|Topical Bible Study||October 1961|
God’s Plan for Man—Lesson XI
THERE are important time divisions in the plan of God which the Bible refers to as worlds and ages. What the Bible says concerning any one of these periods of time may not be true of another, so it is necessary in our study of the Bible to apply its various promises and prophecies to the proper period of time in the divine plan, otherwise the Bible will seem to be contradictory. This proper method of studying the Bible is referred to by the Apostle Paul as “rightly dividing the word of truth.”—II Tim. 2:15
The entire period of time from Adam to the Deluge is referred to in the Bible as a “world”—“the world that then was.” (II Pet. 3:6) Such faithful servants of God as Abel, Enoch, and Noah lived in this world. It was toward the close of this world that God instructed Noah to build an ark.—Gen. 6:14
The period of time beginning with the Flood and ending with the return of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom is what the Bible speaks of as “this present evil world.” (Gal. 1:4) It is called an evil world, not because there is no good in it, but because evil predominates. Satan, the Devil, is the prince, or ruler, of “this present evil world.”—Mal. 3:5; John 14:30; II Cor. 4:4
A third world begins at the return of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom. It is referred to in the Bible as “the world to come.” (Heb. 2:5) During the first thousand years of this third world, Jesus will be the supreme ruler, and the purpose of his reign will be to establish the will of God throughout the earth, and to destroy all the enemies of God and of righteousness.—I Cor. 15:25-28
Since evil has predominated in the first two worlds, it is obvious that any references in the Bible to the general conditions during these two periods of time would take this into account. Only on special occasions, and for specific purposes, has God intervened in the affairs of mankind during these two worlds to halt wrong doing. Most times it has seemed as though the wicked have flourished.—Job 21:7-15
The sins committed by the people in this life will, of course, be taken into account at the time of the resurrection, but for the present it appears that evil practices are almost unrestrained. It will be different in “the world to come,” for then Satan will be bound, and the kingdom of Christ will be in control.—Rev. 20:1-3
During “this present evil world” the righteous servants of God are often persecuted. (II Tim. 3:12) Persecution is referred to in the Old Testament as the “rebuke” of God’s people, and we are assured that this rebuke will be taken away by the agencies of Christ’s kingdom. (Isa.25:8) Then the righteous will flourish and even the great evils of sickness and death will be taken away.—Ps. 72:7; Hosea 13:14; I Cor. 15:55; Rev. 21:1-5
The Apostle John, writing further concerning the third world in the divine plan, said, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”—Rev. 21:4
You have probably heard it said that the Bible is contradictory; but this is not true, as you will realize if you know the answers to these questions.
Explain what the Apostle Paul meant by “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
How does the Bible describe the antediluvian world?
What name does the Bible give to the period of time beginning at the Flood, which we sometimes refer to as “the world of today”?
How does the Bible describe “the world of tomorrow,” and when does this world begin?
Does God ever interfere with the wickedness of “the present evil world”? What will be one of the factors to change this situation in “the world to come”?
Will the righteous servants of God always be persecuted?
“The Divine Plan of the Ages,” pages 65-70.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT THOUGHTS
In order to understand the teachings of the Bible, it is essential to know the various time divisions in the plan of God, and apply the promises and prophecies of the Bible in their proper time slots.