Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 27
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1999|
|Dr. Barber does a study of the word “ages” to explain first, what an age is, and then how God relates to His people in each age.|
The Rock of Ages
Let’s turn to Ephesians 2 and look at our great salvation. I want to entitle this study, “The Rock of Ages.”
Have you ever wondered why God has done everything He’s done for us? Why, from eternity, has chosen us to be holy before Him? Why did He do that? Why has He made us accepted in the Beloved? Why when we were dead in our trespasses and in our sins did He raise us and seat us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus? Why did He do that?
Well, if you will look at Ephesians 2:7, we have a little purpose phrase there, “in order that.” That tells you why He did it. Let’s read the whole statement there. We know that verses 1, 2 and 3 describe our sinful condition at one time. Then verses 4-6 read, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.”
Do you realize that as believers, we are the living portraits of God’s grace and His kindness? You see, heaven applauds and glorifies the Lord for what He has done for us, not just now, but forever more. They stand in awe. We are living portraits, examples of His grace and His kindness. That’s what salvation has done for you and for me. That verse grabbed me because of a phrase in there: “in the ages to come.” I got to thinking about that. “The ages to come” signifies that there are more ages to come. There is not just an age to come which is spoken of many times in scripture, but there are ages to come. I wonder if you know what it means when Paul says “ages to come.”
What is an age in scripture? What is it referring to? We all know what age is. Recently Stephen, my youngest, turned 20 years old. I no longer have a teenager in my house. We can’t stop it folks. It creeps up on all of us.
What does it mean when he speaks of “ages to come?” The word for age is aion. It’s the word that refers to an age or a particular time. As a matter of fact, a form of it is used in the word “eternal.” When you see “eternal life,” that comes from this word aion. It’s talking about the ages to come. It’s talking about something being ageless and eternal. What does it mean when you refer to an age? Let’s look at this term, “the ages to come,” in reference to the fact that He, our Lord, is the Rock of all Ages.
First of all, let me just tell you this about an age: a specific age may consist of many ages. In other words, we are living in an age right now that began at creation. It hasn’t ended because human life is still on this earth. God has not yet judged it by fire. There are other things coming. In this age that we are living in, there are many ages with beginnings and ends to them.
Look with me in I Corinthians 10:11. You realize in this verse that we are living in the last days, the last of this age. Hebrews says “In these last days He has spoken to us through His Son.” We know the last days began when Jesus came to this earth. The last days of what? Of this age. This age has had many ages within it. I Corinthians 10:11 says “Now these things happened to them as an example [referring to Israel in the Old Testament], and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends [plural] of the ages [plural] have come.” In other words, it’s not just the end of the age. When it comes to an end, it will be the ends of ages coming to a completion.
Let me explain it to you in a little bit different way. I was born July 27, 1943. An age began for me that I am still living in because I am alive. If I die today or if the Lord Jesus comes and changes me and takes me up to be with Him, that age is over. The age that I am living in now that started then has not come to an end. There have been ages with beginnings and ends in this age. For instance, six years later, in 1949, I started a new age called elementary school. On the first day of elementary school in Grandon Court Elementary School in Roanoke, Virginia, I went home with a friend of mine who lived five or six miles away. It took my parents until almost midnight to find me. That was the beginning of an age.
Exactly six years later, in 1955, another age began for me. One age closed. Another began. Elementary school stopped. Junior high school began. Well, that age ended three years later in 1958, and I started my tenth grade year in high school. That age ended in May of 1961. That’s when I graduated from Jefferson Senior High School in Roanoke, Virginia.
Now I could go on and on and on. I am still living in an age. In this age, there have been ages. There have been beginnings and ends to the ages within this specific age. So you must remember that any one specific age may have many ages within it. We are living now in an age that I call the church age, the age of grace. This is a time the Old Testament saints knew nothing about. I believe that it is the Laodician age that the book of Revelation talks about. One of the churches it was written to was Laodicia. I believe there are churches to describe the church age, and we are living in the Laodician age. If that’s correct, then it is distinctly different from other ages. However, within one age since creation there have been many ages.
So therefore, the first thing we learn is, when you start comparing ages, be real careful. Make sure you know exactly what you’re speaking about. We are living in one age, but in this one age there have been many ages.
There is a second thing I want you to see about that word “age.” I think it will help us. Each age has it’s own particular characteristics. Now again, be real careful when you start comparing ages. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit of God was with the people. In the New Covenant, which is another age within an age, we have the Holy Spirit living in us as believers. In the Old Covenant, the Law was the standard. In the New Covenant, it’s been written on our hearts. We obey a person, not a set of rules. The Law is being fulfilled as we obey the Word and live surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me give you some examples of how each age has particular characteristics. For example, from the time of creation we have been living in a specific age. However, this specific age is characterized by something. It is characterized by marriage. Since the time that God initiated it until today, men and women get married. We have families. We have children in this age.
