The Time Periods for Salvation, Part 1
by C. Gary Reid and Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1975
Typeset and footnoted by David Sielaff, November 2004
Read the accompanying Newsletter for November 2004
“Behold now is the day of salvation”
2 Corinthians 6:2
There can be no doubt that our period is a time for salvation. People were also saved in the time of the Apostles. And many people have since become Christians. Yet in spite of what appears to be a great number of people presently responding to the call of God, Christians today only represent a tiny minority of the earth’s population. Throughout history, and even in our own time, it is obvious that the vast majority of peoples who have lived on earth have not heard the message of Christ. To be a Christian one must express the faith of Christ, appropriate the efficacy of His cross for the forgiveness of sins, and actively trust in Christ’s mediatorial role in one’s life. The fact is, however, millions of people — even billions — have expressed no faith at all in Christ. If this is the only time for salvation, these people must, of necessity, be lost forever. This would be an inescapable conclusion. Thankfully, the Bible shows this not to be the case. There are actually time periods which God uses to grant salvation to men. God will not be a respecter of persons in the ultimate sense.
“Who [God] will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus: Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time [Greek: “in its own time periods”].”
Notice the last part of that scripture: “in its own time periods.” Christ gave Himself as a ransom for all men, but the testimony, or the witnessing, of that ransom will only be manifest “in its own time periods” (verse 6).
Professor Wuest in his Expanded Translation 1 of 1 Timothy 2:6, shows the full intent of what Paul meant. “Who [Christ] gave himself a ransom on behalf of all, the testimony of which was to be given in His own strategic seasons.” The actual Greek of the text has plain, but profound teaching. Paul, in a dogmatic way, shows that Christ would become a testimony to all men, but only in certain time periods which belong particularly to Him. God is in control. He will disclose His full plan of salvation for men during certain strategic periods which are within God’s superintendence.
At the present time, God is only calling an elect few to salvation. “There is a remnant [just a few] according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5). Though only a small number are now responding, all the descendents of the house of Israel are elected to receive finally the full blessing of salvation. “As touching the election, they [Israel] are beloved for the fathers’ sake” (Romans 11:28). In the future, Paul said:
“All Israel shall be saved: as it is written, ‘There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.’”
Romans 11:26–27 2
All Israel will one day be saved. This is the promise of the Almighty God, and it will be fulfilled! “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29). 3 When God makes a promise, He keeps it!
It is not only the nation of Israel who is destined to be saved. Salvation will be offered to all men — no matter of what race they belong. As quoted before, Paul said that God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth ... in His own strategic seasons.” It is God who has determined what those time periods for salvation are. They are “His own strategic seasons,” not those designed by men.
In the final time period of salvation — when the fullness of time has finally come to fruition — we are told that God will gather unto Himself not only men on earth into the scope of His grace, but His plan involves the entirety of the universe.
“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the DISPENSATION of the fullness of times [the final dispensation of those strategic time periods for salvation] he might gather together in one ALL THINGS in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him”
This scripture, plus many more, shows that in the last dispensation of God’s selected time periods there will be a gathering together of all to God. Really, the purpose of God as revealed in the Bible is to redeem the universe into a harmony with Himself. This will be accomplished within certain definite and predetermined periods of time.
What we hope to do in this study is to show those various periods which God has selected for redemption. They are found in the Bible. It must be pointed out however, that the knowledge of those special eras are often hidden from the English reader by imprecise biblical translations. What we will attempt to do is to bring the original words of the inspired writers to your attention. This subject is one of the most interesting and inspiring teachings of the Bible. We will see from the Bible the revelation of God’s divine plan, in its various stages, for the redemption of humanity and the universe to Himself. There is nothing more rewarding and uplifting than the knowledge of this biblical truth.
Time is an elusive quantity. For some there never seems to be enough time in the day to accomplish all that is important. The older we get, the faster time seems to pass. Every tick of our watch and beat of our heart brings us one step closer to our death. Life can appear quite hopeless unless God has an overall plan for His creation that He is busy bringing to fruition.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born and a time to die ... He has made everything beautiful in his time: also he has set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end.”
The word “world” in the above passage is from the Hebrew word olam. It really means “an age.” Mankind of himself cannot find out information about the beginning of our present age nor can he know anything of its conclusion. If we, of ourselves, are incapable of understanding important facts regarding our own age, how can we possibly know about all the ages of God which He has planned for the redemption of man? We cannot — of ourselves. But an inspired writer said, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
The reason for our lives, the times we were born, why we have been given our physical endowments and emotional characteristics, may not be within the compass of man’s mind to understand, but God can and does know. Man must have divine revelation to find the answers to these vital questions. This is why the remainder of Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever (Hebrew: for the age).”
