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Chicago Bible Students

A Ransom For All

 
12. The Chart of God's Plan of the Ages | Print |

Unfold the back cover chart as we follow the steps of God’s Plan of salvation. This Chart illustrates the various ages of time from Adam to the end of the Millennium followed by the “Ages to Come.” It shows the unfolding of God’s Plan and the steps taken from mankind’s condemnation to its restoration—as well as those leading to the exaltation of the elect Church.

The three main time divisions are “Dispensations” (A, B, C). Each is identified as a separate “world” in the Scriptures and is administered by a different rulership:

A From Creation to the Flood 
“The World that Was” (2 Peter 3:6)
B From the Flood to the beginning of 
Christ’s reign at the second advent 
“Present Evil World” (Galatians 1:4) 
“This World” John 12:31; 18:36
C From beginning of Christ’s Reign 
through the “Ages to Come” 
(Ephesians 1:10; 2:7) 
“The World to Come wherein 
Dwelleth Righteousness”

(2 Peter 3:13)


First World Under Administration of Angels

“The World that Was” which passed away in the Flood was put under the administration of angels. However, these angels “kept not their first estate” (Jude 6; Hebrews 2:5). Seeing the daughters of men were beautiful, they materialized as men and inbred with humanity with disastrous results (Genesis 6:1-5). That world then descended into wickedness so great that God in righteous wrath destroyed it with the Flood—saving only Noah and seven others of his family (Genesis 7:13).

Three Ages of the Present Evil World Under Satan

This “Present Evil World” has been under the power of Satan, “the prince of this world” (John 12:31). During this time mankind has been permitted to try governing himself. Man’s futile attempt with self-government under the pervading influence of Satan will finally prove useless. This “Present Evil World” will ultimately end in the greatest time of trouble the world has ever known.

This second great Dispensation is composed of three distinct ages—each progressing onward in God’s Plan. The first, Age D, the Patriarchal Age, is the time when God dealt with the fathers of faith—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Next was the Jewish Age, E, which began at the death of Jacob. God then recognized the posterity of Jacob’s twelve sons, the twelve tribes of Israel, as “My people.” They became God’s people in a unique way, receiving both special favors and responsibilities (Psalm 14:7). “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2 nas).

As a nation, Israel was also a picture of the Christian Church, “a holy nation” with promises to them typical of the “better promises” made to the Church (1 Peter 2:9; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4). Israel’s journey through the wilderness pictures the Christian’s journey through the wilderness of sin to the heavenly Canaan. Though Israel’s sacrifices of “blood of bulls and goats” could never take away sin (Hebrews 10:4), they pointed forward to the “better sacrifices” of the “royal priesthood” of the Gospel Age (Hebrews 9:23). Through Jesus, the “High Priest of our profession,” we are invited to offer our “bodies a living sacrifice” (Hebrews 3:1; Romans 12:1). The services and ordinances of the Jewish Age thus were a “shadow” of the greater realities to come (Hebrews 10:1).

During the Gospel Age, F, the Body of Christ is called out of the world to a narrow way of sacrifice. If “faithful unto death,” they become “partakers of divine nature” and receive a “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). While evil still reigns, they are tested by God to see if they will sacrifice their human nature with its privileges and blessings. If faithful in following Jesus, they will be “satisfied” when resurrected in “thy likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

During the three Ages of the “Present Evil World,” evil rules and the righteous suffer (Malachi 3:15). But in the “World to Come.” righteousness will rule and evil will be destroyed.

Third World Dispensation—Ages to Come

The third great Dispensation is composed of the Messianic (Millennial) Age followed by the “Ages to Come” (Ephesians 2:7). The Messianic AgeG, is described in the Scriptures as the time for the blessing of “all the families of the earth” during the “times of restitution … spoken by the mouth of all [God’s] holy prophets” (Acts 3:19-21). During that Age of restoration, the overcoming Church will sit on the “throne” with Jesus (Revelation 3:21) blessing the world of mankind. The “last enemy” then to be destroyed will be Adamic “death” (1 Corinthians 15:25, 26).

The Scriptures mention the “Ages to Come,” H, but are silent about the details. For now it is enough to know they will be ages of blessing when God will “show the exceeding riches of His grace”

The Harvests of the Jewish and Gospel Ages

The Jewish Age and the Gospel Age each had a distinct beginning, and each had a lengthy time for the development of its work. Each ends with a harvest time during which the fruits of the purpose of the age are gathered in. The Harvests are also a time when the work of two ages overlap. For example, before the Jewish Age ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the work of the Gospel Age had already begun with our Lord's anointing at Jordan, in A.D. 29 (Acts 10:37, 38). This overlapping work is also represented on the Chart. Notice the various beginning and ending lines in the Jewish Age Harvest, and in the Gospel Age Harvest.