Turn to Luke 20:34. Let’s just simply take the word “ages” and run it through the New Testament. “And Jesus said to them, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage.’” Marriage is God’s design. It is a characteristic of the age that we live in.
We are in an age where men and women marry. We are going into another age that is going to be different. Look at Luke 20:35: “but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage.”
Ages have different characteristics. We’ll not have the need that we have now as we move to another age. Ages are always characterized specifically.
For example, the age that we are living in, from creation until now, especially since the Fall, has been characterized by a secular wisdom in this world. It is secular humanism, and it’s in this world. It pervades this world. It’s a characteristic of the age in which we live.
Look at Luke 16:8. This is that wonderful passage about Lazarus and the rich man. In verse 8 it says, “And his master praised the unrighteous steward because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.” The word “shrewdly” there is a Greek word that has to do with the way one thinks and governs himself. In other words, it refers to the way he acts as a result of the way he thinks or the wisdom that he has.
The same idea is in I Corinthians 1:20. It is talking about the age that we live in. Paul says something there that gives us the same idea we saw in Luke. He says in verse 20, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” Even though it is characterized by a secular wisdom, it is a foolish wisdom in God’s eyes. You see this age we live in as believers is characterized by a secular wisdom. However, we can live uncharacteristically wise in this age that is characterized by this stuff.
Look in I Corinthians 2:6-8. This will help us. Paul says it again. He says “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” There is a secular wisdom. There is a secular humanistic wisdom that characterizes this age that we are living in. It started way back in creation when man fell and continues all the way until now.
In fact, the only way for a Christian to become uncharacteristically wise is found in I Corinthians 3:18. He says, “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise.” Do you realize what he is saying? Paul is saying that you need to come to the point of saying, “I don’t know anything. God re-teach me in your Word. I want to be uncharacteristically wise in this age.”
Verse 19 says, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness’.” The wisdom of this world is manipulatory and always self-beneficial. God gives us an uncharacterized wisdom, not according to this age, but according to the wisdom that He has.
So this age is characterized by people marrying, husbands and wives. Men and women marry in this age. Children are born. That is the propagation of the race. That’s this age. The next age is going to be different. Each age has its own specific characteristic. This age is also characterized by secular wisdom, a way of thinking that does not involve God. Therefore, we have to become uncharacteristically wise.
This age is also characterized by ungodliness. If you’ll turn to Titus 2:11-12 Paul brings it out so very clearly here how we are to live. The way we are to live is the reverse of the way the world lives. This age is characterized by ungodliness. That’s why we are not to be of it. We’re in it, but not of it. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” In other words, others are not living that way. We are believers. We are to live differently, radically apart from what characterizes this age.
For the believer there are differences in the ages. First of all there are differences in the blessings of God. Turn over to Mark 10:29-30. The way God blesses us in this age and the way He’ll bless us in the next one are different because the needs of both are different. Each age has it’s own specific characteristics. Jesus gives a wonderful, wonderful promise here. So many people are afraid to go on and surrender to Jesus and live godly in this world. They are afraid they are going to miss out on something. Look what he says, “Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions.” I love how he throws that in. Jesus says, “While we are at it, along with those you also get persecutions.” He is not saying, “You get right with God, and He’ll give you three new cars.” That’s not what He is saying. What He is saying is, “Anything you need in this life God will supply you one hundred fold to get the job done. Along with it will go persecutions, because as you seek to obey Him, and He provides for you, you will be persecuted by the world.”
Jesus is talking about farms and lands and anything you need. When you obey the Lord Jesus Christ, He will provide for you the needs of this age. There are certain needs that this age demands. God says, “I’ll provide.” He says, “Your pursuit is Me. I’ll care for you as you go. You’ll have brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers for My sake and for the sake of the gospel.”
Then he goes on and says something in the same passage. He says, “…and in the age to come, eternal life.” We are not going to need houses and lands and farms. The word “eternal” there means “ageless,” and the word “life” means “the essence of life.” It’s going to get better. That life fuels me daily to live the Christian life. It’s going to get greater and stronger and stronger and stronger. When I move into the next age, I can eat from the Tree of Life, and I’ll live in the provision of His life forever. I won’t need farms and lands. There is a mansion already prepared for me. All those things are taken care of. In that age, the characteristics are different than in this age.
