Is This the End of the Age?
Dr. Roger G. Ford, Ph.D., P.E.
July 9, 2017
Matthew 24:1-3 says, “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
It’s interesting that the disciples knew what Jesus had been telling the scribes and the Pharisees would happen at His Second Coming, and that is what prompted them asking the question of the sign of His coming and the end of the age. But, just what was the “age” the disciples were referring to? The “age” they were asking about is the time we are in as well – the “Age of Grace.” Why is the “Age of Grace” important to the disciples and to us some 2,000 years later? And just what is “Grace” anyway?
Let’s look at the three main words in the descriptions “The Age of Grace” or “The Dispensation of Grace”. First, “age’ is easy. It simply refers to a time period that is characterized by a beginning and an ending. The overall title of the time we are living in at the present is “The Age of Grace” or “The Church Age”, “The Time of Jesus”, and, more explicitly, “The Dispensation of the Grace of God”. This time or “age” started with the Jewish Feast of Pentecost that happened the same year that Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected. Then on Pentecost, about ten days after Jesus ascension into Heaven, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, the Church began, and has lasted these 2,000 years to today. But, the “Age of Grace” or the “Church Age” is also referred to as a “dispensation”.
Paul described a “dispensation” this way in Ephesians 3:2, “Surely you have heard about the dispensation of God’s grace that was given to me for you…” Then Paul describes himself this way in Colossians 1:25, “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God.”
So, just what is a “dispensation”? It is a “management”, a “plan”, or an “administration” that applies to a specific period of time or age. Just like a Presidential Administration lasts either four or eight years, this “Dispensation of Grace” is for born-again believers which could never have happened at any other time in human history. Why? Simply because Jesus came to Earth as a man, a perfect man, only one time to live a sinless life, take on the sin of the world for all time, shed His blood and die to pay for those trillions of sins, then prove to all that God’s “plan” worked since God raised Him from the dead. From that time forward to today and beyond, all who believe and confess on the Name of Jesus and believe that God raised Him from the dead will be saved and born-again. (Romans 10:9)
The third word is “Grace” and specifically “the Grace of God”. Grace in mentioned 170 times in the Bible. Grace can be defined as God’s unmerited favor. In the Bible, grace and mercy are like two heads of the same coin. Mercy is God withholding judgment or evil that I deserve, grace is God giving me blessing or good that I do not deserve. Because of God’s mercy, I do not receive the judgment of God against my sins, and because of God’s grace, I receive eternal life and a promise of heaven though I do not deserve them. Both mercy and grace come to me though the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace can also be defined as God’s sufficiency or God’s fullness in the life of the believer. God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). That is, the grace of God in Paul enabled him and empowered him in his weakness. Another verse states, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). God’s grace working in us supplies the sufficiency whereby we may abound to every good work. Grace is “God’s enoughness” which means that God is enough for us no matter what the situation we face.
Now that we understand the words in the titles “the Age of Grace” and “the Dispensation of Grace”, what do these titles refer to? The Church started on Pentecost back around 30 A.D., and the end of the “Age” is when the Rapture takes the Church, both dead and alive, to be with the Lord. Those two events actually bracket the Church Age very well. Of course, we don’t know the exact day of the Rapture, but we do have the Lord’s assurance that when Israel is back in their land, the generation that sees that will be the generation that is raptured. “But learn the parable from the fig-tree (Israel): When already its branch becomes tender and produces leaves, ye know that the summer is near. Thus also ye, when ye see all these things, know that it is near, at the doors. Verily I say to you, this generation will not have passed away until all these things shall have taken place”. (Matthew 24:32-34)
Of all the end-times signs that Jesus tells His disciples, the least obvious is the most profound. The fig tree is the nation of Israel (Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 24:1-10), and its re-founding occurred on May 14, 1948. This singular event started the prophetic clock ticking toward midnight. In it, multiple “last days” prophecies began their fulfillment. “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once?” (Isaiah 66:8). Yes, Israel May 14, 1948.
