What is referred to as the “perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10?
The passage that you are referring to is as follows:
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 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. 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. (NASB) 1 Cor. 13:8-12
The context of the passage is that love will never fail, but other things will. With that as the background, we will now consider the three primary views about the meaning of the phrase “the perfect.” The perfect is introduced by the Holy Spirit to teach us that unlike love, prophecy and tongues will not continue into eternity. Therefore, our understanding of the perfect must keep this key thought in mind.
The first view states that the perfect refers to the completed canon of the Old and New Testaments. That is, the Bible is the “perfect.” But this view cannot be supported from any clear, plain passage in the New Testament. It also does not agree with the idea of seeing something face-to-face. A book cannot see us or know us, not even a sacred book.
The second view is that the perfect is the rapture. This view is also wrong since Joel 2:28 predicts the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will occur in the later days. In the New Testament, Acts 2:17 quotes Joel 2:28 and indicates that a partial fulfillment commenced at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came. Joel 2:28 indicates that prophecy occurs during the tribulation period (Joel 2-3). Therefore, the perfect cannot refer to the coming of Jesus at the tribulation or the tribulation period itself.
The third view is that the perfect refers to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the perfect man in every respect (Heb. 5:9; 7:28). Second, Jesus is coming again (John 14:3; Acts 1:3-6). Jesus promised that He would return. If we combine both truths, we discover that Jesus Christ is the perfect and He is coming back. Prophesying will be abolished at Jesus’ second coming or in the eternal state and, consequently, so will prophecy. The spiritual gift of knowledge will continue until Jesus returns. When He comes, prophecy and knowledge will be unnecessary.
The perfect is Jesus Christ. He is the Holy One.