This Evil Age
The death of Jesus inaugurated the messianic age with consequent changes in the status of God’s people. In his epistle to the Assembly in Galatia, Paul declares that his apostleship originated from the same God who raised Jesus from the dead, the Messiah of Israel who gave his life to “deliver us from this evil age.” His declaration anticipates his proposition in the body of the Letter that the arrival of Jesus changed the status of the Law for the people of God, the “children of Abraham.”
With his resurrection, one era entered its final stages while another commenced. The old order with its rules and rituals reached its endpoint, and the promised “age to come” dawned in Jesus.
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In him, the promises of God are fulfilled, and His “mysteries” are unveiled. With his death and resurrection, the time of “shadows” ceased and the “Last Days” began, a perspective that permeates Paul’s letters.
The Apostle to the Gentiles expresses a similar idea in his letter to the Colossians. God has “delivered us out of the power of darkness and translated us into the Kingdom of His beloved Son.” Believers have been transferred from one political realm and social community to another. Therefore, they now “qualify to participate in the inheritance of the saints.” No longer are they under the dominion of the “powers and principalities” that once enslaved them.
Moreover, their new head is the “Firstborn of all Creation,” and therefore, those same hostile powers have been subjected to him. Believers must live accordingly with this understanding in mind – (Colossians 1:12-18).
This change in eras has significant implications for the Mosaic Law and the identity of God’s people. For example, Israel failed to attain God’s “righteousness” because they did not understand that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Since his arrival, believers are put in a right relationship with God from the “faith of Jesus Christ,” not from the “works of the Law” – (Romans 3:21-26, 10:4).
Paul’s perspective can be labeled ‘apocalyptic.’ Since a specific point in time, the revelation of God has become plain for all to see, and this view influences how he deals with the Law in Galatians. The Letter is his response to certain men “from Jerusalem” who claimed that Gentile believers must submit to circumcision and other “works of the Law,” in order to “complete” their faith.
Paul chides the Galatians for seeking to “complete” their faith from the “works of the Law,” especially circumcision since already they have received the Spirit. The Gift of the Spirit is one of the expected blessings of the messianic age, of the “Last Days.”
Therefore, having “begun in the Spirit,” why did they wish to revert to the “flesh” to complete their faith? Jesus died so that the “blessing of Abraham” might come upon the Gentiles, and Paul identified that “blessing” as the “promised Spirit” which the Galatians already possessed - (Galatians 3:1-5, 3:10-14).
Paul then presented the Law as an interim stage between the covenant with Abraham and the arrival of the Messiah. The promises were made to the Patriarch and “his seed,” and that “seed,” singular, is Jesus.
Once the Abrahamic covenant was confirmed by God, its promises became unchangeable, therefore, the Law that came later could not alter them - (Galatians 3:15-18).
But this point raises the question – What was the purpose of the Law? According to Paul, it was given to deal with “transgressions” but only “UNTIL the seed should come to whom the promise had been made.”
Here Paul uses an adverb of time to indicate the temporary jurisdiction of the Law (Greek archi, “until, as far as, up to”). Once the “seed” arrived, that function ceased, and in his description, the time element is prominent - (Galatians 3:19).
Next, Paul compared the function of the Law to that of a custodian in charge of a minor child. Its job was to tutor God’s people “for Christ, that we might be justified from faith.” But now that the “faith” had come, the saints were “NO LONGER under the custodian.”
Once again, Paul brings the temporal aspect to the fore of his argument. The custodianship of the Law was to continue ONLY UNTIL the arrival of the Messiah. All these things point to a fundamental change in eras and the Law itself - (Galatians 3:23-25).
This idea of a change in law is reinforced in Paul’s next statement regarding the status of believers. Now that the “seed” has come, we are all “sons of God” regardless of circumcision or ethnicity. The Mosaic Law required that all males be circumcised. If circumcision is no longer required, then something fundamental has changed regarding the Law or Torah.
- Having been “baptized into Christ, we have put on Christ,” therefore, no longer can there be “Jew or Greek, bond or free, male and female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus” - (Galatians 3:25-28).
Paul continues his argument from the analogy of the custodian, and once more, he stresses the temporal aspect. A minor child governed by a tutor is under rules and restrictions like any other household servant even though he is destined to inherit. But these limitations only persist “until the day appointed by the father” when the child comes of age.
FULLNESS OF TIME
Likewise, when believers were under the old order, they were in bondage “under the rudiments of the world.” However, when the “fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son…to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” The term “fullness of time” is another way of saying that with the arrival of Jesus, the age of fulfillment commenced - (Ephesians 1:10).
The arrival of the Messiah meant more than just another among many seasonal changes. It was THE pivotal moment in human history. The disciples of Jesus are the ones “upon whom the ends of the ages have come,” and because they are now God’s “sons… no longer are they servants,” but instead, full “heirs” of the covenant promises - (1 Corinthians 10:11, Galatians 4:1-7).
Based on his ‘apocalyptic perspective’, Paul exhorts believers not to subject themselves again to the “elementary spirits of this world.” If they submit themselves to circumcision and the calendrical rituals required by the Law, they will return to bondage under such powers. With the coming of the Son, the old order has run its course - (Galatians 4:3-11).
- Paul leaves no doubt as to when the ages turned. As he declares - “I died to the law that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ now lives in me… he who loved me and gave himself up for me.”
This is why the Apostle concludes the Letter by “Glorying in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Calvary was the death knell for the “present evil age” - (Galatians 2:19-21, 6:14).
Jesus arrived at the central point of History; therefore, nothing is the same or ever can be again, and that includes how God’s people relate to Him and one another. One era has passed, and the promised age of fulfillment is now underway, namely, the “Last Days.”