God does things in terms of time, or eons or ages, and has a purpose or purposes for each age. Sometimes we know about these purposes, sometimes we don’t, but it is important to know what He chooses to reveal about what He is doing in a certain time period in order to be cooperating with His purposes and not interfering with them. It’s important to know what age we are living in so we can better understand what God is doing in, to and through us, and not be fighting against Him.
Einstein said time is what can be measured by using a clock. Okay, so I guess that clears that all up, right? God created time, uses it for His purposes, and has complete control over how it works, ends, and how it affects each of our lives and our world. The basic building block of time is an age, or eon. In scripture the term is rendered or translated “ever.” So where we find the term “everlasting,” we could also read it “age”-lasting. An age has a beginning, middle and an end, and generally reflects God’s purposes for that portion of time.
The terms eon, age and ever (lasting) all refer to a specific time period. So when we read “forever and ever,” it’s a time period and a time period, which is different from the idea of eternity or eternal, which refer to a characteristic of God’s nature. He is; He is the eternal now, present, and creator of the past and future. Just because we can’t comprehend this with our finite minds doesn’t mean we should try to pull it into our thought processes to make sense of it. If it quickens life to you, go with it! (Obviously this concept has implications regarding the eternal nature of the soul and nature of heaven and hell, but these need to be discussed separately so they can be given the attention they deserve.)
The Ages of Time
One way of categorizing the ages is:
- The Age of God All-In-All (God existed fully self-contained)
- The Age of Chaos (Process of Creation — even Chaos is from God)
- The Age of Innocence (The creation of Adam, the first son of God, signified the manifest presence of God outside the Trinity)
- The Age of Knowledge (the knowledge of law defined sin)
- The Age of Transition (from death to life)
- The Age of Grace (freedom and wholeness for mankind)
- The Age of Evil Reigning (knowledge of sin and death come to an end)
- The Age of The Judgment Seat of Christ (reign of the Son of Man through the Son IN man)
- The Age of The White Throne Judgment (reign of the Son of God through a Corporate Body)
- Age of New Heaven and Earth (reign of God in His Completeness)
- Age of God All-In-All (all things again being summed up in Him)
Whether this breakdown of time fits into your doctrine at this point is not relevant. Our purpose here is simply to point out that what God does — how He works on the earth and in His people — is dependent on what His purposes are during a particular time period. Furthermore, most of what we believe about time is based on hindsight, so its not necessarily helpful to developing a life strategy going forward.
What Age Are We Living In?
We are presently living in the Age of Grace, based on world events, time-line indicators and, most importantly, the aspects of relationship with God that are available to us today. Though there are aspects of the ages that clearly begin or conclude where one age ends and another begins, there are also aspects of overlap, where a particular truth will overshadow several ages, then be concluded. We will look at Law from this perspective, and perhaps set the stage for other effects as well.
The other ages that impact us the most right now are the age of law (past) and the age of evil reigning (future). All ages have transition times within them, though they also have clear boundaries of beginning and ending as well.
In the Beginning
If you are a fan of science, you may have run across the notion of how time and space relate to one another. There is the theorem, seemingly proven, that the closer you travel to the speed of light the more time slows down. (Please excuse this extreme simplification.) The “Twin Theory” states that if you sent one twin into outer space at the speed of light, and another stayed here on earth, when the space twin returned 50 earth years later, the earth twin would have aged 50 years, while the space twin would have aged a few months. We can at least conclude that we don’t know everything about time, that it is not an “absolute,” and that some of our beliefs that involve time and the boundaries it represents are probably incorrect.
In the Garden
We have no idea how long Adam and Eve were in the garden. But we do know that at a certain point in time God kicked them out. During the time they were in the garden, certain rules applied: don’t eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for instance. They could eat of the other trees, and we’ll assume that they ate of the tree of life. But after they had eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God set a new boundary to keep them from eating of the tree of life. A new era, or age, had begun: What was okay one day was not okay the next. Though the specifics vary, we can see this pattern repeated as one time period transitions into the next.
Every Man’s Heart
During the Age of Knowledge, everyone did what their personal knowledge told them to do. During this time period there were judges, priests, kings, prophets, seers, and other leaders God would occasionally raise up in order to instruct and guide the people. Over time the list of boundaries, or laws, expanded to include everything from what to eat, how to treat one another, how to worship and how to go to war. When God, through whatever means, instituted a law, it was at that point in time that the people were held accountable. One day it was “legal,” the next day, “illegal.” The Age of Knowledge, or Law, was in effect until every statute was fulfilled in reality, which occurred at the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. These boundaries, laws and requirements were necessary because man could not know God on His terms, which were limitless, because in Adam the Spirit-life had been lost, and with it, the capability to have true communion with God.
