One of the cardinal doctrines of eschatology is that of "the age to come." The age to come was to be the time of the Messiah, the kingdom, and salvation. It was the anticipated goal of Israel’s prophets. The purpose of this article is to take note of a recent article by dispensationalist Thomas Ice. In the publication “Midnight Call,” and an article entitled the age to come, Thomas Ice took issue with the preterist view of the age to come espoused by authors like Gary DeMar and myself. In that article Ice set forth the dispensational objection to the view that the age to come arrived with the end of the Old Covenant Age of Israel in A.D. 70 and that Christians now live in, and enjoy the promised age to come.
We want first of all to set forth the Biblical view of the age to come. I want to make three points that are critical:
- The Jews only believed in two ages. They believed in what they called "this age" and "the age to come."
- The Jews believed that this age was the age of Moses and the Law, and was, even as Ice suggests (p. 2), the time when Israel awaited the fulfillment of her prophetic hope. The Jews believed that the age to come would be the age of Messiah and the New Covenant. (cf. Hebrews 2:1-5).
- The Jews believed that this age would end, but the age of the Messiah, the age to come, would never end (Isaiah 9:6-9; Luke 1:32-33; Ephesians 3:20-21).
Jesus definitely taught the existence of only two ages, and he used the terms this age and the age to come. He knew he was living in this age, and was anticipating the age to come. Thus, our first point is established. Ice even concurs: "The Jewish perspective of Bible prophecy views history as consisting of two ages. The first was ‘this present age,’ the age in which Israel was waiting for the coming of Messiah. The second was ‘the age to come,’ the age in which all promises and covenants would be fulfilled and Israel would enter her promised blessings as a result of Messiah ‘s coming." (p. 18).
The second point is also established in that Jesus definitely viewed his this age as the age of Moses and the Law. He was sent to establish the promises made to the fathers of Israel (Romans 15:6f). After all, Jesus was, "born of a woman, made under the Law" (Galatians 4:4). Also, Jesus was very much aware of living under the age of Moses and the Law. He said he did not come to destroy it, but to fulfill it, and said it all, not part, not some, or not even most of it, but all of it, had to be fulfilled before it could pass (Matthew 5:17-18). We will return to this momentarily.
Jesus demonstrated the presence of this age, when the Mosaic mandates were still valid and binding, in his discussion with the Sadducees about resurrection. They appealed to the Levirate Marriage law of Deuteronomy, and Jesus concurred with its validity. However, he also anticipated the arrival of the age to come time when "they neither marry nor are given in marriage" (Luke 20:35). This is not a description of the end of human relationships, as some mistakenly claim. It is a contrast between the Mosaic Age—founded, identified, and sustained by "marrying and giving in marriage," and the age to come, when members of the kingdom are determined, not by physical lineage, but by spiritual birth. Members of the kingdom today are not the result of marrying and giving in marriage. They are the result of being taught, and then being born into the kingdom (Hebrews 8:6f).
The point is that for Jesus, this age was indeed the age of Moses and the Law, and the age to come was the age when Moses and the Law would no longer be binding.
Our third point is established by the Olivet Discourse. Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple Matthew 23-24:2). The disciples associated the desolation of that edifice with the end of the age (sunteliea ton aionion) and asked for a sign, "of the end of the age." It is common for modern commentators to claim, even as Ice seems to do, that the disciples mistakenly associated the destruction of that Temple with the end of the age. It is even sometimes claimed that the disciples could not conceive of the Temple’s destruction in any other context than the end of time and the destruction of creation. Of course, this is a false claim. The disciples knew the Temple was destroyed in B. C. 586 did they not? Well, if they knew the Temple was destroyed in B. C. 586, and yet time did not end and the earth was not destroyed, why should we think that is what they were thinking of when Jesus said the Temple was to be destroyed again?
