Skip to comments.The Character and End of the Present Age [Baptist, Evangelical, Pent/Charis, and/or Dispensational]
Posted on 08/22/2008 5:11:17 AM PDT by John Leland 1789
THE CHARACTER AND END OF THE PRESENT AGE.
BY PASTOR FULLER GOOCH.
(At the Nottingham Conference, May, 1894.)
Let me read to you three or four verses of Scripture, taken from the 13th chapter of Matthew, beginning at the thirty-seventh verse, "He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man."
Read to the end of the forty-third verse. The word "world" in Scripture, as found in our [King James] version, has different meanings, and it should be understood that in the original Scriptures we have several different words which are all translated alike "world" in the Authorized Version.
You have two of these words used in the brief paragraph I have just read. In the thirty-eighth verse "the field is the world." The word used there in the original expresses the whole of this terrestrial earth, the whole sphere that God has given to man as the place of habitation, so that the field is the world in such a sense that wherever human hearts are to be reached the good seed is to be carried to them and sown broadcast amongst them.
But then we read in the thirty-ninth verse, "the harvest is the end of the world." Quite another word is used here, and quite another meaning is presented to the mind. It is not that the harvest is the end of this terrestrial earth, nor that the harvest is the end of this world's history, so that when the harvest comes the prophecy of the second epistle of Peter (chapter 3:10) would find its fulfillment that the earth and all there on shall be burnt up.
That is not what the Savior says. He uses another word altogether, which should be translated agethe harvest is the end of the age. If we take a Greek lexicon and turn up the Greek word aion we shall be told that it has three meaningsoften a space or period of time indefinitely.
Then an age, a generation, a very definite period of time. Then, in its plural form, at any rate, it means an infinitely long space, even eternity itself. We have these and other uses of the word in the New Testament, but we do not get the variation of meaning given in all cases in our Authorized Version
Now in the passage I have just read, where it is said "the harvest is the end of the age," the word has only this meaningthe harvest is the end of that period of time, the dispensation of divine appointment, during which the good seed of the word of God is being sown broadcast throughout the earth, a period, an age of time bounded at its beginning by the incarnation of the Son of God, who came as a great teacher sent from God, the Redeemer, who, as you know, closed His earthly career by suffering upon the accursed tree, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.
That first coming of the Lord, at which He sowed the good seed of the gospel, which it is our privilege to enjoy and promulgate, is the first beginning of the age to which He refers when He says the harvest is the end of the age. Then the other end, or bound, or limit of the age referred to is His second coming.
This present age we call the gospel dispensation.
The word dispensation is a very important one in Scripture. It is a word which really means the management of a household, and here stands for the law or rule of faith by which the period of time is governed. God has had successive eras, ages, dispensations, from the very beginning of time onward until now.
These ages or dispensations have differed in character and in the amount of their revelation and light as to the will and purpose of God. They have differed one from the other, but they have all had a law or rule of procedure by which God has governed or led in His dealings with man.
You see at once a wide difference between the dispensation of Moses and the dispensation of the gospel. They are an advance one upon the other in the amount of light and in the opening up of God's purposes in revelation to man.
A PARENTHETICAL DISPENSATION
This gospel dispensation has three characteristics which I would briefly mention. First of all, if you look carefully at Scripture teaching about it you will find that it is a parenthetical dispensation. It may be spoken of rather as an interregnum.
The events which occurred in connection with the first coming of Christ were by no means those which might have been expected to follow the dispensation which went before.
If you read the Old Testament Scriptures you will certainly (apart from the New) have no idea that the coming of the Lord would comprise a first advent and a second. You would not imagine that between the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the first time into the world to suffer, and His coming a second time to reign, there would be a space of 1800 years and more.
The disciples were very naturally perplexed at the turn of events when they saw that Jesus of Nazareth was undoubtedly the Messiah who was to come.
They marveled when He did not take to Himself His great power, and reign. We may speak of their blindnessand they were very shortsightedbut let us remember we should have been quite as perplexed as they were if we had not had, since their day, the added information of the New Testament and the unfolding of this Gospel purpose.
You have no clear revelation in the Old Testament of the Gospel Dispensation. You have indications of it which become very clear to us in the light of the after-events narrated in the New Testament. Well might the disciples, the early disciples, expect that if Jesus was the Messiah, He would have become at once the King and deliverer of Israel.
It needed the Pentecost effusion of the Holy Ghost, the clear light of apostolic inspired teaching, to explain the fact that that first coming was to be one of entire rejection by the house of Israel to which He came, and one in connection with which the Gentile age should be introduced for the ingathering of a people distinct from the Jews as a nation, to be the Church, the Body, the Glory of Christ.
You will find this illustrated in various ways.
In the 4th chapter of Luke you find that the Lord Jesus entered the synagogue at Nazareth. He took the book from the hand of the minister or reader, and proceeded to teach the wondering listeners who sat at His feet.
It so transpired that the Scriptures read that day were from Isaiah 61 which begins "the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me," and so on. Our blessed Lord took the book and found the place and read, "He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord--------." Then he closed the book.
