Knowledgebase: Bible Questions
Perfection Before Christs Coming
Posted on 25 March 2020 01:34 PM

Can a person be perfect prior to Christ's coming? What does being perfect entail? What does Spirit of Prophecy say on this topic?

We are living in momentous prophetic times and we as Adventists should “press together” and stand united to bring the last warning messages to a world that is confused and dying in fear, not knowing that they have a compassionate Savior who died to save them from their sins and who is longing to take his children home. Terrible times lie before us and now is not the time to “tell others all the whys and wherefores as to what constitutes the new heart, or as to the position they can and must reach so as never to sin. You have no such work to do.” 1NL 109.6

 

It often seems that there are conflicting statements in the writings of EGW, some statements say we should reach Christian perfection, others say that we may never say we are without sin. But if we read her words carefully, we will see that there is a marked distinction between “perfection” and “sinlessness”. 

 

It is very clear in Mrs. White’s writings that she defines reaching perfection as a constant striving to overcome sin from within, and evil from without:

 

We must strive daily against outward evil and inward sin, if we would reach the perfection of Christian character.The Review and Herald, May 30, 1882. 3SM 148.3

 

With the spirit of Christ, the model character, before us, we must ever strive for perfection. Every soul has a character to form for everlasting life. The Christian's life is a constant warfare against the slavery of passion. 21MR 169.4

 

We must be perfect Christiansdeny ourselves all the way along, tread the narrow, thorny pathway that our Jesus trod, and then if we are final overcomers, heaven, sweet heaven will be cheap enough.—Letter 5, 1851.

 

It is he who endureth to the end that shall be saved. It is they who patiently continue in well-doing that shall have eternal life and the immortal reward. – {FLB 359.5}

 

None need fail of attaining, in his sphere, to perfection of Christian character. By the sacrifice of Christ, provision has been made for the believer to receive all things that pertain to life and godliness. God calls upon us to reach the standard of perfection and places before us the example of Christ's character. In His humanity, perfected by a life of constant resistance of evil, the Saviour showed that through co-operation with Divinity, human beings may in this life attain to perfection of character. AA 531.2

 

 

But even if we are perfected through constant striving, we will “never attain to His exalted character”:

 

He conquered Satan in the long fast of the wilderness, and when he came to him as an angel of light, offering the dominion of the world in exchange for his worship; he made sacrifices that will never be required of man, as man can never attain to his exalted character. 3SP 77.2

 

 

Does Mrs. White say that we can reach a state on this earth where we will not be able to sin? No. This is where you misinterpret Walter Veith’s statement where he said that we will still have the ability and freedom of choice to sin in heaven, just as Adam had before the fall. Adam exercised his freedom of choice and he did fall. In the same way Jesus took our nature upon Himself, He had freedom of choice, He could have fallen, but, “perfected by a life of constant resistance of evil”He did not fall. We are not, and will not in heaven be, ‘preserved’ Christians, but sin will have become so abhorrent to us that we will never want to see it raise its ugly head again for all eternity.

 

Regarding Spirit of Prophecy statements on ‘sinlessness’, or ‘holiness’, she states that we should never say that we are sinless. When she uses the word ‘sinless’, it pertains to Jesus, the angels, unfallen worlds, heaven and the state of Adam before the fall.

 

God could have proclaimed His truth through sinless angels, but this is not His plan. He chooses human beings, men compassed with infirmity, as instruments in the working out of His designs…The Son of God stooped to uplift the fallen. For this He left the sinless worlds on high, the ninety and nine that loved Him, and came to this earth to be “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities.” Isaiah 53:5. 

AA 472.1

 

He, the Sinless One, was treated as we deserve, that we, fallen and sinful, might be treated as He deserved. CT 267.4

 

He is a brother in our infirmities, “in all points tempted like as we are;” but as the sinless one His nature recoiled from evil; He endured struggles and torture of soul in a world of sin. Steps to Christ, 93, 94. CSA 26.5

 

But at each stage of His development He was perfect, with the simple, natural grace of a sinless life. The Sacred Record says of His childhood, “The child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” 3Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 140, 141. CG 204.4

 

Satan was determined to succeed in his temptation of the sinless Adam and Eve. And he could reach even this holy pair more successfully through the medium of appetite than in any other way. Con 15.4

 

 

Does Mrs. White say that we can ever reach a time when we will be sinless on this earth? The answer again is no.

