith, hope, and love?

It takes faith to believe in God, and it should take no greater faith to believe that God can act supernaturally today on behalf of the world he loves just as he always has. Those who who sincerely desire more proof of whether God still works miraculously through his people should go out and put the theory to an honest test. I believe that many benefit from God’s supernatural guidance and intervention without even being fully aware of it. They may think of it as being prompted or guided by the Spirit. They may be aware of things they could not have known in the natural. If he quickens your words in someone's heart to receive saving grace, he just used you to perform the most important miracle of all.

But in conclusion, I reiterate that love is more important than all the gifts, because it will endure forever and if we exercise the gifts but don’t have love, we are nothing (1 Cor. 13:2).

0

That which is “in part” refers to revealed knowledge and prophesy.

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. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. (Without an obstructed view); now (a then present condition) I know in part, but then (a change of status which would be the completion of what was in part) I shall know (that is what would we know fully – the fullness of what was once revealed only in part.) just as (καθὼς – relates to manner, not to degree.) I also am known. (I will know fully in the same way I have been known fully.) And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Comprehension of truth must be expanded, and this would accompany the full body of revelation. “Now we see in a mirror dimly" (literally, in a riddle). The word is αἰνίγματι from which we get our word enigma, meaning a mystery. We cannot quite see what is there. At the time of Paul, partial knowledge and prophesy were still a reality. Paul and the other apostles and prophets still only knew in part and prophesied in part. They could not yet see the whole picture. This stresses the deliberate limitations of revealed knowledge and prophesy. Just as with the giving of the Old Testament scriptures, the full revelation had not been delivered to any one man. Some was given to Paul, some to John, some to Luke, some to Mark, some to Peter, and so on. Once they had delivered to the Church everything they had received from the Holy Spirit, the need for such gifts would be no more, thus, the gifts would simply fade away. The New Testament writers recorded all revealed truth. Enough was given to...

  1. Produce faith, John 20:30-31,

“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”'

  1. Reveal the mysteries of God, Colossians 1:25-27,

“…of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God, which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

  1. Instruct us in righteousness and to make us mature, complete, and fully equipped for the work of God, 2 Timothy 3:16-17,

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The end result of the full revelation is a finished product.

  1. To serve as our only guide in all spiritual matters,

a. 1 Corinthians 4:6

“Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.”

b. 2 Timothy 1:13

“Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing, which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.”

  1. To bring us to salvation,

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

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it simply means at the event of the rapture of the Church (for Christians) at the last trump (2 trumps actually, first one for the dead in christ, and the other one for we that are alive... with each party hearing the one meant for him or her) in the twinkle of an eye, we're changed and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. At that instant is when we are metamorphosed into same image and our heavenly incorruptible body comes with the knowledge and understanding...

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  • Don't over simplify things.... Few Christians will be fortunate or faithful enough to be raptured. But many believers will see the Lord face to face one day. Sep 11 at 2:53
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And we all having been unveiled in face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18<

There are times in our walk with the Lord that we see Jesus Christ in a new glory that perhaps we have not yet seen him before in. We get glimpses of him from time to time through the word and just praise and glory in Him and what he's accomplished for all.

At times we see God in truth and we just fall on our knees and worship Him. We get to see him for moments in our spirit. We see him in truth and that changes us as he is conforming us to his image.

So to answer your question I think there are times we see him face-to-face, In spirit Or when he gives us understanding of his word, Or comfort in suffering, Or joy in just seeing his hand of mercy And grace towards us. Sometimes we See him shining through another believer.

When we've all matured to the full stature it will be awesome to truly see him face-to-face In full glory since that Is what he is bringing his sons too…

It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 2:14<

So we do see him face-to-face from the very beginning to the very end. We are his achievement and all glory goes to Him.

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Seeing Face to Face

It needs to always be emphasized that whatever the phrase means, it was not true about Paul when he wrote the letter. So for instance, saying the Bible being finished up is the line means claiming that is the point at which Paul (and others) saw face to face. Just enforcing this distinction would probably weed out a lot of poor logic.

The textual details of “face to face” are laid out here and will not be reiterated.