We can know what our age is all about, if God will give us that knowledge. That essential understanding He has given in the Holy Bible. Not only has He shown where our own age fits into His plan of salvation, He also tells us of former ages and future ones which He has placed within His jurisdiction. This booklet is designed to show the various ages, or strategic time periods, in which God has determined man to live and to find redemption.
“But as it is written, eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but [by] the Spirit of God.”
1 Corinthians 2:9–11
We can safely conclude from the foregoing passages that God is actively involved in a work for the benefit of man. With the aid of God’s Holy Spirit we can come to an understanding of those secret plans of God. Paul explains that this knowledge of grace was extended to him in his ministry to the Gentiles:
“Unto me, the less than least of all saints was given this favor: unto the nations to announce the glad-message of the untraceable riches of the Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the sacred secret which had been hidden away from the ages in God who did all things create: in order that now unto the principalities and the authorities in the heavenlies might be made known through means of the assembly the manifold wisdom of God, according to a plan of the ages which he made in the anointed Jesus our Lord.”
Ephesians 3:8–11, Rotherham Version
This writing of Paul mentions God’s “plan of the ages” — a plan made in Christ Jesus — a plan which Paul called the sacred secret which had been “hidden away” from the natural mind of man. That “secret” or mystery was made known to the Apostle Paul and other Apostles.
“How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery ... which in other ages [generations] was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.”
Ephesians 3:3, 5
God’s plan for the universe is now laid bare. He has revealed it through His word, the Bible. Let us now look to the Holy Scripture for the knowledge of that revelation which God has now given to His people.
As will be shown in this article, God is working out His plan of redemption during periods of time called “His own strategic seasons.” In association with these seasons, the Scriptures also speak about “the ages of God.” Unfortunately the real knowledge about God’s plan has been hidden from us partly through imprecise Bible translations. The concept of “the ages” (God’s strategic seasons) is clearly taught in the original languages of the Old and New Testaments, but the mistaken ideas concerning life and death by philosophers and theologians of the recent past have often clouded the real teachings of God by the giving of wrong English renderings of the original teachings of scripture. This is not always the case, but many times it is.
Even our beloved King James Version suffers in this way. This is especially true in regard to the subject we now enter. The theologians who translated the Bible may have meant well in what they were doing, but by “hiding” the biblical teachings of “the ages” through wrong interpretation, they have helped to obscure the very secret which God was disclosing to the world concerning “His own strategic seasons” for salvation.
To recover the truth about God’s periods in which He works with man for his salvation, it is essential to bypass those improper translations and to understand the original Hebrew and Greek words used by the writers of the Bible as they were inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. Fortunately, there are a few modern versions of the Bible that properly translate passages which illumine God’s plan of the ages. A reference to these Versions (or a reference to the original languages) will help the English reader to better understand what God has revealed. One such translation is that by Joseph Rotherham. 4 In this booklet, we will refer to his translation throughout. Let us now begin our study of God’s plan of the ages.
The ages as revealed in the original languages of the scriptures have been clouded by the translation process. Theological doctrines developed in the later centuries of our modern era are generally responsible for the erroneous translations of some Versions. But let us resort to the original languages of scripture and see the proper translations of important words dealing with “the ages.” The Hebrew word normally associated with our English word “age” or “ages” is olam. Let us pay attention to this word.
The word olam is derived from the primitive root alam, meaning to veil from sight, to conceal. An analysis of the passages where olam appears shows clearly that the word does not express “eternity” or “everlasting” as it has been frequently translated in the King James Version. Rather, it simply expresses a duration, a time during which a person, thing, or state of a thing exists — literally an age of time which has a definite beginning and conclusion. The duration of an age in scripture is sometimes defined and sometimes undefined. 5
Olam, including its usage in the singular and plural and with prepositions and negatives, is translated differently in the Old Testament of our English Version. These various translations with their number of occurrences are tabulated below:
|“for ever and ever”||24 times|
|“from everlasting to everlasting”||4 times|
|“for ever”||251 times|
|“of ancient times” or “of old time”||2 times|
|“of old” or “ever of old”||16 times|
|“world without end”||1 time|
|“old” or “ancient”||13 times|
|“of” or “in old time”||3 times|
|“always” or “alway”||5 times|
|“long time”||1 time|
|“at any time”||1 time|
|“since the beginning of the world”||1 time|
Total occurrences of olam
If the word olam really signified “eternal” then there are some major mistranslations of the word, as the above table shows. The truth is, the word olam, translated “for ever,” “everlasting,” “perpetual,” etc., is really not an equivalent of those English words. Problems arise when words expressing “eternity” are used for the Hebrew word olam. Notice some of them.
