Two Ages of
The Key of the Divine Plan
The key to understanding Godís Plan is to recognize that He has planned not simply one, but two different and distinct ages of redemption. The first is for calling, developing, and polishing the elect who will constitute Godís divine family, and rule with Christ in heaven during the Millennium. This is the Gospel Age.
The second is the Millennial Age. It is called the Millennial Age because it is a thousand years long. In that age God will resurrect all the dead of past ages (John 5:29, Acts 24:15). He will remove the hindrances now keeping the world from the Truth (Isaiah 25:7). Satan will be bound to prevent any interference (Revelation 20:3). A divine government will be established at Israel, led by the Ancient Worthies on Earth, ruled by the saints from heaven (Revelation 20:6, Micah 4:1-4, Zechariah 14:3-9). This kingdom will have all the answers the world longs for.
● Wars will cease worldwide. "He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth" (Psalms 46:9). "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:4).
● There will be universal education about God, and what He expects. "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).
● Every man, woman and child who has ever lived will have an opportunity to gain everlasting life. "The earnest expectation of the creation waits ... because [then] the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption" (Romans 8:19, 21).
● The curse will be lifted. "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Revelation 21:4).
Distinguish the Ages
Distinguishing these two separate and distinct ages of redemption clarifies much of the obscurity respecting Godís plan for the world. For example, what will happen to the billions of humanity that do not know the one True God, Jehovah, or his son, Jesus Christ? Are there not many good hearted people in the world without a saving knowledge of Christ? Some suppose God will graciously take them to heaven, their ignorance notwithsanding. But no scripture allows this, and Acts 4:12 is clearly against this.
Others suppose they are lost forever, perhaps even to horrible suffering. But the scriptures also do not allow this. "The free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (Romans 5:18). "God is love" (1 John 4:8), "who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).
The Scriptural answer is that in the Millennial Age all living generations will be taught the Truth, and all the dead of past ages will be raised to life, redeemed from death through the Ransom sacrifice of our Lord. Then they will learn the Truth. Then they will have an opportunity to secure everlasting life by reformation and obedience to the Truth. Even those from wicked Sodom of old will be included, as expressly declared in Ezekiel 16:53-63.
The Purpose of the Present Age
When Christ died at Calvary, and rose on Sunday morning, he opened "a new and living way" (Hebrews 10:20). He opened a call to "glory and honor and immortality" (Romans 2:7). This was something new, distinct from all the ages past. Christ "brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10).
This is the greatest conceivable opportunity. It is an offer to be heirs of God ó joint-heirs with Christ Jesus ó of all the spiritual blessings God plans for His elect. However, this offer is contingent. It is contingent upon following a devoted life, and walking humbly before God, as Jesus walked (Romans 8:17, Micah 6:8).
In the present Gospel Age the path to life is narrow and secured by few. "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14). And there are conditions. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12). "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).
You can make your own estimate of the number who meet these conditions. By any count, it is a relatively small number. So what of the remainder? What of the billions who know not the Master ó Hindus, Moslems, Buddhists, Shintoists, or simple unbelievers? Or the millions in Christian cultures who pay no heed? Or the large majority of even Christian people who ignore the criteria expressed above? The answer is the same for all ó God has another plan for these. They will have their opportunity for life in the Millennium. The Heavenly Call will then be closed, but the call to perfect, unending human life on Earth, will still be a wonderful opportunity.
Narrow, Yet Broad Enough
Yes, the heavenly call really is as narrow as the texts above say. Even the Apostle Paul said, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13, 14).
Pursuing worldly pleasures, ease, and present comforts, will not secure the prize of the overcomers. "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind [seeking] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:1, 2).
On the other hand, the way is broad enough so that even the simplest can attain it. It is not a matter of skill and ability, but of a heart willing to patiently put on the spirit and character of Christ through our lifetime. It will not admit a single person who deems the Christian goals unworthy of their daily attention and effort. But it will not restrict a single person who humbly follows the Master.
Two Paths for Christians
In light of these scriptures, one may wonder, what of Christians who do commit their lives to God, but do not follow through with a life of consecrated devotion? Paul addresses this question in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. In this passage Paul begins by mentioning the foundation of our salvation, which is Christ (verse 11). Then he explains that we need to build on that foundation our structure of faith, works and character ó our Christian life.
This building can be either with the divine principles represented by "gold, silver, precious stones," or our time can be wasted on earthly pursuits represented by "wood, hay, stubble" ó combustible elements which will not abide the testings God allows to come our way (verse 12). In verse 13 Paul says the work of every man will be manifest by the fire of trial and experience, "and the fire shall try every manís work of what sort it is."
Verse 14: "If any manís work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward" ó the reward promised to the overcomers. "Him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Revelation 3:21).
Verse 15: "If any manís work shall be burned [metaphorically, like wood, hay, stubble], he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." In other words, the trials will purge the dross, he will receive life beyond the veil,* but the reward of reigning with Christ, being part of his Bride class (Revelation 19:7, 8), will be missed. Thus the exhortation: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).
There are various ages in the Divine Plan. (See the accompanying article on the Chart of the Ages.) Two of them are ages of redemption, which follow the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary. One is the Gospel Age, the other is the Millennial Age. The first is for the heavenly call, the second for the earthly call. When we distinguish these two ages, and these two calls, the Plan of God becomes reasonable, sensible, understandable.
Godís Plan of redemption is comprehensive. "In the dispensation of the fullness of times" God will "gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth" (Ephesians 1:10).
* "Beyond the veil" is a common expression among Bible Students. It refers to our Heavenly Home. It derives from a type in the Old Testament, Israelís Tabernacle in the Wilderness. That Tabernacle had two compartments, termed the "holy" and the "most holy." The first represents the present condition of saints, called to be members of the body of Christ. As the priests in the holy saw by the light of the golden candlestick, so we see by the light of the Scriptures. As they displayed two stacks of six loaves of "shewbread" on a golden table, so we have the 66 books of the Bible for our spiritual nourishment. As they offered incense on the golden altar in the holy, so we offer our prayers and devotions to God (Psalms 141:2).
In the "most holy" there was but one article of furniture, the arkof the covenant, representing the presence of Jehovah in heaven. This chamber was separated from the "holy" by a curtain called "the vail" in Exodus, and the "second veil" in Hebrews. Thus the expression used so often, "beyond the veil," which means beyond the present fleshly conditions into Heaven itself, in the presence of God. There we will appear during the resurrection.
The above is a reprint from the October 2005 issue of "Faithbuilders Fellowship"
8060 Wing Span Drive, San Diego, CA 92119, USA.