The Time Periods for Salvation, Part 2
by C. Gary Reid and Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1975
Typeset and footnoted by David Sielaff, November 2004
Read the accompanying Newsletter for December 2004
Let us now review those former ages that emerged before our own. Genesis 1:1 records a definite commencement by God. In a beginning God created the heavens and the earth. It is an introductory statement to all of scripture and informs us not of the present heavens and earth, but of heavens and earth of which men are generally oblivious.
“For this they are willingly ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water: whereby the world [kosmos, world system] that then was, being overflowed with water, perished. But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
2 Peter 3:5–7
God’s original creation of “the world that then was” was perfect. It became “without form and void” (Genesis 1:2). This becoming waste and void, from a hitherto perfect condition, seems to have the approbation of Isaiah 45:18 where it says God did not, at first, create the earth in such a chaotic state. The waste and vacant state of Genesis 1:2 apparently arises from events subsequent to Genesis 1:1. Verse two onwards show events after the original creation. References to these events are gathered together under the word “disruption” in such places as Matthew 25:34 and Ephesians 1:4 where the King James Version uses the word “foundation.”
The length of this first age before Genesis 1:2 is unknown. It is a long indefinite period in which the earth was in existence, but no man lived upon it. No doubt, it was a time when the earth was being physically prepared for the emergence of man. It ends in and is separated from the next age by a major disruption or cataclysm that produced the chaotic scene of Genesis 1:2. God began the preparation of another age — the age in which man would appear.
In 2 Peter 2:5 we have a reference to the second age. It ended with the Flood in the time of Noah.
“And spared not the ancient world [kosmos, world system], but preserved Noah, an eighth, a herald of righteousness, having brought in a deluge on the world [kosmos] of the irreverent.”
2 Peter 2:5, Greek
Originally God created a paradise, the garden of Eden, for man to dress and keep (Genesis 2:8, 15). This was done at the beginning of the second age. Eve listened to the serpent’s lie and the original harmonious relationship between Creator and mankind was disrupted. The original primeval world became enslaved to a curse (Genesis 3:16–24). Adam and Eve became subject to death and were forbidden access to the tree of life, which would have prolonged their lives indefinitely. And Cain murdered his brother and began a way of evil (Jude 11). In spite of a long line of preachers of righteousness beginning with Seth, the world came to be in such depravity that it had to be destroyed. The flood in Noah’s day destroyed “the ancient world” (the second age) and so prepared the way for our present world or age.
These first two ages introduced God’s strategic time periods. The first age started with the original creation of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). During that period, evidently created beings became estranged from God in the celestial spheres. Perhaps, the earth itself was part of the arena where this estrangement occurred. But in the beginning of the second age, there was a remaking of the earth’s surface as a habitation fit for man. During this antediluvian period mankind through disobedience of God’s direct verbal commands became estranged from God. The Flood came. The stage was now set for the God of love and mercy to demonstrate His divine attributes to a universe totally undeserving of His transcendent grace. After the Flood, we find the appearance of the third age.
The present age began when Noah and his family disembarked from the Ark. Like the second age, which existed from Adam to Noah, it is an age in which human wickedness prevails. Galatians 1:4 says our specific time is “the present wicked age.” In Romans 12:2 we are entreated not to follow the evil ways of this age with its care or worries (Matthew 13:22), its unrighteous wealth (Luke 16:8), its wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:6, 8), and its god — Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4). But in this present age the most significant event of human history took place. God knew about sin and evil before the foundation of the world and foreordained Christ to be the supreme sacrifice (1 Peter 1:19–20). Christ legally dealt with sin in our age.
During the earlier part of this age God called Israel as His nation to become a Kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6). They were to witness to the nations the results of obedience to God’s law (Deuteronomy 4:1–8). They failed miserably and were sent into captivity. Many eventually returned to the land of Palestine.
Jesus Christ came to confirm the promises to Israel (Romans 15:8). He came preaching that “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15). If the nation of Israel had accepted Christ as the Messiah during His ministry, the Kingdom of God could have been ushered in. Of course it was part of God’s plan that they would reject the Kingdom and the One who preached about it, Jesus Christ. Only a minority of Israelites have accepted Christ. “Even so then at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5), God has given them the eyes of slumber so that they will not in this age respond — as He closes the eyes of millions of people (Romans 11:8).