Age of Transition
For our purposes we are referring to this particular transition time as a separate age since the events that demark it are of such significance. On one end, its beginning is the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, by which the full debt of the law was paid. The Father didn’t forgive the debt; it was a real debt, and had to be paid in reality. Jesus PAID it; the bill has been stamped “paid in full.” It is “finished.” Jesus’s sinless death was the full recompense necessary to conclude the period of law. The temple veil, the boundary separating God from man, was torn in two. One day God’s people were sacrificing animals in the temple, and it was acceptable; the next day — the day of the Resurrection — the sacrifice was no longer acceptable or sufficient as atonement for sin.
Age of Grace
The Age of Grace had dawned, but mankind was still not ready for it. As great and awesome and wonderful as the Crucifixion was, it only concluded God’s purpose for the previous time period (Age of Law): It didn’t start something new. It wasn’t until the Resurrection that the Tree of Life was made available again to any who were without sin (all sins were paid for, even those not yet committed). It was this Tree, Jesus, which changed the very nature of man, making him a new creature, not a re-newed one.
Overlap of Law and Grace
This is the Age we are living in now. The remnants of law still dominate our beings in our soul and body, and believers struggle to live, move and walk according to the Spirit, according to dependence on God. We often insist on using the old rules to judge by, as if the debt hadn’t been paid, as if there was still something that needed to be done in order to enter into union with God. It’s important that we understand that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant it. Time was “up.” And more importantly, when the Father raised Him from the dead, we were raised with Him completely, not partway. Just as Jesus paused to dwell on earth for 40 days before ascending to His Father, so too are we simply pilgrims and ambassadors, passing through our sojourn here on this earth, on our way to fully dwell with our Father.
The law was given for a purpose and will never change until it has completed its work on this earth. So thank God He changed us! According to Paul, in Romans 6:14: “you are not under law, but under grace.” We can’t be both under law and under grace! So since the law has done its part, we shouldn’t try to bring it with us. The law is like a crossing guard, protecting us and guiding us in the right path. Once we are on the other side of the street, we continue on to our destination, motivated now out of our new inner nature, rather than outward direction or instruction. The crossing guard remains at his post, left behind to continue his job.
Jesus wasn’t sent to earth to die for our sins. He was sent to do a new thing — give us Life. But you can’t put new wine into an old wineskin. He had to start over. In order to do that, the law had to be completed, fulfilled, and date-stamped.
What’s the Next Age?
What God is preparing us for is to be walking in total dependence on Him for life itself. We’ve never had an example of what this would look like, especially in this day and age. But by reading about Jesus as our example we can get a good idea: Jesus was so dependent on His Father to be life through Him that His Father could revolve the entire universe around Him. The Father sent His Son, trained and taught His Son, crucified His Son, lowered His Son, resurrected His Son, and is glorifying His Son, all with the perfect cooperation, dependence and enjoyment of His Son. Though this was all the Father living His life through Him, Jesus was fully engaged in everything His Father was doing. The last thing we would call Jesus was passive.
The Evil Reign
There are enough speculations regarding what the next age will look like; Bible versions, entire denominations, fictionalized book series and movies have attempted to render fully what God has only revealed to the minutest degree. Much of what we believe today about the nature of hell, heaven, angels and devils was derived from literature written in previous centuries, especially Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy: The Inferno, Paradise, and Purgatory, written in the early 1300s. But we can conclude to at least some degree that the life God has made available to us today will be tested in one way or another here on this earth. We must be overcoming the Reign of Evil in our own lives before we can overcome it in the Earth. Otherwise God would simply save us — give us His life, make us His sons — and take us to be with Him.
God is Always Speaking
During the Age of Knowledge, God spoke to man through the written law. His boundaries defined relationships between people, between man and his environment, and between man and his God. But because the fullness of time has now come, God today speaks to all creation by and through His Son. We claim Christianity as different from all other religions in that each person has a personal relationship with a Personal God.
This is a significant differentiation between these two ages:
- Under law, man could relate to a Holy God only through measuring up to His standards and keeping His commandments, by performing certain behaviors. So to maintain this surface relationship you always had to be on your best behavior.
- Not so in the Age of Grace. Because God created us now to be His sons, we are members of His family. Often times we are in relationship with God IN SPITE OF our behavior. He has given us a new heart, a new nature, and a new identity. In the age to come, He will continue to speak through His Son; it will simply be a corporate or multi-membered mature son.
Adapted from Practical Christianity by Dianne Thomas