Ages. The following references give us the bible’s definition of ages, this age, the conclusion of this age, and the age to come. It should be noticed that ages (or, eons) have to do with this world, or a display to this world of some kind. As no longer Jews and Gentiles, but part of the Church of God, we do not belong to the ages, because the Church is heavenly in character. Whenever the Church us mentioned in connection with the age or ages to come it is always as a display to this world! Ages have to do with time, and can be defined as epochs of time. See Titus 1:2 “…in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the ages of time.” Furthermore, ages didn’t exist in a past eternity. We know this from 1 Cor. 2:7, “…that hidden [wisdom] which God had predetermined before the ages for our glory”. The eternal counsels of the Godhead occurred in a past eternity, before “the ages”. There have been other ages before the present age; “Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:5).
Dispensations and ages. Titus 1:2 tells us that ages are certain epochs within the long range of time. Dispensations, on the other hand, are never connected with time specifically, but they do occur within the framework of time.
Read Matt 12:32, Eph. 1:21. These verses clearly emphasize that there is a present age, and an age to come. We are living in “this age”.
What are the characteristics of “this age”?
- “This age” is characterized by Satan getting his way; at least as far as appearances go.
“In whom the god of this age blinded the minds of the faithless.” (2 Cor. 4:4)
- “This age” includes the Times of the Gentiles, when the Lord was crucified.
“which none of the princes of this age knew, (for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory).” (1 Cor. 2:8)
- “This age” is evil, and all that is characterized as belonging to it is heading on to judgment.
“…our Lord Jesus Christ, that gave himself for our sins, so that he might deliver us out of the present evil age.” (Galatians 1:4)
- “This age” has many distractions that are harmful to the Christian. We are exhorted to be careful about getting our affections caught up in the attractions of this age.
“Demas has forsaken me, having loved the present age…” (2 Tim. 4:10)
When did “this age” begin? We have learned that “this age” is characterized by evil prevailing, and by Satan having his way. We know that the Lord was crucified during this age, and the inclusion of “the princes of this age” at least dates the start of it back to Nebuchadnezzar. We learn more about it as we see what scripture says about “the end (or completion) of this age”, but I will simply state that it began with the giving of the Law. The proof of this follows in the next section.
When did “this age” become evil? With the rejection and crucifixion of our Lord. It was then that the princes of this age crucified the Lord of glory. As already mentioned, the Church is heavenly in character, and does not belong to this evil age, although we live during it. “This age” has not stopped running its course, and the believer must walk through this evil age (which takes faith) and not be caught up in it.
The Completion of the Age
Broadly speaking, the “end of the age” is the time of the final apostasy which will come to a head during Daniel’s seventieth week. This age will end with the wicked being judged at the harvest judgment, which is at the Appearing of Christ.
“…the harvest is the completion of the age, and the harvestmen are angels. As then the darnel is gathered and is burned in the fire, thus it shall be in the completion of the age.” (Matt. 13:39-40) See also Matt. 13:49
The end of the age includes the Beginning of Throes (first 3 ½ years), the Great Tribulation (last 3 ½ years), and the Coming of the Son of Man.
“the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be, and what is the sign of thy coming and the completion of the age?” (Matt. 24:3)
Also, see Matt. 28:20. From these verses we have learned that the end of this age is strongly connected with the judgment of this world, the coming of the Lord, and the fulfillment of prophecy. We now know that the transition from this age to the next is marked by the appearing of the Lord and the putting down of His enemies. Since prophecy has largely to do with Israel, and stretch as far back as Moses, we could say that This Age continues from Moses to the Appearing of Christ.
The Age to Come
“This age” is connected with the Old Covenant, and the testing of the First Man under it’s terms. The “age to come” is connected with the New Covenant, and the Second Man demonstrating His perfection in the administration of the world.
The “Age to come” will involve reward for faithfulness to Christ now. See Mark 10:30 and Luke 18:30.