At this time there are far more Gentiles having their eyes opened than Israelites (Romans 11:25). Even then, the vast majority of the world’s population in this age have been concluded by God to unbelief (Romans 11:32). Only when the next age appears will all Israel be saved (Romans 11:26). And in more future times, God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Salvation is only being awarded to a few in this age, but Christ “gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in His own strategic time periods” (1 Timothy 2:6, Greek). This present age of ours is the firstfruits period when God is calling out a minority of people. The vast majority of people will wait for the manifestation of Christ’s salvation in the coming age, and in the ages to follow. Our present age began with the Flood and lasts until Christ’s appearance. The next age commences with the Second Coming of Christ.
The conclusion of the present age is referred to three times in Matthew 13:39–40 and 49. In Matthew 24:3 it is associated with His presence when He comes again. The conclusion of the age is that period of time which immediately precedes the Second Coming. The present age will culminate in the cataclysmic events portrayed in the first nineteen chapters of the Book of Revelation. Christ will end this age when He returns as King of kings and Lord of lords to set up His Kingdom. The Christian is promised a life “for the ages” (Ephesians 2:6–7). All who are converted in this present age, can be in the first resurrection at Christ’s Second Coming and experience, with Christ, life in all the future ages (1 Corinthians 15:23).
The fourth age in God’s plan was known by the Jewish people in the 1st Century as “the coming age” (Matthew 12:32). It was the Messianic Age — or the time Christ would be on the earth and Israel would be exalted among the nations. This is also known as the Millennium in Christian circles. This age is to be introduced at the Second Coming of Christ and ends with a world rebellion which will occur at the conclusion of the thousand years (Revelation 20:7–10).
At the end of the fourth age there will be a general resurrection to the Judgment of the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11–15). Some have thought this period could be considered the fifth age. This is possible, for we are told that the lake of fire which exists at the end of the Millennium will continue on “for the ages of the ages” (Revelation 20:10). This seems to show that there would yet be at least two ages after the end of the Millennium. If this is so, it is possible that the Great White Throne period could be reckoned as one of those ages.
In actual fact, since the appearance of the Great White Throne begins with “the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them” (Revelation 20:11), this very displacement of the earth and heavens could be the beginning of those New Heavens and the New Earth mentioned more precisely in Revelation 21:1. This may be the case because the same “Throne” (as mentioned in the phrase Great White Throne) is found in the New Earth (Revelation 21:3, Greek, and 21:5). The Great White Throne period may very well be the beginning of the New Heaven and New Earth.
As a matter of explanation, it has to be admitted that much of the Book of Revelation is given in highly symbolic language. Even Christ is described as a Lamb having seven horns and seven eyes (Revelation 5:6). The man called the Beast is shown as having seven heads and ten horns (Revelation 13:1). The New Jerusalem is shown as a cube (or some say a pyramid) some 1300 miles in all its dimensions (Revelation 21:16). If such a structure appeared on earth, as we are told will occur, and it be taken in the literal sense, it would be very unaesthetic to most humans. The truth is, it is represented as foursquare to show its perfection and symmetry, surely not its actual shape. We need to be careful with interpretations in Revelation. There is very much symbol in it. 1
There is a great deal of symbolism found in its discussion of the ages. Though there are clear teachings to show that the ages (plural) do exist, a certain caution must be exercised in their application. We hope our readers will understand this.
Carefully note this: The ones who stand before the Great White Throne are apparently in bodies which are still capable of death. Only those redeemed saints who come forth in the first resurrection at the Second Coming of Christ are immune from the second death (Revelation 20:6). But those who stand before the Throne are still capable of being cast into the lake of fire and experience the second death (Revelation 20:14). As long as death is in evidence, this period cannot be the last age, because at the conclusion of all things death itself, the last enemy, shall be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). And though death and hades (the place of the dead) are themselves to be placed in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14) the second death will still have its power.
This fifth age of the New Jerusalem is not the final age. There is much to be accomplished by Christ in order that peace can reign throughout the universe. The lake of fire will even exist during the fifth age. That fire continued “for the ages of the ages” even after the Millennial (Fourth) Age is over (Revelation 20:10). As long as the lake of fire exists there is need for judgment and retribution. This shows rebellion and disharmony existing in the universe. But Christ must rule until all hostilities cease (1 Corinthians 15:25–28).