Look at Isaiah 61, and you will find there is no full-stop there in the prophecy, as given by the prophet. Instead of full-stop you have the conjunction, and "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God."
It goes on to speak of a restored Israel, a saved nation, a delivered people, the seed of Abraham in connection with it all brought out of bondage and darkness and danger into a gracious acceptance with God.
You see the Lord did not read the whole of the prophecy. He put a full-stop where the prophet had no full-stop. Why? Because at His first coming He did not introduce "the day of vengeance"; He did not restore Israel as a nation, or bring to them the fullness of the covenant of their fathers.
He knew they would reject Him and crucify Him, that the promised kingdom would have to be delayed, that the parenthetical dispensation of the gospel would have to be introduced and run its course before the other part of that prophecy of Isaiah could be fulfilled.
So there is a break, a distinct break, a most important and emphatic break, making room for this gospel age.
I might illustrate the same by referring to the 9th chapter of Daniel. There is a remarkable prophecy there concerning the time of His first advent and of His being "cut off" or put to death.
You find the prophet inspired of God to say that there would be seventy sevens marked off upon Daniel's people and upon Jerusalem.
Mark, seventy sevens, not seventy weeks. You have to look at the context to say seventy sevens of what. He was speaking of the duration of the captivity as foretold by Jeremiah (chapter 25:11), and you find it is seventy sevens of years which were told off from the times of the Gentiles.
These seventy sevens, or 490 years, were divided by the Holy Ghost, through the prophet, into three parts, seven sevens, three score and two sevens, and one seven. When do these times begin? With the issue of the decree to permit the returned Jewish captives to rebuild the walls of their city, and to rebuild Jerusalem, and make it once again the city of God.
That decree was issued in the 20th year of Artaxerxes, and you will find a record of it in Nehemiah 2:1-6, and from the time that decree went forth was the beginning of the period Daniel spoken of. The first part of that period (seven sevens, or 49 years) is cut off from the rest, and covered the troublous times occupied by the building of the wall.
The second part (three score and two sevens, or 434 years) was to end with the cutting off of Messiah, the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is easy to prove that from the month Nissanthe very month in which the decree was issuedfor that month Nissan, in which our blessed Lord was crucified, was exactly 483 years.
If anyone doubt that, let him carefully examine the subject, and seek help in making investigations, and he will find it confirmed by fact. (Footnote: the reader cannot do better than consult Dr. Robert Anderson's work, entitled The Coming Prince, published by Hodder and Stroughton.)
There is no possibility of disproving the statement that between that edict and the crucifixion there were exactly the 483 years that Daniel had foretold. What remains? Seven years yet remained to complete the seventy sevens. What about those seven years?
Mark! At the end of those seven years Daniel says certain things would happen in reference to his people. All prophecy about the Jewish people would be fulfilled. The sins, transgressions, and apostasy of Israel would be brought to an end, the nation would be reconciled to God, and upon Israel there was to come down the blessing of the Lord, which such reconciliation must always bring.
If these things occurred, let us ask ourselves the questions, Are the Jews today anything but a rebellious people? Are they not still in apostasy from God? Are not the Jews still rejecting their Messiah?
Are they (the Jews) not still unreconciled to God, and without that righteousness which at the end of the 490 years is to be everlastingly conferred upon them? Every thing proves that it is so.
Then these last seven years of those 490 are not yet commencing their fulfillment. These seven years are cut off from the 483 by God himself; and between the 483rd year, in which the blessed Lord was crucified, and the first year of the seven which remain, we have already had more than 1800 years roll over the world.
Clearly this interregnum is the link between the Old Testament dispensation and that dispensation which is to be inaugurated by the return of the Lord, the salvation of Israel, and the establishing of the kingdom of God in the hands of Christ, stretching from sea to sea and from shore to shore.
A PREPARATORY DISPENSATION
In the next place the character of the present age is not only parenthetical but preparatory. Here is my first proof text. In John 14:3 the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again."
That was not all. He said, "I go to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am, there ye may be also." What said the apostle Peter in his second epistle? There shall come in the last days scoffers saying just what men are saying today: "Where is the promise of His coming? For, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the world." "But," said the apostle, "the Lord is not slack concerning His promise." Then why the delay?
Count that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation. Salvation to whom? Salvation of what?
If you will turn to Acts 15, you will find a record there of a council held in Jerusalem in the earliest days of the Christian era.
In connection with that council testimonies are given concerning the gathering out of the Gentiles, the salvation of Gentiles, the bringing of Gentiles to the knowledge of Christ as their Savior.
James, the presiding elder in the council, gives a deliverance concerning the matter. He has just heard what Simon Peter has said to the assembly about the first call of the Gentiles, and now sums up the whole matter.
In Acts 15:13 and succeeding verses, James declares that the Lord is gathering out of people for His name before He comes back to restore the fallen tabernacle and house of David.
This is a preparatory age then, not a final age, not an age which is completing God's purpose, but paving the way for its completion along the straight line by which God's own design and purpose may, in the return of His Son to reign in glory, he soon brought about.