The fact is that the disciples did associate the end of the age with the destruction of the Temple that was standing when they asked the question. Ice even admits that Jesus’ prediction prompted the disciples to think of Zechariah 14:1 "The disciples, who were questioning Jesus on the Mount of Olives, linked Christ’s words of judgment about the destruction of the present Temple with the invasion of Jerusalem that was predicted by Zechariah." (Call, 18). Well, if Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the Temple that was standing when they were alive, 2000 years ago, caused them to think of Zechariah 14 the disciples were either right or wrong to make that association! Of course, Ice believes they were wrong to make that link, because in his view, Zechariah 14 could not have been fulfilled in the destruction of A.D. 70. But, if they were wrong, just where did Jesus correct them? Where did Jesus say, "You foolish and slow to learn"? Where did he say, "You do not know the scriptures"? He made no such statements. If the disciples were right to associate the destruction of the then standing Temple with the end of the age, then millennialism is nullified. To show that the disciples were not mistaken to tie the destruction of the then standing Temple with the end of the age, we turn to Daniel 12
Daniel was given a vision of the time of the end (Daniel 12: 4, 9-10). The predictions included the forecast of the time of tribulation (v. 1), and the abomination of desolation (v. 9f). One angel asked another angel when these things would be fulfilled, when the time of the end would be (v. 6). The answer from heaven was: "When the power of the holy people is completely shattered all these things will be fulfilled (v. 7)." Thus, according to Daniel 12, the time when Israel’s power would be completely shattered would be the time of the end of the age.2 What was Israel’s power? It was the Temple, the priesthood, the Temple, her Law, and everything that those things stood for. When was that power destroyed? It was when the Temple that was standing in Matthew 24 was destroyed, in A.D. 70.
So, Daniel 12 proves that the end of the age is tied inseparably to the destruction of Israel. The disciples were not confused, nor were they ignorant therefore, when they connected Jesus’ prediction of the Temple’s demise to the end of the age. They were asking a perfectly legitimate and logical question based on their knowledge of the prophetic scriptures.
Furthermore, we know that the disciples were not confused about the end of the age, and Daniel’s prediction, because they specifically tell us so! In Matthew 13:31f, Jesus told the parable of the wheat and the tares. He says that at the end of "this age" the Son would send forth the angels and they would gather the elect (v. 39-40). Ice even admits that in Matthew 13:39 Jesus "continued to speak within the contemporary Jewish framework." (Call, p. 18).
We must take note that this is a devastating admission. Ice says that in Matthew 13 Jesus was using the term this age within the contemporary Jewish framework. In other
words, his use of this age, and the end of the age, were made within the context of Jewish understanding! This means that Jesus’ referent to this age has to be a referent to the then present Age of Israel, and the end of the age being predicted was the end of Israel’s Age! However, in reality, Ice believes that: "The parables of Matthew 13 provide insight into the course of the current church age. (My emphasis, DKP) Actually, since Matthew 13 surveys this present age in its relationship to the kingdom, the parables cover the period of time between Christ’s two advents—His first and second comings."3 But this will not do!
Remember that in Matthew 13 Jesus is quoting Daniel 12, and its prediction of the end of the age. It is critical to know that the dispensationalists does not believe that the church or the church age is predicted anywhere in the Old Testament. To the millennialists, the church was a total unrevealed mystery in the OT. (Fast, 43) Well, if the Old Testament does not predict the church or the church age, then it is certain that the Old Testament does not predict the end of the church age! However, Ice says that Matthew 13 is predictive of the end of "the current Christian Age." Since Matthew 13 is about the fulfillment of Daniel 12, then if it is about the end of the current Christian Age as Ice claims, this totally refutes the millennial contention that the Old Testament does not mention the Church Age!
Ice cannot have it both ways. He cannot maintain his position that the Old Testament does not predict anything about the Church Age, since Matthew 13 is about the fulfillment of Daniel 12, and yet, Ice claims that Matthew 13 is predictive of the end of the Church Age. However, if he concurs that Matthew 13 is about the end of the age as contemporary Jewish usage had it, then it simply cannot be maintained that Matthew 13 is about the end of the Christian Age! The Jews had no concept, or belief about the end of the Christian Age!