The saints will rule with Christ in the fifth age, but there is at least an age beyond. This fact is further emphasized by the statement that the saints who live in the New Jerusalem period will reign “for the ages of the ages” (Revelation 22:5). Since the New Jerusalem period is one age for reigning, there must be at least one age beyond that. Some may feel we are quibbling about words, but this is not true. To the Jews of the First Century, “the coming age” was a well-known phrase in their everyday parlance. They were also well aware of ages — in the plural — to come beyond “the coming age” (Ephesians 2:7). When the expression “ages” (plural) was used, it was never confused with a singular age to come. 2
There is nothing in the Book of Revelation which says that the lake of fire (the second death) ceases to have its influence in the period of the New Jerusalem as recorded in Revelation 21 and 22. Indeed, it could be said that it is very much in existence because we read in Revelation chapter 21:8:
“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake of fire which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
And though the latter verse may be speaking about sinners in our present age (this is the normal interpretation), we read that men (that is, human beings) will still be on earth when the New Jerusalem comes from heaven. That’s what Revelation 21:3 says: “God will dwell with men (i.e., with humans).” There will also be nations and kings on earth at that period (Revelation 21:24). The New Jerusalem will have gates in which those nations will bring their glory and honor (riches, etc.) into the city. The redeemed saints will rule over those nations (Revelation 2:26; 5:10; 22:5). However, those that defile themselves, work abominations, or make lies (apparently those who live at that time) shall not be allowed to enter the holy city (Revelation 21:27).
Though the age of the New Jerusalem will be beautiful beyond all the former ages, this last age in the Book of Revelation is something short of the final spiritual condition which the Creator destines all to have when God is all and all as Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 15:28. And though all tears will then be wiped away in the final age in Revelation, and there will be no sorrow, crying, or death for those who live in that age (Revelation 21:4), there is still not life inherent with persons (i.e., everlasting life as Christians are promised) because people must eat of the fruits of the tree of life which come forth each month. Also, the nations of men who will then be on earth must partake of the leaves of the tree in order to have healing from sickness (Revelation 22:2). And though that final age in Revelation is glorious, God is still not all and in all.
God’s saints are destined to be “joint-heirs and joint bodied and joint-partakers of the promise in Christ” (Ephesians 3:6 Greek). Christ has a spiritual body that has life inherent and will exist forevermore. He doesn’t have to partake of any fruit from a tree to exist. It is not necessary for him to make a brew from leaves in order to have health. The promise for final glorification is that we will be like He is (1 John 3:2). We are promised to have the same type of body as Christ has. Christ has also inherited the whole universe as a possession. So will we inherit the same by being joint-heirs with Him. Christ partakes of all the spiritual blessings of the Father. We are to be joint-partakers with Him in all things.
God is finally to be all and in all, but in the New Jerusalem age mentioned in the Book of Revelation there is no full attainment to these promises in Christ. There are still distinctions — still separations — God is still not all and in all. There are certainly people who have not experienced the promise of salvation yet. Indeed, we are told precisely that there are people who will not partake of the glories of that New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:19). Some men will still not have been brought to redemption in that New Jerusalem age — the lake of fire also continues throughout the ages (Revelation 20:10). Some may consider the description of the New Jerusalem to be a simple allegory and only symbolic of spiritual redemption. Though allegory is certainly used throughout the Book of Revelation, there is still enough realism in the final three chapters to show that all saints are not yet co-bodied with Christ.
While the New Jerusalem is in existence, the saints are told that they will reign “for the ages of the ages.” (Revelation 22:5). If the New Jerusalem age is one of those ages for rule (which it certainly is), there remains at least one more age after that for ruling. What could this age of rule possibly be for? In the Bible, rulership and judgeship are almost synonymous. The Judges of ancient Israel were Israel’s rulers. When Christ comes back to this earth to judge the world, He will do so as a ruler (Psalm 96:9–13). Some saints are promised a rule with Him. And in the New Jerusalem period, they do rule. But also there is at least one period beyond the New Jerusalem period for rulership — it will also be for judgment.
