8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
1 Corinthians 13:8 - 12
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.
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1 Corinthians 13:8-9 says, “Love never fails. But whether there are prophesies, 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 prophecy in part.” Love is eternal; however, all gifts of the Spirit will eventually pass away. The reason for this is given in verse 10, which states, “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” The “that which is perfect” can only be heaven, and then “that which is in part will be done away“ can only mean that the earthly gifts of tongues, prophecy, healing, and so forth, will no longer be needed in the Lord’s presence. We will be like Him, and we shall all know each other just as He knows us. We will no longer need those gifts when we are with Him because He is the fulfillment of all things in heaven and on earth. There will be no more pain, sickness or death; everything shall now be restored to the way it was created in the beginning...whole, complete, and “very good”! ✝️
The references to prophecies, tongues, and knowledge are about special verbal sign gifts. I Corinthians 13:8-12 is clear that they will come to an end. The question is when will they end, or have they already come to an end? Prophecies is the gift of edification and exhortation, I Corinthians 14:3, possibly accompanied with predictions. ‘Knowledge’ is likely ‘the word of knowledge,’ mentioned in I Corinthians 12:8. That along with ‘word of wisdom’ were special gifts of the Spirit, perhaps expounding new revelations or truths necessary for the growing church. Speaking in known languages by speakers not originally knowing the language, was called the gift of tongues. Some of the early church fathers wrote it was unknown to them. Chrysostom (347-407) admitted tongues was very obscure, that they were not happening in his day. It seems to have disappeared or faded away rather soon. I Corinthians 12:8-10 lists other gifts in the church. Some of them were done by the apostles as indicated in Acts 2:43, 5:12, and II Corinthians 12:12. These gifts apparently ended rather early, proven by information within the epistles of the New Testament. The early books specifically mention gifts: Galatians 3:5, I Thessalonians 5:20, I Corinthians 12-14, and Romans 12:6. Also, James 5:14, written early, mentions calling for the elders to pray over the sick one and anoint him with oil, which seems to indicate the gift of healing was still in effect. Later books, II Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians, Titus, I and II Timothy, do not mention any sign gifts. It must be noted that eventually, Paul or others no longer heal anyone, not even Paul’s sickly associates, Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-27), Timothy (I Timothy 5:23), and Trophimus (II Timothy 4:20). Something had changed. One of the earlier epistles was Galatians. In Galatians 3:5, Paul mentioned miracles happening then. But in a later epistle, Hebrews, miracles or supernatural signs that were performed by the apostles did not seem to be witnessed then, Hebrews 2:3, 4. Paul likened the sign gifts to childish things. They were immature things for the immature church, serving to confirm the Word of the Lord to early believers. But they could not last indefinitely. Then came the mature things, full knowledge as in teaching of deeper truths. That is reflected in the change from the common word for knowledge, ‘gnosis,’ to full knowledge ‘epignosis,’ seldom found in the early epistles but used more in the later epistles of Paul. The epistles seem to progress from elementary knowledge to levels of deeper and more mature knowledge. In I Corinthians 12:12, Paul used the illustration of a ‘glass’ which in his day was not as clear as mirrors of today. It gave one a dim, indistinct image as opposed to the clarity of seeing someone face to face. It is this difference that Paul had to be referring to, when speaking about the gifts failing or vanishing as more fully developed truth emerged. The sign gifts, having served their purpose, had already ceased.
Paul answers the “when” question in verse 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”. When we see Jesus face to face and know him fully there will be no need for spiritual gifts. This will happen when Jesus returns to rapture the church and we receive our glorified new bodies.
We are given the answer to this question in verses 9-10 of this passage: “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.” (1 Cor. 13:9) “When the perfect comes” is when these things shall cease. And what does that mean? When the one and only Perfect One, Jesus, returns. Read Revelation 21 and 22 to see how Jesus will “make all things new” when He returns. There are many opinions about the continuation of tongues, prophesies, signs, wonders, miracles and other such things among believers in the body of Christ. John 14:11-13 states that we will continue to do great works, just as Jesus did. Mark 16 lists many things that “those who believe” will do: “17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” Hebrews 13:8 says, “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” If that’s true—which it is, because ALL of God’s word is true—then I have a hard time understanding the opinion of those who believe signs and wonders have ceased, and also tongues. Personally, I have been speaking in tongues almost daily for almost 40 years. In addition, I’ve prayed for the sick and seen them healed, sometimes instantly. I’ve also prayed for miraculous answers to prayer that have come to pass more times than I can count. God is still—and always will be—in the business of using us as His chosen vessels to see the miraculous come about. That is, He will continue to do miracles until we don’t need miracles anymore because “The Perfect” has finally come, and then these things will cease.
Our knowledge and prophecy and tongues is all in part for now. Verse 10 states, “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” I believe that which is perfect is referring to Jesus Christ’s return. When He returns, all things will cease and the world will go into the tribulation period. Be blessed.
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