The End of the Ages Has Come Upon Us– Them- Not US! #3
In our previous two articles #1 #2 – we have shared a bit of the significance of 1 Corinthians 10:11. This passage is rich in meaning and significance, for it affirms that the goal of all the previous ages was being realized in the first century. This flies in the face of all futurist eschatologies that claim that the true goal, the real destiny of the ages is the end of the current Christian age. This means that Paul was mistaken when he said that what was being fulfilled 2000 years ago was the goal of the previous ages. He should have said– if futurism is correct– that the interim goal, the temporary goal, but not the true goal, was being realized, but that the true goal of all the ages will only come at the end of the age that was being delivered! This is of course, nonsense. Paul said nothing of the sort.
It must be remembered at this juncture that the Millennialist does not believe that the Church or the current Age was anticipated or predicted in the previous ages. In fact, according to leading Millennialists, the Church Age, the Age established by Jesus through his blood, and proclaimed by Paul, was a total mystery in the previous Ages!
Dwight Pentecost says,
“The existence of this present age which was to interrupt God’s established program with Israel, was a mystery (Matthew 13:11). He goes ahead to say that the Church Age was not foretold by the Old Testament prophets. He also adds, “The existence of an entirely new age which only interrupts temporarily God’s program for Israel, is one of the strongest arguments for the Premillennial position. It is necessary for one who rejects that interpretation to prove that the church itself is the consummation of God’s program.”(136). Finally, on page 137 of the same work, Pentecost says, “The concept must stand that this whole age with its program was not revealed in the Old Testament, but constitutes a new program and a new line of revelation in this present age….It has been illustrated how this whole age existed in the mind of God without having been revealed in the Old Testament.” (Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1966), 134+).
So, what we have is this: Paul said that the goal of the previous ages had arrived. The destination anticipated by all previous ages was being reached. (Don’t forget to read the previous article in which we delineated and identified that to which the previous ages pointed). However, what was occurring when Paul wrote, the age that was breaking in, was the Church Age! According to the Millennialists the Kingdom Age, which is not the Church Age, is the goal of all the previous ages. However, if this is true, then since Paul said that what was happening when he wrote was the goal of the previous ages, it cannot be true that the restoration of national Israel is in fact, the goal of all previous ages. And of course, this means that the millennial paradigm is fundamentally and fatally flawed!
If it is true that the Church Age was the goal of the previous ages, then the church is not a “temporary interruption” of God’s kingdom plans. It is undeniably true that Paul says that what was happening in his day, through his ministry–and don’t forget that he proclaimed the “hope of Israel”–was in fact that goal, the destiny of all previous ages. Therefore, it must be true that the Church Age was the fulfillment of the “hope of Israel,” and was the goal of all previous ages! In a word, if the Church was the goal of the previous ages, the millennial doctrine is false.
When Paul says that the goal of the previous ages had arrived, this has incredible application for the term “last days.” It must be remembered that the kingdom, God’s promise to Israel, was to be established in the last days (Isaiah 2:2). Paul of course, affirmed that the time of the end was near (1 Corinthians 7:26f; Philippians 4:5, etc.). Now, if Paul affirmed that the time of the end was near, and that the goal of the previous ages had arrived, then this can only mean that the last days foretold by the Old Testament prophets were present. Of course, the implications for the millennial view, given this reality, are staggering since they deny that Israel’s last days were in existence after Matthew 12. However, the fact that Paul says the end was near, and that the goal of the previous ages had arrived, means that the last days of Israel were in fact present when he wrote, and essentially, this destroys the entire millennial house of cards!
Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 10:11 also has implications for the Amillennial and Postmillennial views. Both of these paradigms insist that the current Christian Age will one day end, giving way to the eternal Age to Come. This view is fundamentally flawed in its posit of a different Age to Come from that anticipated by the prophets and Jesus.
However, these futurist views are also in violation of the fact that as the goal of all previous ages, the Christian Age has no end! Daniel was told that when the kingdom that was to be established in the days of Rome was established, that it would never pass away; it would never be destroyed (Daniel 2:44; 7:13-14). However, both the amillennial and postmillennial schools insist that one day the Church Age will end, giving way to the Age to Come.
