Eccl 1.10 states, “Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already, in the ages before us.” “Ages before us.” Rom 16.25 says, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages.” “But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification” (1Co 2.7). So far we have “ages long ago” (previous to the writer of Eccl), and “before the ages” – before time and creation. “Ages” starts with creation: “In the distant past I was fashioned, At the beginning, at the origin of earth” (Prov 8.23). Then, when we get to Paul, there were “long ages” before his time. He wrote, again: “and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things” (Eph 3.9). Creation. Ages.
“The mystery which hath been hidden from ages and generations, but now is manifested to his saints” (Col 1.26). Ages and “generations” appear to go together as well. “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (ITim 1.17). Jesus is the King of the ages. From first to last (Isa 41.4). So, we have ages, which clearly end (else, why have ages, plural?). One comes, another one goes. Paul speaks that in his time the “end of the ages” had come (1Co 10.11). Jesus spoke of an end of an age (Mt 24.3). “Who did save us, and did call with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, that was given to us in Christ Jesus, before the times of the ages” (2Ti 1.9). Whoever the “us” is here, God knew them, and saved them through Christ. That was his eternal “purpose” before the ages even began. Not to make salvation possible, but actual. “upon hope of life age-during, which God, who doth not lie, did promise before times of ages” (Tit. 1.2). Now, this “times of the ages” – how long does this span? It would seem to encompass the entire span of human history (which is made up of “ages” or “generations”). “for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebr 9.26). Here again, an end of previous ages is announced. But, is that end of all ages?
“that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2.7). Answer: nope. The end of past ages brings about more ages to come. The end of the age in Paul’s day was not the end of all ages. In numerous places Paul spoke of “this age” or his own time. There was God, who existed before the ages, or generations. Then, we have the first age, or generations. Then, after awhile, we have “ages past” and an “end of an age” in particular in Paul’s day. However, “ages to come” indicates that more ages are, well, to come!
“not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Eph 1.21). Ages end. Ages come. Ages go. “and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Hebr 6.4). What are the “powers” of the “age to come”? Clearly, the future ages is not Paul’s “present evil age”. Every age has evil in it. I guess every generation has some evil in there as well. These “powers” were “already” at work in Paul’s present generation, but, they would not stop working once his age, or generation ended. If they are powers of coming ages, then clearly, the same power at work then in his age, would be at work in the coming ages. They are powers of(descriptive genitive) the age(s) to come. But, as we have seen, ages do come to thier end. At least the past ones did. “Ages long ago” are past, ended ages. Lot’s of “ends of the age” going on, don’t you think? Job 8.8 reads, “For inquire, please, of bygone ages, and consider what the fathers have searched out.” Ages come and ages go. They have a beginning and they have an end. God is King of them all.
We also have “last days” which appear to be particular to the last days of Israel preferred covenant status and the Mosaic institutions. The arrival of the new covenant would mark an “end of an age(s)”. One could perhaps see the “covenants” in the past as “ages” or “eras”. The Era of the Davidic Covenant. The Era of the Noachic Covenant, etc. “Dispensation” or “Adminstration” is another word that is used. And, God is with them all, “from the first to the last” (Isaiah 41.4). Ecclesiastes tells us “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (3.10). Sounds pretty straightforward. God knows all the ages, from the first of them, to the last of them. In between them are many “ends” to particular “ages”. Former ages. Past ages. ...
Yes, the Bible speaks of the “end of the [previous] ages” in Paul’s day. We can mark AD 70 as an “end of an age”. But, it didn’t end all ages. There are more to come. ... Paul spoke, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3.21). This is a future reference to future “generations”. That little word, “all” there says a lot. God knows them all, from the first to the last (Isaiah 41.4). ... The Purpose of God has been set into motion before the end of Paul’s age ended. It was set into motion at the Cross. It redeemed the elect of the past ages, and redeemed the elect of the coming ages, as it redeemed the elect of Paul’s present age. One Church. One People. One God. One Eternal Destiny of Glory. ...
John Owen made distinction as well between “last day” and “the last days”. The “last days” refer to the end of the Hebrew Commonwealth (Works of John Owen, Vol 19, 12-13). Whereas, if you read comments (sermons), on the resurrection of the dead, that is the “last day.”
I would also add Ephesians 1.10: “in regard to the dispensation of the fulness of the times, to bring into one the whole in the Christ, both the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth — in him;” This phrase, “the dispensation of the fullnes of the times (plural)” encompasses “in the ages to come” (1.21). This is restoration language – united creation itself with the redemption in Christ (Rom 8.19-ff). It comes about in the “times” to come. Not all at once. It was inaugurated. It’s purpose was to bring to “all things” in unity with the Son AND the Church.
Good article. I largely see it the same way. Has much consideration gone into the view that the term “The Last Day” is drawn from “the last day” of the week, ie, the Sabbath day of rest? If so, then we should remember that “the last day” (Sabbath) was not the end of all time but just the end of one week. A new week would follow. Likewise, can we entertain the possibility that “The Last Day” represents an age of entering the Lord’s rest? And that a new age would follow? If so, this would make “The Last Day” to be just one of the many ages that were to come.
Hebrews 4:9-10 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. NKJV
It looks like that seventh day rest was something that had not been delivered to the Old Testament saints. It appears to be the Day that the whole New Testament was eagerly awaiting to arrive soon. The Day was the age that was about to come. Looking at the broader context of these passages in the book of Hebrews:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. 7 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today if you hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
9 Where your fathers tried Me by testing Me,
And saw My works for forty years.
10 “Therefore I was angry with this generation,
And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
And they did not know My ways’;
11 As I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.’”
12 Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end; 15 while it is said,
“Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”
16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.
4:1 Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,
“As I swore in My wrath,
They shall not enter My rest,”
although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has thus said somewhere concerning the seventh day, “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this passage, “They shall not enter My rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,
“Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 9 There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience. NASB
“The Day” spoken of here in Hebrews 10:23-25 had not yet arrived as of the writing of the book of Hebrews. But the recipients of that letter could “see the Day approaching,” (verse 25), and the eager anticipation of its arrival was to exhort them to love and good works. This is the same “Day” mentioned in the introductory passages of this book of Hebrews, “the seventh day,” “the promised rest,” delivering “the good things to come” described in the chapters between these passages. This is “the Day” the author and first readers of Hebrews were expecting to soon arrive.
But the blessings anticipated with the eagerly expected “Day” were not for that first generation of Christians alone. Like so many blessings, such as faith in Christ, miraculous healing, baptism, salvation, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the New Testament, etc., once these were once-and-for-all delivered they were then available to all generations that follow.