- 1. Introduction
- 2. Earth’s Ages – A perspective
- 3. The Seven Churches – A Dispensational View
- 4. Conclusion
- 5. The Thread - traced in the 'Middle Ages'
Earth’s Ages – A perspective
How do you see it?
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all ages, for ever and ever! Amen.
25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lordʼs people.
The 'Middle' or 'Dark' ages
We are now considering the period of human history which we call the ‘Middle Ages’ or ‘Dark Ages’. During this time, to state the obvious, the electronic age was not yet born; there was no internet, there were no smart phones or computers, motorised transport and aviation were not yet conceived.
In contrast to the fast pace of life today, life during this period was simple in concept yet difficult in reality. Shelter, food and clothes were the necessities of life; education was reserved for society’s elite, not the common masses.
Today the world remains starkly divided. We have the obvious division of East and West with both religious and material division. The gap between the rich and the poor is arguably worse than ever.
I recall recently reading somewhere that what was once called the ‘third world’ is now actually the ‘two thirds world’. If that is the case, we Christians in the Western world need to burst the bubble of self delusion and ask God to help us to re-evaluate our lives in line with his kingdom.
In our generation it is startling to discover how little many of us know about our grandparents or the generation that preceded them.
Within one hundred years family identities and fortunes can change beyond recognition. Individuals, who were once the mainstay of a family, fade into oblivion never to be remembered or honoured for their influence and achievements.
The point is easily demonstrated by asking a few simple questions. What were your grandfather or grandmother’s best qualities? What is their legacy? What are they especially remembered for? Do you know? More so, what do you know about their parents?
Stemming from this tendency to relegate the past and focus on self; two substantial church systems have emerged through a long process where human tradition held sway over Holy Scripture.
It is suffice for now that we highlight them for private reflection. These church systems evolved during the long period under consideration.
Clericalism – this is the undue influence of the clergy; the application of the formal, church-based, leadership or opinion of ordained clergy in matters of either the church or broader political and sociocultural import.
Ecclesiasticism – this is the excessive reverence for religious form and tradition.
Read more about the impact of clericalism and ecclesiasticism on the ‘Modern Day Church’ page.
Over 2000 years have now passed since the birth of Christ. Why has God decreed such a long period of time before his promised return? What is God’s purpose in this long period of human history?
We might well reflect on the previous ages of human history as understood in the purposes of God to see if we can glean any lessons.
Survey of the Ages
So let’s have a quick survey; I have selected the following time periods to illustrate the point:
Creation to the Fall
circa 4000 + BC
Duration - perhaps 1 year or less?
Why did God decree a very short period between creation and the fall?
The Fall of Man happened early in human history; in fact it happened when Adam and Eve were the only humans on earth. It was prior to the birth of Cain and Abel. Adam and Eve experienced a catastrophic failure when they disobeyed the explicit command of God.
In the infinite wisdom of God this event was allowed to happen before Adam and Eve started to procreate, otherwise all of humanity would have been eternally doomed without remedy.
God demonstrated his goodness and kindness in the following ways:
First; God reacted immediately to what Adam and Eve had done. He challenged them regarding their disobedience against his specific command. He went further; he provided animal skins as clothing to cover their shameful nakedness.
Second: He banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden before they could reach out and eat from the tree of life; this would have trapped them in a fallen state for all eternity, and thus, the whole of humanity would have been eternally doomed with no hope of redemption.
The Fall to the Flood
circa 4000 – 2344 BC
Duration - circa 1656 years
Why did God decree a very long period between creation and the flood?
In Genesis 1 v 28, God had given the command to Adam and Eve to be fruitful and increase in number, to fill the earth and subdue it, and so pre-flood humanity was given ample opportunity to do just that.
However, instead of seeking God from whom they had been estranged through the fall, they lived their lives in rebellion and sin and subsequently experienced a catastrophic failure, moral standards were spiralling out of control and eventually this generation of mankind perished in the Flood.
God demonstrated his goodness and kindness in allowing ample time for people to repent. He demonstrated his faithfulness and mercy in preserving mankind and the animal kingdom as they were saved in the ark.
This serves as a useful illustration in relation to eternity. I often struggle to understand why God banishes sinners to an eternity in hell; I find it difficult to reconcile God’s judgement with his love. But the reality is this; all of mankind deserved to be sent to hell because of sin, but God, in his love and mercy has provided salvation for those who will repent and put their trust in him.
In the modern world of science, discovery and knowledge, mankind is continuing in stubborn rebellion against God. Human arrogance and pride have reached a frightening level. The very God who sent his only Son to die for sinners, is accused, insulted and mocked by the creatures that he made.
Therefore, when we come to the Age of Grace, the effect of man’s stubborn rebellion is no different from this pre-flood age; nobody cares!