Ages have their own particular characteristics when it comes to the blessings of God and the revelation of God. God has chosen to reveal some things in one age that He hasn’t chosen to reveal in other ages. If you will look in Ephesians 3:9-10. There is one thing Abraham didn’t understand. He understood the blessing of Jesus coming, the gospel. He understood that, but he didn’t understand the church. Moses didn’t understand the church. Joshua didn’t understand the church. Habakkuk didn’t understand the church. God chose not to reveal it them, but He has revealed it in this age to us. In Ephesians 3:9- 10 it says, “and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” God has chosen to hide some things in one age that He reveals in the next age.
Colossians 1:26 says almost the same thing. “that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints.” What he revealed in one age is not what He reveals in the next age.
Titus 1:2 says, “in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago.” In the blessings and the revelations of God, even to believers, each age has its own specific characteristics. In each specific age, there are many ages. In each age, there are specific characteristics to that age. In this age, people marry. There is secular wisdom that has infected us. Even the believer differs in this age as to what was revealed in the past age. I want you to see that. They are different.
Well finally, there is one last thing I want to share with you. Not only are there many ages in each age, and each age has it’s own specific characteristics, but in all those ages God has not changed. He is the Rock of All Ages!
I want you to see some things here. First of all, God was before any age. An age is a period of time. It has an ending, and it has a beginning. Look in I Corinthians 2:7 again: “but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory.” This tells me that God was around long before there ever were any ages. Ages are periods of time that have a beginning and an end and specific characteristics. Before there was ever one of them, God existed. Not only that, He has ruled and will rule in every, every age. We know that Ephesians 1:21 says that Jesus has been raised up far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the age to come. We know that whatever age you are talking about, whether you go all the way back to creation or if you go all the way over here in the new ages to come, we know that He rules over all the ages, and He has not changed. He may have acted differently in some than He did in others, but His character has never changed. He has ruled over every age.
Not only that, He has promised to be with us until the end of this age. Look in Matthew 28:20. This is a comforting thought to me in these days when there is a lot of discussion about when this age is going to end. How far into it does it go until the next age promised in Daniel begins? I don’t know. Does it end, and then a new age starts as it’s hanging out there? I don’t know. Jesus says in verse 20 something that blesses my heart. He says, “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” In other words, if this age goes into that seventieth week, and that seven years, that’s all right. That’s the most comforting thought anybody can have. If Jesus is with me now, in me now, around me now, He’ll be that way then. It doesn’t really matter when that time comes. He is my life now. He will be my life then. He promises to be with me until the end of the age.
There is a thought in this that I want you to see. Look what he says in Ephesians 2:7 again. He’s speaking of the fact that God is the Rock of All Ages. He rules over it; He reveals Himself differently; He blesses in all ages; but He has certain characteristics to these ages. He has not changed. The way He deals with people may have. In verse 7 it says, “in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Now, I don’t know about you, but that just grabs me.
Now I know one age. I know that’s going to be the time when we are in heaven while the Day of the Lord is going on down here. I know that’s an age. It’s different, different, different than anything we have ever experienced before. He’s the Rock of All Ages. Not only that, there is going to an age when He rules and reigns on this earth. I believe that with every fiber in my being. I don’t see how you can believe the Word of God and not believe that. For one thousand years He will rule and reign on this earth. That’s another age. We also know from Revelation 21 there is going to be a new heaven one day and a new earth. There is going to be a Holy City, a New Jerusalem. That’s going to be a new age. That’s going to be brand new from anything we have ever experienced before. From what I understand from Scripture, it just keeps getting better and better and better. I believe for a million years after we enter into that new heaven and new earth, God is still going to be revealing Himself afresh in a way that we’ve never understood before. He’s still going to be blessing in ways which we cannot understand right now. We will be praising Him on an elevation that we’ve never understood down here in this age, because of what He has revealed to us in that age. I think a million years past that we’ll walk by praising Him, and God will look at us and wink and say, “You haven’t seen anything yet. We’ve got more to come.” Two million years from then, we will be doing the same thing. That will continue for eternity, from age to age to age.
It is overwhelming the characteristics of God that will be revealed to you and me. Folks, do you realize living down here on this measly earth for this little small amount of time, all the wonderful victories we are having in Jesus right now are nothing but the earnest of an inheritance that is yet to come? The full payment has not even begun. In the ages to come He is the Rock of All Ages. He is the one who rules. He is the one who blesses. He is the one who reveals. Every age has its own characteristics. Every age has a beginning. It has an end. In one age there may be many ages. He says, “in the ages to come.”
I don’t know what we’ve got in store one of these days. Somehow in verse 7, it seems like He is going to continue for the ages to come to reveal His grace and His kindness in you and me. The best for the believer is always yet to come. Just the term “ages” itself tells us that there are going to be ages that we don’t even understand. God is going to reveal Himself in ways He hasn’t revealed before. God is going to bless in ways He has never blessed before. They are going to go on and on and on.