When olam is associated with persons it generally expresses only their lifetime. It does not mean a type of “eternity” which is indicated by the term “forever.”
“Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever [olam].”
Exodus 21:6, also Deuteronomy 15:17
Certainly the Hebrew servant whose ear was pierced was not intended to become a bondman for all eternity, but rather only for his own lifetime or the lifetime of his master. Rotherham renders the actual Hebrew meaning in a proper way.
“And his lord shall pierce his ear with an aul, so shall he serve him all his life.”
The olam of this man’s servitude began with the boring of his ear, and that olam ended with his death. There was a beginning and an ending to the olam of the slave. Going on, look at another illustration. In Nehemiah 13:1, the congregation read in the law of Moses that neither an Ammonite nor Moabite should enter into the congregation of God “for ever.” But a reference in Deuteronomy 23:3-6 reveals that this so-called “eternity” [olam ] is limited to the lifetime of ten generations.
Also, the term “for ever” [olam] in 1 Chronicles 22:10 covers only the forty years of Solomon’s reign. The olam in 1 Kings 8:13 and 9:3 was restricted only to the time while the physical temple was in existence. Even the translators of the King James Version found it impossible to render olam by the idea of endlessness. Referring it to man, they were forced to use other terms such as:
The King James translators also have Jonah saying he was in the belly of the fish “for ever [olam]” (Jonah 2:6), but the text itself shows that the olam associated with Jonah was only a period of three days and nights (1:17). Rotherham translates Jonah as actually saying: “As for the earth her bars were about me age-abidingly.” Only an “age” was being discussed in the original scripture, and in Jonah’s case that “age,” with its beginning and end, lasted only three days. This means an “age” could be relatively short lived. It can, however, refer to a longer time, such as the lifetime of a man, and even longer. But one thing must be understood: An “age” always has a beginning and an end. It is certainly not an “eternity,” nor is it “forever” — always without end. It is important to keep this concept in mind when dealing with the olams [or ages] of the Bible. The truth of God’s divine plan of the ages will make sense if we do.
As startling as it may seem, the idea of endlessness does not apply even when olam is associated with the Divine decrees or promises.
“And he built his sanctuary like high places, like the earth which he has established for ever.”
“One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides for ever.”
These scriptures seem to imply that the present earth will exist for all time — that it will never be removed or destroyed. But the Bible itself tells us in other contexts that the earth is decaying and that it is in a state of corruption (Romans 8:20–22). The earth is waxing old like a garment which gets progressively old and then wears out (Hebrews 1:10–12). 6 Indeed, the present earth will come to an end and a new one must be created. This earth will not last forever — even though some English translators render olam with the theme of everlastingness prevailing. But the teachings of scripture will not allow it.
“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.”
This scripture along with others (Psalm 102:25–26; Matthew 5:18, 24:35; 2 Peter 3:7–10) foretell the passing away of our present heaven and earth to make room for a New Heavens and a New Earth. Obviously, the “for ever [olam],” as it relates to this earth, is limited to the continuance of the present earth from its creation in Genesis to its dissolution in Revelation. It cannot mean an “eternity.” Rotherham was well aware of this fact. Notice his accurate translation of Ecclesiastes 1:4: “Generation goes and generation comes, but the earth unto times age-abiding remains.” Here we clearly see that our present earth remains only for an age-lasting time, not for eternity.
There are many other problems when olam is translated “for ever.” Jeremiah 5:22 declares that God has “placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual [olam] decree.” However, in the New Earth, “there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1). The “perpetual [olam]” decree will become obsolete once the sea goes out of existence. Rotherham rightly translates its time as “age-abiding.” That decree lasts only for an age.
Jeremiah also says that God will cast off Israel from His presence and bring upon them an “everlasting” [olam] reproach (Jeremiah 23:39–40). But the reproach will have an end. This is clear from Jeremiah 24:6 because he states that God “will bring them again to this land.” See also Isaiah 25:8 and Romans 11:25,26. The Rotherham Version translates Jeremiah 23:40 correctly: “and will give unto you reproach age-abiding, and disgrace age-abiding, which shall not be forgotten.” Clearly the reproach and disgrace will last only for a specified time period until Israel is once again reestablished as God’s nation during the millennial period.
