The Perfect Tense

The perfect tense is a tense that we do not hear much about, but it is very important to our understanding and interpretation of the Bible. In short, the perfect tense denotes an action that has been completed in the past, but has present consequences.

A very important passage in Scripture that has often been misinterpreted with regard to the perfect tense is Matthew 18:18. The Roman Catholics primarily use it to declare their infallibility regarding church authority in the matter of excommunication and in deciding who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Matthew 18:18 says, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Since the perfect is used here, it means essentially that “whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall have already been bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall have already been loosed in heaven.” Since God has preordained all things from before the foundation of the world, all the church is doing is already affirming what God has decreed in eternity. This says nothing about the power of the church in deciding who is saved. It says that the true church, when it exercises its authority, will be doing what God has already decreed.

Another important passage that deals with the perfect tense is John 19:30, “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” The word “finished” is in the perfect, so it has present consequences for us. Since Christ has finished the work on the cross we now have a free salvation. What a wonderful comfort this is for us! Christ has finished His work on the cross and we have received the present benefit that we are saved.

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