Ends of the Ages

According to Paul, with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the “ends of the ages” have arrived for the church  1 Corinthians 10:11

Lake Sunset - Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
The term “
last days” is not found frequently in Paul’s letters. However, in several ways, he demonstrated his understanding that History’s final era had commenced with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Practically speaking, for the church, that meant that nothing could ever be the same. Decisions and plans must be made with that knowledge firmly in mind - [Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash].

To the congregation at Corinth, the Apostle categorized the key events from the Hebrew Bible as “types,” examples for the followers of Jesus “upon whom the ends of the ages arrived.” Moses led Israel into the Wilderness where God provided “spiritual drink” from a “spiritual rock,” which prefigured Jesus (for “the rock was Christ”). Those events were examples so the Corinthian church no longer would live after the manner of the present age. Moreover, the story of Israel was recorded with the church in mind:
  • (1 Corinthians 10:11) – “But these things by way of type were happening to them, and were written with a view to our admonition, to whom the ends of the ages have arrived.
Here, Paul used the plural forms of “ages” and “ends.” The Greek term telos or “end” often signifies the end or termination of something, but just as often, its “goal,” and both senses may be intended in the passage - (Strong’s - #G5056).

Jesus expressed the same thought in his parable of the Wheat and Tares that were to be “gathered at the consummation of the age.” The English term “consummation” translates the Greek noun formed with telos and the preposition for “together” (sun), or ‘sunteleia’; hence, the idea is of a coming together of an era, its conclusion or “consummation.” Likewise, Hebrews declares that Jesus “once in the consummation of the ages, has appeared to put away sin by his sacrifice” - (Matthew 13:36-44Hebrews 9:26).

In Christ, one era reached its endpoint, while another commenced.  The transition was due to Jesus, especially to his Death, Resurrection, and Exaltation. Therefore, the “ends of the ages” have come upon the church.

To the churches in Rome, Paul declared that the arrival of Jesus signified the “end (telosof the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” The context is clear; the “law” referred to is the one given at Sinai. Whether Paul meant the termination or the goal of the Law, his statement indicates a fundamental change in status and era - (Romans 10:1-4).

To the churches of Galatia, he answered the question, “Why, then, the law?” Paul placed the jurisdiction of the Law within a limited time period; it was “added because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” The law was given over four hundred years after the promise was confirmed to Abraham; therefore, the promise took precedence over the law - (Galatians 3:19-25).

The law was the “custodian” for God’s people “until the faith that should afterward be revealed.”  Since that faith had arrived, God’s people were no longer under the custodian with its divisions between Jews and Gentiles; therefore, “all are sons of God through faith, in Christ Jesus; there cannot be Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male and female…you are Abraham’s heirs according to promise” – (Galatians 3:19-29). Again, the arrival of the Son of God marked a change in eras:
  • At the “fullness of time,” God sent his Son “to redeem them under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons, and because we are sons God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” – (Galatians 4:1-6).
Thus, in Galatians, Paul linked the promiseinheritanceredemption, and the “fullness of time” to the arrival of Jesus. His arrival signified a fundamental change in the law and status of God’s people – (Galatians 3:1-4).

Since in Jesus, the “fullness of time” had arrived, nothing can ever be the same, which is why returning to the rites and rituals of the old order amount to regression to bondage, a return to the custodianship of the law. And that is why Paul scolded the Galatians for resorting to calendrical observations:
  • How turn you back to the weak and beggarly elements to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days, months, times and years” - (Galatians 4:9-11).
To the Ephesians, Paul wrote using the more pregnant term “seasons,” and in the plural number, to stress how Jesus was the goal of God’s plans for all eras, past, present, and future.
  • (Ephesians 1:9-11) - “Making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him, for an administration of the fullness of the seasons, to reunite for himself, under one head, all things in the Christ.
PRESENT AGE FADING, NEW CREATION DAWNING. Paul addressed marital relationships in his first letter to the church at Corinth. Should believers continue in marriage relationships considering the “present distress?” The short answer was “yes.” Husbands and wives must fulfill their mutual obligations, and the unmarried were free to marry, only “in the Lord” - (1 Corinthians 7:1-40).

Mountain sun burst - Photo by Damian Markutt on Unsplash
Photo by Damian Markutt on Unsplash

However, the Apostle placed marriage in its proper context. 
Ever since the advent of Christ, his disciples must keep their priorities straight:
  • “The time is shortened, therefore, let those that have wives be as though they had none, and let those that buy as though they possessed not… for the fashion of this world is passing away.” - (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).
Is passing away” represents a Greek verb in the present tense, which stresses linear or ongoing action. That is, even now the world is in the process of “passing away” and has been since the arrival of Christ. Similarly, in his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote:
  • (2 Corinthians 5:15-17) - “Having judged this, that one in behalf of all died, hence, they all died; and in behalf of all died he, in order that, they who live, no longer for themselves should live, but for him who, in their behalf, died and rose again. So that we, henceforth, know no one after the flesh: if we have even been gaining after the flesh a knowledge of Christ. On the contrary, now, no longer are we gaining it. So that, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation! The old things have passed away. Behold, they have become new!
Thus, the Death and Resurrection of Jesus inaugurated the new creation. Its implementation began in him.  And that means that THE major pivotal point in history has been reached.
The “old” order is passing away, and the “new” is dawning, and especially so in the church.  There is both continuity and discontinuity between the old and new eras. Many things required under the old system have lost their relevance. For example, circumcision is no longer here nor there. What counts is the “new creation” in him - (Galatians 6:15).

TRANSFERRED TO A NEW DOMINION. Jesus and his sacrificial death has “delivered us from this present evil age.” By this, Paul did not mean our removal from the physical universe, but instead, our deliverance from the present era in preparation for the coming age - (Galatians 1:4).

Likewise, to the Colossians, he thanked God, “who delivered us out of the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son.” Now, his disciples belong to a different age, and consequently, to a different political order - (Colossians 1:12-13).

HIDDEN MYSTERIES REVEALED IN CHRIST. Paul referred to the “mysteries” that were hidden previously but now have been unveiled in Jesus.  The promises given to Abraham and Israel have found their fulfillment in him.

Christ is the “mystery which has been kept in silence through past ages, BUT NOW is manifested,” according to the scriptures. This mystery is “made known to all the Gentiles for the obedience of faith.” He is the “mystery hidden from ages and from generations BUT NOW made manifest to his saints” - (Colossians 1:26, 2 Timothy 1:10).

THE LAST DAYS. In the New Testament, the term “last days” is not a chronological marker, nor does it refer to the final few years of history before the return of Jesus. Instead, it points to the fundamental change in the nature and status of everything because of Jesus. His Death and Resurrection achieved final victory over Sin, Death, and Satan, and thus, set the “last days” into motion.

Calvary means far more than the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God, the promised New Covenant, and the New Creation, and even now, the latter is progressing towards its inevitable consummation.

The final phase of God’s redemptive plan has begun, and therefore, nothing can ever be the same. For Christians, all human relations are radically altered, including marital, societal, and political. With the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the “fullness of time” arrived, the “ends of the ages.”




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