CHRIST’S RESURRECTION & THE AGE TO COME (Richard Gaffin)

By Richard B. Gaffin (The Gospel Coaltion)

Gentry note: Dr. Gaffin is a noted Reformed theologian who has done much study in the theological two-age construct. Though he is amillennial, postmillennialism and amillennialism share much in common. Indeed, until the early 1900s the two used to be one eschatological option. Below is a helpful article on the topic of the two ages

THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST AND THE AGE TO COME
By Richard B. Gaffin, Th.D.

Definition

The resurrection of Christ as it relates to the “age to come” and the eschatological resurrection in Scripture.

Summary

This essay will examine the “two age” outlook of the biblical writers and the arrival of the age to come in the resurrection of Christ. In the resurrection of Christ the age to come (future) has come (present) and is shared in the experience of those united to Christ by the Spirit.

The Age to Come in the New Testament

In the New Testament the expression “the age to come” (“that age”) is paired in contrast with “this age” (“this time”) or simply “the age” (“the ages”) — either explicitly (Matt. 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 20:34‒35; Eph. 1:21) or more often by implication (e.g., Matt. 13:39‒40; 28:20; 1Cor. 1:20; Gal. 1:4; Heb. 6:5; 9:26).


Why I Left Full-Preterism (by Samuel M. Frost)

Former leader in Full Preterist movement, Samuel M. Frost, gives his testimony and theological reasoning as to why he left the heretical movement. Good warning to others tempted to leave orthodox Christianity.

See more study materials at: KennethGentry.com


This two age distinction first emerges in Second Temple Judaism during the intertestamental period and is taken over from there by Jesus and several New Testament writers. This is not a problem for the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. At issue is whether or not this development in later Jewish theology, though uninspired, accurately reflects the teaching of the Old Testament as God’s Word. In fact it does, so that this observation about Paul’s usage also applies to its presence elsewhere in the New Testament: “There is no escape from the conclusion that a piece of Jewish theology has been here by revelation incorporated into the Apostle’s teaching” (Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, p. 28, n. 36; emphasis added; for a thorough discussion of the two age construction see chap. 1, esp. pp. 36-41, including the diagram in n. 45).

The words for “age” when they are used to make this distinction — in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and subsequently after the New Testament was written, in Latin — also have the sense of “world” or “universe” (e.g., in the New Testament, Heb. 1:2; 11:3). In other words, a comprehensive time word also took on an all-inclusive spatial connotation. The distinction, then, is between this world-age and the world-age to come.

The two age construction as originally formulated functions to express the overall historical-eschatological outlook basic to the teaching of the Old Testament, especially the prophets. It covers the entire flow of time, the whole of history, from its beginning at creation up to and including its consummation. On the one hand, this age is provisional, pre-eschatological. It is the present world, originally good (Gen. 1:31) but now subsequent to the fall marked fundamentally by sin, corruption, imperfection, and death. The age to come, in contrast, is the final world order, the eschatological age of righteousness, incorruption, perfection, and life. It is coterminous with the coming kingdom of God and the new heavens and new earth. In sum, the two world-ages in their relationship are comprehensive, consecutive, and antithetical.

The division point between them — “the end of the age,” when this age ends and gives way to the age to come — is tied to the coming of the Messiah (in the New Testament, see especially Matt. 24:3). Clearly, then, Jesus and the New Testament writers could not simply take over unchanged the two age construction at hand in the Judaism contemporary to them. Why? Because for that Judaism (as continues to be true for Orthodox Judaism today) the coming of the Messiah — the turning point of the two ages, the great inaugurating eschatological event — has not yet occurred; it is still future. For the New Testament, however, this decisive, turn-of-the-ages event has already taken place; the Messiah has already come in the person and work of Jesus.

According to the New Testament the coming of the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament has a dual fulfillment. The promised Messiah has already come in “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4; cf. Eph. 1:10). This expression, often misunderstood for an especially auspicious time mid-stream in the ongoing course of history, refers rather to the culmination of history, to the filling up of the time of the present world. Its affinity is with the two age distinction; it indicates the end of this age and the dawning of the age to come. With the coming of Christ, “… the end of the ages has come” (1Cor. 10:11).


The Book of Revelation and Postmillennialism (Lectures by Ken Gentry)

In the first of these three 50-minute lectures Gentry explains Revelation’s judgments to show they do not contradict postmillennialism. In the next two lectures he shows how the Millennium and the New Creation themes strongly support the gospel victory hope found in postmillennialism.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


The coming of the Messiah, however, will also be in the future. Having departed he will appear again a second time (Acts 1:11; Heb. 9:28). So, then, when is “the end of the age”? Tied as it is to the two-fold coming of Christ, it is both past (Heb. 9:26) as well as still future (Matt. 28:20). The age to come has already begun and will also arrive in the future.