The Flood to the coming of Christ
circa 2344 – 4 BC
Duration – circa 2340 years
Why did God decree a very long period between the Flood and the coming of Christ?
As we have highlighted on the ‘Rise of Israel’ and ‘Exodus’ pages; Israel had been called and formed as a nation through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The nation had experienced release from slavery in Egypt and had been protected and provided for in the desert for 40 years.
Israel had experienced a measure of success during the period of the Judges leading to the ‘Golden Age’ of David and Solomon. Then she experienced a catastrophic failure emanating from the succession of kings who departed from the law of God.
Failure seemed inevitable. Hence we read the tragic accounts of the twin deportations of Israel to Assyria and Judah to Babylon - Prophecy was fulfilled in The Exile.
We begin to see a pattern emerging here and not a pretty one at that. Humanity, when left to our own devices, has a self destruct mechanism. This is the inevitable and devastating consequence of the fall.
The Life of Christ
circa 4 BC – AD 34
Duration - circa 34 years
Why did God decree the very short period of the life of Christ on earth?
Christ brought the good news of the Gospel; Redemption for humanity.
The Old Testament Law was instituted through Moses in order to show us what sin is. In Romans 7 v 7-25, Paul explains how the Law helps us to recognise sin for what it is.
Christ never sinned; not only so, he always did what was right and pleased the Father. This was demonstrated on several occasions in public when God spoke from heaven.
At the baptism of Jesus, heaven was opened and a voice was heard saying, “This is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3 v 17)
On the mountain of transfiguration, a voice came from within the cloud and said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.” (Matthew 17 v 5)
At his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, when Jesus was teaching, a voice came from heaven and said, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12 v 28)
The Old Testament Tabernacle was also instituted through Moses in order to show that God is Holy and to show how sin had to be atoned for. When the promised Christ came, he was given the name - Immanuel, which means - God with us.
This was Christ fulfilling the picture of the Old Testament Tabernacle. When Christ died on the cross, the curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom, thus declaring that Christ had opened the way for us to come into his presence through salvation.
Christ fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, and the voice of God the Father declared it in public. The ultimate proof of who Jesus claimed to be was demonstrated in the following ways:
Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was born of a virgin.
Jesus performed many mighty signs and miracles.
God spoke from heaven to declare who he was.
The curtain in the temple was torn immediately after his death.
Jesus rose from the dead.
Jesus appeared to the Apostles and to many other people after his death.
Jesus ascended into heaven and this was witnessed by the Apostles.
Jesus will return again to rapture the church from this earth.
God achieved all of this with a lifetime of a mere 33 years and a bit. Awesome!
The Age of Grace
circa AD 34 – the present day
Duration - circa 2000 years
Why has God decreed the very long period between Christ’s life on earth and his imminent return?
Why is the world in such a mess? This is another example of catastrophic failure over a prolonged period of time.
Humanity has witnessed the coming of the promised Messiah, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the building of the church; and yet, after 2000 years, the world is in a mess because of the sin and rebellion of mankind.
We are fallen and it is clear for all to see. The tragedy is that we want to blame anyone and anything but ourselves. Many even blame God. How ridiculous and how insulting this is to anyone who has read the bible and has an understanding of the true history of mankind.
In parallel with a deteriorating church, the world has been led astray; mankind is sinking to depths of sin that were previously punished by God in the days of Noah and at the post-flood time of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Self righteousness, human arrogance and independence, selfishness, greed, sexual promiscuity and the legalisation of same sex partnerships are paving the way for the coming judgement as outlined in Romans chapter 1.
The grace of God has been extended to mankind, offering every opportunity for repentance and salvation. But sadly, in our lifetime today, the world is in a mess; The bible is blatantly ignored, the gospel is mocked, law and order is fragile, world peace hangs by a thread, the imbalance between rich and poor is lamentable, the evil of terrorism is spreading across the world.
God is forgotten or positively rejected with a frightening level of hostility and arrogance. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Take the UK as an example; we are a so called Christian nation, and yet the grim statistics speak for themselves. Sports and entertainment venues are full to capacity while many churches are half empty.
Only a minority of the population attends church, crime rates are soaring and prisons are full, binge drinking has become the norm for many of our young people, drug abuse is widespread and at least one in three marriages is doomed to fail. We are far from God, we are fallen and we are unwilling to admit it.
Future - imminent
Duration - 7 years
Why has God decreed this 7 year period in the future?
The 7 year period of Tribulation is yet to come. It will follow after Christ’s return when the church will be raptured and taken to the safety and blessedness of heaven.
In the days following the rapture the earth will experience the greatest catastrophic failure of all time under the deceptive manipulation and control of the Antichrist.