Since in the Millennium and in the New Jerusalem, the judgments will be upon men (Satan and the Beast and False Prophet will also be placed in the lake of fire), what of further judgments upon all the angels and spiritual powers? Paul said that the saints are finally to judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). This is showing a judgeship or rulership over spiritual forces — not just men. The Book of Revelation, at no time, shows the redeemed saints ruling over and judging angels. In Revelation, those in the New Jerusalem rule only over the nations of the earth that will then exist (Revelation 21:3, 23–27; 22:5). “And has made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10). The principalities and powers in the heavenlies (all the angelic hosts) will not have yet — by the end of the Book of Revelation — been judged by the redeemed saints. True, Satan had been put into the lake of fire, but nothing is said of all the other principalities and powers. Yet they are all to be judged (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). The redeemed saints are to help in the judging (and ruling) of those powers (1 Corinthians 6:3).
Christ and His saints are to rule and judge until all hostile rule has been abolished, not only on earth, but in the entirety of the universe. For this to be accomplished, there must be at least another age after the final chapter of Revelation — and that is what the Book of Revelation shows. There are ages (plural) for the saints to reign, including the age of the New Jerusalem. It is the last age that all God’s plans will be accomplished. Christ then extends His rule of subjugation of all hostile powers in the universe.
“When he [Christ] shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign [recall that the saints will also reign in the age beyond Revelation], till he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
Remember that the Book of Revelation says the torment of the lake of fire (for those who are placed therein) lasts for the “ages of the ages” (Revelation 20:10) — it lasts beyond the New Jerusalem period. The lake of fire is the second death (Revelation 20:14). And though death and hades (the abode of the dead on earth) were cast into the lake of fire (verse 14), the power of second death continues beyond. The death and hades spoken of in Revelation 20:14 must not include the second death nor any form of death beyond the geographical confines of the earth. But Christ is destined to subdue to His rule the totality of the universe. When that rule is brought to fulfillment, a destruction of death (all death) will occur. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” This last deed in the redemptive plan of Christ for the salvation of His creation, will be consummated in an age beyond the final chapter of Revelation. The task of Christ is to subdue the universe to Himself and to bring in harmony and reconciliation to all.
“For he [Christ] has put all things under his feet. But when he says all things are put under him, it is manifest that he [the Father] is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him [the Father] that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”
In the final chapters of Revelation, God is not yet all in all. He is only dwelling with men (with humans) — people exist with terrestrial bodies which can live for long periods if the fruits of the tree of life be continually eaten. But there are people still outside the holy city. The fiery lake still has power in the universe. The angels have not been thoroughly judged. The only ones who have reached the promised perfection in Christ are those who were already resurrected at the Second Coming of Christ. They are the only ones over which the second death has no power. That is why there is yet an age beyond the last chapters of the Book of Revelation. This is the final dispensation that Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 15 in which all hostile rule will end and the last enemy, death itself, will be destroyed. This is the final strategic time period for salvation.
The grandest time of all is found beyond the period of the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation. Paul called this concluding period in which God redeems all to Himself as “the dispensation of the fullness of times” (Ephesians 1:10). In this last age, harmony and reconciliation will come to all in the universe.
“And having made peace through the blood of the cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
“That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are in earth; even in him.”
This period represents the fullness of the times — the conclusion for God’s purpose of the ages. It is the last dispensation of God’s strategic time periods. This is the time Christ will have gained the victory over all rule, all authority, and all power in the universe (1 Corinthians 15:24). The last enemy of the universe to be destroyed is death (verse 26).
“Because the creature [Greek: creation, all the creation of God] shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.”
The whole creation (the entirety of the universe) is in a state of corruption and decay (Romans 8:20). It is waxing old like a garment which wears out and then disintegrates (Hebrews 2:11). But God proclaims that all the creation shall be delivered from this state. Complete deliverance comes when God destroys death (the last enemy). After that destruction, death will be no more. Then will the creation itself be delivered from the bondage of corruption when the redeemed children of God attain their glorious liberty (complete freedom from death) which will be given to all at the close of the dispensation at the fullness of times (Ephesians 1:10). All the universe will then be in harmony with God. 3
“And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
The extent of Christ’s death cannot be limited. It is all inclusive. Through Christ all death will be eliminated. Through Him only life (abundant life) will prevail. This is God’s promise. It is secure.