The fact that Paul uses two distinctive and significant words (telos and katantao), to speak of what was happening in his day is a powerful testimony to the place of the church in God’s Scheme of Redemption. Anthony Thiselton speaks of the overlapping and the intersecting of the ages that Paul is speaking of, and the incredible significance of that first century time.. He says, “Weiss envisages the two ages of the OT and Jewish thought ‘touching end to end’,’ i.e. intersecting,’ where ‘the close of the old (age) coincides with the beginning of the new.’” He also cites Hering who says the force of the text, considering katantao, is to be understood in the sense of the middle ‘they meet one another.’ Robertson and Plummer argue that in the NT the Greek katantao means to reach one’s destination but conclude that here the meaning is ‘obscure.’ Hering interprets the text to mean that the two ages meet one another at their extremities at the point where we Christians stand. We are at the point of intersection of the two worlds.’” (Anthony Thiselton, New International Greek Text Commentary, First Epistle to the Corinthians (Carlisle, Eerdmans, Paternoster, 2000), 743f.
When one realizes that in Jewish and Biblical thought, there were only two ages in the eschatological narrative, Paul’s words take on very, very powerful meaning. The Jews only believed in two ages: “this age” the age of Moses and Torah, and, “the age to come” the age of Messiah and the everlasting kingdom. So, for Paul to affirm that the goal, the destiny of the previous ages was upon them means that the eschatological drama was about to be consummated, resulting in the resurrection, and the everlasting kingdom!
Paul was not anticipating another age at the end of the age that was breaking in. He did not look for the end of the body of Christ. For Paul, the blood bought Church of the Lord Jesus Christ that was being delivered and established 2000 years ago was and is the goal of the previous ages! This means that the church was not to pass away with the dissolution of the Jewish Aeon, as some are suggesting.
Would it not be strange indeed if the goal of the previous ages endured for only 40 years? Is that what God had in mind for the “kingdom that shall never pass away”? To suggest that the church was to pass away after 40 years surely indicates that God could not be through with the “goal of the ages” quick enough, so that He could get to… what? What other goal of the previous ages is there in Scripture? It appears to me that those who are suggesting that the church was to cease at the parousia are positing just a modified form of the millennial view that the church really is not the “consummation of God’s program.”
The bottom line is that all futurist views violate what Paul affirmed, when he said that the time in which he was living was the goal of all the previous ages. Futurism – all views of it – says that the church age is the interim age in which we are supposedly anticipating the end of what Paul said was the goal of the previous ages! As we noted above, futurism says the true goal, the ultimate goal, of eschatology is not what was being revealed and established in the first century, but, the true goal of all the ages is the end of what was being established! This is a patently false eschatology.
And so, Paul said that the goal of all previous ages had come. But all futurists say that can’t be true. The true goal of all the ages, so we are told, is the end of what was being established in the first century! We are supposedly waiting for the end of the church age, the end of the New Covenant age, the termination of what Christ died to establish! The “real” goal of all the previous ages is– per the futurist paradigms, is the termination of everything that Paul said was “the goal of the ages”!!
Unless one can demonstrate that Paul had something other than the Church, the body of Christ in mind when he spoke of the goal of the ages, then the Church was the anticipated destiny of the previous ages. This destroys the millennial doctrine that the church is a “temporary interruption” of God’s kingdom plan. Take another look at Pentecost’s comments just above. He says that the strongest argument for the Premillennial view is the idea that the church was not “the consummation of God’s program.” Well, unless Paul had something other than the church in mind when he said that the goal of the ages had arrived, then 1 Corinthians 10:11 proves beyond doubt that the church really is “the consummation of God’s program,” and that being so, Millennialism is falsified.
Unless one can demonstrate that Paul had some other destiny, some other goal of the ages in mind than the Church, then there is not, nor was there, another destiny / goal of the ages other than the Church. This means that what had broken into the Old World, the New Creation, was about to be perfected, manifested, vindicated and glorified, not terminated. The body of Christ was the eternal purpose of God, and the goal of the previous ages. Any doctrine that disparages or depreciates the value, the honor and the glory of the church is a Christ dishonoring doctrine. Further, it flies in the face of Paul’s statement that the Church was, and is, the goal of all previous ages.