As the past millennium has come to a close and a new millennium looms before us, many are speculating concerning what we should expect in this new age. Newsweek magazine recently disclosed that there are 239 different web sites on the Internet exploring the uncertainty of the coming millennium. Philosophers, scientists, sociologists, and religious leaders are raising their voices; some in dire predictions, others in rapt anticipation of this glorious new epoch. Medical researchers claim that in the next millennium virulent diseases will be eradicated, new medical advances will enable men and women to commonly live past 100 years. On Wall Street, pundits and financial observers are promising rising levels in the stock market far into the next century. Social scientists expect great advances to be made in the areas of race relations, poverty, and crime. Human ability and human achievements are causing many hearts to quicken with eager anticipation for this new millennium. Scientists, political leaders, and other experts are placing great faith in the triumph of humanism for a utopian future.
Christ and the Eternity of Ages
The Bible, however, describes a very different scene for the future. The glorious ability and advances of man do not find themselves on center stage. The center stage in the age to come is reserved exclusively for the glory of God, in the person of Christ, seen in all of His manifold and shining excellencies. This biblical age may not begin on January 1, 2001, but when it finally breaks upon the world stage it will be the decisive age within human history. The apostle Paul beautifully described this time to come when he wrote, “Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Eph. 3:21 KJV). It is worthy of notice that the apostle wrote in the original manuscript, “Unto Him be glory in the church in Christ Jesus unto all the generations of the age of ages, Amen.” At once this striking phrase “Age of ages”, or “Eternity of ages”, stirs our spiritual imagination. This time period will not be merely another age, much like many others that have gone before it. It will not be marked simply by medical, political, and societal advances. This age will be unlike all others, for it will be the “Age of Ages.” Careful students of the Word of God have long labored to grasp the breadth of this remarkable phrase. Theologian Charles Hodge expresses something of the greatness of this age, when he writes, “ ‘To all the generation of an eternity of ages.’ In finding no ordinary forms of expression suited to his demands, the apostle heaps together terms of the largest import to give some vent to thoughts and aspirations which he felt to be unutterable…” (1) Greek scholar W. Robertson Nicoll adds, “The phrase age of ages may have the force of a superlative, the ‘age par excellence’, the age besides which there is none other to be named”. (2)
The Definition of the Age of Ages
However, among serious Bible students there is not complete agreement concerning whether this period refers to the one thousand year reign of Christ or the period after the millennium called “Eternity ” or the “Eternal State” . We may safe in saying that this biblical time period, in which the church will be privileged to display to angels and the nations the glories of her Saviour, will begin at the millennial reign of Christ and continue on into eternity. However, among Christians there is broad agreement concerning the high privilege and importance of this time period to those who are numbered among the church of God. Commentator Albert Leckie writes concerning this time period, “If the age of ages be the coming millennium, as I judge it to be, then the church in its peculiar and unique relationship to Christ will be seen by generations to the glory of the Father. The church on earth today displays to angelic beings in the heavenlies the multi-varied wisdom of God. In the age of ages it shall display from its place in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus glory to the Father to generations of men on the earth. Amen.” (3)
The Centerpiece of the Age of Ages
There are two principles concerning the glory of Christ which characterize this time period from the commencement of the millennium to the “eternity of ages” in the eternal state. The first of these is that Christ is the centerpiece of the “age of ages”. This principle is brought out in a quiet and yet profound way in the fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation. Properly speaking, Revelation chapters four and five do not take place during the millennium or the eternal state, but rather at a time in heaven after the church is taken up, while the earth below experiences that which the Bible describes as the “time of Jacob’s trouble.” However, spiritual principles that we find here will be carried on into the millennium and the eternal state. In Revelation four and five we find Christ to be the very centerpiece of heaven. Christ is the backdrop, foreground, the all-surpassing theme, the gathering center, and the preeminent One of heaven—truly the Lamb is all the glory. Heaven would be not be heaven if the Lamb was not there. Christ’s presence defines heaven. One of the most frequently-used descriptive phrase in the New Testament for heaven is simply, “Where I am” (John 14:3, 17:24). All things in heaven, whether they be objects, persons, or spirit beings, are described in their relationship to Christ upon the throne. The first thing John mentions that he sees in heaven is the throne and the One who sits upon it. The sight of the throne is so gripping to his spiritual mind that he mentions it fifteen times in these two chapters. This scene in the most descriptive and detailed portion in all of Holy Scripture concerning heaven. Remarkably, we find that virtually everything in heaven is spoken of in its relationship to the throne of God. Notice the following references: “a rainbow round about the throne” (4:3); “round about the throne were four and twenty seats” (4:4); “Out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices” (4:5); “before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal” (4:6); “the four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne” (4:10); “cast their crowns before the throne saying…” (4:10). Christ is the centerpiece of Heaven. In the age of ages He alone will captivate our hearts, He alone will be the incomparable object of worship, and He alone will distinguish and mark the glory of the Age of ages.