We have another proof of the preparatory nature of the age in Revelation 19.
When at last the great Babylon is destroyed, the type and symbol and representative as well as the sum and substance of all apostacies from God, when at last that is overthrown and the Lord has received His people to Himself, there rises the glad acclaim of the 7th verse, "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready," and at that time the prepared peoplethe holy cityis seen descending out of heaven, prepared as a bride for her husband.
It is the character of the age to prepare the way for the return of the Lord, not only in personal glory, but in the associated glory of those He is now gathering out by the grace of the gospel.
A PERILOUS DISPENSATION
I close by saying that the third characteristic of this age is that it is perilous. If any of you are prepared to doubt this, or think this is a mere prophesying phrase of my own, let me remind you that while there is not a single word in this blessed book which is not of the Holy Ghost there are a few words which are said to be of the Holy Ghost in a very emphatic sense.
What are these special words about? Take, for example, the first epistle of Paul to Timothy 4:1: "Now the spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils."
Now the Spirit speaks all through the sacred page. He speaks every where, but here He speaks "expressly," on a subject He foreknew the Church would be unbelieving about, as though He would urge and entreat us not to be heedless of the warning given.
This has been an age of backsliding from the beginning. You have a proof of it in Revelation [chapters] 2 and 3.
The very church at Ephesus, though it bore the apostolic impress, in its earliest stage began to lose, or had lost, it's first love, and onward, as the churches advance, as time marches on and the age reaches its close, there is a growing apostasy from God, culminating at the end of the age in such a fearful departure from the faith that our Lord had to say the love of the many, of the majority of those professing His name would grow cold, and Christendom be spued from His mouth as abominable in His sight.
What do we see today? Look of the present state of things in the professing Church of Christ!
Hear what teachers, honoured and followed by multitudes of the professed disciples of Christ, are teaching. Professor Drummond tells us that evolution is "the supreme word" of the present hour.
He tells us that Genesis is a book for children. That the world has outgrown its inspired truths, so that nothing is left that science can work with or endorse, and the only way to understand Genesis as being the word of God at all is to say that it has no science in it, and that it is only a book for elementary children.
Such views of the infallible statements of the divine Word are widely and enthusiastically received.
The trend of thought on all sides is in similar directions. I might illustrate in many ways how the Word of God is being undermined by the popular "Higher Criticism" of our times.
There is not a vital doctrine that has not a dozen doctors of divinity and learned professors to deny it, and the pulpits where the old truths ring out with apostolic fervor and clearness are the exception rather than the rule.
This is a sad fact, and it is even sadder to think that the professing people of God seem as if they would have it soprotests are few and costly to those who make them. The new theology, we are told, is best suited to the century and its needs.
The old theology which Spurgeon lived and died to preach, which Whitfield and Wesley proclaimed to tens of thousands with saving power, the old gospel with which Peter and Paul and their fellow apostles made the whole world to tremble, that old gospel we are told can be done without; that the preachers who preach it are old-fashioned, narrow-minded, and to be avoided as fossilised and out of date.
These things are growing upon us. If the later theologians, with their new theology, would show us that they possess the Pentecostal power which the old theologians with the old theology rejoiced in; if these advocates of modern thought could show us that saving efficacy attests the truth of their theories, we would think there is something in them; but while we see that those who preach them have failed to reach the hearts of those who hear, and are compelled to leave gospel testimony for sermons on politics and social themes in order to gain a hearing, we can have no faith in them or fellowship with their work.
The adoption of expedients savouring of worldly conformity rather that of the Spirit of God, in order to fill places of worship with hearers is, alas! a common sign of our times. Getting men to church or chapel is not getting them to Christ, this cannot be done by modern thought teaching or nineteenth century methods and expedients, the old, old story of the Cross alone will do that.
Let us therefore be all the more earnest in proclaiming it, with all its cognate truths. All the signs of the times show us that the end of the age is near, and ere long the angels will be sent forth, the harvest will be gathered in, and the judgment on the apostate age will fall, and then happy those who have all through proclaimed "Christ and Him crucified" as the center and theme of their testimony.
Let us "hold fast" until He come.
And is still a common sign 114 years after that was written.
The THEORY of evolution is always itself evolving, but the bedrock truth of God's infallible Word is eternally the same. The theory of evolution speculates about impossible events that didn't take place millions of years ago, while bible prophecy accurately foretold hundreds of highly unlikely events and circumstances that actually, verifiably took place or came into being hundreds and even thousands of years later.
Both evolution and Christianity are based on faith that events that can't be scientifically proved to have happened actually took place long ago. Don't be deceived, evolution and Christianity are not compatible belief systems, and the disparities are irreconcilable. Which of the two belief systems would you trust if your choice meant either spending eternity in a real, actual place called Heaven or a real, actual place called Hell? Choose carefully and thoughtfully, because the circumstances of your future life after this present life ends do depend entirely on the belief system in which you place your faith.
Thank you for those very true statements. God richly bless you.