|Topical Bible Study||October 1961|
God’s Plan for Man—Lesson XII
IN OUR previous study we learned that there are three major time divisions in the plan of God. The first of these was the world before the Flood; the second, the period which began at the Flood and ends with the second advent of Jesus and the establishment of his kingdom. The third is the world which begins with the return of Christ, and continues into the eternal future.
The second of these major time divisions, described by the Apostle Paul as “this present evil world,” (II Cor. 4:4; Gal. 1:4) is divided into three ages. The first of these ages began with the drying up of the waters of the Flood, and continued until the death of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. During this period God carried forward his plan through individual patriarchs such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He made promises to Abraham, which were reiterated to Isaac, and inherited as a birthright by Jacob.—Gen. 12:3; 22:16-18; 26:4-6; 27:28,29; 28:10-14
Beginning with the death of Jacob, God began to deal with his twelve sons as a family, or nation. This change is suggested by the fact that while Isaac could bestow his parental blessing upon only one of his sons, Jacob blessed all twelve of his sons. (Genesis, chapter 49) Later, after they were delivered from Egypt, God gave this people his Law, and to these he sent his prophets. (Rom. 3:1,2) We refer to this period in the plan of God as the Jewish Age, for God dealt exclusively with the Jewish nation during this period.—Amos 3:2
The Jewish Age was characterized by the fact that it was during this time that God gave the Israelites his Law and sent his prophets to them. This arrangement ended with the first advent of Christ, John the Baptist being the last of the prophets. (Luke 16:16) One of the essential purposes of the Jewish Age was to give the Israelites as a people an opportunity to qualify for association with the Messiah in the future blessing of the world, but in this they failed.—Exod. 19:5,6
The final test upon the nation was the coming of the Messiah, and they failed by rejecting him. Here the Gospel Age began, an age in which God deals with individuals who respond to the Gospel and devote themselves to his service. A few of the Israelites were the first to embrace this opportunity. (John 1:11,12) But there were not sufficient of the Israelites to make up God’s foreordained number of joint-heirs with Christ, so the Gospel began to be preached also to the Gentiles, and this proclamation of the Gospel has continued throughout the age.—Acts 1:8
Following the Gospel Age comes the Millennial Age. This will be the first age in the third world. This is the age of Christ’s rulership over the earth. It is the age during which all evil will be destroyed, including sickness and death. (I Cor. 15:25,26) This is the great consummation age in the plan of God when his great design will be completed.—Eph. 1:10
Through The Christ, Head and body—the faith seed of Abraham—the knowledge of the Lord will be caused to fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. In that righteous kingdom nothing will be permitted to hurt nor destroy.—Isa. 11:9
To know what God’s work has been in the various ages of his plan, and what it will be in the future, is essential in order to appreciate the harmony of the Bible. Can you answer these questions?
How many major time divisions are there in the plan of God? Identify them!
What is the name of the first age in the second world, and what is characteristic of this age?
When did the second age in the present world begin? When did it end?
What were some of the things accomplished by God during the Jewish Age?
What was God’s final test of obedience upon the Jewish nation? What blessing came to those who accepted Jesus?
What is the name of the first age in “the world to come,” and what will be accomplished by God during this age?
“The Divine Plan of the Ages,” pages 70-75.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT THOUGHTS
The application of the various texts of Scripture to their age is most important in the study of the Bible.