All Hebrew and Greek words are transliterated into English forms throughout.
(1) As we look around us today it may appear that Jehovah's works have all gone bad. With all of the wars, killing, stealing, and other hurtful things we may think that Jehovah does not know what he is doing. But what we need to do is understand Jehovah's completed work. Then we can understand how all the bad things happening now will help the whole world toward that finished purpose. We can see how Jehovah will use the bad things happening today to bring a better world for all people to live in. Gods finished work will universally declare his infinite wisdom and power. His plans will be seen to be in harmony with his glorious attributes.
Jehovah's Purpose Does Not Change
(2) God tells us that he has a definitely fixed purpose, and that all his purposes will be accomplished. (Isaiah 46:9,10; 55:11) Since this is so, we should certainly want to apply ourselves to trying to understand what Jehovah's plans are, so that we may be found in harmony with them. (Psalm 119:34) Jehovah tells us that he never changes his purposes: "Jehovah of hosts has sworn, saying: 'Surely as I have thought, so will it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so will it be.'" "Jehovah of hosts has purposed, and who will nullify it?" "I am mighty and there is none mightier, and there is none like me ... My counsel will stand, and I will do all my pleasure ... Yes, I have spoken it, I will bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it." (Isaiah 14:27; 46:9-11) For most people, God's works appear to be haphazard or mysterious. This is because they do not understand or appreciate the final outcome. However, those who believe this testimony of his Word must acknowledge that his original and unalterable plan has been, and still is, progressing systematically to completion.
If you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures -- then you will understand the reverence of Jehovah, and find the knowledge of God. -- Proverbs 2:3-5.
The Three Kosmoi of 2 Peter 3:5-13
(3) Mankind in general is groping in the darkness of ignorance. (Isaiah 60:2) They will have to wait for the actual developments of God's plan before they can realize the glorious attributes of the Divine Architect. (Isaiah 29:18) Nevertheless, there is a small number of truly dedicated Disciples of Jesus who are being privileged to see by faith and the light of God's lamp the foretold glories of the future. (1 Thessalonians 5:4,5; 1 Corinthians 2;12) With this knowledge they come to appreciate the otherwise mysterious or secret works of the past and the present. (1 Corinthians 1:7) If you have dedicated your life to God, or are considering dedicating your life to God, by all means apply yourself to God's Word and prayer that through the holy spirit you may understand his purposes as you diligently inquire into the plans and specifications given in the Bible. (Proverbs 2:3-6) There we learn that the plan of God, with reference to man, spans three great periods of time, beginning with man's creation and reaching into the endless future. (2 Peter 3:3-6,13) By designating the heavens and earth that were before the flood of Noah as that world (2 Peter 3:4,5), Peter, in effect, designates all three periods similarly each as a "world", thus resulting in three worlds.
Great Epochs Called "Worlds"
(4) These three great epochs represent three distinct manifestations of divine providence. The first, from the creation of Adam to the flood, was under the administration of angels, and is called by Peter "THE WORLDÂ (KOSMOS) THAT WAS." -- 2 Peter 3:6.
(5) The second great epoch, from the flood to the establishment of the kingdom (rulership) of God, may be styled the world that now is. (2 Peter 3:7) The third world follows, in which righteousness is dwell, may be called "the world to come."
World That Was
By the word of God the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was standing out of the water and in middle of the water. By this means the world that then was, perished. -- 2 Peter 3:5,6
World That Now Is
But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved for the fire against the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly men. -- 2 Peter 3:7
World to Come
Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, are looking for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell. -- 2 Peter 3:13
(6) The third is to be a "world without end" (Isaiah 45:17) under divine administration, the kingdom (rulership) of God, and is called 'THE WORLD TO COME -- wherein dwells righteousness.' -- Hebrews 2:5; 2 Peter 3:13.
Three Great Worlds
(7) The first of these periods or "worlds," under the administration of angels, was a failure; (Hebrews 2:2,5) the second, under the rule of Satan, the usurper, has been indeed an "evil world"; but the third will be an era of righteousness and of blessing to all the families of the earth. (Psalm 72:7; Isaiah 25:6-8) The last two of these "worlds" are most particularly mentioned, and the statements relative to them are in strong contrast.
