Can a Christian Become Perfect Before Heaven?
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Can a Christian Become Perfect Before Heaven?

The Hero We All Need

An overused trope in books and movies is that of the Chosen One: that singular individual the world waits for, the one who alone can conquer all that’s evil and finally bring back peace and happiness to humanity. Think Star Wars, Harry Potter, or the Matrix. It’s a captivating theme because it speaks to the fact that we all desperately want a hero in life. But did you know that this concept didn’t originate in the realm of fantasy or fiction, but in that of holy Scripture?

The New Testament begins with people searching and longing for the Messiah, a Hebrew word that means “anointed one.” In the Old Testament there were many messiahs, or people who were anointed with oil as a symbol that they were endowed by God to perform specific functions for Israel. In fact, there were three offices, or roles, specifically that came with an anointing: the prophets, the priests, and the kings. These were all men chosen by God to lead and love His people in important ways.

And yet the hope of true believers was for one singular Messiah to come, who would embody in himself the essential work of a prophet, priest, and a king. They were awaiting one who would be anointed to rescue and rule them. Or, in the words of one Samaritan, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things” (John 4:25). This Messiah would have all the answers; thus, he was all their hope.

Enter Jesus. At the start of his public ministry he’s anointed by God himself–not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit from heaven (Matt. 3:16)–as a sign that he is indeed the Chosen One. The disciple Andrew was spot-on to remark, “We have found the Messiah!” (John 1:41). This would have meant everything to those longing Hebrew saints. But what does it mean to you and me? What does it mean that Christ has been chosen by God to be our prophet, priest, and king?

As prophet, Jesus speaks to us.

When God first gave his law to Israel in the Ten Commandments, his voice came like terrifying thunder out of the fire and smoke of Mt. Sinai. As sinners, Israel couldn’t handle the words from a holy God. What they needed instead was a prophet. So they turned to Moses: “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die” (Ex 20:19). In Moses, God’s law came in a language they could understand, so to speak. As a fellow Israelite, Moses could mediate God’s law with accessibility and relatability.

In a far more meaningful way, Jesus the prophet speaks God’s word to us today. He doesn’t bring God’s word down from Mt. Sinai; he is God’s Word come down from heaven. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us … full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Talk about accessible and relatable! In Christ, we find God’s word to be full of grace and truth. He is filled with truth in that everything God has ever needed us to know or be is taught in Christ. But he is filled with grace in that everything God has ever demanded us to do is fulfilled perfectly by him. Through the prophetic word of Jesus, we hear the good news of a salvation that isn’t earned, but offered.

As priest, Jesus mediates for us.

If a prophet’s primary job is to speak on behalf of God to the people, the priest was primarily meant to bring the needs of the people before God. This Christ does primarily in his death and ascension. In death, Jesus offered himself as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. The priests of old were continually covered in blood, as they repeatedly slaughtered bulls and rams to appease the wrath of God against the people’s transgressions. But animal blood can’t pay for human sin (Heb. 10:4). So Jesus, in his flesh, offers up the final sacrifice. At the cross we find a priest who doesn’t bring a lamb, but a priest who is the Lamb.

But his work as Priest has not ended. It continues even now in glory, where he perpetually pleads the merits of his sacrifice before the Father. Jesus is in heaven right now doing what priests do best: speaking to God on our behalf. He is bringing our needs, our cares, our troubles, and most especially our sins, before God and pleading that the Father would treat us favorably for the sake of his sacrifice. He prays as priest now so that we would have the confidence to pray, too: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God … let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14,16).

As king, Jesus rescues us.

Finally, Jesus is our King. One historic church teaching explains it this way: “Christ executes the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies” (Westminster Shorter Catechism 26). He is the rescuer and the ruler that the world has been longing for. As King, he first conquers the sin in our hearts. And in doing so we’re given the assurance he will soon conquer the sin in the world.

We all need a hero. We need that individual who alone can rescue us from evil and usher happiness back into the world. The disciples rejoiced when they found Jesus, because they had found the Messiah, the chosen one. Have you found him, too?

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Jonathan Landry Cruse

Jonathan Landry Cruse pastors Community Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Kalamazoo, MI, where he lives with his wife and children. He is the author of The Christian's True Identity, What Happens When We Worship, and the new worship collection , and the new worship collection Hymns of Devotion.