This started out as a comment on Apollos’ excellent post on “Was Adam Perfect?” but kept growing until it got too long. Besides, I wanted to add a picture, so here we are.
It is interesting that even in English the term “perfect” can mean “complete”. We refer to the perfect tense of a verb to indicate an action which has been completed.
“I study the Bible” [present tense] as compared with “I have studied the Bible” [present perfect tense]. The first indicates an ongoing action; the second, one that has been completed.
I concur with Apollos that to always equate “sinless” with the term “perfect” is to miss the meaning of the word in Hebrew; and as we’ve seen, even in English. “Tamiym” is a word which like most can be used in a variety of ways to convey a variety of meanings in both absolute and relative senses. I also agree with Apollos that the term itself is not relative. It is a binary term. Something is either complete or incomplete. However, the application of the term is relative. For instance, if God’s purpose were to create a man without sin and nothing more, then Adam could have been described as perfect upon his creation. In fact, man—male and female—was not perfect until Eve was created.
(Genesis 2:18) 18 And Jehovah God went on to say: “It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.”
A “complement” is defined as:
a. Something that completes, makes up a whole, or brings to perfection.
b. The quantity or number needed to make up a whole.
c. Either of two parts that complete the whole or mutually complete each other.
It would seem that the third definition is most fitting to describe what was accomplished by bringing the first woman to the man. Admittedly, the completeness or perfection that was achieved by the two becoming one flesh is of a different sort than that which is under discussion, but I use it to illustrate the point that the term is relative based on its usage or application.
Here is a link that lists all the occurrences of the Hebrew word “tamiym” as it is rendered in the King James version.
Scanning through these it becomes clear that as with most words, it can mean a number of things depending on the context and usage. The KJV renders it “without blemish” 44 times, for instance. It would appear that it is in this context that the word is used that Ezekiel 28:15 with regard to the angel that became Satan.
“Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” (Ezekiel 28:15 KJV)
The NWT renders this “faultless”. Obviously, the Bible wasn’t referring to the perfection possessed by the angel who walked in the Garden of Eden as complete in the sense of being tested, proven, and irrevocable. What is complete can be made incomplete generally speaking, unless there is a mechanism by which the perfection or completeness can be locked down as Apollos described. Nevertheless, then we would be talking about a different type or application of the word. Essentially, a different type of completeness. Again, as with most words it has overloaded meanings.
The Word of God revealed at John 1:1 and the anointed cherub of Ezekiel 28:12-19 were both at one point perfect in all their ways. However, they were not perfect or complete in the sense that Apollos is expounding upon. I concur on that. Therefore, Satan was perfect, without flaw, for the new task set before him in the Garden of Eden. However, when he faced a test—apparently of his own origin—he became incomplete and no longer fit for the task.
The Word was also assigned to a new role for which he was perfectly suited. He faced tests and was made to suffer and unlike Satan came through victorious. (Hebrews 5:8) So he was made perfect or complete for yet another new task. It wasn’t that he was incomplete before. His role as the Word was one in which he performed flawlessly and perfectly. Nevertheless, he needed something more if he was to assume the role of messianic King and mediator of the new covenant. Having suffered, he was made complete for this new role. Therefore, he was given something he did not possess before: immortality and a name above all the Angels. (1 Timothy 6:16; Philippians 2:9, 10)
It would seem that the type of perfection which Apollos speaks of, and which we all desire, can only be achieved via the crucible. It is only by means of a time of testing that sinless creatures can become hardwired for bad or good. So it was with the perfect anointed cherub and the perfect Word of God. Both underwent tests—one failed; one passed. It seems that even in an imperfect state it is possible for this hardwiring to take place, for anointed Christians though sinners are granted immortality upon death.
It would seem that the only reason for the final test after the thousand years have ended is to achieve this type of perfection. If I may offer an alternate illustration to Apollos “nut and bolt”, I have always thought of it as an old-fashioned double-throw knife switch. Here’s a picture.
As depicted, the switch is in the neutral position. It has the potential to make contact with either the north or the south pole of the switch. This switch, as I envision it, is unique in that once thrown, the current surging through the contacts will weld them shut for good. In other words, it becomes hardwired. I see free will like this. Jehovah doesn’t close the switch for us, but hands it to us to await a time of testing, when we have to make a decision and throw the switch ourselves: for good or for evil. If for evil, then there is no redemption. If for good, then there is no worry of a change of heart. We are hardwired for good—no proverbial sword of Damocles.
I agree with Apollos that the perfection we should all be reaching for is not that of a sinless but untested Adam, but rather that of the tried and true resurrected Jesus Christ. Those who are resurrected to earth during the thousand year reign of Jesus will be brought to a state of sinlessness at which time Jesus will hand over the crown to his Father so that God can be all things to all men. (1 Cor. 15:28) After that time, Satan will be let loose and the testing will begin; switches will be thrown.