(8) The present, or second period, is called "the present evil world," not because there is nothing good in it, but because in it evil is permitted to predominate. "Now we call the proud happy; yes, they that work wickedness are set up; yes they that tempt God are even delivered." -- Malachi 3:15.
(9) The third world or epoch is mentioned as 'THE WORLD TO COME, wherein dwells righteousness,' not because there will be no evil in it, but because evil will not predominate. The blotting out of evil will be gradual, requiring all of the first thousand years. Evil will not rule then; it will not prosper; it will no longer be the wicked that will flourish; but "the righteous will flourish" (Psalm 72:7), the obedient will eat "the good of the land" (Isaiah 1:19), and "the evil doer will be cut off." -- Psalm 37:9.
He will judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. The mountains will bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. He will bring justice to the poor of the people; he will save the children of the needy and will break in pieces the oppressor. -- Psalm 72:2-4
(10) Thus seen, the dispensation, or world to come, is to be so different from today that we could say that it will be the very opposite in almost every way. The Scriptures show why there is to be a contrast between the present and the future dispensations. It is because Jesus will be the prince or ruler of the world to come. (Isaiah 9:6) In it righteousness and truth will prosper. Satan is the prince (ruler) of the present evil world, and therefore evil prospers and the wicked flourish. Jesus stated that the prince of this world has no grip on him. (John 14:30; 2 Corinthians 12:7) Jesus further tells us that in this present evil world or epoch, whosoever will live godly suffers persecution, while the wicked flourish like a green bay tree. -- 2 Timothy 3:12; Psalm 37:35.
(11) Jesus said, "My kingdom is not part of this world (Greek, kosmos)." Here, we believe, Jesus uses the word "world" in reference, not just to the world that came after the flood, but to the "world" that God made through him. (John 1:10) "This world" is the world that is spoken of in Romans 5:19, which became corrupted through sin. As a result of sin, this world has come under an oppressive sun of vanity, a bondage of corruption, from which it cannot free itself. (Ecclesiastes 1:2,8-15; 7:13; Romans 8:20-22) Until this present this present condemned world passes away and the new era now called the "age to come" (Mark 10:30; Hebrews 6:5) has arrived, Messiah's kingdom will not have full control of the earth. (John 18:36) And for this we are taught to hope and pray: "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth." (Matthew 6:10) Satan is the "ruler of the darkness of this world," and therefore "darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the people." He now rules and works in the hearts of the children of disobedience. -- Ephesians 2:2; 6:12.
I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. -- Revelation 20:1,2
(12) There must be some very important part of the great Architect's plan for man's salvation that has not yet fully developed. If God's plan had been fully developed, the new prince and the new dispensation would have been long ago introduced. But it has been postponed until an appointed time. But the time will come when the present evil empire under Satan will give way to that of the righteous rule of the Anointed One. How these things will come about will be more fully shown in later studies of this series. For now we want to say that the kingdoms of this world, now subject to Satan, are at the proper time to become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his anointed. (Revelation 11:15) The context shows that the transfer will be accomplished by a general time of trouble. (Revelation 11:18) In reference to this Jesus said: "No man can enter into a strong man's house and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man, and then he will spoil his house." (Mark 3:22-27) Thus we are taught that Satan must first be bound, restrained and thrown into an abyss, before Christ's reign of righteousness and peace can be fully established. This binding of Satan is accordingly shown to be one of the first works of the new dispensation. -- Revelation 20:2.
The Planet Earth is Not Removed
(13) It should be remembered that this planet earth is the basis of all these "worlds" and dispensations. God has promised that the planet itself will never be removed. (Psalm 104:5; 119:90) Carrying out the same pattern, Peter calls three distinct periods of time a separate 'heavens and earth.' He uses the word heavensÂ to signify the higher or spiritual controlling powers, and earth signifies human government and social arrangements. Thus the first heavens and earth, or the order and arrangement of things then existing, having served their purpose, ended at the flood. The physical heavens of the stars, moon and sun did not pass away (Genesis 15:5; Psalm 8:3); the physical heavens were the birds fly did not pass away (Genesis 1:20); nor did the spiritual heavens where God's throne is pass away. (Isaiah 61:1) Likewise, the physical earth which was flooded did not pass away. They all remained. So likewise the present world (heaven and earth) will pass away with a great noise, fire and melting -- confusion, trouble and dissolution. The strong man (Satan), will struggle to retain his power. The present order or arrangement of government and society, not that of the physical sky and earth, will pass away. The present order or arrangement of government will pass away. The present heavens (powers of spiritual control) must give place to the "new heavens" -- Christ's spiritual control. The present earth (human society as now organized under Satan's control) must (symbolically) melt and be dissolved, during the "Day of Jehovah," which "will burn as an oven." (Malachi 4:1) It will be succeeded by a "new earth," that is, society organized in harmony with earth's new Prince -- the Messiah. Righteousness, peace, and love will rule among men when present arrangements have given place to the new and better kingdom, the basis of which will be the strictest justice. Truly, isn't this what all honest-hearted people want?
