THE RECORD OF MAN'S EARTLY PILGRIMAGE
THE first of these periods or ages is properly called that of Innocence. It was the time from the creation of Adam to his expulsion from Eden. As to the exact length of this interval, no one knows. We do learn, however, that Seth who took in the theocratic line the place of Abel, whom Cain slew, was born when Adam was one hundred and thirty years of age. Since the expulsion from the Garden occurred before that dateeven before the birth of Cain and Abelwe know that the Age of Innocence was less than one hundred and thirty years. Since Cain and Abel were born after the expulsion and since they were young men when Cain slew Abel, it is quite probable that this first dispensation was less than one hundred years. The Scriptures however are silent on this point, giving no specific data. We must likewise hold our peace in regard to it.
During this time man was in the Garden of Eden where every plant that was calculated to make him happy and meet his needs was to be found. Since it was not good for man to be alone, the Lord made Eve from a rib which he took from Adam's side, or rather he built up the woman around the rib thus removed. She was a real helper to himone suited to his needs. They walked together and enjoyed the bliss of the Garden and also the fellowship of the Almighty who came and visited them on various occasions. This blissful state was brought to a sudden conclusion by Eve's disobedience in breaking the one prohibition which God laid upon her and her husband. Adam, following his wife, transgressed. They were then expelled from Eden. Thus closed that marvelous period of innocence.
THE next age is known by many students as that of Conscience. It began with the expulsion of our foreparents from Eden and terminated with the Flood in the year 1656 A.H. The anno hominis years are to be found in the biblical system of dating which I have discussed in Messiah: His First Coming Scheduled. The reason for calling this period the Age of Conscience is doubtless the belief that there was no law or no revelation made by the Lord to man from the expulsion from Eden to the time when God commanded Noah to build the ark. This is a mistaken idea as I have shown in the volume just referred to. The evidence is overwhelming that there was a primitive revelation which God made to man, which served its purpose, and which God has not seen fit to preserve to us. As proof that there was such a revelation at that time, one only has to note the fact that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, was a prophet. See Jude 14. Other evidence is to be found set forth in the volume mentioned above. Man must be true to his conscience; but his conscience must be educated. This principle is as true now as it was during that second age. Of course, the revelation which God gave man in those early days was not so full and detailed as the one which He has entrusted to us. Nevertheless there was at that time a divine revelation.
THE third dispensation, beginning with the Flood and ending with the promise to Abraham, is known as the Age of Civil Government. According to the chronological statements of the Book of Genesis, it lasted for 427 years. The Flood occurred in 1656 A.H. The promise was given to Abraham in 2083 A.H.
When Noah came out of the ark, the Lord granted the Magna Charta for all civil governments. This fact is recorded in Genesis 9. It was at that time God established civil government and imposed capital punishment upon all murderers. This is the chapter which authorizes organized society to execute punishments upon men commensurate with the crimes of which they are guilty.
We know little about the conditions which obtained upon the earth at that early period. From gleanings here and there in Genesis it is clear that sacrifices and offerings were made to the Lord by His servants. In the days of Peleg the one original continent was split into the various ones as we now see them. This fact is stated in Genesis 10:24-26. It seems that Peleg was named to commemorate that disaster. If this interpretation is correct, then that mighty event took place 101 years after the Flood--namely, in 1757 A.H. This period terminated with the call of Abraham.
THE fourth dispensation is known as that of Promise. It began with the call of Abraham (Acts 7:1-5) and continued to the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, telling him to go to a land that He would show him. He was to leave his father and all of his relatives behind. Nevertheless, he, with his father, left his native land, going to Haran. When the latter died, God appeared to him and gave him the second call. The record of this event is found in Genesis 12:1-3. At that time, which was the year 2083, the Lord entered into a sevenfold covenant with him. This passage is fundamental to the understanding of the Scriptures. Figuratively speaking, it is the monument from which all prophetic fields must be surveyed.
As Paul stated in Galatians 3:17, from the call of Abraham to the giving of the Law there were 430 years. Let us not be misled by the popular teaching that Israel was in the land of Egypt during this entire time. Paul gives us the categorical statement that from the promise to the Exodus there were 430 years. Abraham was seventy-five years of age when God made the promise (Gen. 12:1-3). Twenty-five years later Isaac was born. The first twenty-five years of the 430, therefore, had passed when Isaac was born. Isaac was sixty years of age when Jacob and Esau were born, which date was eighty-five years after the promise was made. Jacob was one hundred and thirty years old when he went down into Egypt. His descent therefore into the Land of Ham was 215 years (25 plus 60 plus 130) after the promise; but from the promise to the Exodus, let us remember there were 430 years. Since the first 215 years passed before Jacob and his family went down into Egypt, they were evidently there only 215 years. When the other statements which mention the 400 years of servitude (Gen. 15:12-15) and the 400 years of Stephen (Acts 7:6) are studied carefully and the facts of each context noted, it will be seen that these, passages do not contradict this calculation given above but are in perfect accord with it.