We also read that Jerusalem shall remain “forever [olam]” (Psalm 48:8; Isaiah 65:18; Jeremiah 17:25), and that God will make her an “eternal [olam] excellency, a joy of many generations” (Isaiah 60:15). Since the present Jerusalem will be displaced by the New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12, 21:2), it is clear that “eternal” in that verse in Isaiah is equivalent only to “many generations.” That’s why Rotherham properly translates Jeremiah 17:25: “And this city shall remain unto times age-abiding.”
According to Ezekiel 37:26–28, God’s sanctuary will be set in the midst of Israel “for evermore” [for olam]. But, as the metropolis of the New Earth has “no temple” or sanctuary (Revelation 21:22), 7 “for evermore” expires the moment God makes all things new. If one would simply understand what the inspired authors actually wrote about these matters which were intended to last only for an age, much of the confusion would cease in regard to the time periods of the Bible and the biblical passages about the subject of time would not be contradictory.
The Old Covenant made with Israel (Exodus 20:24) is said to be an “everlasting [olam] covenant” (Leviticus 24:8). The feasts of the Lord given to Israel were said to be “for ever [olam]” (Leviticus 23:14, 21, 31, 41). However, it is well known that the covenant was contingent on Israel’s obedience (Exodus 19:5–6). Repeal for disobedience was possible. Jeremiah distinctly told of its being superseded by a new and better covenant (Jeremiah 31:31–34). The Old Covenant as well as the Sabbath day were only “an age-abiding covenant” (Leviticus 24:8, Rotherham). Such covenants were not to last “forever.”
The Old Covenant was clearly temporary, so also was the religious system of worship founded thereon. Though the Aaronic priesthood is called an “everlasting [olam] priesthood” (Exodus 40:15; Leviticus 6:18; Numbers 25:13), the New Testament foresaw a setting aside of the Levitical order with the appearance of a priest “after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 7:11–13). Rotherham, in his Version, calls the Aaronic priesthood “an age-abiding priesthood” (Exodus 40:15). It was to last only for a certain time — it was not eternal!
With regard to sacrifices and Sabbaths which the King James Version states were to be observed “for a statute for ever” (Exodus 31:16–17; Leviticus 16:29–31; and 2 Chronicles 2:4), Paul plainly said they were “carnal ordinances imposed on them until the time of the reformation” (Hebrews 9:10). Paul knew those commands were only in force for a particular time — an age-abiding period. Paul knew what the actual Hebrew language said about the matter. He knew it had nothing to do with “eternity,” or else Paul’s New Testament statements are not true. But the impermanence of the Mosaic system is expressed in the Old Testament scriptures themselves which tell of their establishment and continuance. Priesthood, Sabbath and sacrifice were all for olam only “throughout their generations” (Exodus 27:21; 31:16–17; 40:15).
Generations come and go (Ecclesiastes 1:4). How do they come? By birth. How do they go? By death. When death is swallowed up in victory as promised in the Scripture (1 Corinthian 15:55–57), the coming and going of generations will cease. All ages have a beginning and an end. So did the age of sacrifice and temple. It came to an end for Christians. While it is true that in millennial times the ceremonial rituals may be temporarily reestablished and Feasts and New Moons and Sabbaths reappear (Isaiah 66:23; Zechariah 14:16), but in Revelation 21:22, we find no reference to altars, temples, priesthood, ritual, Sabbaths or Holy Days in the New Earth. They all come to an end with the old creation. They are already over for Christians. All these rituals were intended only for an age — an age-abiding period, but not for all eternity. The proper translations of the Bible make this very evident.
So far we should understand that olam and its various forms, though used in different ways, invariably denote periods of time which have beginnings and ends. Now let us consider those scriptures where olam refers to God. Surely, God is the “eternal” God. True enough, God has continual existence, but the use of the word olam is, in itself, no proof of it. That evidence comes from other sources (see Hebrews 7:25).
Let us consider the quotation of Psalm 45:6 in the letter to the Hebrews:
“But unto the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your Kingdom.’”
The theme under discussion is the Kingdom of the Son. That Kingdom seems to have an everlasting existence. But another scripture must bear on the same subject.
“Then comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God, even the Father ... and when all things shall be subdued [subjected] unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto Him that put [did subject] all things under him, that God may be all in all.”
