At the second coming of Jesus, God’s saving purposes in Christ will be brought to completion, and at that point, the gifts and the means now necessary for building up the church and carrying out its mission will disappear, because the “complete” will have come.
As the great theologian Karl Barth once put it, “Because the sun rises, all [other] lights are extinguished.”
When the sun rises, we no longer have need of candles and flashlights and light bulbs.
There is only one light that will continue to shine into eternity, and that is the light of the agape love of Jesus, which we will share together forever with God and with one another in the new heavens and the new earth.
So love, as Bible scholar N.T. Wright puts it, is not just our duty. It’s our destiny. He says that love is like a river that flows from the world we live in now, into the future world—the world that will be when Jesus returns again. “We are invited to step into that river [of the agape love of Jesus] here and now, and let it take us where it’s going.”
Paul wants to motivate the Corinthians, and us, to learn to live in the present in a way that is consistent with God’s eternal future. And that way is the way of love, because only love lasts forever.