Dear Associates, Students and Friends:
God has a plan. The plan involves every human being — you included. The plan involves time as marked out by ages. In Hebrew the term used is olam and in Greek the term is aion. While these ages are only loosely characterized and considered in the Old Testament, and are not defined in Greek literature outside of the Scriptures, both Old Testament and extra-biblical Greek usage have a meaning of limited, but variable, duration.
Only in the Bible are the pattern and demarcation of the ages defined. Even today expositors of God’s Word imperfectly understand the ages. I believe this is because we have not yet done a definitive, detailed study of comparing one verse with another to gain the final understanding of how one age relates to other ages. This work still needs to be done (on top of excellent work already completed) before the Second Coming of Christ.
However, some things are clearly known. We have the final and full disclosure from God through the revelation of the Mystery to Paul, John, and other apostles, 1 which is fulfilled through the plan of God in the course of the aions. These ages have a purpose, and the purpose is fulfilled in Christ
“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world [aions, ages] has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church [the ekklesia] the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal [aionian, age-lasting] purpose which he purposed [made or fulfilled] in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Ephesians 3:9–11 (c.f., 1 Corinthians 2:6–8 [Greek] & Colossians 1:26)
The phrase “aionian purpose” could also be phrased “purpose of the ages.” 2 One would correctly read the phrase in Greek: “according to the aionian purpose which He fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Clearly, the nature and purpose of the ages could not be known before the revelation of the Mystery. This is important.
“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting [aionian, age-lasting]. Now unto the King eternal [of the aions (plural), i.e., king of the ages] immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever [for the aions of the aions]. Amen.”
1 Timothy 1:16–17
Jesus Christ is the King of the ages. He created all things (Romans 11:36; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16–17), including the aions (Hebrews 1:2, the English word “worlds” is aions in Greek). His purpose is to give that aionian life to us so we (the ekklesia) might participate with Him in rulership “for the aions of the aions.” Christ’s birth, life, death, resurrection and glorification are the center of all history — from the beginning of the ages, through the present age, through the future ages until the ages end when God becomes all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). 3 Then, apparently, “time” as we know it will have an end.
In fact it appears that “time” exists only in relation to the process of the salvation of man. When that salvation is accomplished, “time” will no longer be necessary. What will take the place of “time”? No one knows. We are told nothing about what occurs after the final event of 1 Corinthians 15:28 when Christ turns the Kingdom over to the Father. However, I do know that you will be present; I will be present.
This month’s article, “The Time Periods of Salvation – Part 2,” starts immediately with delineating and explaining the first age and proceeds through to the seventh period, as understood in 1975 by C. Gary Reid and Dr. Ernest L. Martin. While our understandings have changed (as did Dr. Martin’s), we should be able to view the subject of the ages from an informed background and an improved perspective because of work previously done.
Next month will be a third article on the same subject of the ages, transcribed from a 1984 lecture by Dr. Martin. It is titled “The Doctrine of the Ages in the Bible.” It will contain additional information not in Part 1 or Part 2 comprising the “Time Periods for Salvation” booklet.
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David W. Sielaff
1 See the articles “The History of the Revelation of the Mystery” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d040101.htm, and “The Mystery and the New Covenant” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d920501.htm. See particularly Dr. Martin’s book Essentials of New Testament Doctrine, chapter 25: “God’s Manifesto of Human Rights” which analyzes and comments on the entire book of Ephesians which has as its major subject the Mystery of God.
2 It needs to be pointed out that in Ephesians 3:11 the noun “purpose” and the verb “purposed” in the King James Version are unrelated words in Greek. Only in English do they have the same concept of “purpose/purposed.” The noun “purpose” does mean to fulfill or set in view, to purpose, while the verb “purposed” is the common word meaning to do or to make.
3 See the last diagram in the article “The Temple Symbolism in Genesis” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d040301.htm which illustrates this “Christ event” in relation to the Tabernacle/Temple symbolism. Time revolves around the center of history, Jesus Christ, whose work was at the midpoint of the salvation process. See Oscar Cullmann, Christ and Time: The Primitive Christian Conception of Time and History, trans. by Floyd Filson (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1950), pp. 17–24.
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