The receiving of such grace will come to those who acknowledge Christ as Lord and confess Him as their redeemer. Some few are doing that now, but all will later respond to the call of God.
“And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
“That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”
To participate in this final glory in which God will be all and in all, mankind must be changed from an earthly body into a celestial one. It is not the fleshly body (even a resurrected fleshly body) that will exist forevermore. And though people in the Millennium, who have fleshly bodies, may live as “the days of a tree” for longevity (Isaiah 65:22), and though the terrestrial (earthly) existences which some can have in the New Jerusalem are beautiful and rewarding, they are still not the celestial glories that make us fully co-bodied with Christ — to have life inherent within ourselves. Only a full spiritual resurrection, like that of Christ, in which we are totally changed from flesh into spirit (1 Corinthians 15:50–57), can grant to us that co-bodied relationship with Christ.
In the Bible there are only three resurrections to such spiritual glory. There are several and various resurrections to a type of fleshly life, yet there are only three occasions in which a co-bodied resurrection with Christ is possible. Paul speaks of them in 1 Corinthians 15. 4
The first spiritual resurrection was that of Christ Himself some nineteen hundred years ago (1 Corinthians 15:23). The second such resurrection will occur at the Second Coming of Christ (verse 23). This is the “better resurrection” mentioned in Hebrews 11:35. The resurrection in the Great White Throne period is not such a resurrection, because people can still be cast into the lake of fire (the second death) even after having come to life. It is also not the same type in which men will have to eat of fruits of a tree, or partake of leaves, to exist in a happy state. No, it is something beyond that.
The saints who are changed (or resurrected) at the Second Coming of Christ will become co-bodied with Christ. They will see Him “as He is” (1 John 3:2). They will be exactly the same type of body as Christ now has. The other resurrections are not to this co-bodied existence with Christ — except the last resurrection of all. This last is the third, and final, resurrection. Paul calls it the resurrection at “the end.” This is described in 1 Corinthians 15:24 — at the very beginning of the verse.
(Note that the word “cometh” in verse 24 is in italics in the King James Version. This is because it does not appear in the original text. Paul is speaking about the three resurrections to spiritual life. Referring to the three resurrections, he actually said: “Christ the firstfruit; afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then [the resurrection at] the end” —1 Corinthians 15:23–24.)
This final resurrection is at the end when Christ subdues all rule, authority, and power, and when He destroys death. It occurs at the final dispensation of the fullness of times (Ephesians 1:10). It will result in all being made alive. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). All will become co-heirs, co-bodied, and co-partakers with Christ in all the spiritual blessings and rewards.
God completes His plan of redemption and salvation when He becomes all and in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). When this is accomplished, the universe will then be at peace with God and in harmony with His divine characteristics. It is not precisely revealed what all of us will be doing when that period of time occurs. We do know this much, the qualities, virtues, and powers of God will be shared with all the glorified saints. The first characteristic of God as revealed in the Holy Scripture is that He is a Creator (Genesis 1:1). If God is to be all and in all, He will no doubt share that ability and other powers with His children. There are so many things awaiting all the redeemed once we finally inherit “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
The reasons for the creation of man on earth was to bring him through various stages to this seventh period — the beginning of “eternity.” That final period is really not a final one at all. It is a beginning — the commencement of a glory which at present is beyond the comprehension of man to fathom. Though God has given a general outline in His Holy Word of His strategic time periods in which His divine plan will find its undoubted fulfillment, He has not revealed to man the exact reasons why He does what He does or why He does it at particular periods of time. All He asks is that man trust (have faith) in Him and in His Son Jesus Christ.
One thing for certain, God has man’s best interest at heart. Indeed, His will is to redeem human kind — all mankind — into a glorious salvation which is now beyond the imagination of man to comprehend. But the time is now near when that purpose will be fully disclosed in all its glory. The first resurrection of the saints is near. Even the final resurrection to spiritual life for all is not far away as God views time. Let all of us who have presently been called and given this understanding of God’s wonderful plan rejoice in the transcendent grace of God which He has bestowed on us — and really to all. God loves all mankind as shown by the sacrifice of His only son, Christ Jesus, in whom the purpose of the ages is accomplished.