The Age to Come
(14) Paul was given a glimpse of the next dispensation, or, as he calls it: "the age to come." (Hebrews 6:5) He says he was "caught away" (physically or mentally, or both, he could not tell, things were so real to his view) down the stream of time to the new condition of things, the "new heaven." Hence, he saw the spiritual control of Christ -- things that he was not permitted to disclose. He also saw the "new earth" -- paradise. (2 Corinthians 12:2-4) John was probably allowed to see some of these same things later as he received visions of the future in symbols, which may only be understood as they become due. John, in the revelation given to him by our Lord on the Isle of Patmos, was in vision carried down through this present age and its changing scenes of church and state to the end of the present evil age, or epoch. There, in prophetic vision, he saw Satan bound, Christ reigning, and the new heaven and the new earth (paradise) established. The former heaven and earth passed away. -- Revelation 21:1.
Smaller Ages and Dispensations
(15) We now give our attention to some of the smaller ages or sub-ages into which the three great epochs are subdivided. It is possible to subdivide the first of these great epochs into at least two smaller ages. The second great epoch, or "world that now is," includes three smaller ages, each a step in the plan of God for the overthrow of evil. Each step is higher than the one preceding it, and carries the plan forward and nearer completion. (Of course, each of the great epochs could possibly contain even more smaller ages or ages within ages that we do not deal with here.) The third great epoch -- "the world to come" -- future from the final return of Christ, comprises the Millennial Age, or "the times of restoration." After the Millennial Age, there is a short period of time that Satan is again let loose. At the end of the this short age, Satan and all his followers are destroyed and mankind enters into the endless "ages to come," the details of which are not revealed. (Ephesians 2:7) Present revelations treat of man's recovery from sin and the final test of individual fitness for life, and not of the eternity of glory to follow.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living things that moves upon the earth." -- Genesis 1:28,29
Smaller Ages of the World That Was
(16) The first smaller age (pertaining to man) of the first great epoch begins with the creation of Adam and ends when he is thrown out of the Garden of Eden. During this time man enjoyed a special relationship with God. (Genesis 1:28,29; 3:22-24) God had given man his law, written in his very nature. But after Adam sinned God changed his method of dealing with man, causing a second smaller age to begin. From then on God left man measurably to his own course which was downward, for "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5) During this time many of the angels misused the powers God gave them to materialize. Consequently they made themselves human-like bodies and married the daughters of men, in disobedience to Jehovah. (Genesis 6:1-2; 2 Peter 2:4,5; Jude 6) We find that this second smaller age ended at the flood of Noah's day. Evidently 120 years earlier, when God called Noah, 'Jehovah changed his course toward man whom he made on the earth, and he was grieved at heart.' At this point the second smaller age (or "world"), was on notice that its days were limited (120 years). (Genesis 6:3) During the "last days" of this smaller age the command was given to Noah to build an ark to safely carry him and his family through the end of that world. That age ended with a flood, which took away all but faithful Noah and his family. Thus the second smaller age of Peter's "world that was" not only manifested the disastrous effects of sin, but showed the tendency of sin downward to greater degradation and misery, and proves the necessity of Jehovah's interposition, if the recovery of "that which was lost" -- man's first estate -- is ever to be accomplished. -- Luke 19:10.
Smaller Ages of This Present Evil World
(17) The first smaller age in Peter's "world that now is" we call the PATRIARCHAL AGE, or dispensation. During that period God's dealings and favors were with a few individuals only, the remainder of mankind being almost ignored. Such favored ones were the patriarchs Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Each of these in turn were chosen by God to receive special favor. -- Acts 7:1-15.