One objection I haven’t seen or made before, to “seeing face to face” implying cessationism, is that the Bible was, at a bare minimum, very unclear (if not ambiguous, if not pointing the other way) about this “Great Ceasing”. One could make the case that clear distinction would only be expected regarding a big change, not the lack of any.

Some Cessationist Thoughts

Despite my view, I try hard to honestly summarize cessationist views along with some of my responses.

Most Cessationist arguments seem to largely rest on the interpretation of 1 Cor 13 to say that the teleion (mature, complete, or perfect) has come and this means supernatural gifts have ceased.

This is partly based on teleion being written as a neuter‭ ‭and that it couldn’t be referring ‬‬to Christ’s return (one would have expected the masculine adjective in that case), so it must refer “to a perfect thing that brings full divine revelation” per Gary Steven Shogren’s summary of their opinion. Shogren notes tongue-in-cheek that the many Greeks who read the early books might have noticed this gender problem before the second millennium.

One influential article seems to have been Benjamin Warfield’s 1918 Counterfeit Miracles which is available in whole here. I and others on this se thought this was a first peak in the philosophy of Cessationism and that it was started around 1860 through the writings of Robert Govett, 1813–1901. But, at least according to Warfield, most of the theologians of the post-Reformation era - the period of CA 1565-1725 - were Cessationist. They taught that miracles ceased completely with the Apostolic Age (not 70AD in particular). This was Warfield’s view. Then he describes the ever-advancing view toward the end of the post-Reformation era that miracles actually faded slowly, a little at a time, over very long periods of time.

Conyers Middleton in Introductory Discourse, to which one can see a short intro, in the mid-1700’s outlines this as the majority view among Protestants. "The most prevailing opinion is that they subsisted through the first three centuries, and then ceased in the beginning of the fourth, or as soon as Christianity came to be established by the civil power. This, I say, seems to be the most prevailing notion at this day among the generality of the Protestants , who think it reasonable to imagine that miracles should then cease, when the end of them was obtained and the church no longer in want of them; being now delivered from all danger, and secure of success, under the protection of the greatest power on earth."

This is a key concept. That God does not do the miraculous unnecessarily. But what really would this mean? Why would it ever mean He draws a hard line in the sand and commits to never intervening?

Returning to Warfield, he refers to “spiritual gifts in the sense of extraordinary capacities produced in the early Christian communities by direct gift of the Holy Spirit.” And emphasizes that they were abundant, in all the early churches. It is important to note that he does not claim (and that it cannot be plausibly claimed from the text) that only Christ, or only Christ and the Apostles, had these abilities. He notes that a careful reading of scripture will show that a church not widely engaged in prophecy and expelling demons would seem to be the unusual one.

“The Apostolic Church was characteristically a miracle-working church. How long did this state of things continue? It was the characterizing peculiarity of specifically the Apostolic Church, and it belonged therefore exclusively to the Apostolic age—although no doubt this designation may be taken with some latitude. These gifts were not the possession of the primitive Christian as such; nor for that matter of the Apostolic Church or the Apostolic age for themselves; they were distinctively the authentication of the Apostles. They were part of the credentials of the Apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church. Their function thus confined them to distinctively the Apostolic Church, and they necessarily passed away with it.”

He bases this on the “ground both of principle and of fact; that is to say both under the guidance of the New Testament teaching as to their origin and nature, and on the credit of the testimony of later ages as to their cessation”

So: These are the two classes of proof. There is no that much theology being put fourth about it, with the possible exception of the fruits being rooted in Christ.

Much of the skepticism in the post-Reformation period appears to have been driven by a lack of knowledge about the church fathers’ reports of miracles. It’s not clear whether this was cherry-picking and denial to fit the enlightenment gestalt (discussed below), or more likely just a lack of forensic scholarship and available resources/references. The church fathers in no way claimed miracles had ceased. In all fairness, literature searches were much more difficult for post-Reformation cessationists.

As mentioned this morphed into the majority opinion that miracles ceased slowly, championed by people like Middleton. Even in the model where extraordinary spiritual gifts must be passed on and decay randomly albeit exponentially over time, wouldn’t we expect among the many millions that somewhere would be the odd outlier. Claims of “never” are not just hard to prove, but rarely true. Unless there is some absolute promise or other universal event (the fall of man), sheer logic that we don’t seem to see it and we don’t think it’s needed should not equate to a “never” but rather to a “rarely” or even “almost never”.