The truth is that Jesus said the end of the age he was predicting in Matthew 13 would be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy! This can only mean that he was predicting the end of the Old Covenant Age of Israel. This means that Matthew 13 has no connection with the Rapture, which supposedly brings the Church Age to an end.4
So, per Ice, although Jesus was using the terms this age and end of the age in the accepted and normally understood Jewish manner, and gave no indication he was referring to anything else, in truth, he was not referring to anything remotely related to the fulfillment of Israel’s promises and prophecies!
In Matthew 13, Jesus used the identical distinctive term for the end of the age that the disciples used in Matthew 24:3 (suntelia tou aionos). In verse 43, Jesus said that at the end his "this age," "the righteous shall shine forth," a direct quote of Daniel 12:3. By the way, it is fascinating that Ice believes that Matthew 13 is about the end of "the current Christian Age," but he believes that Matthew 24:3, and the Olivet Discourse, "Is given to Israel — not the church" (Fast, 145) This in spite of the fact that Matthew 13 and Matthew 24 use the identical Greek term for end of the age, both use the identical language to describe that event, and both say that Old Testament prophecy would be fulfilled in the events being foretold.
What we have so far is this. Daniel predicted the end of the age, when Israel’s promises would be fulfilled. He said the end of the age, that would be the end of his this age, would be "when the power of the holy people was completely shattered" (Daniel 12:4-7). Jesus, in Matthew 13, told a parable about the end of his this age, and said it would occur when the Daniel 12 was fulfilled! In other words, Daniel predicted that Israel’s this age would end with the judgment on Israel! Now watch closely.
Jesus proceeded to tell two other parables about the end of the age, and used the identical distinctive Greek term for end of the age (v. 49), that he used in v. 39-40. He then pointedly asked his disciples, "Have you understood these things?" (v. 51). According to most dispensationalists, the very idea of a link between the time of judgment on Israel and the end of the age is wrong, misguided. However, the disciples did not hesitate. They said "Yes." Were they lying?
So, what we have is this, Jesus told a parable about the end of Israel’s this age, and said it, the end of the age, would be fulfilled when Daniel 12 was fulfilled. However, Daniel said the end of the age would come when "the power of the holy people has been completely shattered" (Daniel 12:7). Jesus asked his disciples if they understood what he was teaching them about the end of the age as foretold by Daniel, and they said, "Yes." Then, in Matthew 24, Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple, the epitome and symbol of the power of Israel. The disciples, upon hearing of the impending judgment of that then standing Temple, immediately asked for a sign of the end of the age. They used the identical Greek term used by Jesus in his discussion of the fulfillment of Daniel’s prediction of the end of the age — the discussion they said they understood. Yet, we are supposed think that now, in Matthew, the disciples were wrong to link the judgment of that then standing Temple with the end of the age. We are supposed to believe that they were confused, or ignorant. It is evident, however, that the disciples were not the ones confused. It is those today who refuse to make the same connection that they did between the end of the age and the judgment on Israel that are confused.
After all, what age would end with the destruction of the Temple? What age did the Temple epitomize and symbolize? It most assuredly did not represent the Christian Age! Was it not Jesus’ this age, the Mosaic Age? And, if this age was to end with the fall of Jerusalem, then does it not follow that the age to come would arrive with the end of this age?
Not only would Jesus’ this age end with the destruction of the Temple, the age to come, would never end. In Matthew 24:35 Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall never pass away." Now, while most people try to make this a prediction of the passing of literal creation, it is better to understand it in the historical context in which it is given. Jesus was discussing the end of this age, when the Temple was destroyed. What is important to realize is that the Temple was called "heaven and earth" by the Jews of Jesus’ day!