(18) At the death of Jacob that smaller age or order ended. After Jacob's death, his descendants were recognized by God as his "peculiar people." Through typical sacrifices they were typically "a holy nation," separated from other nations for a particular purpose, and therefore to enjoy certain special favors. The time allotted to this feature of the divine plan, beginning with the death of Jacob and ending at the death of Christ, we designate the JEWISH AGE, or the Law dispensation. During that smaller age God specially blessed that nation. He gave them his law. He made a special covenant with them. He gave them the tabernacle, whose shekinah glory in the Most Holy represented Jehovah's presence with them as their Leader and King. To them he sent the prophets, and finally his son. -- Acts 7:34,38,44; Luke 16:16; Acts 3:25,26.
(19) Jesus performed many miracles and taught in the midst of the people of Israel. He did not go to any but the nation of Israel. Nor did he permit his disciples to go to the surrounding nations. He sent them out, saying: "Do not go into the way of the nations, and do not enter into any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 10:5,6) And again he said: "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 15:24) Thus, for a while, only the nation of Israel was favored with the message of about the Messiah.
(20) This national favor ended when they showed their national rejection of him by having him executed as a criminal by the Roman authorities. Jesus showed this when, five days before his impalement, he declared to Jerusalem: "Your house is left unto you desolate." (Matthew 23:38) There, at Jesus' death, we can identity a new smaller age that began, which many often refer to as the Gospel (Good News) age. During this period good tidings of justification, not to the Jew only, but to all nations was heralded. Jesus the Messiah, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man. The Good News Age lasts until the full establishment of Christ's Kingdom over all the earth. During this Age a special class is called. This is a class of individuals who by faith accept Jesus as their Redeemer and Master, and follow in his footsteps. They receive a particular favor. To them special promises are made. The Good News proclamation has gone forth hither and thither through the earth since Jesus' death, though often polluted with man's traditions. It has not converted nations -- it is not designed to do so in this age. But it has been selecting here and there some, a little flock, as Jesus had foretold (Luke 12:32), to whom it is the Father's good pleasure to give the Kingdom.
The Time of Trouble
(21) The last part of the Gospel Age the Bible describes as a "time of trouble" (Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21) Like the ending period of the first great age, we believe this intervening period could also 120 years long. Jesus called the final stages of the age as a period of "great tribulation." It is during this great tribulation that a final "kingdom" group would be called: "the great multitude" who come out of the "great tribulation." (Revelation 7:9-17) The "great multitude" who pass through the "great tribulation" provide the link between this "present evil world" and "the world to come" just as Noah and his family were a link through the end of the world at that time. -- Matthew 24:37-41.
Restoration For All Mankind
(22) As a result of the "great tribulation" the "present evil age" fully ends. God has been thus permitting the predominance and reign of wickedness, to the seeming detriment of his cause. Nevertheless his deep designs have been steadily progressing according to a fixed and definite plan, and in the exact order of the seasons which he has appointed. In the end of this age, and the dawn of its successor, the Millennial Age, Satan is to be thrown into an abyss and his power overthrown. (Revelation 20:2-3) This prepares the way for the establishment of Christ's kingdom (Revelation 20:4) and the beginning of 'the world to come, wherein dwells righteousness.'
(23) "Millennium," signifying a thousand years, is by common consent used as the name for the period mentioned in Revelation 20:4 -- the thousand years of Christ's reign, the first smaller age in the "world to come." During the Millennial Age, there will be a restoration of all things lost by the fall of Adam (Acts 3:19-21), and before its close all tears will have been wiped away. After the Millennial Age, another short age, the Little Season, is mentioned in the Bible. This smaller age, the length of which is not readily disclosed, will be the final testing of each individual's fitness for life. Beyond its boundary, in the ages of blessedness to follow, there will be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying; neither will there be any more pain. The former things will have passed away. (Revelation 21:4) God's revelations particularize no further, and there we stop.
God's Progressive Plan
(24) We have here only glanced at the mere outline of this plan of the ages. The more we examine it, the more we will find in it perfect harmony, beauty, and order. Each age has its part to accomplish, necessary to the complete development of God's plan as a whole. The plan is a progressive one, gradually unfolding from age to age, upward and onward to the grand consummation of the original design of the Divine Architect, "who works all things after the counsel of his own will." (Ephesians 1:11) Not one of these great periods is an hour too long or too short for the accomplishment of its object. God is a wise economist of both time and means, though his resources are infinite; and no power, however malicious, for a moment retards or thwarts his purposes. All things, evil as well as good, under divine supervision and overruling, are working together for the accomplishment of his will.