It is apparent, then, that for the New Testament writers to continue using the two age construct a significant modification was necessary. In terms of the three defining factors noted above, both the comprehensive scope of the two ages taken together and the antithesis between them remain untouched, but the two ages can no longer be viewed as simply consecutive, the one age following the other. Rather, with the coming of Christ that has already occurred the two ages are now also concurrent.

The first and second comings of Christ, though widely separated in time as they now are, are not unrelated events; they are best seen as two stages of one coming. During the interim between them, “this present evil age” (Gal. 1:4) continues its course but the age to come has dawned and is present as well; the two ages while still consecutive also overlap.

The Age to Come and the Resurrection of Christ

Where in this necessarily modified New Testament use of the two age scheme does the age to come begin? A general answer is with the arrival of Christ in history, with his incarnation and earthly ministry. The New Testament, however, disposes us to be more precise. Because of the unique nature and demands of the messianic ministry of Jesus to be the Savior of sinners as he came to finally inaugurate the kingdom of God, it was necessary that “he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26). Consequently, the earthly ministry of Christ divides into two basic, sharply contrasting stages. The first is marked fundamentally by his atoning, sin-bearing humiliation and suffering, followed by the second stage of his permanent exaltation and glorified existence.

The transition point between these two stages occurs at the conclusion of his earthly ministry in his death and resurrection, when he passed from his state of humiliation into his state of exaltation, when God “highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” after and because he had been “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8‒9). This climactic transition for Christ is in fact the specific turning point of the two ages.

The age to come, then, begins at Christ’s resurrection or, more broadly along with his ascension, with his exaltation.1 This is made especially clear in Paul’s teaching on the resurrection.

The Age to Come, the Resurrection of Christ, and the Future

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1Cor. 15:20 NASB). Implicit in this use of “firstfruits” is the thought that underlies and controls the entire argument in this chapter for the resurrection of the body, and for that matter much of the whole of Paul’s teaching on the resurrection.

The background for the use of this agricultural metaphor is the firstfruits sacrifices in the Old Testament (e.g., Exod. 23:16, 19; Lev. 23:10, 17, 20), particularly the organic connection or unity between the firstfruits and the rest of the harvest. The offering up of the first part of the harvest to God was a thanksgiving gift acknowledging the entire harvest as his gift to Israel.

Applied to the resurrection, then, the bodily resurrection of Christ and the future bodily resurrection of believers cannot be separated. Christ’s resurrection is the “firstfruits” of the resurrection-“harvest,” as Paul surely intends the metaphor to be extended; “He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died” (NLT; cf. v. 23: “But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ “).2

It is often said, rightly, that Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee of the believers’ resurrection. . . .

To finish reading the article: click



Perspectives on Pentecost (Richard Gaffin)
A careful examination of the New Testament teaching on the gifts of the Spirit. Makes a case for the cessation of tongues at the close of the apostolic era. Gaffin is professor emeritus of biblical and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


5 thoughts on “CHRIST’S RESURRECTION & THE AGE TO COME (Richard Gaffin)

  1. jaywise08 February 16, 2021 at 4:51 pm

    I feel like this would be a dividing point between you and those like Wilson and DeMar. I could be wrong but is that what I am seeing when speaking of the age to come and the end of the age (Matthew 24)?

  2. Kenneth Gentry February 16, 2021 at 5:10 pm

    Yes, this is a key difference between their views and mine. I hold to the standard Reformed understanding of the two ages. A part of the reason for this is that Luke 20:35 says those in the age to come are resurrected and will not marry.

  3. jaywise08 February 21, 2021 at 5:50 pm

    So Ken, do you and Bahnsen have agreement on this or does he fall more in line with Wilson and DeMar? Reason I ask is because I’m thinking back to the book you co-authored with him (House Divided).

  4. Kenneth Gentry February 22, 2021 at 6:40 am

    Yes. Dr. Bahnsen held this view, which is common among Reformed scholars.

  5. Ron March 27, 2021 at 2:11 pm

    Ken,

    When you “debated” Dick at Sandy Cove, it was unfortunate that the Westminster crowd’s mindset was that of reasoning according to a false disjunction. By establishing and already not yet paradigm of inauguration-consummation, they felt they proved false an optimistic eschatology. However, given the fact that inauguration-consummation and optimistic eschatology are not is mutually exclusive paradigms, they failed to defeat our position. We affirm both. They happily comply.

    A little Easter apologetics, if I may, for your readers. First post discusses evidence, the second shows the resurrection *can* be proven…https://philosophical-theology.com/tag/easter/

    Blessings,

    Ron

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