Israel developed into a nation during her sojourn in Egypt. When the time drew near for the fulfillment of the promise, God raised up Moses to be the deliverer of His people. By His mighty power, He brought them forth from the land of bondage and gave them the Law at Mt. Sinai in the year 2513 A. H. We arrive at this date by adding the 430 years mentioned by Paul to the year 2083, the sum of which is 2513. That was the year of the Exodus but the Law was given the second year of the Exodus2514 A.H. Thus was brought to a close the Age of Promise.
GOD began to deal nationally with Israel at the time of the Exodus. That event was the birth of the nation. From that time to the cross was the Age of Law. He gave them His revelation which consisted of civil laws and statutes and religious regulations and ceremonies. To their forefathers He had given the Land of Palestine. He therefore brought them forth from Egyptian bondage and placed them in the land of their fathers, which is the center of the earth (Ezek. 38:12). He wanted His Chosen People to stand like a sentry "upon the bridge of the nations" that they might hold aloft the torch of His revelation to the peoples as they passed to and fro through the land in their commercial relations and military operations. He promised that, if they would be faithful to Him, He would give them the fat of the land and would protect them in all circumstances. Notwithstanding the manifest presence of God in their midst from time to time, they constantly backslid. He had therefore to bring punishment upon them commensurate with their sins and transgressions.
From the time of their entrance into the Land under Joshua to the year of the first deputation of captives who went into Babylonian captivity there were 967 years. This fateful datethe beginnings of the downfall of the Jewish racewas 3520 A.H. Although the exiles were allowed to return to the land of their fathers after the captivity, they never regained their lost independence except in a limited and abbreviated manner during the times of the Maccabean revolt.
In the fullness of time our Lord came, being born of a woman under the Law (Gal. 4:3-5). He fulfilled His mission, accomplished His work, and suffered on the cross for the redemption of the human family, paying the ransom price. This tragedy of the ages occurred in the year 4071 A.H. At this time God stepped forward in the unfolding of the ages, bringing the Age of Law to a close and introducing the Age of Grace.
WITH the cross began the present dispensation or Age of Grace, during which God is sending forth the glorious message of the gospel, inviting one and all to accept the atonement which the Lord Jesus Christ made for every one when He died upon the cross. During His personal ministry the Lord trained chosen ones for the task of proclaiming His gospel in all the earth. After they were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, they proclaimed the glad tiding of redemption to the entire world. During the first generation of the Christian Dispensation, the entire population of the world was evangelized, according to Romans 10:18 and Colossians 1:6,23. In this connection let us remember that the church of the first generation of this era consisted largely of Hebrew believers. It was they who evangelized the world.
Finally, in 70 A.D., the overthrow of the Jewish nation and the destruction of Jerusalem occurred. From that day forward the Jew ceased to come into the church in any appreciable numbers. Figuratively speaking, the church therefore took on a Gentile complexion instead of that of the Jew. At that time the Hebrew nation was scattered abroad and has remained in this dispersed condition throughout the centuries.
During this time God is taking out from among the Gentiles a people for His name. This group of people is known as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, His body, of which He is the head. God has wrought many and wonderful things through faithful believers during the centuries. Eternity alone will reveal the good which has been accomplished.
The gospel is free to all. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Every sinner can substitute his name for the "whosoever" of this verse. Salvation is free. Why not accept Him today, sinner friends? Being saved, one must work for his reward.
The age will end in apostasy. This fact is set forth by the Apostle Paul in II Thessalonians 2. Jesus likewise declared "... when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). According to the Apostle Paul, this age will end in ungodliness and in disaster. We have no right therefore, to look for a revival of any proportion while this age continues.
It however will be brought to a conclusion by the Tribulation which lasts for seven years. During this latter period there will be a mighty world-wide revival conducted by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists of whom we read in Revelation 7. At the present time we are giving the truth to these future evangelistssowing the seed in the dry soil of indifferent hearts. When the rainsthe judgments of the Tribulationcome, the seed will spring forth and develop into this great army of 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will bring about the world's mightiest revival. The day of the Lord, the Tribulation, will be brought to a conclusion by the sudden appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ who will set up His kingdom upon the earth.
WHEN JESUS returns He will lift the curse, bind Satan mount the throne of David, and reign for a thousand years upon this earth. Jerusalem, cleansed, purged, purified, and re-created, the joy of the whole earth, will be the capital from which He will exercise His sovereignty. All nations will be converted and peace and prosperity will be the order of the day. This is the era concerning which all the prophets spoke and the psalmists sang in the most glowing terms. This future dispensation is properly known as the Millennium. In view of the wonderful promise, our hearts yearn, "Come, Lord Jesus!"
At the end of the thousand years Satan will be unloosed for a short period. Then will be established the judgment of the great white throne, at which time the present cosmic order will pass out of existence. Then God will create the eternal order of which we read in Revelation 21 and 22. Thus at the judgment of the great white throne will end God's dealings with the present cosmic order and with the human family in connection therewith.