(25) To the the material-minded, those who can see only a little of the intricate machinery of God's plan, it appears like anarchy, confusion, and failure, just as the whole, or even a part, of an intricate machine would appear to a child. (1 Corinthians 2:6-3) To their immature and untutored minds it is incomprehensible, and the opposite motions of its wheels and belts are but confusion. But maturity and investigation will show that the seeming confusion is beautiful harmony, working good results. The machine, however, was as truly a success before the child understood its operation as after. So, while God's plan is, and has been for ages, in successful operation, man has been receiving the necessary discipline, not only to enable him to understand its intricate workings, but also to experience its blessed results.
Application of the Ages to Further Study
(26) As we pursue our study of the Bible and the plan it presents, it is essential that we keep in memory these ages and their respective peculiarities and objects; for in no one of them can the plan be seen, but in all of them, even as a link is not a chain, but several links united form a chain. We obtain correct ideas of the whole plan by noting the distinctive features of each part, and thus we are enabled to rightly divide the word of truth. -- 2 Timothy 2:15.
(27) A statement of the Word which belongs solely to one epoch, or dispensation, cannot always be applied to another, as things stated in one age are not always true of another. For instance, it would be an untruth to say of the present time that the knowledge of Jehovah fills the whole earth, or that there is no need to say to your neighbor: "Know Jehovah!" (Isaiah 11:9; Jeremiah 31:34) This is not true in this age, and it cannot be true until the Lord Jesus, having come again, has established his kingdom; for throughout this age there have been seducing deceptions, and we are told that even in the very end of the age -- in the last day ... evil men and seducers will become worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:1,13) It will be as the result of Christ's reign during the Millennial Age that knowledge and righteousness will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
The Kingdoms of This World
(28) A similar mistake, and a very common one, is to suppose that God's kingdom is now established and ruling over the earth, and that his will is now done among the nations. This is manifestly far from the truth, for the kingdoms of this world are supported and enriched through oppression, injustice, and deceit, to as great an extent as the increasing intelligence of the people will permit. Satan, the present "prince of this world," must yet be displaced, and these kingdoms, now under his control, must become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Anointed, when he will take unto himself his great power, and reign. By seeking and searching the scriptures, we discern that system and order which mark the stately steppings of our God through the ages past and into the future.
(29) By the light now due to the household of faith, we discern that system and order which mark the stately steppings of our God through the ages past, and we are forcibly reminded of the beautiful lines of Cowper, inspired by a living faith, which trusted where it could not trace the Almighty Jehovah:
He Will Make It Plain
(Adapted)Yah moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform:
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.
You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not Jehovah by frail sense,
But trust him for his grace.
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain.
Yah is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
Addendum: The Resurrection and Judgment in the Last Day as Related to the "Ages"
There have been some questions that have arisen concerning the "last day" and the ages as spoken of in the study above. We will try to address most of these questions in this Addendum.
There are basically two different Greek words used in the New Testament related to the ages. One is "Aion" (Strong's #165) corresponding in many cases to the Hebrew 'owlam (Strong's Hebrew #5769), and the other Greek word is "kosmos" (Strong's #2889). "Aion" refers to a period of time, which can be definite or indefinite, depending on the context; "Kosmos" refers more to the arrangement of things (government, society, etc.) that can be -- but not necessarily -- associated with a period of time.
We will first focus on scriptures that use the words "aion" and "owlam" as related to specific periods of time. The "age [Greek, aion, Strong's #165] to come" is spoken of in Matthew 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; 20:35; Ephesians 1:21; Hebrews 2:5; 6:5. Ephesians 2:7 refers to "ages to come." -- Ephesians 2:7. Usually, "age to come" appears to be referring to the first of the "ages to come," that is, the 1,000 years of Christ's reign, the day of judgment. After the first "age to come" is over, there will be at least one more age which leads into eternity. Whether there will be more than one age "after" the 1,000 years is not stated, although the account in Revelation 20 could be viewed as at least two ages, the "little season" in which Satan is loosed, and age after Satan and that wicked are destroyed.