Middleton’s contemporary John Wesley had issues with his take on the church fathers, and even more so with his take on the status of supernatural fruits afterward. For obvious reasons: How Miracles Helped Spread the Wesleyan Revivals. “Stories of skeptics being healed and unwillingly falling and shaking on the ground for hours were frequent” and this included an angry physician who went to challenge the fake, damaging healings, as well as critical contemporary preacher George Whitefield who attended and promptly fainted and convulsed.

John White wondered if the twentieth-century resurgence of God’s miraculous manifestations was, in itself, an expression of the necessity of God’s intervention in the current “phase of the battle.” (White, When the Spirit Comes with Power, 153.)

The concept of God ceasing miracles when unnecessary was expressed about the post WW-II period by John White in his 1988 book When the Spirit Comes with Power. “[White] extensively interviewed many people, including those from John Wimber's Vineyard Christian Fellowship. His years of work as a psychiatrist and as a missionary in the Third World qualify him in a special way to analyze the experiences described in this book. In addition he has thoroughly studied revivals of the past, highlighting the differences and the similarities to what is happening today. As always, John White remains thoroughly biblical as he handles many controversial topics.” He wonders if the resurgence in miracles came from God based on simple necessity in the current “phase of battle”.

If Cessationists use lack of necessity after the church was established, do they claim He will again intervene if necessary? Can they at least acknowledge He can? In my opinion, they should be hard pressed on the issue of why God would stop things entirety in a kind of “making a resolution” type of way. The claim that He frequently and broadly entered the minds and bodies of members of the early church, but absolutely never will under any circumstances thereafter for ~1800 years is bizarre and extreme enough to require extreme support.

Hebrews 2:4 New American Standard Bible

God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders, and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

So with this summary:

  1. Miracles stopped being necessary.
  2. The Bible seems to maybe imply they would cease
  3. We don’t see the evidence.
  4. Maybe something about how the unique abilities must be transmitted, ultimately starting from Christ (my words). Fir example as quoted of Warfield: “They were part of the credentials of the Apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church. Their function thus confined them to distinctively the Apostolic Church, and they necessarily passed away with it.“
  5. The Canon is closed.

A lack of rigorous distinctions plagues Cessationism. Perhaps because they see themselves as inherently more reasonable and hard-nosed and logical and rigorous, and thus partially exempt. But in rigorous terms: These are the arguments I’ve seen. I also routinely see opinions expressed that in most other contexts would never be taken seriously or even made, such as the previously quoted: “..the most prevailing notion at this day among the generality of the Protestants, who think it reasonable to imagine that miracles should then cease, when the end of them was obtained..”

In what other context would, “We think it reasonable to imagine God would want..” be taken seriously?

The final one (5 above) may be mentioned as possible timing, but it can be entirely eliminated as evidence for Cessationism being true, as I describe in a subsection below.

Item 4 might easily be dismissed with a litany of Old Testament actions and of those by Christ’s contemporaries. In Matthew 17, the disciples were already on their own casting out devils, such that Christ only had to be called for a difficult case. Despite John the Baptist being referenced as performing no miracles, he was identified as a prophet and definitely prophesied about Christ. This did not come from interacting with the fleshly Jesus Christ.

What exactly has ceased traditionally included healing, tongues, casting out demons, and prophecy. More recently, certainly after 1800 and possibly after 1900, any communication that can be identified as Divine has sometimes been added.

Two Types

While the reasoning is generally common among them, Cessationists can be roughly divided into believing the perfect is

  1. The Bible being finished up
  2. The church reaching the whole earth or becoming secure/official.

The former is newer. It appears to have begin in the mid-1800’s. It solidly contradicts the church fathers. Shogren covers how extensive this really is, while also noting there is more to uncover: “Not all of the texts of the different authors were analyzed, since, for example, Biblica Patristica listed 169 separate references within the extant writings of Origen... The fact that each new search method yielded fresh data suggests that there is plenty of undiscovered country, particularly in the Latin fathers.” Of course the event claimed to represent the perfect affects which time period is relevant. I would guess there are many many events and stories in various low circulation publications from every era. The problem is none are definitive.

More generally, why would we see this rising in the enlightenment era? Why would it spike again, and in more extreme form, in the mid-1800’s?

