Ends of the Ages

The Apostle coordinated the commencement of the “last days,” the time of fulfillment, with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus

Sunset Sea - Photo by Gontran Isnard on Unsplash
The Apostle Paul coordinated the commencement of the “
last days” with the death and resurrection of Jesus. In him, the time of fulfillment had arrived, and all the promises of God were finding their “yea and amen” in Christ.  God had spoken truly but partially in the prophets of old; but now, he was speaking fully in His Son - [Photo by Gontran Isnard on Unsplash].

While the term “last days” is not frequent in Paul’s letters, he does demonstrate his understanding that History’s final era had commenced with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and therefore, nothing would ever be the same again.

ENDS OF THE AGES. To the Greek-speaking congregation in Corinth, he categorized key events from the Hebrew Bible as “types,” examples for the followers of Jesus, the very ones “upon whom the ends of the ages have arrived.” In the wilderness, God provided Israel with “spiritual drink” from the “spiritual rock,” which prefigured Jesus (for “the rock was Christ”). Such pivotal events are examples so that Christians no longer will live after the manner of this age - (1 Corinthians 10:11).

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul used the plural forms of “ages” and “ends.” The Greek term telos or “end” may signify the termination of something, but also its “goal.” And in his letter, both senses may be in view - termination and goal.

Jesus expressed the same thought in his parable of the Wheat and Tares, which will be “gathered at the consummation of the age.” “Consummation” translates a compound word built on telos, or sunteleia. Similarly, the Book of Hebrews declares that Jesus “once in the consummation (sunteleiaof the ages, has appeared to put away sin by his sacrifice” - (Matthew 13:36-44Hebrews 9:26).

Thus, In Christ, one era reached its endpoint while another one commenced.  That transition was due to Jesus, to his death, resurrection, and subsequent exaltation. And therefore, the “ends of the ages” have come upon Christians.

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

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

The law served as the “custodian” for God’s people “until the faith that should afterward be revealed.”  Since that faith has arrived, God’s people are no longer under the custodian with its division 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).

THE FULLNESS OF TIME. And 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).
And so, Paul linked the “promise of Abraham,” the inheritance, redemption, and the “fullness of time” all to the arrival of Jesus, along with the “adoption” of God’s children and the gift of the Spirit, for the arrival of Jesus signified a fundamental change in the law and the status of the people of God – (Galatians 3:1-4).

The first arrival of Jesus marked the “fullness of time,” the point when the saints ceased to be minors under the custodianship of the law, and instead, became full heirs of the promises made to Abraham. To now return to the “elemental things” of the old order meant nothing less than regression:
  • How turn you back to the weak and beggarly elements unto which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days, months, times and years” - (Galatians 4:9-11).
In Galatia, an area of conflict was the return to the Jewish calendrical observations required by the Levitical regulations. But since they were no longer required, it followed that the jurisdiction of the Law had terminated, which also meant that a radical change in the status and identity of God’s people had taken place. The same clause occurs in his letter to the Ephesians:
  • (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, the all things in the Christ, the things upon the heavens and the things upon the earth, in him. In whom also we were taken as an inheritance, according to the purpose of him who energizes all things according to the counsel of his will.
In the preceding passage, Paul used the more pregnant term “seasons,” and in the plural number to stress how Jesus was the goal of God’s plans from all eras - past, present, future.

PRESENT AGE FADING. Paul addressed marital relationships in 1 Corinthians. Should Christians continue in such 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, however, only “in the Lord.”

New Creation - Photo by Jingda Chen on Unsplash
Photo by Jingda Chen on Unsplash

Nevertheless, Paul did place the institution of marriage in its proper place. Disciples must keep their priorities straight, for since the advent of Christ:
  • “The time is shortened, therefore, let those that have wives may 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).
The present tense verb rendered “passing away” stresses ongoing action; action-in-progress. 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 taught:
  • (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 promised new creation. Its implementation has already begun, and this means that a major pivotal point in history has been reached in him. The “old” order is passing away and the “new” one is dawning, especially in the church.  There is both continuity and discontinuity between the old and new eras. Things that were 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. In Galatians, Paul pointed to Jesus and his sacrificial death that “delivered us from this present evil age.” He did not refer to our removal from the physical universe, but instead, to 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.” Disciples now belong to a different age and a different political order - (Colossians 1:12-13).

HIDDEN MYSTERIES REVEALED IN CHRIST. Paul wrote of the “mysteries” that were hidden previously, but have now been made plain in Jesus, especially in his death and resurrection.  The promises given by the prophets of Israel 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 manifested to his saints” - (Colossians 1:26, 2 Timothy 1:10).

THE LAST DAYS. The term “last days” is not a chronological marker, nor does it refer simply to the final few years of history before the return of Jesus. Instead, a fundamental change in the nature and status of everything has occurred in Jesus. His death achieved final victory over Sin, Death, and Satan. Since his resurrection, the “last days,” the final era of human history has been underway as the present order winds down to its inevitable end.

Calvary means far more than the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God, the New Covenant, and the New Creation. The latter is not waiting for its commencement; it has begun already and is progressing toward its inevitable consummation. His death put into motion the final phase of the redemptive plan of God for the entire creation, and nothing can ever be the same. All human relations are radically altered, including marital, societal, and political relationships.

That is why the New Testament consistently portrays the “last days” as having begun with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The age of fulfillment has been upon us ever since he rose from the dead, which also marked the arrival of the “fullness of time.”

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