1 Corinthians 15:24, 28
It is clear that the reign of the Son will have a conclusion even though the Kingdom will continue under the leadership of God the Father. The Kingdom itself will see no end (Luke 1:33), but at the last moment the Son delivers His Kingdom up to the Father and also subjects Himself to the Father. These scriptures show that “forever and ever” translated from the Hebrew olam in Psalm 45:6 and the Greek aion in Hebrews 1:8 both indicate the idea of a Kingdom having an indefinite duration with a precise end sometime in the future.
Elsewhere we read that His servants also “shall reign forever and ever” — for “the ages of the ages” (Revelation 22:5). Since 1 Corinthians 15:24 states that He shall put down (abolish) all rule, authority and power, the reign of His servants must necessarily end with the abolition of all rule, which includes the friendly (i.e., that of the saints) as well as the hostile. The idea of having to rule is necessitated by the presence of self will and insubordination. Once all hostility is stamped out (1 Corinthians 15:25–26), even the exercise of dominion, rule and authority becomes unnecessary. We will see more of this later in this booklet.
It is certainly true that God lives forever, but the olam texts relating to God are concerned with His divine attributes and their revelation to mankind during the periods of time when God deals with evil and sin. The exercise of these Godly attributes which were for olam becomes unnecessary the moment evil and sin disappear from the scene.
God has assumed different titles during these various ages to demonstrate His divine characteristics to man. He may be called “the age-lasting God” because He is acting within a particular age to show His power and salvation. This does not mean He is not eternal [of course He is], but it does show a singular interest of His in that age under discussion.
In summary, olam and its variants do not refer to an endless eternity but the word applies in all cases to periods of time of indefinite length (unless the length is stated in the context) which all have beginnings and ends. The study of the occurrences of the Hebrew olam as found in the Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament will show this to be true.
The Word of God provides the revelation of God concerning His will for man and the penalties or rewards that are associated with it. Because of the inconsistent translation of two Greek words, much confusion exists concerning questions of life, death, the reward of the saved, and the punishment of the unbeliever. Just like the Hebrew olam has been misunderstood, so its Greek equivalent has suffered in English translation.
The Greek words upon which so much depends in the question of human destiny are the words aion and aionios. The former is the noun and the latter is the adjective. Many references to human destiny have these words associated with them either as a noun or adjective, both in the case of the righteous and the unrighteous. If this word, as a noun or adjective, were translated uniformly in our Authorized Version of the New Testament, the difficulty would be largely removed.
The Greek aion is the exact equivalent of the Hebrew olam we have been discussing in the first section of this paper. Everything we have said in the former portion to olam applies precisely to aion or aionios.
The noun aion means “age” or “eon” and is found 128 times in 105 passages of the New Testament. It doubly occurs in 23 of the 105 passages. In its simple form (noun only), it is found 37 times and with prepositions 68. Aion is translated as follows in the Authorized Version:
Number of Occurrences
|Evermore||4||2 Corinthians 11:31|
|Eternal||2||1 Timothy 1:17|
Here are seven different renderings of the word aion as it appears in the form of a noun. On the surface, it seems that the translators were confused as to the right meaning of this important word. The word “world” in the English language is used to describe the present arrangement of human life and activity, but it certainly indicates a terminable period. It had a beginning and will have an end. Indeed “world” conveys no duration of time whatever. Yet aion shows “time” — though the time is always indefinite as to length. It is just like olam in Hebrew. The usual words in English which best approximate the original meaning of aion are “age” and “eon” (the latter word is derived from the Greek original itself).
In the translation of the adjective in the King James Version there is not as much variation. Aionios is rendered into only four English words.
|Usage||Number of Occurrences||Representative Scripture|
|Everlasting||25||2 Thessalonians 1:9|
The adjective form aionios cannot carry a force or express a duration greater than the “age” of which it speaks. It cannot mean eternal or everlasting. It literally means “of the age” or “age-long.”
Once these meanings of the Hebrew olam and the Greek aion are understood, a flood of light will shine forth to show how God has been using various ages or strategic time periods to perfect His plan of salvation for man.
Let us notice what the New Testament says of Christ’s connection with the ages.
“... whom He appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the ages.”
Hebrews 1:2, Greek
Christ created the ages: During the ages, as we shall see, the Heir will inherit the “all things” promised to Him by the Father. This will be:
“... according to the purpose of the ages, which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Ephesians 3:11, Greek
There is a definite purpose associated with the creation of the divine time periods. Christ is King of all the ages which He has created.
“Now to the King of the ages, the incorruptible, invisible, only, and wise God, be honor and glory for the ages of the ages! Amen!”