“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.’”
1 Corinthians 2:9 5
C. Gary Reid and
Ernest L. Martin, 1975
Edited by David Sielaff, December 2004
You may have noticed some interesting factors regarding the information set forth in this booklet. Keep in mind that details of this scenario are open to discussion and there may be alterations in our understanding. Let me analyze some major points. While I have little problem with the evidence put forth in Part 1, I have some difficulty with elements of Part 2. 6
First, note that there are no biblical verses given as evidence of a pre-Adamic world, the first age or aion, separate and distinct from the others. Nor is there any biblical evidence for a “gap” of time existing between an initial creation and subsequent disruption (all occurring in Genesis 1:1) and an Adamic re-creation (beginning in Genesis 1:2). The deduction of a pre-Adamic age appears to be based on a prior supposition of a “Gap Theory.” (See section The First Age above.) If that theory is unproven, then the existence of an “age” before Adam cannot be upheld. 7
Dr. Martin’s later research came to demonstrate (years after he coauthored this booklet with Mr. Reid) that the Gap Theory indeed had little evidence in the Bible. Dr. Martin concluded there was no gap and that there was no pre-Adamic creation in Genesis. Consider this about what will happen in the future.
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”
The first heaven and the first earth were those created just before Adam, and they are the same heaven and earth we experience today. The heaven and earth at present are not a recreation of a former creation. This passage would be meaningless and misleading if there was a Gap Theory. In fact, neither Jesus, or Paul, or any of the gospel writers give any evidence that a “gap” exists between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. In Exodus 20:11, 31:17, and Hebrews 4:3–4 we find no mention of any gap. 8 Sin did not begin with Satan, it began with Adam. The Gap Theory is lacking.
If there is no Gap Theory then the ages began with a single creation, of which Adam was the main object and the final creation during that period. The creation of the heavens and earth was specifically done to prepare conditions for Adam’s creation. The ages were also created at that time, to set the stage for their final purpose fulfilled in the 2nd Adam, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:11). The ages exist only for physical humanity for the salvation of Adam and all humanity through Jesus Christ. When that plan and purpose is fully accomplished, the ages will end. 9
You will notice also that Reid and Martin are not dogmatic about the post-Millennium ages. They leave open the possibility as to whether the Great White Throne judgment begins the fifth age, or that it is even an age itself. They do not call it an age, but designate it as the “That Final Dispensation — The Sixth Period.” The Scriptures do not call the sixth period specifically an age, but only refer to the millennium and at least one age beyond plural “ages.”
One would think that the destruction of the present heavens and earth at the end of the Millennium would certainly qualify as the dividing point between ages. The creation of a new heavens and a new earth, and the descent of New Jerusalem (in preparation now) for Great White Throne judgment and the subsequent completion of that judgment would certainly constitute a new age.
In my view the seventh period as designated by Reid and Martin occurs outside of the ages, outside of time, and should not even be considered as a “period” of time. While it will be a real and definite event, after the consummation when God is all in all, there will be no need of “time,” a measure of equal sequential periods. How that will be we cannot know because our limited physical existence is totally bound to time.
“He has made every thing beautiful in his time: also he has set the world [Hebrew, ages plural] in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end.”
What happened before the aions began at creation? We are limited by our soulish, physical nature, and we can know nothing outside of what is revealed in the Scriptures. From the Bible we know that the ages began at the same time the creation of the heavens and the earth began. God planned both before He acted. We also know that we, the ekklesia of God, were chosen in Christ before the aions ever began.
We are given no information in the Scriptures as to what happens after the aions are completed, when God the Father becomes “all in all” (whatever that fully means). Our understanding of creation, and the plan of God, and the revelation of God are bound up in the plan of the ages, and are limited to the ages.
Below is a different scheme of the plan of the ages presented in a booklet by A.E. Knoch titled “Eternal Torment or Universal Reconciliation?” 10 This diagram reflects the ages in relationship to the plan of the Tabernacle and Temple. This comparison relating the ages to the Temple symbolism is quite intriguing. Note that Knoch also denotes a first and second age before the present age. As indicated above, I think this is incorrect, because the Scriptures do not explicitly indicate ages before an Adamic creation.