Daniel prophesied about 70 “weeks” (of years) of God's favor to Israel that would end in stages (Daniel 9:24-27). During the last week of years, Jesus came to introduce the work of the Gospel Age. In the “midst” of the last week of seven years, just before Jesus was “cut off” in death, he said to the people, “Your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:38). Once his sacrifice was completed, the typical animal sacrifices were no longer acceptable, and, within a generation, the temple where those offerings were given was destroyed.

After the end of those seventy “weeks” of special favor to the Jews, the Gospel was opened to the Gentiles. This change was marked by the pouring out of the holy Spirit on the Gentile Cornelius (Acts 10:45). Later, the national existence of the Jewish people ended when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple.

Thus, during the Harvest of the Jewish Age, the Gospel Age opened for the trial and development of the anointed Christ—Head and Body (Colossians 1:18). Similar to the close of the Jewish Age, the Gospel Age closes by stages because the Millennial Age of Restitution begins during its Harvest. Although we now see some blessings of freedom and technology, there is also trouble! After all the harvesting work of the “wheat” of true Christians is done at the end of the Age, the world will go through the “fire” of trouble “such as never was” (Matthew 13:24-30,37-42; 24:21,22; Daniel 12:1). This preparation of trouble will, thankfully, introduce Christ's reign of righteousness and restoration

Lines and Pyramids of the Chart

The vertical lines of the Chart mark the progress of time. The horizontal lines show the planes of life and status during the Ages—K, LMNP and R. The complete pyramid shape well illustrates perfection—while an incomplete pyramid illustrates imperfection.

The human race began with Adam being created perfect (complete Pyramid a) on Plane N, representing perfect human nature. When he sinned, he fell to the plane of sin and death (Plane R) on which all his posterity has been born, represented now by an incomplete Pyramid b.

Complete Pyramid c on Plane N represents the ancient worthies of old who like Abraham were considered “friend[s] of God” (Hebrews 11; James 2:23). The term Ancient Worthies refers to all the men and women of faith, devoted to God, who lived up to the time of Jesus.

Israel is represented by incomplete Pyramid e, on Plane P—the plane of typical justification. Their sacrifices under the Law did not actually remove sin, but were representative of the sacrifice of Christ which actually removes sin (Hebrews 10:1;9:14). But Israel was a favored people distinct from the world and elevated somewhat above it.

The Gospel Age Path to Glory

The Gospel Age path to glory actually began within the Harvest of the Jewish Age. Jesus, represented as Pyramid g, on Plane N, presented himself at the Jordan River as a perfect man to redeem the world (John 1:14).Thereafter he began his public ministry, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus’ ministry sifted the nation, separating the “wheat”—”Israelites indeed”—from the chaff— the refuse of the old system. By accepting Jesus, and turning away from the leadership who rejected him, the “wheat” was separated from the “chaff.”

The “chaff” was later burned (figuratively), when the fire of God's judgment caused the Roman armies to sweep across Israel and destroy Jerusalem (Luke 3:17; 21:20; 1 Thessalonians 2:15,16). That time of trouble, closing the Jewish age, is the Shaded Portion f on the chart.

After Jesus symbolized his consecration by water baptism, the holy Spirit came upon him showing God’s acceptance and anointing. This filling with the Spirit was the begetting to a new nature—the divine―shown by Pyramid h on Plane M, the plane of spirit begettal. During Jesus’ ministry—though “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners”—he took on the sorrows and pains of the people (Isaiah 53:4) and gave them his vitality and health. “Virtue [life, strength, energy] went out of him and [he] healed them all” (Matthew 8:16, 17; Luke 6:19).  After 3½ years during which he “poured out his soul unto death” (Isaiah 53:12), Jesus’ human life ended on the cross.

When Jesus was resurrected on the third day, he was raised as a glorious spirit being of the highest order (Pyramid i on Plane L), the “firstborn from the dead.” (Colossians 1:18). Although no longer human, after his resurrection Jesus had the ability to appear in various human forms. His purpose was to convince his followers that he had truly been resurrected, but not as the man they once knew. Therefore, he appeared as a gardener at the tomb; as a helpful stranger on the shore; as a fellow-traveler on the road to Emmaus. Although he was seen as a man, he could go “as the wind” even when the “doors were shut” because he was “born of the spirit.” (John 20:19, 26).

Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus “ascended” to his Father―to the plane of divine glory represented as Pyramid k on Plane K (John 20:17). Then he was “set down with my Father in His throne” (Revelation 3:21; Hebrews 10:12). Jesus, as the Head of the Church during the Gospel Age (Pyramid l on Plane K) directs her discipline and guides her development. If we have fellowship in his sufferings, then as, “joint-heirs with Christ,” we have assurance that we will also share in his glory (Romans 8:17).

