Know Your Bible—Part 4

God’s Plan of the Ages
(The Latter Ages)

WE HAVE LEARNED that in order to rightly divide the Word of Truth we must know in what time frame the scripture applies. Hence, in studying God’s Word we learn that God has divided the time since man’s creation into ages, or periods of time.


The Patriarchal Age ended with the death of Jacob. On his deathbed, Jacob gathered his twelve sons around him and pronounced blessings upon each one. They were the nucleus of the nation of Israel. And from the death of Jacob to the First Advent of Christ, God’s dealings were exclusively with this nation. He visited and delivered the nation from its slavery in Egypt. Through Moses, he gave this people his Law. He sent his prophets to them. Through the Prophet Amos the Lord said to Israel, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.”—Amos 3:2

Jesus came in the final years of the Jewish Age, and he respected his Heavenly Father’s special appointment with Israel. When sending his disciples into the ministry he said to them, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 10:5,6) This was no indication that Jesus did not love the Gentiles, nor did it mean that God’s promise to bless all the nations of the earth had been forgotten. It was merely that the due time had not yet arrived for Divine favor to be extended to other than this one nation.

When Jesus was raised from the dead he removed this restriction, saying to his disciples just before he left them, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) This broadening of the witness represented the beginning of a new age in the plan of God—the Gospel Age. During the Jewish Age God dealt with a nation as a nation. During the Gospel Age he has carried on his work through the proclamation of the Gospel to all nations, and has accepted and blessed as his people all those who have responded to the drawing power of the Gospel, regardless of their race or nationality.


One thing, however, has been common to both the Jewish and Gospel Ages, which is that in them the work of the Lord has been to prepare a people through whom the promise made to Abraham to bless all the families of the earth would be fulfilled. The natural descendants of Abraham were given the first opportunity to become the “seed” of blessing. (Gen. 22:18) It was offered to them on a national basis, and made dependent upon obedience to God’s Law. Through Moses, God said to this nation, “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.”—Exod. 19:5,6

The priestly family within the nation of Israel served the nation as God’s representatives in extending his blessings to the Israelites. God’s promise that upon the condition of faithfulness the whole nation would be a ‘kingdom of priests’ indicates that the nation could have become the channel of blessing, the ‘seed’ through which his promised blessing to all the families of the earth would flow.

The final test of worthiness for this high position in the plan of God came when Jesus presented himself to the nation at his First Advent. As a nation, the Israelites rejected him. The Apostle John wrote, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (John 1:11) This national rejection of Jesus proved the nation’s unworthiness of being a kingdom of priests.

From that time forward the selection of the seed of Abraham, the future channel of God’s blessings to the world, has been conducted on an individual basis. The first opportunity for individuals to qualify for this high honor was offered to the Israelites. John explains that while the nation rejected Jesus, “As many as received him [individually], to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”—John 1:12

But the number of individual Israelites who accepted Jesus was too small to make up God’s foreordained number of the seed class. So, as we have seen, soon after Pentecost the Gospel invitation began to be extended to the people of other nations. This was in keeping with Jesus’ final instruction to his disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.


It was not the Divine intention, however, that the witness of the Gospel among all nations would convert the world to Christ. God’s purpose in the work of this age, which began at Pentecost, is clearly expressed in Acts 15:14, where we read that “God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.” This ‘people for his name’ are called and prepared to be joint-heirs with Jesus, who is the Head of the promised “seed” class.—Rom. 8:17; Gal. 3:8,16,27-29

They are shown to be with the “Lamb”—Jesus—on Mount Sion. They number 144,000 and all of them are said to have “his [the Lamb’s] name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Rev. 14:1, Revised Standard Version) The first of these to be called were the individual Jews who accepted Jesus, and to whom he gave ‘power to become the sons of God.’ The remaining number are called out from the Gentile world, and these also are taken into the Divine family, the ‘Father’s name’ being written in their foreheads.