No Surprise in The Current Culture

It is not coincidence that some in the church move their theology in the same direction that secular philosophy moves. Any such parallelism should always provide an immediate reason for suspicion. For example, consider the pulpit acceptance of premarital and homosexual activities compared to what the Bible says about them, and the rarity of hearing the topic covered simply by a rigorous but loving Biblical exposition.

Any view that eluded wise Christians for a millennium, is sometimes based on new interpretation of a single passage, and exactly matches the changing philosophy of the times.. can almost be predicted. We should be surprised if someone didn’t come up with a method for trying to infect Christianity with as much scientific materialism as possible. (Ironically the quintessence of anti-scientific thought). One good way to do this is to put the Holy Spirit’s direct action in the minds of the people of God behind many layers of causality and thousands of years. This is as close as one can get to eliminating His direct guiding without becoming an atheist, and direct guidance is what physicalism explicitly denies. If God is real (or “real”) but can only act through positive attitudes and changing minds, or else 2,000 years ago, then that makes Christianity much closer to the thinking of the current age, which is everywhere strangled by the internally inconsistent philosophy of monist physicalism. No one should be surprised.

The main locus of surprise might be how difficult the Bible has made it for them. As obvious as it is, I was struck by the conscious realization that the Bible, by definition, cannot give examples of post-Biblical prophecy with which to refute. So it is a bit surprising that there really is nothing in there that can be used to say or imply God’s interventions will end.

No Surprise in The Current Church

This is not entirely unrelated as the trend in the church comes directly from the cultural one just mentioned. As I wrote before, “I see Cessationism as too compatible with the growing, very subtle view of one’s faith as tribal affiliation, or a philosophy of life, of spirits and demons and God as anthropomorphisms of fears on the one hand, and healthy behaviors and wisdom on the other. Angels and spirits and demons and the devil are all quite real. God is real. This bizarre view that He backed off so dramatically and no one noticed for so long can be viewed as being most of the way to deism.” At a minimum it is no coincidence that it grows as philosophical monist materialism does: “It looks like the view that it refers to the canon came about in the 19th century through the writing of Robert Govett, 1813–1901” per a related se response

The Christian worldview is grounded in truth and authentically knowing the existence, and to some degree personality, of the one powerful God. Any Cessationist should meditate on whether he or she believes Christianity to be a true and literal description of reality. If not, the solution is to deny Christianity, not Continuitionism.

I also have been surprised at the power of repetition. Individuals constantly show up who just say “The Perfect” means that’s all over. With no concept of what [they’re claiming]as outlined in the response I already linked above. Shrogren claims 1 Cor 13 is becoming one of the most references passages: “Overall, my searches, cross-matched and double-checked, yielded hundreds of quotations and allusions to all or part of 1 Cor. 13.8-12”.

All three are hallmarks of motivated reasoning sweeping communities: a broad conclusion rooted in a single, simple idea, specific thinking spawned from the more general flavor of the times, and simple repetition of a trite point that supposedly speaks to a larger, more complex discussion, almost like a sale’s pitch.

Closed Canon

The concept of the Christian “Canon” should not be part of this discussion at all.

The argument here can be summarized as: “Even though no one is claiming any of their prophecy is canonical, we believe that they really believe it is canonical. And even though both the old and new Testaments contain dozens if not scores of descriptions of non-canonical prophecy, we believe all prophecy is canonical. And even though all parties to this debate acknowledge there has been no addition to the canon since the first century, and even though it is nowhere written that the canon is closed anyway, we believe that it is closed and this is about canon. So if you add up these beliefs: prophecy cannot be happening.”

Everyone involved claims either

  1. The prophecy happening is not canoncial
  2. Prophecy can’t be happening because those whom recieve it claim it’s canonical.

The holders of 2 should reread 1.

I know I’m being supercilious in this section, but I simply cannot understand the insistence that canon has anything to do with the casting out of unclean spirits, speaking in tongues, prophecy, or personally hearing the Rhema of the Almighty. (Or how Christianity is all that different from positive psychology without them).

Mention of Canon should be limited to the claim that the perfect meant the time when it was closed, not that prophecy is related to it staying closed.

1 Samuel 19:20 King James Bible

And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.