Timothy 1:17, Greek
Christ is the ruler or king of all the ages. That rulership has been delegated to Him by the Father until the time when rulership will be turned back to the Father
“The kingdoms of this world [kosmos] are become our Lord’s and His Christ’s, and He shall be reigning for the ages of the ages! Amen!”
1 Corinthians 15:24–28
Christ will reign over all the ages that are yet to come, including a Millennium and the New Heavens and the New Earth.
In summary, it is clear that the ages were made. They were not in existence previous to their being put together. The same thought is found in Hebrews 11:3: “By faith we understand that the ages were framed by the Word of God.” God framed the ages for the purpose of glorifying His Son. God sent forth His Son during specific time periods to be a redemption for man.
The crucifixion, which occurred in our present age, is the central redemptive act which secures salvation to all. Up to that great act, the ages had been periods of preparation as far as man is concerned. Once the crucifixion was accomplished, we are now ready for the consummation of the ages. In the final dispensation, all things will be subjected to the King of the Ages, who will then hand the cleansed and subjugated universe up to His Father that “God may be all in all.”
In this section it is our purpose to show from the New Testament that the Greek word aion (like the Hebrew olam) defines a period of time with a definite length, and a precise beginning and end. It does not mean an endless period of time. Let us notice three important factors concerning the ages of the Bible.
1. The ages have a certain beginning:
“But wisdom we speak among the mature, but not wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to naught. But we speak the wisdom of God in a secret, the hidden wisdom which God predetermined before the ages of our glory.”
1 Corinthians 2:6–7, Greek
“Who saved us and called us by a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ before times age-abiding.”
2 Timothy 1:9, Greek
In these scriptures and also in Titus 1:2 we see that there were certain events that occurred in the universe before the ages began. This shows that the ages have a beginning. Even before their beginning, God had a predetermined plan for the bringing of His many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10).
2. The ages also have an end:
This fact is made clear. Matthew 13:39 says, “Now the harvest is the completion [the conclusion] of the age” (Greek). Both the King James Version and the Revised Versions say, “the harvest is the end of the world” but the footnote in the R.V. gives the actual Greek as “the consummation of the age.” Matthew 13:40, 13:49, 24:3 and 28:20 contain, in the Revised Version, the expression, “end of the world,” but in each case the footnote says, “the consummation of the age.” In all of these cases Rotherham in his excellent translation properly shows the scripture as saying: “the conclusion of the age.”
3. There are several ages revealed in the Bible.
The Bible speaks of the ages of the past, the present age, and the coming ages:
The ages that are past:
“And to enlighten all as to what is the administration of the secret which has been hidden from the ages in God.”
Ephesians 3:9, Greek
“The secret which has been hidden from the ages and from generations but now was made manifest to His saints.”
Colossians 1:26, Greek
The present age:
“Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of the present evil age.”
Galatians 1:4, Greek
“Charge them that are rich in this present age that they not be highminded.”
1 Timothy 6:17
The age (or ages) to come:
“In this era houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecutions and in the age that is coming, age-lasting life.”
Mark 10:30, Greek
“... that he might show in the ages that are coming the surpassing riches of His grace.”
Ephesians 2:7, Greek
By analyzing the above scriptures we see that the Bible speaks of several ages. Ages (in the plural) are spoken of as existing prior to and after this present age. Generally, in the Bible, when no numeral is used in the plural form of a word the numeral two is meant. These scriptures show that there are at least two ages before this present age and at least two ages after, making a certain total of five. Further scriptures show that we need not limit the total simply to five because the Bible shows more than two which are future to us. 8
It is now our purpose to discuss the periods of the ages and to look at those ages as they relate to God’s plan. Armed with the sure knowledge that all the ages in the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) have certain beginnings and endings, that they do not denote “eternity,” we have the essential key for making a proper analysis of the divine periods which God has planned in the accomplishing of His purpose.
There are at least two ages prior to our present age in which we now live. Let us now review those former ages which emerged before our own.