“And he said to them, Verily I say to you, There is no one who has left home, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more at this time, and in the coming age life eternal.” (Luke 18:29-30)
The “Age to come” is characterized by miraculous power which was seen only in part on the Day of Pentecost.
“…have tasted the good word of God, and the works of power of the age to come…” (Heb. 6:5)
“And it shall come to pass afterwards that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28)
From these things we can conclude that the Age to come is characterized by the Lord’s reign on the earth, and the blessing that will result. The “dispensation of the fullness of times” (i.e. the millennium, Eph. 1:10) will unfold during, and coterminous with, “the age to come”.
The Ages of Ages
The “Ages of ages” is an expression that refers to the eternal state. It tells us that there are future ages to come after the Millennium, although we can’t wrap our minds around endless ages, or eternity. In Eph. 2:7 we get an expression “the ages to come” that would appear to encompass “the age to come” (the Millennium) and the “Ages of ages”.
“…and they shall reign to the ages of ages.” (Rev. 22:5)
The age of the ages refers to eternity because we can compare the expression “Ages of ages” with Rev. 4:9 which says that God’s lifetime is for the Ages of ages; so we know it must be an expression that means time without end.
The scripture that takes us the furthest into eternity is Eph. 3:21, which references “all the generations of the age of the ages”.
The Consummation of the Ages
The expressions “ends of the ages” and “consummation of the ages” are used in a slightly different way than the previous terms. You could have an “end” of a time period chronologically, or you could have an “end” in the sense of outcome. The same is true of these two terms.
The expression “consummation of the ages” means the spiritual outcome of the ages. The outcome of all the times of the testing of the first man is seen at the cross. “But now once in the consummation of the ages he has been manifested for the putting away of sin by his sacrifice” (Heb. 9:26). The outcome determined is that the first man is proved a complete failure after 4000 years of testing, and so the Second Man appeared to put right and glorify God in all that the first man had ruined.1
The “end of the ages” is the moral outcome of the ages, and we are living in that light of that today; we have all the accumulated light of the ages in view! “Now all these things happened unto them typically, and were written for our admonition, unto whom the ends of the ages have reached” (1 Cor. 10:11). When you get the expression “consummation of the ages” or “ends of the ages” it isn’t talking about the days of end-times prophecy, but a moral end or outcome of the testing of the first man.2 Now that the Spirit of God has brought the outcome of the ages in view, we can see the purpose of the Old Testament typical teaching. The Church does not belong to the earth-ages, but we are privy to the knowledge of the end results!
Chart of the Ages, Three Worlds, and Three Dispensational Days
Dispensations; Dispensational Days; Eph. 2:2; Heb. 9:26; 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 6:5; Titus 1:2
- The “end of the ages,” or “consummation of the ages,” are all the dealings of God with man to test his general condition. In this general sense the state of innocence came in; but the proper connection is what comes after the fall, yet not looking at man as lost, but testing his state and whether he was recoverable; or was lost and had to be saved. Without law; under law; God manifested in the flesh, were the great features of this [testing of the first man]. Hence in John 12 the Lord says, “Now is the judgment of this world.” Though there was testimony, there were no religious institutions before the flood, unless the fact of sacrifices. There were after: government; promises to Abraham, showing it was grace to one separated from an idolatrous world and head of a new race [not an accurate description]; the law; the prophets; and at last the Son as come, not as offered. Then God laid the foundation of His own purposes in righteousness. – Darby, J.N. Letters of J. N. Darby 3:442.
- The expression, “the ends of the ages,” which will be found in 1 Corinthians 10:11, is rather strange; but to preserve the sense of the Greek, we could not say, “the last times,” any more than “the end of the ages,” still less “the end of the world.” The end of the ages was not yet come; but all the different dispensations by which God had put Himself in relation with man, so far as they were connected with man’s responsibility, had come to one point, and were brought to an end in the death of the Lord Jesus. After that — great as had been His longsuffering — God established a new creation. We have therefore used the literal translation, “the ends of the ages.” – Darby, J.N. Collected Writings 13:169.