“They sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but the bad they cast away. So shall it be in the consummation of the age” (Matthew 13:48-49 ASV margin).
by Brian Montague
For roughly the past 1990 years, a period known as the Gospel Age has proceeded to the present time. With seemingly such a long era having transpired without end, the following three points merit examination: (1) Why our Heavenly Father preordained the Gospel Age, (2) How the Lord’s people should be shaped by those before us and the events that have transpired during the Gospel Age, and (3) What should the consummation of the Gospel Age mean to us?
Why Our Heavenly Father Preordained the Gospel Age
The scriptures reveal that God has fixed purposes on how His plans shall be accomplished. Consider Isaiah 14:24, “The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.”
Additionally, in Hebrews 4:3 (NIV), the Apostle, referring to our Heavenly Father, states, in part, “His works have been finished since the creation of the world.”
These texts enhance our understanding of the Genesis account, where following the sixth creative day, God rested on the seventh day from all His works; meaning that in God’s plan, everything was fully arranged, once the seventh day commenced, for the ultimate blessing of mankind, in a divinely approved and progressive fashion. This played out through the three manifestations of divine providence that the apostles speak of — the world that was, the present evil world, and the world to come.
From the outset of the world that was, Adam soon fell from perfection. Hence his posterity through the ages inherited, through him, sin, degradation, and death. However, there was a glimmer of hope that salvation would occur. It is recorded that the seed of the woman would destroy the serpent and thus eradicate evil (Genesis 3:15). It just did not occur during the first world, before the flood.
In the second of these three worlds (the world that is now, or present evil world), there are three separate ages. First was the Patriarchal Age, including Abraham, to whom God promised that through his seed all of the families of the earth would be blessed. But salvation did not come during this age. The Jewish Age followed, from the death of Jacob to the end of the 70-week prophecy (Daniel 9:24). God entered into a covenant with Israel according to the flesh. They were called of God to be His peculiar people, and to make ready their hearts, in order to be participants in the Kingdom. Still, the salvation of mankind was not achieved during the Jewish Age.
The Preparation and Shaping of God’s People During the Gospel Age
The last of the three eras during the present evil world is the Gospel Age. Its purpose is to redeem Adam and mankind, and develop a priesthood to bless them in Christ’s Kingdom. It commenced in AD 29 when Jesus was baptized at Jordan and received the holy Spirit.
“Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Those who embraced his words became his disciples. However, they did not yet understand his parables, or the prophesies because the holy Spirit had not been poured out.
At the outset of the Gospel Age, we learn the impact of Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptist says, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). John proclaimed the gospel message at its inception. (In the Greek, “gospel,” Strong’s 2098, is euaggelion, “glad tidings” of salvation through Christ.) The Gospel Age is that period when the good news of future blessings for all is proclaimed: that through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary, mankind will be raised from the grave, and during a kingdom of righteousness, all will have opportunity for restoration of perfect life lost through Adam’s disobedience.
A second aspect of the Gospel Age deals with calling the body of Christ out of the world. If one gives his all to the Lord through consecration and is fully transformed by the holy Spirit, he will become among the few proven worthy to partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-10). As joint-heirs with Christ, they will help bless all the families of the earth.
“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). Following Jesus’ crucifixion in AD 33, more than 1800 years transpired before he returned invisibly at his second advent. However, the Gospel Age continues to the present and will continue until the body of Christ is complete. This lengthy period of selecting the Church reflects the high standard that our Heavenly Father has established for those that are His.
As time passed on, so did the Apostles. The scriptures reveal no detailed accounting of Christian history after their death. However, both through a series of visions written by the Apostle John (Revelation 2 and 3), and secular accounts of Christianity, we are provided other clues and reports concerning the experiences, trials, and growth of the true Church, while under our Lord’s care and guidance.
Concerning the few faithful ones who preceded us, they deprived themselves of earthly preferences and advantages while living through times of social and religious upheaval.
We should be inspired to overcome as we consider those before us, beginning with the Jews who, at the outset of the early church, strove to transform their thoughts and actions from the teachings of the Law to the new standards of Christianity. We should be inspired to overcome as we reflect upon faithful saints who lived through periods of bitter persecution. We should be inspired to overcome upon thinking of those who remained true to God during the rise of the Man of Sin and how it diluted what the true Church was intended to stand for as it united with the power of civil government.
We should be inspired to overcome when thinking of our brethren who persevered during the reign of the apostate church and a dark age of Christianity, when comparatively few did not yield to the pernicious influence of false doctrine, so prevalent. We should be inspired to overcome, thinking of our brethren who boldly spoke out against the systematic slaughter of those deemed to be heretics. We should be inspired to overcome when thinking of those during our lifetime with whom we enjoyed sweet fellowship while on this side of the veil, that were not lukewarm, but with fervor served God in all they did, while surrounded by a world of many “glittery things” to tempt us away from our covenant of sacrifice (Psalms 50:5).
What the Consummation of the Gospel Age Means
Since his fall in Eden, almost 6150 years have elapsed. The human family continues to suffer from what was lost in Adam. However, the release of mankind from this penalty remains a mystery to the masses. The seed of promise is our Lord, but the coming consummation of the Gospel Age provides the great hope of becoming his associates; sharing his glory, to reign with him and judge mankind in righteousness during the third world to come (Galatians 3:16,29). Therefore, the sooner we make our calling and election sure, the sooner earth’s weary night will come to an end.
“At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1). That the children of God’s people are returning to Israel is evidence that Michael (who is like God) is standing up for them, in the first phase of his presence. World wars and depressions are evidence of a time of trouble on tyrannical governments and religions. The shrinking of Christianity is evidence that the faithful church is nearing completion. The consummation of the fruitage of the Gospel Age is at hand.
Many evidences point to the approaching consummation. Today there is a greater awareness for human rights, women’s rights, economic parity, religious freedoms, etc. than ever existed before. Additionally, the signs of Daniel 12:4 become more profound day by day.
Babylon the Great, as a false system, has been cast off from divine favor during this harvest time (Revelation 18:1-4), thus diminishing an evil influence over the masses.
The dispersion, and later regathering of Israel, was predicted in Bible prophecy. God permitted the Roman armies to come against Jerusalem in AD 70. The Romans destroyed the Jewish temple and later razed the city to the ground. Jews were scattered into every corner of the globe. However, it was predicted that the Jewish people would later be regathered. “It shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people … and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:11, 12). Though these are evidences of the soon coming consummation, the Gospel Age continues.
The historical accounts and memories that we carry of our brethren who preceded us give us a rich perspective of the precious promises of scripture which will be ours if we continue to walk the narrow way. Like the faithful few which have preceded us, we too are strengthened through the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:20, until the Gospel Age culminates. “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the consummation of the age” (ASV margin).