“For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land” (Ezekiel 36:24). The establishment of the modern state of Israel started this amazing process. After 1,813 years (A.D. 135 when Hadrian destroyed Israel and re-named it Palestine to 1948 when Israel again became a nation) Israel is back in their land! No other nation or people has ever even come close to this astounding fact!
So, if May 14, 1948, marks the beginning of the final generation, what exactly is the length of a generation? If we look to the Bible it gives us an interesting possibility. “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years” (Psalm 90:10).
Scripture teaches that Jesus will take his Church home before the seven year period of tribulation. Let’s take the 80 years as a generation and add 80 to 1948. We get 2028. 2028 minus seven years (the tribulation) is 2021. When the Psalm 83 war and the Ezekiel 38&39 war are considered to be happening AFTER the Rapture but BEFORE the Tribulation begins, and these wars taking about 3 to 4 years, that brings us back to 2018 or 2017! Are we close to the end of the age?
There is a danger in date-setting, of course. Jesus was quite clear that no human knows the day or hour of His return for the church (Mark 13:32). He did, however, say that when we see the signs of His soon coming we can be sure that “summer is near” (Mt. 24:32). It would appear that we are on the verge of summer.
This leads to another question: How much of a generation must be living before one can say that that generation had all passed away? Does it mean greater than 50% must be living when He returns or can it mean that He could wait until there was just one person left living from the 1948 generation? It seems more likely to be the former than the latter which would mean that truly any day now the church could be called home in the Rapture!
The Rapture is best characterized by 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 which says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the LORD, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the LORD shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the LORD himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the LORD in the air: and so shall we ever be with the LORD. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
The Rapture ends the Church Age, the Age of Grace, and the Dispensation of Grace. We do not know the exact day the Rapture will happen, but happen it will, and it will be unexpected by the world and, unfortunately, by most Christians. Most people are so caught up and involved in this world that they have no clue as to the “Judgment of God” that is on the way. Why would God want to judge the world today? Sure, we know that He did just that some 4400 years ago with the Flood of Noah because, “…God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5) But, what about today? Matthew 24:37-39 has a sobering warning for those of us in the end times, “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
So, are we as vile and corrupt as “in the days of Noe?” Should we expect that Almighty God looks on us as He did on the pre-flood people and sees the need to cleanse the evil from the world? Let’s look at some chilling statistics to see if He has a case.
In 2016 alone, there were 2,478 Islamic terror attacks in 59 countries in which 21,237 people were killed and 26,680 people were injured. In just the past 2 months there have been more than 174 attacks by Islamic Jihadists in which 1,659 people were killed in 29 different countries (thereligionofpeace.com).
During the bloody civil war in Syria over 500,000 people have been killed, according the last numbers, and the bloodshed and killing continues unabated in this horrible conflict.
The greatest source of deadly violence in our world continues to be abortion. In our nation alone, over 59 million babies have been murdered since 1973 at the rate of about 1M annually, and worldwide, this number is much higher at over 50 million annually. An estimated 64% of all global abortions (35.8 million) occur in Asia.
From 2010-2014, an estimated 25% of global pregnancies (including spontaneous miscarriages) ended in abortion. (The Guttmacher Institute) Is not God just as grieved by this senseless bloodshed as He is by the bombings and killing also prevalent in our world?
Wikipedia lists fourteen current and ongoing wars in our world, including the civil war in Syria. The Mexican drug war has claimed the lives of 138,000 people since 2006 with over 12,000 dying because of this violence in 2016 alone.
So, does violence and evil fill the earth at this time? Absolutely! We do not know the statistics of violence during the days of Noah, but what we see around us certainly qualifies as an apt comparison. What also is disturbing is the growing acceptance of violence in our culture. In the past few months we have seen celebrities advocate the killing of our president. Since President Trump was elected, there have been 12,000 tweets calling for his assassination.