Josephus, the ancient contemporary of Paul described the Temple and says the Most Holy Place was called heaven, and that the Holy Place was called earth and sea.5 Thus, it was perfectly natural for Jesus, as he described the destruction of that wonderful edifice, to say "heaven and earth shall pass." However, note that he also said, "but my word shall never pass away." Here, in one verse, we have the contrast between the two ages! The this age of Jesus, symbolized by the Temple, was going to pass in that generation (v. 34), and the age to come, the age of Jesus the Messiah, would be established and never pass away!
So, we have proven our three points above. The Jews believed in only two ages. Those two ages were the age of Moses and the Law, and the Age of Messiah and the New Covenant. The Age of Moses was to end, but the age of Messiah was not to end. Let ‘s take a look now at the millennial view posited by Ice.
The Church Age is Now this age, Replacing Israel’s Age?
If it is true that Jesus’ this age was the age of Israel, the age of Moses and the Law, as Ice admits, this means that the Old Law w
ould not end until the age to come arrived. Biblically, the age to come would arrive when, and only when, the Old Law passed away, and Israel’s law would only pass when it was completely fulfilled! Take a look at Matthew 5:17-18: "Do not think that I am come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, until heaven and earth passes away, not one jot or one tittle shall pass from the Law until it is all fulfilled."
The Old Testament would stand valid until Israel received her promises! (See Hebrews 9:6-10). You cannot, as Ice and others attempt to do, delineate between the Mosaic Covenant and the promises made to Israel. You cannot say the Mosaic Covenant has been completely fulfilled and removed in Christ, and then, as Ice does, appeal to the Mosaic Covenant for prophecies of the restoration of Israel in 1948, and a yet future restoration!6
This means that Israel’s this age would remain valid until it gave way to the age to come.
This is precisely what Ice says was the contemporary Jewish use of the term. However, Ice also says, "I believe that ‘this present age’ refers to the current Church Age that began almost 2000 years ago on the day of Pentecost when the Church as founded." (Call, 1). This means that Israel’s this age was postponed, at Pentecost, and that another this age replaced Israel’s this age, in anticipation of the ultimate restoration of Israel’s this age, which of course, will then anticipate the age to come! Did you catch that?
It is abundantly ironic that the paradigm that resists what they call "Replacement Theology" is so adamant about proclaiming Replacement Theology! Israel’s this age has been replaced by this age of the church. Israel’s promises have been replaced by the promises of the body of Christ. The Bride of Christ has replaced Israel in the eyes of Jehovah. The Law has been replaced by the Gospel of Grace.
The question has to be asked, where is the transition from Israel’s this age, to the church as this age? Where do the inspired writers tell us that the church age as taken the place of Israel’s age, temporarily, to await a yet future reinstatement of Israel’s this age? On the contrary, Ice tells us that Paul "continues to use the phrases ‘this age‘ and ‘the age to come ‘ in the way that Christ used them." (Call, 18). Okay, if Jesus used the terms this age, and the age to come in the established Jewish contemporary usage, and Paul continued to use the terms that same way, then how in the world can Ice then claim that Paul, "viewed the current Church Age as the time leading up to the coming of Messiah, thus, we are still in ‘this age." The reader might not have caught the subtlety of Ice’s transition, nor how destructive this is to his paradigm.
One of the fundamental doctrines of dispensationalism is the distinction between Israel and the church. We are told that the promises of Israel are totally separate and distinct from the church, and that only confusion results when the promises to Israel are mixed or identified with the promises to the church: "The church is unique in the plan of God and separate from His plan for Israel." (Fast, 43) But wait! Ice has Israel’s this age, completely intertwined and wholly identified now with the this age of the church! Paul, remember, used the terms this age and the age to come in the same way Jesus did. However, Jesus used the terms in the Jewish context of his contemporaries, as a reference to the age of Israel—not the Church Age! Paul used the terms the same way, Ice affirms, but, and this is huge, Paul actually is using the terms to speak of the Church Age which is in no way related to the Age of Israel! Ice has wedded Israel’s this age terminology to this age of the Church, and hoped no one would notice.
