And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
This is a private conversation between Jesus Christ and his disciples concerning the Temple, his return, and the end of the age. The word “world” is the Greek word aion. Aion is defined by Vine’s Dictionary as signifying “a period of indefinite duration, or time viewed in relation to what takes place in the period.”
An indefinite period of time meaning it could be a day, a decade, a century, or whatever. The point isn’t the length of time but rather what is taking place during that period of time. That’s why, in answering their question, Jesus Christ spoke of the things taking place, events that will occur during the age that preceds his return.
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Currently we are in what is called the Age of Grace. Ephesians has just told us after the Age of Grace at least two ages will follow.
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation [oikonomia] of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages [aiōn] and from generations [genea], but now is made manifest to his saints:
Colossians shows us that there has been more than one age prior to the Age of Grace.
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
Ours is the Administration or Age of Grace and the second heaven and earth has already had a few ages prior to ours and there are a few more ages following the Age of Grace.
The question has always been what constitutes an age? Justin Martyr, who lived around 100 to 165 A.D., saw four ages in the Bible. Justin Martyr named the ages he saw as:
Adam to Abraham
Abraham to Moses
Moses to Christ
Christ to Kingdom
Justin Martyr doesn’t have an Age that is named or related to Grace.
Part of the definition of aion is “time viewed in relation to what takes place in the period”. There are also dispensations [oikonomia] in the Bible. Oikonomia has been defined as the administration of a house, a dispensation, or an economy. The ages in the Bible run hand in hand with the administrations or dispensations.
Many times the ages and the administrations are discussed or taught from the perspective of what man must do or accomplish. Honestly, this angle would only produce two ages or administrations, one age for those who needed to believe that the Christ would come and one age for those who need to believe that Christ has come. The same requirements are upon man in every age and administration. Man needs to believe God, trusting that God will do exactly what He has said which is bring a Messiah, a Savior for mankind.
The focus in each Age or Administration should be on God and what God is doing. Looking at man simply shows us why we need God’s help; it is much more beneficial to focus on God’s words and actions and respond accordingly.
To clarify the purpose of the different ages I would add a third word to ages (aion) and administrations (oikonomia) that places the focus of each administration and age back on God rather than man. That third word is oikodome which means to edify or to build up.
Combining an understanding of ages and administrations with the view of edification allows every believer to clearly see how God edified mankind during distinct periods of time.
Administration or Age Main Method of Edification Paradise Spirit upon condition, one on one fellowship Patriarchal God’s Word Written in the Stars
Law God’s written Word in a book (scroll)
Christ God’s only begotten Son, the Living Word
Revealing God’s Word to Israel for mental edification
and speaking in tongues for spiritual edification
Grace God’s Word to Gentiles mental edification
and speaking in tongues for Spiritual edification
Kingdom of Heaven God’s Christ sitting on his throne
In the Paradise Administration God edified Adam and Eve by teaching them personally, one on one and as a couple. The next age, the time of the Patriarch’s God edified mankind through His Word written in the stars, by prophets, a priest, a preacher of righteousness, and angels coming into concretion to communicate the words of God. During the time of the patriarchs God deals with all of mankind as a whole and personally with any individual that believes Him.
Later God communicates His Word again by way of prophets who spoke for God and angels talking with man and most importantly by His written words, first given to Moses. After this age of Law God communicates with mankind by sending His only begotten Son to speak His Word and live His Word. Yet during this time of His son’s personal presence, the law from the previous age is still in effect. All things do not change with the coming of a new age, however the predominate method of edification does change. Although one administration may have the same aspects of communicating the Word of God as another administration, such as prophets speaking for God, there is always one method of God edifying mankind that is unique or new to that period of time.
An age, administration or dispensation then is an indefinite period of time that shows how God is edifying or building up mankind. As God changes the manner by which He is building up mankind, so too does the age change in relation to what is taking place during that period of time.
Since Paradise the purpose of God’s edification is restored fellowship. In order to have fellowship you need to have knowledge. If I have no knowledge of you, then I can have no fellowship with you. If most, or all, of my knowledge of you is based upon lies, half-truths, rumors, myths, or hopeful guesses then my fellowship will be based upon a very shaky foundation. Edification requires knowledge that is born of Truth. Edification builds a solid foundation upon the Rock, Christ. The more knowledge and understanding we have of God’s words and actions the more intimate our fellowship with Him.
If ye have heard of the dispensation [oikonomia] of the grace of God…
Another aspect of administrations is the names by which we identify them. The specific names that a theologian or others apply to these periods of time are honestly irrelevant other than the Administration of Grace. God names the Age of Grace; no other name is supplied by God for any other age.
If ye have heard of the dispensation [oikonomia] of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages [genea or generations] was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
God gives our time, our administration its name, Grace. No other dispensation is given a name by God. We have titled them as follows: Paradise for the time in the Garden, Patriarchal for the time when the male head of a family was the leader, Law for the time when God gave Israel the Mosaic Law, Christ for the time when Christ was present, Revealing for the time when Jesus is revealed to the world as the Christ and Kingdom of Heaven for the time Christ rules as King of kings.
You can call the time of the patriarchs the Patriarchal Dispensation, or the Patriarchal Age, or the Patriarchal Administration, remember that oikonomia can be translated either dispensation or administration. If you wanted to name this Administration the “God’s Word Written in the Stars” or the Patriarchal Economy then so be it. The name is not as important as an understanding of how God is working with man during that period of time. God’s goal is fellowship, no prizes are being handed out for the one who comes up with the coolest name for an Age or Administration.
Failure to understand these ages and the differences between these ages means you will confuse one time period with another and that will only lead to spiritual frustration.
God showed us immediately following the fall of mankind where to place our focus.
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
The issue here is that a woman doesn’t have seed, she carries the egg. It’s figurative to bring emphasis to the point that God would be the one who would take care of bringing this Savior and in the process of supplying the Savior, God would bring about the defeat of the adversary.
Which were [who was] born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Since the fall of mankind the subject of the Bible is God’s Christ, God’s anointed.