According to the New Testament, the Death and Resurrection of Jesus inaugurated the “last days” – 1 Corinthians 10:11.
In his letters, the Apostle Paul demonstrates his understanding that History’s final era, the “last days,” commenced with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. For the church, that means that nothing can ever be the same again. Decisions and plans must be made with that knowledge firmly in view. For that matter, already, the forms and institutions of the present age are in the process of “passing away.”
To the congregation at Corinth, he categorized the key events from the Hebrew Bible as “types,” examples for us, the ones “upon whom the ends of the ages have arrived.” In the wilderness, God provided Israel with “spiritual drink” from the “spiritual rock” that prefigured Jesus (for “the rock was Christ”). Those events were examples so the Corinthians would no longer 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.”
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.
Jesus expressed the same thought in his parable of the Wheat and Tares, which were “gathered at the consummation of the age.” Likewise, the epistle to the Hebrews declares that Jesus, “once, in the consummation of the ages, has appeared to put away sin by his sacrifice” – (Matthew 13:36-44, Hebrews 9:26).
In Christ, one era reached its endpoint, while another commenced. The transition was due 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 his arrival signaled the “end (telos) of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” 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 frame. It was “added because of transgressions until the seed should come to whom the promise was made,” and that “seed” is none other than Jesus – (Galatians 3:19-25).
The law was the “custodian” for God’s people “until the faith that should afterward was revealed.” Since it has come, believers are 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, Paul linked the promise, inheritance, redemption, and the “fullness of time” to the arrival of Jesus, which also signified a fundamental change in the law and status of God’s people. And since in him, the “fullness of time” has arrived, nothing is the same. And so, returning to the rites and rituals of the old order amount to regression to bondage, a return to the custodianship of the law, which is why the Apostle 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, he 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 Corinthians -Should believers continue in marriage relationships considering the “present distress?” The short answer is “yes.” Husbands and wives must fulfill their mutual obligations, and the unmarried are free to marry, only, “in the Lord” – (1 Corinthians 7:1-40).
However, marriage must be kept 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).
“Passing away” represents a Greek verb in the present tense, which stresses linear or ongoing action. That is, even now, the present age is in the process of “passing away” and has been since the arrival of Christ. Similarly, in his second letter to the Corinthians, he 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!”
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 already. Much remains to be done, but the decisive moment has already passed, namely, in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
The “old” order is passing away, and the “new” one is dawning, and especially so in the church as it proclaims the gospel. 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. By his death, Jesus 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. Believers are no longer under the dominion of sin, Satan, or the fear of death – (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. To use more modern terms, this perspective represents an eschatological orientation, what one author called “the apocalyptic imagination” – (Colossians 1:12-13).
HIDDEN MYSTERIES REVEALED IN CHRIST. Paul refers 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.
He is the “mystery which has been kept in silence through past ages, but now is manifested.” 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 is 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 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, beginning with the outpouring of the Spirit – (Acts 2:17-21).
Calvary means far more than the forgiveness of sins. On the Cross, 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 when the current order will be replaced by the “new heavens and the new earth.”
The final phase of God’s redemptive plan has begun, and therefore, nothing will ever be the same for anyone. For Christians, all human relations are radically altered, including marital, societal, and political. In Jesus, the “fullness of time” arrived, the “ends of the ages.” For unbelievers, now is the opportune time to hear and heed the gospel. How one responds to Jesus determines one’s fate in the “age to come.” Not willing that “any should perish,” God has “postponed” the final day when the “elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be consumed,” so that the proclamation of the kingdom can go out to all nations, to the “uttermost parts of the earth.”