If Paul was using the term this age in the same way Jesus used the terms, and if Jesus used the terms to speak of Israel’s this age, distinctive from the church, then it is patently obvious that Paul was using the term to speak of Israel’s this age. It must be remembered that Paul repeatedly stated that he preached nothing but the hope of Israel. His gospel was the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham (Acts 24:14f; 26:9f; 28:18f). Paul was not writing about this age, the age to come, the end of the age and the age to come isolated and distinct from the promises made to Israel.
This being true, to say that this age was, or is, still present is to say that the Old Law is still valid. Remember that Jesus said none of the Old Covenant, and that means his this age, would pass until it was all fulfilled. Thus, for Ice and the dispensationalists to say that this age is still present is to demand that the Old Law, all of it, remains valid. It will not do to say that the Church Age, distinct from Israel’s this age, is now the present age. Jesus’ words are not open to dispute. He said that not one iota of the Old Covenant, and thus his this age, would pass, until it was all fulfilled. But the time of the fulfillment of Israel’s Old Covenant would be the arrival of the age to come!
The Age of Israel and the Age of Moses and the Law?
As we have seen, Ice says that God terminated the Mosaic Law, and has now substituted the church, an unknown and un-prophesied mystery, as this age. Thus, Jesus’ this age, the Age of Moses and the Law, has now given way to the church, as this age. One thing this posit does is to delineate between the Mosaic Age and the Age of Israel. It says that God could bring an end to the Age of Moses and the Law, while still maintaining the existence at some point, of the Age of Israel. You see, Ice says that God ended the Mosaic Age of the Law, forever, and in so doing, simply postponed Israel’s this age until some point in the future after the rapture of the church when the 70th Week of Daniel will resume its countdown. This view tacitly identifies the age of Moses and the Law as the Age of Israel, but then, of necessity, divorces the Age of Israel from the Age of Moses and the Law, and preserves and projects the Age of Israel into the future. It says that God could end the Age of Moses, but not the Age of Israel! This is artificial to say the very least. Even Ice admits that this age was the age in which Israel looked for her Messiah (Call, 18). Well, was Israel longing for and looking for the Messiah under Moses and the Law? If so, then the Age of Moses and the Law was indeed Israel’s this age, and the age to come was to be the age that would arrive with the consummation of the Age of Moses and the Law! This is none other than the Christian Age.
The Mystery of the Church: Known or Unknown?
One of the essential tenets of Ice’s article is the idea that the church was not predicted by the Old Testament prophets. He claims that the church was unknown, unforeseen, and not predicted by the Old Testament prophets. Now, if it can be shown that the church was predicted by the Old Covenant prophets, and we have already done that above, then, in reality, the entire millennial world collapses, for this means that the Church Age is indeed the age to come that Israel was anticipating!
Joel 2-3 is one of the most important passages of appeal to the millennialists. It is claimed that in these two great chapters the prophet spoke of the fulfillment of Israel’s salvation kingdom promises. This is true of course, but the problem is, the New Testament writers affirm that Joel was fulfilled in the body of Christ!
On the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, the apostles were gathered together, and a
s the familiar story goes, received the outpouring of the Spirit, and spoke in tongues. When accused of being drunk, Peter responded, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words, for these men are not drunk as you suppose, since it is but the third hour of the day, but, this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel." Peter then quotes, verbatim, the prophecy of Joel 2:28-30.
Now, the millennialists, remember, says that Joel could not be speaking of the church, for the church is never predicted by the Old Testament prophets. Joel had to be speaking of the last days of Israel and the fulfillment of her Messianic promises. Ice says that what happened on Pentecost was the establishment of the church and the this age of the church, which has temporarily displaced Israel’s this age. The trouble for Ice is that he, and dispensationalism as a whole, is at direct odds with the inspired text.
