We are examining the question of whether the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased to function in the church today. This series is in response to Joel McDurmon, of American Vision, who recently claimed that 1 Corinthians 13– indeed the Bible– does not teach that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were to cease at an objective point of time. In fact, McDurmon claims that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were not focused on the corporate body, but on the individual believers. He claims that what Corinthians teaches is that when individual, gifted believers reach a point of personal spiritual maturity, that the gifts of the Holy Spirit cease in their life, but not in the life of the corporate body of the church. In previous articles we have demonstrated the fallacy of McDurmon’s claims, showing that both Old Testament and New Testament prophecies did in fact speak of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as corporately focused, and that those prophecies speak of the objective cessation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit at a given point of time: The Day of the Lord in AD 70. Be sure to begin reading this series with article #1 here.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Hope of Israel
In our previous article, we pointed out something that McDurmon, indeed most commentators, ignore in discussions of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and 1 Corinthians 13, and that is that no matter what our concept of the chapter might be, the arrival of “that which is perfect” was to be the fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel! See my book, We Shall Meet Him In The Air, The Wedding of the King of kings, for a full discussion and vindication of this claim.
One might be prompted to ask: what does the prophecy of the redemption of Zion have to do with 1 Corinthians 13? A very legitimate question and one that we will discuss in the next installment.
The answer is to be found in several facts.
In Corinthians Paul deals extensively with the issue of Jew and Gentile relationships. He has to appeal to them to live together in the one body of Christ. The issue of eating meats sacrificed to idols is a major issue. He is attempting to get the Corinthians to understand the work of Christ– the unity of the faith.
Included in all of this is the reality that God was finishing His work with Old Covenant Israel, and this is an essential element. Prophetically, Gentile salvation would only be accomplished when God restored Israel (Isaiah 49:6f). Thus, the Gentiles could not boast against Israel, as was occurring in the churches (Romans 11) but, realize that salvation was “to the Jew first, and then to the Greek.” For Paul, the New Creation that had broken into the Old World, and that was moving toward maturity and manifestation, had to be seen by the Gentiles as the perfection of their own faith, not extraneous to it, not to be accomplished without it.
Thus, while many commentators, especially Amillennial and Postmillennialists, either fail to see this, or ignore it, it is critical to understanding Paul’s entire theology / eschatology.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Israel – The Failure of the Commentators
Noted Amillennialist Kim Riddlebarger for instance sees no relationship between NT eschatology– or theology– and God’s OT promises made to Israel: “Because of Jesus Christ and his coming, the Christian possesses the complete fulfillment and blessings of all the promises of the messianic age made under the old covenant. But, the arrival of the messianic age also brought with it a new series of promises to be fulfilled at the end of the age. The fulfilled promises pointed to a more glorious and future fulfillment. This is called the ‘not yet’ or future eschatology. It is this already/not yet tension which serves as the basis for understanding much of the New Testament eschatological expectation.” (Amillennialism, Grand Rapids, Baker, 2003)61).
Influential Postmillennialist Lorraine Boettner said: “For information concerning the first coming of Christ, we go to the Old Testament. He came exactly as predicted, and all those prophecies were fulfilled or were forfeited through disobedience. But for information concerning his Second Coming and what future developments will be, we go only to the New Testament.” (Four Views of the Millennium, Downers Grove, InterVarsity,1977)102).
And while it is a somewhat modified version of the above, in our formal debate– see below– McDurmon tried to divorce the Abrahamic resurrection promise from the resurrection promises made to Israel. He rejected the idea that Israel and her promises were fundamentally important in discussions of the “final” resurrection.
This dichotomization of the promises made to Israel, from the eschatological consummation is of paramount importance. It results, invariably, in a confused, skewed and un-Biblical eschatology.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit- Israel– The Hope of the Gentiles
As N. T. Wright says, “The fate of the nations was inexorably and irreversibly bound up that of Israel…This point is of utmost importance for the proper understanding both of first century Judaism and of emerging Christianity. What happens to the Gentiles is conditioned upon, and conditioned by, what happens to Israel… Not to see this connection is to fail to understand the meaning of Israel’s fundamental doctrines of monotheism and election.” (N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Grand Rapids, Fortress, 1996)308).
Our point and application therefore, is that the arrival of “that which is perfect” would herald the perfection of God’s work with Israel, and consequently, the realization that God had now created the promised “new thing” (cf. Isaiah 43). Those revelatory gifts of the Holy Spirit, including the tongues, were signs of the impending end of the Old Covenant world, i.e. they were signs of the impending removal of the chief enemy of the body of Christ, and the resultant “manifestation of the sons of God.” See my book Into All the World, Then Comes The End, for a fuller discussion of this connection.
As signs of the end of the Old Covenant world, those gifts of the Holy Spirit were, therefore, by the very nature of the case, signs of the impending arrival of “that which is perfect” the “perfect man”, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ– the New Creation. This is (part of) the reason why the Gentiles in Corinth, in Macedonia, in Asia, etc. were anticipating the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. The failure to see this, as Wright suggests, is a tragedy of huge proportions.
And yet, this connection is precisely what McDurmon and most Dominionists fail to honor. When one divorces Paul’s theology / eschatology from Israel and her promises, the result is a theology that is totally foreign to Paul and the rest of the NT writers. This cannot be over-emphasized.
Again, see my book, We Shall Meet Him In The Air, the Wedding of the King of kings, for an extensive documentation of the fact that virtually every NT writer says that their eschatological and soteriological hope was based on God’s OT promises made to Israel, and that those promises were about to be fulfilled imminently.
All of this means that however we wish to define “that which is perfect” and the time of the cessation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we must find a way to correlate it with God’s OT promises made to Israel. And this is something McDurmon utterly failed–and refuses– to do. To see how McDurmon seeks to divorce eschatology from Israel and her promises, get a copy of my formal public debate with him, held in Ardmore, Ok. in July of 2012. In that debate, McDurmon emphatically (and desperately) tried to divorce the prophecies of the “final resurrection” from the promises to Israel, and to say that the real promise of resurrection was to Abraham. Of course, as I pointed out (and your really must read the debate to catch the full force of the argument) was that Paul said he preached nothing but the hope of Israel. Thus, for McDurmon to say that resurrection belonged to Abraham, not Israel, is prima facie false. Order your copy of that debate today!