Now read: The Time Periods for Salvation Part 2
C. Gary Reid and Ernest L. Martin, 1975
Edited by David Sielaff, November 2004
If you wish to make a complete study, all the occurrances of the Hebrew noun olam in the Old Testament are in these listed verses. I put the list in the proper manuscript order. There are no adjectives of olam in Hebrew. (Hebrew has few adjectives.) Insert the word “age” or “eon” at the appropriate place in the verse. DWS
Genesis 3:22; 6:3f; 9:12, 16; 13:15; 17:7f, 13, 19; 21:33; 48:4; 49:26
Exodus 3:15; 12:14, 17, 24; 14:13; 15:18; 19:9; 21:6; 27:21; 28:43; 29:9, 28; 30:21; 31:16f; 32:13; 40:15
Leviticus 3:17; 6:18, 22; 7:34, 36; 10:9, 15; 16:29, 31, 34; 17:7; 23:14, 21, 31, 41; 24:3, 8f; 25:32, 34, 46
Numbers 10:8; 15:15; 18:8, 11, 19, 23; 19:10, 21; 25:13
Deuteronomy 5:29; 12:28; 13:16; 15:17; 23:3, 6; 28:46; 29:29; 32:7, 40; 33:15, 27
Joshua 4:7; 8:28; 14:9; 24:2
1 Samuel 1:22; 2:30; 3:13f; 13:13; 20:15, 23, 42; 27:8, 12
2 Samuel 3:28; 7:13, 16, 24ff, 29; 12:10; 22:51; 23:5
1 Kings 1:31; 2:33, 45; 8:13; 9:3, 5; 10:9
2 Kings 5:27; 21:7
Isaiah 9:7; 14:20; 24:5; 25:2; 26:4; 30:8; 32:14, 17; 33:14; 34:10, 17; 35:10; 40:8, 28; 42:14; 44:7; 45:17; 46:9; 47:7; 51:6, 8f, 11; 54:8; 55:3,
13; 56:5; 57:11, 16; 58:12; 59:21; 60:15, 19ff; 61:4, 7f; 63:9, 11f, 16, 19; 64:4f
Jeremiah 2:20; 3:5, 12; 5:15, 22; 6:16; 7:7; 10:10; 17:4, 25; 18:15f; 20:11, 17; 23:40; 25:5, 9, 12; 28:8; 31:3, 40; 32:40; 33:11; 35:6; 49:13, 33, 36; 50:5; 51:26, 39, 57, 62
Ezekiel 16:60; 25:15; 26:20f; 27:36; 28:19; 35:5, 9; 36:2; 37:25f, 28; 43:7, 9; 46:1
Joel 2:2, 26f; 3:20
Micah 2:9; 4:5, 7; 5:2; 7:14
Malachi. 1:4; 3:4
Psalms 5:11; 9:5, 7; 10:16; 12:7; 15:5; 18:50; 21:4; 24:7, 9; 25:6; 28:9; 29:10; 30:6, 12; 31:1; 33:11; 37:18, 27f; 41:12f; 44:8; 45:2, 6, 17; 48:8, 14; 49:8, 11; 52:8f; 55:22; 61:4, 7;
66:7; 71:1; 72:17, 19; 73:12, 26; 75:9; 77:5, 7; 78:66, 69; 79:13; 81:15; 85:5; 86:12; 89:1f, 4, 28, 36f, 52; 90:2; 92:8; 93:2; 100:5; 102:12; 103:9, 17; 104:5; 31; 105:8, 10; 106:1, 31, 48; 107:1; 110:4; 111:5, 8f; 112:6; 113:2; 115:18; 117:2; 118:1ff, 29; 119:44, 52, 89, 93, 98, 111f, 142, 144, 152, 160; 121:8; 125:1f; 131:3; 133:3; 135:13; 136:1ff; 138:8; 139:24; 143:3; 145:1f, 13, 21; 146:6, 10; 148:6
Proverbs 8:23; 10:25, 30; 22:28; 23:10; 27:24
Lamentations 3:6, 31; 5:19
Ecclesiastes 1:4, 10; 2:16; 3:11, 14; 9:6; 12:5
Daniel 9:24; 12:2f, 7
Ezra 3:11; 9:12
Nehemiah 2:3; 9:5; 13:1; Job 7:16; 22:15; 41:4
1 Chronicles 15:2; 16:15, 17, 34, 36, 41; 17:12, 14, 22ff, 27; 22:10; 23:13, 25; 28:4, 7f; 29:10, 18
2 Chronicles 2:4; 5:13; 6:2; 7:3, 6, 16; 9:8; 13:5; 20:7, 21; 30:8; 33:4
Here are all verses where the Greek noun aion occurs in the New Testament. The list is in proper manuscript order. Note that the English word “eon” is derived from Greek aion. Insert the word “age” or “eon” at the appropriate place in the verse. DWS
Matthew 6:13; 12:32; 13:22, 39f, 49; 21:19; 24:3; 28:20
Mark 3:29; 4:19; 10:30; 11:14
Luke 1:33, 55, 70; 16:8; 18:30; 20:34f
John 4:14; 6:51, 58; 8:35, 51f; 9:32; 10:28; 11:26; 12:34; 13:8; 14:16
Acts 3:21; 15:18
1 Peter 1:23, 25; 4:11; 5:11
2 Peter 2:17; 3:18
1 John 2:17
2 John 1:2
Jude 1:13, 25
Romans 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 12:2; 16:27
1 Corinthians 1:20; 2:6ff; 3:18; 8:13; 10:11
2 Corinthians 4:4; 9:9; 11:31
Ephesians 1:21; 2:2, 7; 3:9, 11, 21; 6:12
Hebrews 1:2, 8; 5:6; 6:5, 20; 7:17, 21, 24, 28; 9:26; 11:3; 13:8, 21
1 Timothy 1:17; 6:17
2 Timothy 4:10, 18
Revelation 1:6, 18; 4:9f; 5:13f; 7:12; 10:6; 11:15; 14:11; 15:7; 19:3; 20:10; 22:5
Here are all the occurrances of the Greek adjective aionios in the New Testament. Again, the list is in proper manuscript order. Insert the word “age-lasting” or “eonian” at the appropriate place in the verse. DWS
Matthew 18:8; 19:16, 29; 25:41, 46