 

Some of them have even reached the almost hopeless position that they cannot sin. These, of course, have no further use for the Lord's Prayer, which teaches us to pray that our sins may be forgiven, and but very little use for the Bible, as they profess to be led by the Spirit.... FH 47.3

What a terrible deception! They think they are complete in Christ, and know not that they are wretched, blind, miserable, poor, and naked.... FH 47.4

 

God declares, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). All have the same sinful nature. All are liable to make mistakes. No one is perfect. The Lord Jesus died for the erring that they might be forgiven. It is not our work to condemn. Christ did not come to condemn, but to save.21Manuscript 31, 1911. HP 292.5

 

But we shall not boast of our holiness. As we have clearer views of Christ's spotlessness and infinite purity, we shall feel as did Daniel, when he beheld the glory of the Lord, and said, “My comeliness was turned in me into corruption.” 3SM 355.3

 

So long as Satan reigns, we shall have self to subdue, besetting sins to overcome; so long as life shall last, there will be no stopping place, no point which we can reach and say, I have fully attained. Sanctification is the result of lifelong obedience.—The Acts of the Apostles, 560, 561 (1911). LDE 267.3

 

We may create an unreal world in our own mind or picture an ideal church, where the temptations of Satan no longer prompt to evil; but perfection exists only in our imagination.—The Review and Herald, August 8, 1893. LDE 268.2

 

We cannot say, “I am sinless,” till this vile body is changed and fashioned like unto His glorious body. But if we constantly seek to follow Jesus, the blessed hope is ours of standing before the throne of God without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; complete in Christ, robed in His righteousness and perfection.—The Signs of the Times, March 23, 1888. 3SM 355.4

 

When human beings receive holy flesh, they will not remain on the earth, but will be taken to heaven. While sin is forgiven in this life, its results are not now wholly removed. Selected Messages 2:33 (1901). LDE 268.3

 

None of the apostles and prophets ever claimed to be without sin. Men who have lived the nearest to God, men who would sacrifice life itself rather than knowingly commit a wrong act, men whom God has honored with divine light and power, have confessed the sinfulness of their nature. They have put no confidence in the flesh, have claimed no righteousness of their own, but have trusted wholly in the righteousness of Christ. AA 561.1

 

The nearer we come to Jesus, and the more clearly we discern the purity of His character, the more clearly shall we see the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the less shall we feel like exalting ourselves. There will be a continual reaching out of the soul after God, a continual, earnest, heartbreaking confession of sin and humbling of the heart before Him. AA 561.2

 

 

God has left us enough examples in the Bible of His chosen people struggling against their fallen natures, and even until shortly before their death, they still fell into sin, as did Moses. This is the reason Satan “disputed about the body of Moses”. (Jude 1:9) God in His wisdom “faithfully recorded” these events so that we can learn from their mistakes, while at the same time we do not lose hope and courage in our struggle against sin and self.

 

The pen of inspiration, true to its task, tells us of the sins that overcame Noah, Lot, Moses, Abraham, David, and Solomon, and that even Elijah's strong spirit sank under temptation during his fearful trial. Jonah's disobedience and Israel's idolatry are faithfully recorded. Peter's denial of Christ, the sharp contention of Paul and Barnabas, the failings and infirmities of the prophets and apostles, are all laid bare by the Holy Ghost, who lifts the veil from the human heart. There before us lie the lives of the believers, with all their faults and follies, which are intended as a lesson to all the generations following them. If they had been without foible they would have been more than human, and our sinful natures would despair of ever reaching such a point of excellence. But seeing where they struggled and fell, where they took heart again and conquered through the grace of God, we are encouraged, and led to press over the obstacles that degenerate nature places in our way. 4T 12.1

This is a vast topic and justice cannot be done in a few pages but if we can take the following with us, we can have hope that Jesus will work in us and prepare our characters for not only an imminent ‘time of trouble such as never was’, but for eternity.

 

All are lost through Adam. Our only hope is a transformation of character through repentance and faith in Christ as our personal Saviour. YI August 27, 1896, par. 9



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