Note that Peter said, "this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel." Now, ask yourself, How much clearer could this be? If Peter wanted to tell his audience that what they were seeing and experiencing was the fulfillment of Joel, would the words "this is that" convey that message? Further, if Peter did not think it was the fulfillment of Joel, in fact bearing virtually no resemblance to Joel’s prophecy, why even bring up the prophecy of Joel? And, if you would have been standing there, and had seen those events, when Peter said, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel," would you have thought he was in fact saying, "Virtually nothing that has happened here this day was predicted by Joel"? Would you have taken his "This is that," to mean, This is not that"?
Ice emphatically believes that, "Virtually nothing that happened in Acts 2 is predicted in Joel 2."7 Well, let ‘s see, Joel said the Spirit was to be poured out, and the Spirit was to be poured out. Joel said the Spirit was to be poured out in miraculous manner, and the Spirit was poured out in miraculous manner. Joel said the Spirit was to be poured out on Israel, and the Spirit was poured out, and offered to, the house of Israel. Joel said that when the Spirit was poured out on Israel that the remnant of Israel, and all men, could then be saved, and Peter offered his audience "the remission of sins," i.e. salvation. Joel said what would happen in the last days, and Peter said, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel!" Yet, we are to believe that "virtually nothing" that happened on Pentecost was foretold by Joel!
It is claimed, further, that the reason this is true is because, "Joel was speaking of the out pouring of the Spirit on the nation of Israel in the last days." In other words, even though Peter was inspired by the Holy Spirit to say "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel," it could not have been what Joel predicted, because, Ice and his compatriots do not believe the last days of Israel existed on Pentecost!8 That is what you call circular reasoning and petitio principii.
Where is the literalism that Ice and the millennialists say is the only true guiding principle to Biblical interpretation? How can they claim they interpret the Bible literally when they take Peter’s statement, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" and turn it into, "This is not that which was spoken by the prophet Joel"? The millennial denial of Peter’s words identify the millennialists as Disciples of Denial.9
Our point is that unless Peter was mistaken, the events of Acts 2 were indeed the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.10 Since what occurred on Pentecost was the establishment of the church, two vitally important facts come to mind.
First, the millennial contention that the Old Testament did not predict the church is falsified. Patently, if what Joel predicted was being fulfilled on Pentecost, and if what was happening on Pentecost was the establishment of the church, it is wrong to say the Old Testament did not predict the church.
Second, if Acts 2 was the fulfillment of Joel 2, then it is abundantly clear that the church is the fulfillment of Israel’s Messianic promises! And this can mean nothing else but that Israel’s this age was coming to an end even as the age to come was breaking into the Old Aeon! This is the perfect, logical explanation for why Paul and the rest of the New Testament authors continued to use the terms this age and age to come in the normal manner without changing or modifying the usage at all. They understood that they were living in the last days of this age, and that its end was near. the age to come was near!
Is the Church Age Temporary?
Now, if it is true that the church was predicted by the Old Testament prophets then the idea that the church has displaced the Mosaic Age as this age is falsified, and, in fact, the church age is demonstrated to be the age to come! Even Ice admits that the Mosaic this age ended and gave way to the church. Well, this means that from the perspective of the Old Law, the church age was the age to come! It not only means that the Church Age is the anticipated age to come, but it means that the Church Age has no end.
It is absolutely essential to the millennial view that the Church Age come to an end. (Of course, it is also imperative for the amillennial and postmillennial views as well, but we will not go into that here.) Ice even makes the totally unfounded claim that: "Three New Testament passages (Romans 16:25-27; Ephesians 3:1-13; Colossians 2:4-3:3) teach that the Church Age is a temporary mystery in God’s overall plan." (Call, 19).