In comparing the days leading up to His coming to the days of Noah, the Lord also made this interesting statement, “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark” (Matt. 24:38). People on the earth during the time of Noah carried on with their lives completely oblivious to the coming flood until it was too late. The flood came on a day that started out just as any other day for them. Until the moment Jesus returns for His church, life will proceed here pretty much as normal as well. We should not expect any great sign or worldwide catastrophe signaling His appearing to take us home. Just as in the days of Noah, life will seem normal. It will be a day like any other day, that is, until Jesus comes. Are we approaching the end of the age? Seems very likely, almost with complete surety.
The day Jesus calls us “up” will then become a day glorious beyond anything we have ever experienced before in our lives. For those left behind, it will be a much different story. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-9 says, “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ…”
God’s judgement on an unbelieving and wicked world was described by Jesus Himself in Matthew 24:21: “For then shall there be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” This great tribulation is also known as the “Day of the Lord”. There is no ‘secret knowledge’ involved in understanding this time because it is all found in God’s written Word.
Isaiah 13:9 – Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
Ezekiel 30:3 – For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near, a cloudy day; it shall be the time of the heathen.
Joel 1:15 – Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
Amos 5:18 – Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! To what end is it for you? The day of the Lord is darkness, and not light.
Obadiah 1:15 – For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.
These verses show the unmistakable clarity as to who the ‘day of the Lord’ is intended. Its purpose is to ‘destroy the sinners’ and it is ‘the time of the heathen’, but it has nothing to do with the righteous. The “Day of the Lord” will be accompanied by ‘wrath and fierce’ anger. But the first step in a judgment process is the removal of the righteous from the judgment. That keeps all of us “out of” (“ek” in Greek, Revelation 3:10) who have made our preparations ahead of time for not having to be included in this time of judgement by repenting of our sins and asking Jesus to be our Lord and Savior. We have asked for His forgiveness for all of our many sins and have received the gift of eternal life. Jesus’ forgiveness makes us righteous in God’s eyes because all He sees is Jesus’ perfect and holy shed blood covering our sins. There is no longer the danger of having to experience God’s wrath:
2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For he hath made Him to be sin for us: who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
1 Thessalonians 5:9 – For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (The very definition of condemnation is the wrath of God)
Romans 5:1 – “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Peace with God means that He no longer has anything to be angry with us about or to judge us for because Jesus took our punishment upon Himself on the cross.)
The “Day of the Lord” will cover a span of time, it is intended for all those who never gave their lives to Christ, and will be all inclusive in that it will include all of the various elements of God’s judgement for the purpose of the destruction of sinners. But, the first step in a judgment process, the assurance that the innocent are not part of the judgment process, must occur without any doubt or fear that the righteous will be a part of the judgment.
Let’s look at a verse that normally is not seen as the Rapture and its aftermath. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 says, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” The “thief in the night” reference in its day meant an intruder that would forcefully enter without regard to disruption or noise. The thief would surprise, then take utter control, and ravish and destroy. This is how the Rapture of the Church hits the world of the very near future. The “sudden destruction” is the direct aftermath of the Rapture when the righteous are removed from the Earth and the “Day of the Lord” officially begins to judge all unbelievers starting with the Psalm 83 war, the Ezekiel 38 and 39 war, and the rising of the Antichrist before he officially begins the Tribulation with his Daniel 9:27 “peace treaty”.
The Rapture of the Church is what ushers in the ‘Day of the Lord’ and is the first judgement or first step in the judgment process to take place in it by judging or discerning the righteous, Christ believers, and removing them from any chance of receiving unjust punishment, then is accompanied instantly by ‘sudden destruction’ which is actually triggered by the Rapture itself. The world will be turned on its head after the Rapture occurs.
Since we know the Rapture (or the “catching away of the believers”) is what ushers in the ‘Day of the Lord’, then that means the Rapture will be the first element of God’s judgement that all of those who were left behind will have to deal with, as well as the sudden destruction which goes hand in hand with it. The removal from the Earth all those who have the indwelling Holy Spirit will have a chaotic and increasingly evil impact on those “left behind”. We really do not have any concept of just how much the Holy Spirit’s influence through us as believers keeps this wicked world in some sort of check. But, with all believers removed, literally “all hell” will be let loose.