Look at the scenario put forth by Knoch. Note that he has the “age of the age” being the same time period as “the age of the ages,” whereas Reid and Martin separate them into distinct and successive ages. I am undecided as to which is correct, or whether another explanation can be presented.
Both the plan and purpose of Temple symbolism, and the plan and purpose of the ages, have as their goal the reconciliation of man to God, accomplished through the work of Jesus Christ. Therefore it is not surprising that they should have a relationship to each other, even if we do not fully understand it at present.
The feasts of Israel relate to time, and to the ages. They not only look to past events of Israel (such as the Passover), but they also look to the future salvation of Israel, and by extension the future salvation of mankind. 11 Therefore there is a relationship between the plan of the ages, and the salvation plan and message of the feasts (the holy days) of Israel. Likewise, as the holy days relate to the Temple (and the plan of salvation that it represents) showing a sequence of salvation events, the aions also show a sequence of salvation. The feasts, the Temple and the plan of the aions are interrelated and tell a similar story.
Remember, as always, that the revelation of the Mystery was unknown to Israel, so that the plan of salvation shown in the feasts of Israel does not reflect the latest revelation, except in shadow. The Temple plan of salvation is also lacking and required explanation in the Book of Hebrews. For example the reason or purpose of the so-called “eighth day” (Leviticus 23:36–39; Numbers 29:35–38, 2 Chronicles 7:9; Nehemiah 8:18) has always been rather obscure to the Jews. Note what the Gospel of John says, keeping in mind that it was written post-Mystery:
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, “out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”’
(But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)”
Everyone thirsts for God. Jesus’ words relate directly to that feast, and His statement will be fulfilled after the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 11:20ff.
A proper study of the ages or aions should take into consideration a careful re-reading of all the Old Testament verses containing the Hebrew word olam. The purpose of such a study would bring to clarity obscure meanings in light of the newest and best information revealed in the Mystery, particularly how those verses are translated in the New Testament, where the Hebrew olam is translated by the Greek aion.
Some passages in the New Testament have been misunderstood because the phrasing is somewhat awkward in the King James translation. Note what Paul wrote to the Hebrews:
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest enters into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world [Greek, kosmos]: but now once in the end of the world [Greek, aions, plural] has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
This verse is not saying that the ends of the ages occurred at the time of Christ’s suffering, but rather that work of Christ as High Priest to the end of the ages was accomplished at that time. As Christ is the center of the Scriptures, so too Christ is likely the center of history, particularly salvation history. Christ’s act of salvation is the central crisis of history.
There are several things we can know for sure. We know that God has a plan of the ages, developed before creation and before the first age came into being. We know that the full extent of the plan of the ages was not known until the revelation of the Mystery (Ephesians 3:9–11 & Colossians 1:26).
As a result of the Mystery, prior understanding of salvation are necessarily lacking, even the understanding of the apostles of Christ. This would apply to plans of salvation such as the gospel in the stars. 12 The salvation plan of the Temple and its rituals would also be deficient, particularly regarding later stages of the plan of salvation unknown until the Mystery. Before the Mystery mankind could not even look to the presence of God. With the Mystery, we are entered, into the presence of God the Father at His right hand, seated with Christ on the throne.
The salvation scenario of the Old Testament festivals is also lacking until the Mystery. Surely the Jews knew about:
Other comparisons of the Holy Day salvation plan compared to the plan of the ages still needs to be done.
All understanding of the message and purpose of salvation in the Holy Scriptures was lacking (though they were and remain true) until the revelation of the Mystery to Paul, John, and other apostles. We simply need to understand the limitations of the pre-Mystery scenarios in order to extract the maximum information remaining in the details. Suffice to say that the plan of the ages takes precedence over other salvation scenarios because it is the latest and most comprehensive.
I do not have a full understanding of the details of the ages and how they relate to future events, particularly for the post-Millennium ages. I am not satisfied that anyone else does either. However, the lack is not with the Scriptures, it is with our understanding.
We know that Dr. Martin altered his view of the plan of the ages from the booklet, as evidenced by his statement I quoted in the Newsletter for November 2004 (http://www.askelm.com/newsletter/l200411.htm) from page 224, note 63 of his book Essentials of New Testament Doctrine. Perhaps what Dr. Martin meant was that the ekklesia experiences all the ages in one at this time by virtue of our legal status of being seated with Christ (Hebrews 9:24–28).