Romans 16:25-26 says not one thing about the temporary nature of the church or the temporary proclamation of the Gospel. It does say that Paul was, "by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God" making known the mystery of the Gospel. Now here is something to ponder. If the Church Age was totally unknown, and is not contained in the Old Covenant Scriptures, how in the world could Paul and the early church be making the mystery known "by the scriptures of the prophets"? How could Paul reveal the mystery from the Old Testament if the Old Testament never mentions the church?
In Ephesians 3, the same apostle has not one thing to say about the temporary nature of the church. He simply says that he was given the task of making the mystery of God known. By the way, here is an important point. Paul does not say that the Church was an unknown, unpredicted mystery. He says that it was Jew and Gentile equality in the Church that was the mystery that was not understood in other ages, "as it is now revealed unto the sons of men." You see, the Old Testament definitely taught of Gentiles being brought into the kingdom (Isaiah 49), but the full equality between Jew and Gentile in the kingdom was not fully explicated. That is the mystery. The Church was not a mystery.
Colossians says nothing about the temporary nature of the church. There is not one word about the church enduring until Israel is re-established. There is a discourse on the world of Israel being done away, however (Colossians 2:20). There is not one word about the end of the Church Age! There is however, the teaching that in Christ, the believers were God’s New Creation, and this is what the Old Testament promises anticipated (Isaiah 65)!
Rather than teaching that the Church Age is temporary, by calling attention to the fact that the Church is what the Old Covenant prophecies anticipated, the writer was establishing the unending nature of the Church. The New Creation, per Paul the Church (2 Corinthians 5:15; Ephesians 2:15f, 4:23f; Colossians 3:9f, etc.), would stand forever and never pass away (Isaiah 66:19f).
assages adduced by Ice to prove the temporary nature of the Church Age prove just the opposite. This is not really surprising since I have discovered that Ice is more than willing to cite passages as supportive of his view that are in fact, total refutations of his positions! Not only do these passages not support the idea of a temporary Church Age, Paul and the New Testament authors are emphatic that the Church Age has no end.
Notice that in Ephesians 1:10 Paul says that it was God’s eternal purpose to reunite heaven and earth in the one body of Christ, and to do this in the fullness of time. Now, we know that Jesus appeared in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4). Thus, unless Jesus failed, as the millennial paradigm seems all too willing to affirm, then the first century was the time for the summing up of all things in Christ. It would seem to go without saying, by the way, that if this work of reconciliation was the eternal purpose of God that it is totally inappropriate to speak of it as an unanticipated, unexpected, and unwanted "Plan B" in the Scheme of God!
Further, notice that Paul in Ephesians 3:21 says, "Unto Him be glory in the Church, by Jesus Christ, throughout all ages, world without end, Amen!" Paul affirms that the Church Age is the unending Age! This means that the Church Age was/is the age to come anticipated by Israel’s prophets.
Paul affirmed the same thing of the Church in Hebrews 12. He reminded his readers that their salvation did not lie in the Old Things of Israel, but in the realities of Christ. He told them that Israel’s Age was only a shadow of better things that about to come at "the time of reformation" (Hebrews 9:10). This time of reformation (Greek, diorthosis), is the time of Israel’s salvation according to the OT prophets (Isaiah 62:7, LXX). In other words, Israel’s this age was to endure until the age to come. He told them that they were even then, "receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken" (Hebrews 12:28). That kingdom they were receiving was the church (12:21f) The Church, and thus the Church Age, is unshakable, unmovable. It is eternal!
It is important to note that the Hebrew writer sets forth the Church as the fulfillment of the Old Covenant promises of God’s eternal blessings in Zion. Hebrews 12 hearkens back to many Old Covenant promises, but Isaiah 24-25 are clearly in the background. In that prophecy, God would destroy Israel, break the curse of the sin and death, and rule in Zion. In Hebrews, the author says, "You have come to Mt. Zion, the City of the Living God!" For the author to affirm that his Jewish readers were coming to the promised blessings of Zion is the strongest of statements that the age to come was on them!