Church Follows in Jesus’ Footsteps

Thus, the steps of the Church to glory are the same as those of her Lord and Bridegroom —except the Church starts from the lower Plane R. In the Gospel Age all those who have an appreciation for Jesus who died for their sins—and are drawing close to God as friends—are considered in the way of justification on Plane N. Some of these believers are then moved to ask, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6)

The answer comes through the Apostle Paul, “I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). “A living sacrifice” means consecrating to God’s service every power and talent we possess and living not for self, but for our Heavenly Father. Our sacrifice is counted “holy, acceptable to God” because by faith we are then fully “justified by his [Jesus’] blood” (Romans 3:25;5:9).

The next step on the path to the “glory that shall be revealed in us” is Plane M. This plane represents being begotten to a new spiritual life. God has “begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 nas). As humans our will is dead, but we have a new hidden life growing. “For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). God’s Word works in our hearts transforming our minds as embryo “new creatures” preparing for a spirit birth (2 Corinthians 5:17). “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18).

Those who faithfully sacrifice their lives unto death receive a heavenly resurrection pictured by Plane L. “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12 nas). Each one on Plane L that is “born of the Spirit is spirit” like the “wind,” powerful and invisible to natural sight (John 3:6-9).

Plane K represents the exaltation beyond the personal glory of the saints in the resurrection—the glory of office of Jesus with his Bride. “His wife hath made herself ready” and the “marriage of the Lamb is come” (Revelation 19:7). As a body, the saints will be exalted with Christ and reign over earth as “kings and priests” (Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6, 1 Peter 5:10).

Mixed Condition in Christian Church

During the whole Gospel Age many have claimed to be Christians, represented in the stacked incomplete pyramid in four distinct classes—nmp and q. Both n andm on Plane M are spirit begotten “new creatures.” Those represented by section n are being faithful in their covenant to sacrifice all—while those represented by mare shrinking back from fulfilling their consecration. The faithful have built their character on the one “sure foundation” of Christ with truth and righteousness represented by “gold, silver, precious stones” (Isaiah 28:16; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15).

Others, represented by m, have built with “wood, hay, stubble”—a mixture of earthly values resulting in unstable character. But God still loves them! Their work is burned, but they are “saved; yet so as by [the] fire” of special adversity. They miss the grand prize of the Bride class. They miss reigning with Christ on his throne with the glory of Plane K, but they will receive heavenly life, Plane L. The Scriptures speak of them as a “great multitude,” as “companions” of the Bride serving “before the throne” (Revelation 7:9,14,15; 19:6,7; Psalms 45:10-14).

The majority of those claiming to be Christian are represented in section p. They generally appreciate that Jesus died for their sins, but they do not progress to make a full consecration and become begotten to a new spirit life (2 Corinthians 6:1). They are not members of the “body” of Christ—though called “brethren” by the Apostle (Romans 12:1). They have started in the right direction and will have an advantage in the Times of Restitution in becoming part of God’s family on the earthly plane.

Another class connected with Christianity is represented as section q below Plane N. These never did believe in Jesus as a sacrifice for their sins, but attached themselves to the church for worldly reasons. These are “wolves” disguised “in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15). They really belong to the world, Plane R, having done much injury to the Lord’s people throughout the Age.

Harvest—a Time of Separation 
The Church has existed in this mixed condition throughout the Gospel Age. The Lord pictured this in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). In the parable an “enemy” sows “tares” amongst the “wheat.” The reapers are told, “Let both grow together until the harvest.” But then, “In the time of harvest I will say to the reapers [“the angels”—messengers], Gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” In this parable, the “good seed” are the “children of heaven,” n and m. The “tares” or counterfeits (all of q and many of p), are “burned” in the sense that they recognize that their Christianity is merely nominal, not true, when Babylon’s institutions fall during the time of trouble.

The Harvest of the Gospel Age parallels the Harvest at the end of the Jewish Age. Both at first have a time of trial and sifting and then a time of God’s judgment and wrath.

In the Jewish Harvest, the Truth of the Gospel message separated the “wheat from the chaff”—the “Israelite[s] indeed” from the nominal Jewish House (John 1:47).

In the Harvest of the Gospel Age, the truth “that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” separates the “wheat” from the “tares” (Proverbs 4:18; Revelation 14:14). God calls His people to “Come out of” Babylon, the confused mixture of some truth with much error (Revelation 18:1-4) which is Christendom today. “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4).

During the Harvest, some from among the spirit begotten Christians (Figure t)—because lacking in zeal—are slow to separate from Babylon. These are called a “great multitude” in Revelation 7:9. They are influenced by a worldly spirit or overcharged with the cares of this life. It is only through special chastisements that they “wash their robes” in the “blood of the Lamb” and cleanse themselves. Their reward is to serve before “the throne of God” (Revelation 7:14, 15). Even though having lost the highest reward, when “called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb,” they will shout, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready” (Revelation 19:6,7,9).