The Lamb of God and the Age of Ages
Not only will Christ be the centerpiece of that age but He also will be the masterpiece of that age. Ages, whether they be decades or centuries, have been characterized by temporal and passing human achievements. Ages, that we have called “Stone Age”, “Bronze Age”, “Age of Enlightenment”, and the “Computer Age”, have all come and will all go—history will notice that they were marked by mere temporal developments. In marked contrast to these ages, the age to come will have upon it the imprint of eternity. Its achievements will be marked by the unequalled and unparalleled changeless work of God. In that day, one work of God will stand above all others, imbedded in our hearts forever, —the penal and substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus Christ. At three different times, John the apostle writes in Revelation chapter five that the Lamb had been “slain”. We read, “...in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain” (5:6); “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof; for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation’ ” (5:9); “Saying in a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing’ ” (5:12). The slain Lamb will be the reason for our eternal praise, it will be the cause of our love, and it will distinguish our triumphant worship. The memory of the Lamb slain will grip our hearts and minds for eternity. The Lamb slain will be the masterpiece of God in heaven. It shall stand in that day unrivaled, unmatched in glory, importance, and worth. James Flanigan has well written, “John looks through his tears, ...and sees the Lamb of God, in the midst of the Throne. The marks of sacrifice are upon Him, as if freshly slain. The memory of Calvary will ever be fresh in heaven throughout all eternity”. (4) As we enter the new millennium, aware of this world’s yearning and aspirations for it, believers remain cautious, for our hearts pound with eager expectation of the soon coming of our Lord from heaven. Our hope lies not in what man has in store for himself, but rather in what our Lord Jesus Christ has marked out for His bride. The Christian races not in lock step with the world, running in the same direction with the same purpose, desire, and longing. We look up to heaven, awaiting our Lord, in anticipation of the day when the King in all His glory shall stand upon that Jerusalem mount. Upon His thigh a name will be written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). Near to His side will be the holy armies of heaven, following Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean (Revelation 19:14). Then that innumerable host of blood-bought saints of the Lord will be gathered with Him to reign as kings and priests forever (Rev. 5:10). There in the midst stands the Lamb, slain for before the foundation of the world, yet crowned in brightest glory, and “everyone in the temple speaks of His glory” (Ps. 29:9). Expectantly, we look for the inauguration of the Age of ages, with the saints of all ages who love Him. Of this age, the saintly Samuel Rutherford has written: The King there in His beauty Without a veil is seen: It were a well spent journey, Though seven deaths lay between. The Lamb, with His fair army, Doth on Mount Zion stand, And glory—glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.
(1) Charles Hodge, Ephesians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1980), p.195
(2) W. R. Nicholl, ed., The Expositors Greek Testament ,vol. 3, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1967), p. 319
(3) Albert Leckie, Ephesians, ( Kilmarnock, Scotland: John Ritchie Ltd, 1983), p. 149
(4) James Flanigan, Notes on Revelation, (Glasgow, Scotland: Gospel Tract Publications, 1987), p. 46