The Antichrist will be a man who is under the control of Satan. He will come to dominate world politics and religion.
People all across the world will unite under the control of Antichrist and will unwittingly seal their doom by accepting the mark of the beast. This mark is described in the book of Revelation as – man’s number - 666.
This mark will probably be some form of electronic microchip or some other sophisticated mark on the skin with a kind of bar code ID in a series of lines of six, six, and six.
Without this number it will be impossible to buy or sell and so it will be difficult for those who refuse this mark to have a decent lifestyle or indeed to be integrated into society at all.
That said; the new socioeconomic conditions that are implemented by Antichrist and limited to those who have his number, will seem fundamental at the time, but these conditions will be short lived as the judgement of God is unleashed.
These judgments will take the form of three consecutive series of 'seals', 'trumpets' and 'bowls'. The system of Antichrist will eventually collapse in disarray.
God is going to judge mankind for all of its sinful history of rebellion against him. Satan will be on the earth during the Tribulation and he will manifest himself through the man of lawlessness – the Antichrist.
He will display signs and wonders and will claim that he is God. The world system will submit to his rule and refuse to repent.
Nations will be at war, there will be atomic or nuclear warfare, meteorites will also collide with the earth and more than half of the earth's population will die as a result of these events. If God did not intervene and cut these days short, the whole earth would perish in the mayhem.
There are over 7 billion people on earth today, and the book of Revelation tells us that during the Tribulation, one quarter of the earths population will die as the result of 'Seal 4' being opened. Revelation 6 v 7-8.
This equates to *1,750 million people dying in a very short period of time. The death toll is staggering! The same number will die as a result of 'Trumpet 6'. Revelation 9 v 18.
*1,750 million not accounting for the millions of Christians who will be raptured prior to the Tribulation. If circa 1 billion people disappear from the earth at the rapture; then those killed during Seal 4 could be more accurately estimated at 1,500 million.
See link at the bottom of this page - Read more on the ‘Rapture and Tribulation’ page.
The Millennial Reign of Christ
Future - follows the Tribulation
Duration - 1000 years
Why has God decreed a period of 1000 years for Christ to reign on earth?
After the Tribulation Christ will return yet again to this earth to live and reign for 1000 years.
Read the Millennium page for a list of Prophetic Scriptures relating to the Millennium.
Mankind has failed in every single period of time since creation. This is because of his fall into sin and his stubborn rebellion against God as consistently outlined on ‘The thread’.
But when Christ returns to this earth to reign, he will keep humanity in check, he will not fail. Christ will be totally exonerated before mankind.
The fortunes of John 1 v 9-11 will be reversed and replaced with the prophetic words from Philippians 2 v 9-11.
John 1 v 9-11
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
1 Peter 2 v 4
As you come to Him, the living Stone - rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him.
Philippians 2 v 9-11
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
When we look at ‘the big picture’ as outlined above, it does not seem so incredulous that God has decreed a period of around 2000 years for the age of grace in which we are currently waiting for the return of Christ.
It will also be no surprise to the Christian who reads the bible and who walks with God that many readers of this article will react indifferently to this claim.
So here we are today, we still await the return of the blessed Lord Jesus Christ. There is however, a growing sense among believers today that the end is near and that Jesus could indeed return within our lifetime.
Soon after the rapture, the seven year Tribulation period will begin.
At this point in our consideration of these extended ‘Ages’ in human history, it would be remiss of me not to ask the following question, and I deliberately use the Old English language as we are considering the 'Middle Ages';
‘What think ye of Christ?’
This is the question of all questions! Dear reader, this is perhaps the most important moment in your life; what do you think of Christ?
On previous pages we have considered his conception, his birth and life on this earth. We have thought about his death and resurrection. We have emphasised that he is exalted in heaven and is alive forevermore.
He will return to the air to receive his church and take every believer from this present age of grace to heaven. He will judge the inhabitants of earth during the Tribulation. He will then return to earth and set up his Millennial Kingdom.
After that he will reign in heaven for eternity.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
The Lord Jesus died to save you, he wants to have a relationship with you, yes you! So, again I ask, what do you think of Christ?
Have you trusted him for salvation? Have you bowed before him in repentance of your many sins and asked him to forgive you?
The book of Revelation makes it abundantly clear that by the midpoint of the Tribulation; the nations will be in no doubt that God is judging the inhabitants of earth.
Sadly, it also makes it clear that the Antichrist will deceive the nations into thinking that he can avert God’s judgements.
This deception will prove fatal for those who receive the mark of the beast, but the deception will be short lived when, at the end of the Tribulation, Christ returns to earth to set up his Millennial Kingdom.
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Read more: The Rapture and the Tribulation