True Christians who are “faithful unto death” are promised a crown of life,  (Revelation 2:10). Small Pyramid s represents the faithful saints, taken to glory during the Harvest period. Pyramid r represents our returned Lord, whom they meet in the resurrection.  During the Harvest "the dead in Christ ... rise first" (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, NAS). That is, the faithful saints of the past slept in death waiting for our Lord’s return before their resurrection change. Afterwards those who die during the Harvest need not sleep, but are changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51,52). They are gathered together—not all at the same time—but to the same place as they gradually one by one complete their course in death. (See “together” used in context in 1 Thessalonians 5:10,11.)

Figures t, u and v represent Babylon—the nominal Church—being judged during “the time of trouble” closing this Age. For centuries Babylon has misrepresented God’s character by many of its doctrines and practices. At both of Jesus’ advents, he is “a stone of stumbling” to “both the houses of Israel”—natural and spiritual (Isaiah 8:14). Natural Israel as a nation failed to recognize Jesus’ presence and purpose as Messiah. Nominal spiritual Israel also misapprehends both the manner and purpose of Jesus’ second advent.

The nominal church, as a system, comes to its end by the “seven last plagues” (Revelation 16:1-21). The destruction of the false church system takes place in the end of the Gospel Age Harvest, shown by Shaded area S.

The Messianic Millennium of Blessing
Restoring the human race will be a gradual work—requiring all of the Millennial Age for its full accomplishment. The results of Adamic death will be “swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:25,26,54). Under the wonderful reign of the Christ, the effects of sickness, pain, death will all yield obedience to the Great Restorer’s power.

Christ, with his Church, will be the head of all things (Pyramid, part x) in the big Pyramid. Next in rank will be the Great Company (and all obedient angels) on the spirit plane (Pyramid, part y). The next levels (z and w) will be the restored earthly Kingdom with Israel (Pyramid, part z)—led by the Ancient Worthies—blessing and instructing the rest of the world of mankind. (Zechariah 8:13,23; Isaiah 60:18; 27:6; Jeremiah 3:17, etc.).

During these “times of restitution,” the world of mankind (Pyramid, part W) will be lifted up and restored to what Adam lost for himself and his posterity. Each person will be given all the time necessary to make progress towards righteousness and perfection (Isaiah 65:20). Only relatively few of earth’s billions will practice “feigned obedience” (Psalm 66:3 nas), but they will be openly exposed during the “little season” following the Millennium. Then Satan will be loosed (Revelation 20:9) and these will join in his rebellion. They will die the “second death” from which there is no resurrection. Christ “dieth no more” (Romans 6:9).

Our Father’s great Plan for blessing “all the families of the earth” is certainly “good tidings of great joy … to all people” (Luke 2:10). At last, all will see that God has overruled evil for good.

Oneness of Creation Under Christ  
The figure of a pyramid well illustrates the oneness of all God’s creation under the headship of Christ. “That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Ephesians 1:10).

Christ Jesus, “the beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14), is beautifully represented by the top-stone of a pyramid, perfect and complete in itself. The entire building beneath must conform to the lines of its perfection. “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded” (1 Peter 2:6).

One peculiarity of our corner top-stone, is that Jesus is a “foundation” that is laid first! The Church under Christ is then “built up in him” (Colossians 2:7) as “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5 nas). The work will progress during the Millennial Age until every creature is individually conformed to Jesus’ perfect character. Those few who will not align their hearts in obedience with Christ’s principles of righteousness “shall be destroyed from among the people” in second death (Acts 3:22, 23). “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth…heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Revelation 5:13).

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness
As illustrated on the Chart, the Tabernacle of the Israelites contains a picture corresponding to the steps to glory in the Gospel Age. After one leaves the camp representing the world in sin (Plane R), one enters by a Gate into the Court (Plane N). Here we see the sacrifice on the Brazen Altar, representing appreciation for the sacrifice of Christ—and the laver, representing our opportunity for cleansing.

If we proceed further, we come to the Door of the Holy. There we have a choice to make. Should we consecrate our life to God? If we go forward in consecration, we go through the Door into the Holy and become spirit begotten (Plane M). Strengthened by the “Bread of Presence,” and enlightened by the “Candlestick,” we are enabled to offer acceptable incense to God by Jesus at the “Golden Altar.” Finally, if we finish faithfully, we enter the Most Holy picturing Heaven itself (Plane L). We are resurrected at last—and ready to share with Jesus in the glorious work of the Kingdom of the Ages to Come (Plane K).

Praise God! Our graphic vision of God’s wonderful Plan is truly made “plain” (Habakkuk 2:2) with the Chart of the Ages.