Lou: The question has come up in connection with Revelation 12, where it speaks about Michael and His angels. Someone wanted to know a bit more about Michael. Who was Michael?
Graham: It’s good to raise the question; because in the Apocrypha there are a number of suggestions as to who Michael might be. But in the Bible all the references to Michael the archangel point in one direction. For example, it says in Thessalonians that the dead will arise at the voice of the archangel (1 Thess 4:16), but the gospels say they will arise at the voice of the Son of Man (Christ—John 5:28). Jude 9, then, not only connects “the” archangel with Michael, it connects the archangel Michael with the resurrection of Moses. This combination of texts ties the archangel, Christ and Michael together as the same person.
But there is more to it than that. The name Michael means “who is like God,” or “the one who is like God.” And the name is only used of Christ in places like Daniel, Revelation and Jude, where the great controversy is involved. So when the leader of the loyal side is referred to, he is called “the one who is like God”: Michael. The leader on the other side would like to be like God, but is not (see 2 Thess 2:4 and Rev 13:4). So I like it that Jesus is called Michael when He is operating in the great controversy setting.
Lou: That’s an interesting play on words there. We now have two questions from different individuals about perfection. Let me read through them rather quickly. First. “You said that as trust in God grows, we behave more like God. That is, we move more toward being God-like or being perfect. Can we be perfect in this present world? If not, when can we expect to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect? If we can be perfect here, can we be recognized as being perfect, and will everyone have the same degree of perfection?” Let me add this one: “You mentioned that when we get to heaven we might possibly have a lot to learn. Does this mean that while we are sinless, or perfect, we can still make mistakes?” People want to know about perfection.
Graham: Fortunately we will deal with this at some length in chapter 14, “God Can Completely Heal the Damage Done.” Some may want to read ahead. I think these are important questions, because a misunderstanding of perfection is a heavy burden and puts God in a very bad light. Now I believe God can perfectly heal the damage done by sin. No question about it. And perfection also needs to be understood in terms of maturity and growing up. We will need to be so settled into the truth that we can survive the time of trouble. But as far as mistakes are concerned, a mistake is not a sin. In the hereafter, you could plant your pomegranate tree too close to where you are living, and the Lord may come by later and say “You know, you put it too close, didn’t you? You might as well move it.” That is not a sin. Sin is rebelliousness. Sin is distrust. Sin is not “making mistakes.”
Lou: But if God is waiting for us to grow up in Him, won’t He have to wait forever? Because there are always people being converted; is that why time goes on? When are we going to grow up?
Graham: It’s true that there will be conversions right along, and we might wonder how a child in the faith could grow up to this maturity that we talked about. If God is not going to allow the closing events to occur until He has a generation like Job, mature enough in the truth to pass through the time of trouble, He might be waiting a long time. But I think we have assumed it takes a very, very long time to grow up from rebirth to maturity. Yet when Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he suggested that they could have been grown up much sooner (Eph 4:11-16).
A few years later in Hebrews he said, “By now you should be teachers, but I see you are still babes in the truth” (Heb 5:12-13). I think that we should encourage people to believe they can grow up from rebirth to maturity much sooner; and it would be a much more exciting experience. You know, when we’re baptized, many of us think, “I’ve launched myself on sixty-five years of slow sanctification.” Instead, I’d like to think, “Why not grow up as quickly as possible and be settled into the truth?” But when we have an unreachable, forbidding conception of perfection, we think “Well, I’m not going to make it anyway.”
In my understanding, the biblical concept of perfection is when an individual is completely convinced of this truth about God. You don’t need to be sixty-five years old to be convinced, that could happen even at the age of twelve. If Satan came to a convinced twelve-year-old as an angel of light, or even as “Christ,” and said God is arbitrary, vengeful, unforgiving and severe; they would respond, “That’s not true and I will not believe it.” Perfection is being so settled in the truth about God that we cannot be moved. And it needn’t take a long time to happen. I think we have made the distance between the start and the finish line too great. Under the accelerating, energizing events of the close of time, God can produce a generation of grown-up Jobs of all ages in a short period of time.
Lou: It strikes me that when it comes to spiritual growth, we tend too easily to think of performance. But when you have the issues clearly in mind, growth is in terms of trust. And that could happen very quickly if you were willing to really examine the evidence.
One final question to conclude this chapter: “Was the thief’s trust developed only by the words and circumstances around the cross, or was it the culmination of years of searching and being prepared by the Holy Spirit?” What about the thief on the cross?
Graham: Oh, I like what that implies. We don’t know how much the thief knew about Christ, but he surely must have known some things about Him. Based on the rest of Scripture, you know the Holy Spirit was working on that man. Christ is the Light which enlightens everyone who comes into the world (John 1:9). But when the thief was hanging on the cross, he saw the most incredible evidence of what God is like. Though the man was cursing and swearing, the Holy Spirit was developing tenderness inside and a willingness to listen. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit his attention was pointed to the One in the middle, the one who said “Look after mother” and “Father forgive.” And that experience is what finally won him.
Lou: In the next chapter we’ll explore the Bible itself under the title, “Can the Evidence Be Trusted?”