GALATIANS 1:4 & THE PRESENT AGE

PMW 2022-090 by Thomas R. SchreinerGod casts Satan down

As I am researching the Two-Age structure of redemptive history in the New Testament, I am finding a lot of helpful insights in various technical commentaries. A key passage in the Two-Age model is Galatians 1:4, which states regarding Christ:

“He gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age [hopos exeletai hemas ek tou aionos tou enestotos ponerou], according to the will of our God and Father,”

I will be dealing much with this passage in the book I am currently researching: Olivet and the Two Ages. In my research I have found quite helpful Thomas R. Schreiner’s commentary on Galatians in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (pp. 77–78). On Galatians 1:4 Schreiner well captures the significance of the passage and Paul’s instruction. There Schreiner comments:

“The eschatological character of Galatians emerges here [at Gal. 1:4b], for Jesus came to rescue believers ‘from the present evil age.’ Jewish thought distinguished between ‘the age’ and ‘the coming age.’ We find such a distinction in Jesus’ teaching as well (Matt 12:32; 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; 20:35). Paul also uses the language of this age and the age to come (Eph 1:21). This age is also designated as ‘the present world [age]’ (to nun aioni, 1 Tim 6:17), and believers are not to be conformed to this age (Rom 12:2) as Demas was (2 Tim 4:10), for the world dominates the lives of unbelievers (Eph 2:2). Believers have been granted grace to live the life of the age to come in the present age (to nun aioni, Tit. 2:12). The rulers of this age crucified Jesus Christ because they were unaware that he was the glorious Lord (1 Cor 2:6, 8).

“The intellectual worldview that controls the mindset of unbelievers is limited to this age (1 Cor 1:20; 3:18), and Satan rules as the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4). The present evil age is not the only reality, for the ‘fulfillment [ends] of the ages (ta tele ton aionon) has not dawned in Jesus Christ (1 Cor 10:11). The cross of Christ represents the intrusion of the new age, or as Paul says in Gal 6:14–15, the new creation. Indeed, the reference to the new creation at the close of the letter functions as an inclusio with the text here, so that at the beginning and end of the letter the arrival of the last days in Christ is featured. The world in its present form is passing away (1 Cor 7:31). Jesus reigns in the present evil age, and his rule will reach its climax in the age to come (Eph 1:21; cf. 1 Cor 15:24–28), so that in the coming ages all will marvel over the grace of God displayed in Jesus Christ….

We see as well here the eschatological tension of Paul’s thought, for even though the new age has come in Jesus Christ, the old age has not vanished entirely. Believers live in the interval between the already and not yet. God’s promises are already realized in Christ, but ‘the present evil age’ still exists, so that believers must remain vigilant and keep putting their trust in the cross of Christ.”

On p. 80 he summarizes the Already/Not Yet tension in Gal 1:4:

“The new age has dawned in Christ but it is not yet consummated. As Christians we live between the times. We are rescued from the present evil age through Christ’s death (1:4) and yet we must be warned not to revert back to the old era. We are delivered from sin but are not sinless. We are perfect in Christ but not yet perfected. Hence, we must remain vigilant so that we do not become captive to a false gospel that actually panders to our selfishness and pride, even after we have become Christians.”

I highly recommend Schreiner’s commentary as one that recognizes the influence of the Two-Age model on Galatians.


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10 thoughts on “GALATIANS 1:4 & THE PRESENT AGE

  1. Nigel November 29, 2022 at 1:59 pm

    Thx Rev Gentry..im looking forward to your insights on the 2 age structure of redemptive history. I am also curious about the “end of the age” in Matthew 28:20 where Jesus promises to be with the Apostles always to the very end of the age. I have often asked myself what age this is referring to and whether it points is some way to the temporary office of the Apostles which was soon to pass away ?

  2. Kenneth Gentry November 29, 2022 at 3:23 pm

    You can tell from the three passages in Matthew how Matthew uses the “end of the age.” It always refers to the end of history.

  3. Nigel November 29, 2022 at 3:52 pm

    but if end of the age in Matt 28 :20 is referring to the end of history then in what way did Jesus promise to be always with the Apostles to whom he is speaking or is this an argument for the continuation of a particular order of apostles that is distinct from presbyter ?

  4. Kenneth Gentry November 29, 2022 at 3:54 pm

    Through those whom they themselves send out and all who are sent in the future. God does not give up on discipling the nations in 40 years because the Apostles have died. They are representative of all who declare the good news.

  5. Dirk walstead December 1, 2022 at 2:26 am

    Dr Gentry, you said in a comment: “You can tell from the three passages in Matthew how Matthew uses the “end of the age.” It always refers to the end of history.”
    One of those references is 24:3.
    If that’s the end of history, and given that we must believe in a future return of Christ, isn’t that precisely what he’s answering in the discourse? Granting of course that he is also speaking of a near judgement on Jerusalem. I’m curious how you would parse that out. It seems that many are reading everything as already fulfilled.
    Thus the alarming rise of full preterism.
    In your opinion, what is the danger of reading 24:3 as simply the end of the Jewish age, thus putting us completely in the age to come.

  6. Kenneth Gentry December 1, 2022 at 12:07 pm

    Good question. You should read my study on Matthew 24:3. The disciples’ question shows their error in understanding. Jesus corrects that in the Olivet Discourse. https://postmillennialworldview.com/2019/06/11/matthew-243-and-olivets-structure/

  7. Dirk walstead December 1, 2022 at 10:13 pm

    I read your article on Matthew 24:3 and am in substantial agreement. The only quibble I would have is that I think he starts warning about false statements of his return earlier, in V 23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.” It seems Christ calls us to be sceptical of any claims to his return. And I think you would agree the reason is because it is an unmistakable event in all of history.
    It seems then that the error of hyper preterists is assuming, as probably the disciples did that such a terrible event of judgement must be the end of the age, and thus must be Christ’s return. As you have pointed out, contrary to the way both ideas are used in Matthews gospel. I hear many partial preterists making that exact same mistake.

    One thing that I have been wondering about is how does christology play out in our understanding of the second coming? If he is truly incarnate, how could there be a coming that was not physical in nature?
    I’m thinking about Calvin’s doctrine of the Lord’s supper. It was his concern to be consistent in his understanding of the incarnation that drove his concern for the Eucharist. If he was in one place he could not by definition be ubiquitous in his physicality. So, he spoke of Christ being present by the power of the spirit. If we take seriously the incarnation, wouldn’t that affect our understanding of his coming/presence? Jesus sent the spirit, a spiritual presence. In the Old testament God was present among his people in an invisible spiritual way. But the incarnation is that the Word became flesh, as 1 John puts it “what we have seen and touched. He ascended and he promises to return.
    So the references to God coming in judgment in the Old testament do not appear to have one-to-one correspondence because we are not just simply talking about incorporeal God, but about the God/man. So how does that understanding of christology change how we think about his return?

  8. Kenneth Gentry December 7, 2022 at 10:11 am

    You are correct. They hyperpreterist view undermines the hypostatic union in Christ. He became incarnate to join with us in our humanity that he might suffer for us as humans so that eventually we might dwell in fullness (body-and-soul) forever. Hyperpreterism is not simply an eschatological error but a Christological, anthropological, and redemptive error as well.

  9. bdubbb December 23, 2022 at 5:14 pm

    “Believes live in the interval between the already and not yet.” Should probably be as follows, Believe[r]s live in the interval between the already and not yet., I’m guessing.

  10. Kenneth Gentry December 24, 2022 at 10:34 am

    Oops! Got it. Thanks.

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