Ephesians 3:21 and Isaiah 45:17 refer to an "age without end." This would encompass all "ages" to come as one "age" made up of sub-ages.
Hebrews 1:2 speaks of "ages" [plural] as being made by means of Jesus. In context, this seems to be referring to the two great general ages, the one which became corrupted due to Adam's sin, and the second that is to have no end.
Hebrews 11:3 speaks of ages as having been framed by means of the Logos of God. It is possible that "Logos of God" is being used as a title for Jesus, as shown in Revelation 19:13. Nevertheless, this scripture is again probably speaking of the two great ages, the first of which became corrupted through sin, and the second which is to consist of all ages to come.
The present evil age is spoken of in Galatians 1:4: "who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father."Â (World English version) While this scripture is often used to refer to the age from the time of flood of Noah's day, more than likely Paul was actually referring to the age that began with Adam's sin, since that is what the believer is reckoned as being delivered from.
Some other scriptures that refer to this present evil age. - Matthew 12:32; 13:22; Mark 4:19; Luke 16:8; 20:34; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 1:20; 2:6,8; 3:18; 8:13; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 1:21; 2:2; 6:12; 1 Timothy 6:17; 4:10; Titus 2:12.
Colossians 1:26 refers to "ages' (plural), during which the mystery about Christ had been hidden, thus indicating more than one "age" as having past since Adam sinned. These "ages" would therefore be sub-ages of the greater overall "age."
This present age is spoken of as having a beginning. Although its beginning was not of evil, it became corrupted due to sin. -- Luke 1:70; John 9:32; Acts 3:21; 15:18; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Hebrews 9:26. The end of this present evil age, that was begun with disobedience of Adam, is spoken of in Matthew 13:39,40,49; 24:3; 28:20; 1 John 2:17.
Hebrews 9:26 also refers to the end of the present evil age, including all of its "ages": "now once at the end of the ages, he has been revealed to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. " (World English) The "ages" here are plural in the Greek, referring to the end of more than one age, evidentlyÂ referring to time period from his first appearance to his second appearance (Hebrews 9:28); this entire period is being referred to as "the end of the ages". We conclude, then, that this refers, to entire period from the ending of the Law and the Prophets with John the Baptist, to the ending of the Sacrifces under the Law,Â and also to the ending of the Gospel Age.
One scripture (1 Corinthians 10:11) speaks of the "ends" (plural) of the ages, evidently referring to time of John the Baptist to the time when all ages pertaining to the reign of Adamic death have come ended. (Romans 5:12-19)
Although "age" is not mentioned in Luke 16:16, it is suggested in that the "law and the prophets" were until John the Baptist, indicating John the Baptist to be the last prophet that belonged to that "age." When Jesus began preaching, the new age pertaining the preaching of the kingdom was beginning, and the old age was ending, creating an overlapse of the ages. Later the sacrifices under the Law came to end (AD 70), but the Law itself is still active upon those who were born under the Law. The Law itself will not have vanished until all who are under that Law have either died naturally, or else have become dead to the Law through faith in Jesus.
The Day of Judgment and the "Age to Come"
How is the "day of judgment" related to the "age to come"?Â The world's judgment day is spoken of as taking place in what Jesus called the "the last day."
"He who rejects me, and doesn't receive my sayings, has one who judges him. The word that I spoke, the same will judge him in the last day." -- John 12:48, World English version.
Thus, we can conclude that those who reject Jesus in this present evil age are to be judged in what Jesus calls the "last day." This is the coming judgment of world, when Jehovah comes to judge the earth -- the world -- by means of the one whom he ordained.
Psalm 96:10 Say among the nations, "Jehovah reigns." The world is also established. It can't be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity.
Psalm 96:11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice. Let the sea roar, and the fullness of it!
Psalm 96:12 Let the field exult, and all that is therein. Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy
Psalm 96:13 Before Jehovah; for he comes, For he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, The peoples with his truth.
[Jehovah] has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead. -- Acts 17:31.
Jesus also spoke of that judgment day when he spoke of the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:29) Revelation speaks of the unbelieving world being released from death (the death in Adam) and hades (the condition resulting from the condemnation of death in Adam) so that they can be judged, not according to Adam's sin, but according to their own works. -- Revelation 20:12,13.
