Posts tagged ‘“gospel age”’

December 20, 2014

The End of the Last Days of the Former Ages

NounEnd [​end]
-the point in time at which something ends;
-the concluding parts of an event or occurrence​;
​-the state of affairs that a plan is intended to achieve and that (when achieved) terminates
 behavior intended to achieve it​
 
In Acts 2:17ff the apostle Peter declares the fulfilment of what was uttered by the prophet Joel​: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares…”. The events foretold happened in those “last days.” The spectacular fire baptism by the Holy Spirit, daughters prophesying, etc. along with all the cosmic judgment language depicting the then at hand destruction of old covenant Israel all happened then, and is now over and done with. Your daughters are not prophesying any more, for example. As those last days ended and are in our past, I believe that we are not now still living in the last days.
 
Amillennialists such as James White maintain a concept of “this age, and the age to come”, that this age we are living in now is a continuation of the “last days” spoken of by the apostles, and the age to come is the hereafter, i.e. final glory. Surprisingly, postmillennialist Ken Gentry agrees that the last days, which began in the first century, continue through now and on into the future, which understanding requires that the “last days” have now lasted for approximately 2 millennia, so far. One wonders if Dr. Gentry, who anticipates a long period of Christian prosperity before the second coming, assumes that the “last days” will be in effect all that time until then. That there will be a triumph of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ manifesting in time and history should be the Christian’s faithful hope, according to His word; but it is a result of His first coming which ended the last days of the old covenant. “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13).  
 
The patriarchal age was from Adam to Moses, the old covenant age was until Christ. Christ brought in the new creation, such that Dr. White’s “this age” was actually the old covenant age, which was passing away when the New Testament was written; and his “age to come” is actually the here & now of the new covenant, the Messianic reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, the millennium of Revelation 20, the new Jerusalem, the new heaven & earth (in an already/not yet sense). Final glory is not an age in time & history, rather it comes after the end of the ages for us. The end of the ages for the New Testament writers was then.

​The Greek word aion is commonly translated as world, as in Hebrews 11:3 which the NKJV renders: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” The Greek word there translated as worlds is aionas (plural of aion). This passage describes our faith in the providence of God in the works of creation. However aion can also mean “age”, and application of the wrong connotation can be the cause of considerable misunderstanding.

The apostle Paul, in referring to the old covenant, wrote “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). While Jesus’ first advent marked the beginning of the new covenant age, the old covenant age was finally swept away in AD 70. There was a transitional period of about 40 years (a generation) from AD 30 to AD 70 in which the two ages co-existed. Those were the “last days”. It was towards the end of this period when the apostle Peter wrote “The end of all things is at hand…” (1 Peter 4:7).
 
The writer of Hebrews confirmed this in contrasting the types & shadows of the old covenant with redemption through the blood of Christ: “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer Himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then He would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:24-26).
 
​Jesus Himself mentioned the ages when he said “And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:32). Surely the age He distinguished as “this age” had to be the age of the law, under which He was born and was ministering; while the “age to come” was a reference to the gospel age which He came to bring in. The “age to come” as a reference to the final state makes no sense because at that point everyone’s state is fixed and it is too late for repentance and forgiveness for any sin.
 
Here’s Matthew Henry’s commentary on the unpardonable sin passage: What the sentence is that is passed upon it; It shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. As in the then present state of the Jewish church, there was no sacrifice of expiation for the soul that sinned presumptuously; so neither under the dispensation of gospel grace, which is often in scripture called the world to come, shall there be any pardon to such as tread underfoot the blood of the covenant, and do despite to the Spirit of grace: there is no cure for a sin so directly against the remedy. 

Even so, in Luke 20:34-36 Jesus says “The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage. But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage. Neither can they die any more, for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” The KJV properly renders aion as “world” in each instance where it appears in this passage, which is obviously preferred over “age” as in modern translations (see NKJV).

We must let context determine the correct connotation of words for sound interpretation of God’s infallible word. The sooner Christians embrace by faith that we are living under the better blessings of the new covenant age as distinct from the last days of the old covenant, which have ended, the sooner we will put off the expectation of defeat; and, walking by faith and not by sight, will trust, obey, pray, think and act accordingly towards advancing the kingdom of our reigning King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, towards that end. Amen.

[See Overview and Pilgrimage tabs above for graphical representations of the two-age model, with commentary beneath each]