Mark 3:29; 10:17, 30
Luke 10:25; 16:9; 18:18, 30
John 3:15f, 36; 4:14, 36; 5:24, 39; 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 68; 10:28; 12:25, 50; 17:2f
Acts 13:46, 48
1 Peter 5:10
2 Peter 1:11
1 John 1:2; 2:25; 3:15; 5:11, 13, 20
Jude 1:7, 21
Romans 2:7; 5:21; 6:22f; 16:25f
2 Corinthians 4:17f; 5:1
Ephesians 1:9; 2:16
Hebrews 5:9; 6:2; 9:12, 14f; 13:20
1 Timothy 1:16; 6:12, 16, 19
2 Timothy 1:9; 2:10
Titus 1:2; 3:7
This foreword appeared in the original 1975 booklet. I include it here because it shows the philosophy under which it was written. DWS
“This booklet is a study (research paper) which is designed to bring to the public’s attention the relevant scriptures showing the divine time periods which God has planned for redemption. The subject may be thought to be highly complex and beyond the ability of man to comprehend. True, there is a great deal of sophistication about the subject even in the Bible, but God has provided a clear skeletal outline for our enlightenment. We hope to show the essential factors concerning this important subject, though we readily admit that several details remain within the divine knowledge which He has not yet made known to man. However, the principal keys for the over-all comprehension of the subject are in the Scripture.
The first important key is to understand that God does speak of periods of time in which He will achieve His desired purposes. These periods are ages which have beginnings and conclusions. It is necessary to know the actual meanings of certain Old and New Testament words which have not been rendered perfectly in many English Versions. These actual meanings become truths which will serve as benchmarks for the real understanding of God’s revelation regarding the time periods for salvation.
This study is not intended to pontificate, but to evaluate. We do not wish to dogmatize, but to analyze. We do not want to legislate, but to illuminate. Our efforts are to inform, we do not ask our readers to conform.
We do ask one thing: May the Spirit of God help us all to understand better this glorious message of the Scripture. It is our desire that this booklet may be helpful towards that end.”
1 Kenneth S. Wuest, The New Testament: An Expanded Translation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961. Reprinted 1994). This is a one-volume edition of a translation first published in 3 volumes, 1956–59.
2 Citing Isaiah 60:21: “Your people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever [olam, for the age], the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.” Later Jews also believed that all Israel would be saved. See Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1: “All Israelites have a share in the world to come for it is written ...” (citing Isaiah 60:21), although some Rabbis thought there were exceptions.
4 Another translation that is consistent in translating olam by “ages” is Youngs Literal Translation.
5 In other words sometimes the length of an olam or age is specified by context or by description (as in Jonah 2:6). Sometimes olam is left to denote a period of time with indefinite and unspecified limits. However it never means “eternal,” not even when referring to God or His attributes.
6 Note that these two verses appear to indicate that the earth is decaying of its own accord and not because of man’s destructive actions of the earth. However, though this may be true, mankind is still to care for and keep the earth (like Adam in Eden).
7 “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Revelation 21:22).
8 Notice Table A below shows some of the New Testament usages of the ages. It will help in giving an overview on the subject. CGR & ELM
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