Numbers 11:26 KJV

But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.

1 Peter 1:10-12 KJV

10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:

Continuationism

As mentioned, “Does a loving God never speak directly to any with any detail at all, never let His saints cast out unclean spirits, never speak through anyone directly? Does He only act through our personalities as a vague positive influence? And why the retreat? Unbiblical per the above. Counter to all church fathers. And a serious nod to making one’s faith an intellectual exercise (Careful please: That sentence didn’t say it makes one’s faith an intellectual exercise; that said it’s a serious nod toward such.) But most of all, cessation of all supernatural gifts is directly, experientially untrue by some very wise, solid, good, Godly men now and through the ages.” Just one example: There are several ways that I am very pro- and very anti-Derek Prince, but I have never questioned his basic integrity. Heck, even if I had on some occasions, the utter sincerity, vulnerability, and disarmed honesty of this life-transforming account would still be hard to deny. (Video should start at 31:30 automatically. The prior encounter starting at 22:30 is not a supernatural fruit but is just as compelling).

It should be obvious how clear I think issue is, but also how important I believe the topic is.

The patently obvious: +That some people do indeed here from God. +That casting out unclean spirits was central to the example of Christ, central to His instruction to His disciples, and is part of the practice of Christianity. +That despite many faking to fit in, speaking with tongues is also a very real experience described in the Bible.

The final support comes from another controversial topic.

Mark 16

14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Does this mean every believer will do these things? No. But some will.

Right on time a litany of disingenuous “scholarship” has been circling claiming these verses are not part of the Bible. We live in an age of atheistic, materialistic lies, inside and outside of the church, especially in the academy. It’s always interesting to watch someone find out how misleading their professors can be, even about things like the ending of Mark. (Video five minutes). Full unassailable version is here

The Deity ruling His universe found the perfect way to sort us: belief in, acceptance/rejection of, His Son. While that once seemed like a crazy fairytale to me, the wisdom of that Divine simplicity becomes more profound to me all the time. He has not abandoned His creation, and certainly not His adopted children. If He can bother to come in the flesh, He can bother to help a saint cast out an unclean spirit in his name. He can bother to tell a few people some important things. More and more I think many of those who don’t think so, don’t really believe in This at all. I don’t say that about every one. I know there are very sincere exceptions out there, but the core motivation behind the movement is the same as the one attempting to make the entire West become atheist.

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This is the same that as the Lord says, whoever comes to Him, will never thirst (John 4:14) and streams of the living water will flow from such a one's heart endlessly (John 7:37-39), that is to say, Holy Spirit will always flow and overflow such a person, providing him a perspective of endless growth.

Now, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are equal (cf. John 14:16) which means, that They know Each-Other equally and infinitely, with no intrusion of any process/time, as Both know also the Father (cf. John 10:15; 1 Cor. 2:10). Thus, there is no process/time in mutual reciprocal eternal infinite knowledge of the Persons of the Trinity.

Now, when Paul says that we shall know Christ as are known by Him, it is ontologically impossible that the apostle means that we shall immediately and without process know the Lord, for this will amount to a claim that we shall possess the full divine knowledge that pertains only to the Persons of the Trinity. This excluded, that expression can only mean that having given us His Spirit, Whom He possesses infinitely and without process (John 3:34), He does not grudge from us to grow infinitely in His cognition, hiding nothing from us, giving us as much as we are able to contain, because we possess and participate in Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22) Who knows all of Him, of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, in Descartian terms, God, the Trinity, is "actual infinity", whereas He made us, His creatures "processually infinite" or "infinite in process", not in immediate eternal actuality like Himself.

But this growth in infinity of divine cognition, heralded by the absolutely new, unheard before and the greatest commandment of the Lord (Matthew 5:48) starts already in this life, and was made possible only by the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Lord, through which Holy Spirit was possible to be given to us with the fullness of the Pentecost. And this, that is to say, the opening of the road towards divine perfection, that is also metaphorized by the expression “seeing Lord face-to-face” and “knowing Him as we are known by Him”, is far more, incomparably and unimaginably far more important than any prophesy or any miracle, being itself the consummation of all prophesies and the greatest miracle, expressed in that the men, now can be deified through participation in Spirit and grow infinitely in knowledge of God.

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