Further, it also means that all of the other elements that make up this time of judgement which are to follow the Rapture, such as the Psalm 83 war, the Ezekiel 38 and 39 war, the arrival of the Antichrist, the signing of a peace agreement and rebuilding of the third temple, the Seal, Trumpet, and Bowl judgements included in the 7 year Tribulation period have absolutely nothing to do with those of us who are saved because we will be in heaven when they take place. That means the whole debate about whether the Rapture of the Church is a pre- or mid- or post tribulation event has now become a moot point for us. The 7 year Tribulation period is what makes up the heart of the “Day of the Lord” and as we’ve learned we will have no part in it. We won’t even be on Earth when it occurs, we will be with Jesus!
The Tribulation is also called ‘the time of Jacob’s trouble’ and it is during this 7 year period that God is going to restore His relationship with the Jewish people. That’s why Jeremiah called it the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). It is during this period that they will finally come to believe that Jesus Christ really is their long awaited Messiah, at least one-third of them will (Zechariah 13:8). It is not going to be an easy time for either the Jews or the world while all this is going on. God’s wrath and anger are going to be poured out like no one has ever seen before and will never be seen again.
So, are we at the end of the age? There are some references in the Bible to the length of time of the Church Age as being 2,000 years or thereabouts. For instance, Hosea 6:1-2 says, “Come, let us return to the Lord. For he has torn us, but He will heal us; he has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him.” It has been almost exactly 2,000 years since the Resurrection of Christ. We are there! Then there is the reference to the generation which witnesses all the signs that Jesus told His disciples about in Matthew 24 not dying out until the “end of the age”, and we are there! Then the “as it was in the days of Noe” seems to be obvious that we are there also! Conclusion – we are there at the end of the age!
But, there are a couple of cautionary notes we must all pay close attention to. First of all, 2 Peter 3:3-7 says, “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”
Secondly, we need to remember that the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who were supposed to be the Biblical scholars of the time fully aware of the prophecies of the Messiah, were spiritually blind to the signs of Christ’s first coming (Matthew 16:1-3). When they asked Him for a sign, Jesus acknowledged their ability to interpret the weather based upon the appearance of the sky, but they failed to grasp the “signs” around Jesus and to correlate those with Bible prophecy about the Messiah. How much more are many religious leaders, preachers, and sincere Christians of this generation blind to the “signs of the times” and the “times of the signs” that are pointing not only to Christ’s Second Coming, but the Rapture! The “End of the Age”, the end of the “Church Age”, the Age of Grace”, the “Dispensation of Grace” is here!
Without doubt, we believers see the chaotic world bent on conquest and military antagonism and religious fervor coupled with intolerance, which is now tending towards violence, plus the very possibility of civil war in these United States, and we cannot escape the looming climax that is approaching. Without some intervention, without some world super hero to step in, without a miracle, the world is in store for unprecedented destruction and devastation. Of course, we, as Bible and prophecy believers, know that unprecedented judgment from Almighty God is coming soon, but the world does not know. What the world sees is really nothing alarming since just like before the Flood of Noah, “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark” (Matt. 24:38). And we know that miracle is coming soon, the removal of the Church thus ending the Church Age and ushering in the “Day of the Lord”.
So, believer, Luke 21:28 says, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” If you don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior, now is the time of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2) so that you can escape the coming wrath of God. But, believer, this is for you. Wake up! Look up! Jesus is about to end this Age of Grace and begin the judgment of the unbelievers in order to save some, especially His people Israel, but, unfortunately and tragically, to condemn many. Recognize that the “blessed Hope” (Titus 2:13), “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ”, the Rapture of believers, is NOW, at any second! So, look up, for your redemption is drawing nigh! Are you ready?