The call and preparation of these, through the medium of the Gospel, has been the principal work of God in the earth throughout the age which is now ending. It is “after this” Gospel Age call of a people for his name that the work of God is extended to embrace all mankind. We read, “After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.”—Acts 15:16,17

Through David, and other kings of Israel, God ruled his ancient people. But that arrangement ceased with the overthrow of their last king, Zedekiah. The “crown” and the “diadem”—the right to rule—were then removed, and the Prophet Ezekiel stated, “It shall be no more, until he come whose right it is.” (Ezek. 21:25-27) Jesus is the One ‘whose right it is,’ and it is at his Second Presence that he comes to establish the kingdom. Concerning this we read, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”—Isa. 9:7

In this reestablished ‘kingdom’ of David, Divine rulership will not be limited to the one nation of Israel, but will embrace all nations—‘Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.’ With the inauguration of this kingdom in the hands of Jesus, and those called from Jews and Gentiles to be a people for his name, the present age closes and a new age begins. This will be the Kingdom Age. The Scriptures indicate that it is a thousand years in length, hence it is often referred to as the Millennial Age.—Rev. 20:1-4

It will be during the Millennial Age that the ‘residue,’ the remainder, of men will have an opportunity to ‘seek after the Lord,’ and this will include ‘all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called.’ (Acts 15:17) The Gospel has been widely witnessed to the Gentile world during the present age, but only a small number—a “little flock”—have responded to its call to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. (Luke 12:32) But these upon whom the Lord’s name has been called will still have an opportunity to seek after him.

Obviously, this means that the Gentiles who throughout the age did not respond to the Gospel call of self-sacrifice will need to be raised from the dead if they are to have an opportunity to seek after the Lord during the Millennial Age. And this is just what the Bible teaches. Not only will the whole world then be enlightened with a knowledge of the glory of God, but it will also be that glorious age in the plan of God when sickness and death will be destroyed, and when the dead will be raised and given an opportunity to enjoy the blessings of the kingdom.


Only by recognizing these time divisions in the plan of God, and discerning the nature of God’s work in each one, can we see and appreciate the marvelous harmony of the Scriptures. For instance, Jesus said to his disciples, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:14) Isaiah 35:8 reads, “An highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those; the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.”

A glance at the description of these two ways shows that they are quite different. If we were to suppose that the ‘way’ mentioned by Isaiah is the same as the one described by Jesus, then we would have a contradiction. But when we “rightly” divide the Word of Truth (II Tim. 2:15), and recognize that the ‘narrow’ way Jesus described to his disciples is the one on which his sacrificing followers of this age have been walking, while the ‘way of holiness’ foretold by Isaiah is the one over which mankind will return to life during the Millennial Age, we have harmony.

During the present Gospel Age, the way of the Lord’s people has been ‘strait’ and narrow. They are invited to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, footsteps which lead to persecution, suffering, and finally to death. Those who walk in this way are “planted together” in the “likeness of his death.” They are “crucified” with him. (Rom. 6:5,6) Jesus admonishes them, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10

Satan is ever watchful for an opportunity to deceive and discourage those who walk in the narrow way. Peter wrote concerning him that he “walketh” about, as a roaring lion, “seeking whom he may devour.” (I Pet. 5:8) True, the Lord’s people are “not ignorant of his devices,” yet his constant attacks upon them help to make the way in which they walk very difficult.—II Cor. 2:11

But it will be quite different for those who travel over the way that leads to life during the next age. No longer will it be necessary to suffer “for righteousness’ sake.” (Matt. 5:10) The opportunity to suffer and die with Jesus in order to live and reign with him will be past, so the way of holiness of the next age will not be one of sacrifice and they will not be invited to be faithful unto death, but unto life.

Satan will then be bound. No longer will he go about as a ‘roaring lion’ seeking whom he may devour. “No lion shall be there,” Isaiah assures us, “nor any ravenous beast [such as temptation to strong drink, and other evils] shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion [where the ‘Lamb’ and the 144,000 are enthroned to administer blessings of life] with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”—Isa. 35:9,10

The ‘ransomed’ of the Lord shall return. Jesus gave himself a “ransom for all,” Paul explains, and this glorious fact is to be “testified” to all “in due time.” (I Tim. 2:3-6) So the ransomed millions of earth will ‘return’ from death that they may be made acquainted with the loving provision of everlasting life which has been made for them through the redemptive work of Christ. The ‘due time’ for this will be during the Millennial Age.

The reward for faithfulness will be perfect life upon earth, whereas the reward for faithfulness in the Gospel Age will be Divine nature for the church and a spiritual nature for the great company.

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Dawn Bible Students Association
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