This resurrection of judgment and unbelieving world's "day of judgment" takes place sometime during the "last day" that Jesus spoke of. It is in this same day, however, that the believers are also raised.
John 5:28 Don't marvel at this, for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs will hear his voice,
John 5:29 and will come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.
Here Jesus speaks of both resurrections, that of the believer, and also that of the unbeliever, as happening in one "hour." The word "hour", however, like the word "day" does not necessarily refer to any set period of time. A day can be six days, a day can be 40 years, or a day can be 1,000 years, etc. Likewise, the word "hour" can be used in the same manner. In John 5:28, the word "hour" is being used as a synonym of the "last day." We know this, because Jesus goes on to explain:
John 6:39Â This is the will of my Father who sent me, that of all he has given to me I should lose nothing, but should raise them up at the last day.
John 6:40 This is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes in him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day.
John 6:54 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
This is the same "last day" in which the unbelievers are to be judged. (John 12:47,48) Thus, both the believers and the unbelievers are raised in the same "last day" or "hour". Consequently, when the heathen are gathered before Jesus for judgment as individuals, as spoken of in Matthew 25:32, it is during that last day. However, the just and the unjust are not raised at the same time during that "last day." The saints will also have the privilege of participating in judging the world with Jesus, thus they have to be all raised "before" the judgment of the world begins, hence, the "first resurrection".
Speaking prophetically, Daniel says:
"Judgment was given to the saints of the Most High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom." -- Daniel 7:22.
This is basically the same language that is used of Jesus in John 5:22:
For neither does the Father judge any man, but he has given all judgment to the Son. -- World English.
In harmony with Daniel 7:22, Paul states:
Don't you know that the saints will judge the world? -- 1 Corinthians 6:2.
He states that as a future event. That time is to be when the world is regenerated, since we read:
Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly I tell you, that you who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on the throne of his glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. -- Matthew 19:28.
Remember that it was only to Israel that Jesus came, and thus, in those who rejected Jesus, those of whom Jesus spoke in John 12:47,48, were directly of the twelve tribes of Israel. These twelve tribes, who did not accept Jesus, are included in the "world" that is spoken of in John 12:47, when Jesus said he came to "save the world" that they might be judged in the "last day."Â (John 12:48) It was mainly the children of Israel that spoken of in John 1:10,11 as the world that did not recognize him, thus Israel is included as part of this "world":
John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
This further indicates that this judging of those of Israel who rejected Jesus takes place at a future date, in the regeneration, when they are brought back to life for judgment, as spoken of in John 5:29.
In harmony with Daniel and Paul, John wrote prophetically of those who participate in the first resurrection:
I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. -- Revelation 20:4.
While the saints are counted, reckoned, imputed, as having eternal life in this age (John 3:36; 1 John 5:13; see also: Romans 3:28; 4:5,24; 6:11), they receive their regeneration in this age (Titus 3:5) as a seed, a grain (1 Corinthians 15:38,39), as a token, an earnest, or down payment (Strong's #728 -- 2 Corinthians 1:21,22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:12-14), of that which is to come, but the saints do not actually receive eternal life until the "age to come." (Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; see also Romans 2:7; 8:24; 1 Timothy 6:12,19; Titus 1:2; 3:7) The saints are raised in the same "last day" during which the world is to be judged. (John 5:28,29; 6:39,40,44,54; 11:24) Thus, the "last day" is in the "age to come" that Jesus spoke of. However, they have to be raised before the unbelieving world if they are to participate in the judging of the unbelieving world, so their resurrection is termed "the first resurrection." (Revelation 20:5,6) The saints are raised in the first part of "last day," at which time they receive authority to judge the world, and the unbelieving world is raised for individual judgment later in that same "last day."
Many are thrown off by the addition of some words that appear in Revelation 20:5: "The rest of the dead didn't live until the thousand years were finished." Thus there are many who teach that the world's day of judgment takes place after the 1,000 years, and not during the 1,000 years. Some good evidence suggests that these words of Revelation 20:5 are spurious. The flow of language used also suggests that they are spurious. However, assuming that they are genuine, it would have to be understood as relating to their final coming to life, their receiving eternal life after of the 1,000 years (Matthew 25:46), and not to their being raised from hades. The unbelieving world returns in the age to come for their individual judgment during the 1,000 years, in the same "last day" that the saints are raised, and while Satan is abyssed, not after.