As mentioned above, the Old Testament likely has untapped riches not yet understood regarding the use of the Hebrew term olam. In addition the New Testament has a number of words that relate and qualify the aions such as kairos (which means “season” or a distinct portion of time), and chronos (which means “time” either long or short). 13 The Greek word hemera (meaning day) can mean a period of time, perhaps months or longer, and ora (meaning hour) also can prophetically mean a period of time, but a comparatively short one. All these words must be considered at the same time that a proper study of the ages is done.
Finally, rest assured that we can know for certain that as time passes, our salvation approaches ever closer, as the apostle Paul wrote:
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand.”
1 There is no reason to suppose that the New Earth will be the same size as the present earth. The present earth is designed to handle somewhat more than the 6 billion people living at present. The New Earth will have adequate space for some 20 billion or more people (perhaps a lot more) from the time of Adam through the millennium. This would logically require a larger earth than at present. Further, because New Jerusalem will be some 1,300 miles on a side, the earth should be larger so that the curvature of the earth is in proportion to such a large structure. If the present heavens and earth are any indication, the new heavens and the New Earth will be even more aesthetically pleasing. Regarding the size and beauty of the universe, see my January 2004 Newsletter at http://www.askelm.com/newsletter/l200401.htm, and particularly the references at footnote #2. DWS
2 Some have also wondered about the phrase “the ages of the ages.” It may look like an expression, which might mean ages toppling over ages — reaching out into eternity. But this is not the case. See Table B. It simply signifies ages (plural) in the superlative sense i.e., the grandest ages. Those ages in the Bible can include the Millennium (Revelation 14:11; 19:3), also the time of the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:10), and that of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 20:10). Even within the New Jerusalem period there are still ages to come — though the New Jerusalem may be considered one of those ages under discussion (Revelation 22:5). It seems certain that the expression “ages of the ages” expresses time beyond the New Jerusalem age. DWS
4 See the related articles “The Time Periods for the Resurrections” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d971005.htm and “Salvation and the Biblical Doctrine of Deification” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d040202.htm. DWS
5 This verse paraphrases Isaiah 64:4. DWS
6 The separation of Part 1 and Part 2 are entirely my doing for the sake of space, and do not occur in the original. DWS
7 One verse frequently used to show a pre-Adamic world is 2 Peter 3:6. However, that passage gives no indication other than having a relationship to the time of the flood. Further, the supposed period of the perfect pre-Adamic creation had no humans. Neither did the supposedly long period of waste before the creation of Adam. Yet one is considered an “age” and the other is not. Why should not both periods be considered ages? Both were under God’s sovereign control. DWS
8 Suppose the Gap Theory was true. First would come a creation in Genesis 1:1 that would exist for untold thousands of years. Then a satanic destruction of the world occurs and the world lays waste for another period of untold thousands of years. Only then does God allegedly “create” the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:2 a second time. However, Exodus 20:11, 31:17 and Hebrews 4:3–4 speak of God resting on the 7th day after one creation, the first, not a second creation. DWS
9 This means there was only one age before the present wicked age, which was the first age. Our present age (from the flood to Christ’s Second Coming) would be the second age. The first (past) and present ages together could make up past “times aionian” referred to in Romans 16:25 (Greek); Ephesians 3:9, and Colossians 1:2, as well as the verses indicating events “before the ages” as in 1 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:9; and Titus 1:2. DWS
10 Canyon Country, CA: Concordant Publishing Concern, n.d., used with permission. DWS
11 The salvation of all mankind is not part of the revelation of the Mystery. The reconciliation of all to God was hinted at powerfully in Isaiah and in pre-mystery passages of the New Testament, such as in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. The Mystery fully explained how and when that salvation of all would occur. DWS
12 This is the concept that the message of salvation is expressed by the names of the stars and constellations in the heavens. These names tell a story of redemption through a savior to come from the Jews. While this may be true and attractive, the historical bases of the star names is cloaked in unverifiable legend and supposition. DWS
13 Again, note how Hebrews 9:26 relates kosmos to aions. This is intentional. DWS
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