Ice and the millennialists must have a temporary Church Age for their views to be established. Yet, the New Testament authors repeatedly say the Church will never pass away. It cannot be removed. Since the Jews believed that only the Mosaic Covenant would end, and that the Kingdom of Messiah— the age to come — would never end, and since the Bible affirms that the Church Age that followed the passing of the Mosaic Age will never end, then it must be true that the Church Age is the promised age to come.
The End of the Ages has Come Upon Us!
What we have shown thus far is totally consistent with the NT testimony that the end of the age was near, and that the New Creation was about to be fully revealed. If Ice’s posit is true, that the Church Age was substituted for Israel’s this age, in anticipation of the reinstitution of Israel’s age, there is no way that all of the New Testament references to the soon coming realization of the promises to Israel were near. Yet, this is precisely what we find.
In one passage that has devastating implications for the millennial view, Paul said, "The end of the ages has come upon us." See my article, "The End of the Ages Has Come Upon Us" elsewhere on this site. The words he uses for "end" (telos) and "has come" (katantao), are extremely significant. They mean that the goal of all previous times was coming upon Paul’s generation! What was the goal of the previous age? Well, according to the millennialists it was not the church! According to the millennialists what was arriving had nothing to do with the previous ages. What was happening was Plan B. What was happening was an emergency interim measure that only interrupted God’s plan.
But, the goal of the previous times was the age to come. And, in spite of the millennial denial, Paul said that the goal of the previous ages was so near as to be present. the age to come was ready to arrive when he wrote! This is incredibly important.
Not only did Paul say that the goal of the previous age was about to arrive, Peter said, "the end of all things has drawn near" (1 Peter 4:7), and John wrote, "Little children it is the last hour. As you have heard that anti-christ should come, even now there are many anti-christs, thereby you know it is the last hour" (1 John 2:18). In the Apocalypse, John was told that the mystery of God foretold by all the prophets was about to be fulfilled, and there was not going to be any further delay (Revelation 10:7f), the time was "at hand."
These emphatic time indicators, taken in context of the this age versus the age to come discussion, take on extra meaning. Are we to believe that Paul, James, John and Peter began saying the end of the Church Age was near, within just a few short years of its establishment? Are we to suppose that the eternal purpose of God, in the Church purchased with the blood of Christ, was destined to be replaced so soon after its establishment? How is it possible to say that the New Testament writers were predicting the end of the Church Age, when in fact they repeatedly say the Church Age would never end?
It is significant that Ice completely ignores all references to the nearness of the end of the age in the first century. To give those passages credence is to renounce millennialism. You cannot honor the many NT time statements that the end of the age was near in the first century, and maintain the view of this age, and the age to come posited by Thomas Ice.
We have shown that the doctrine of this age and the age to come espoused by Thomas Ice is fundamentally flawed. His position is both confused and confusing, but worse, is at total odds with the scriptural testimony.
Ice says that Jesus and Paul used the terms this age, and the age to come, in the commonly accepted Jewish manner to speak of the Age of Israel and the Messianic Age, but that, while Jesus used them with this meaning, and while Paul used the terms in the same manner, in reality, Paul affixed a totally different meaning to the terms. Whereas Jesus used the term this age, to speak of the Age of Israel anticipating the arrival of the Messianic Kingdom, Paul, without indicating any change in his application of the terms, used the term this age to speak of the current Church Age. The problem is that to the millennialists, there should be no application of this age to the Church Age because the promises of this age belong strictly to Israel and not the Church!
Ice subtly creates two Old Covenant Ages, the Age of Moses and the Law, which he says is ended forever, and the Age of Israel, which he insists is yet future.
He asserts the end of the endless Christian Age, and substitutes the Church Age for Israel’s this age, something most millennialists are loathe to do. We have shown that the Church Age is endless.
Ice says the Church Age was not foretold anywhere in the Old Testament, and yet, Peter said the establishment of the church on Pentecost w
as the fulfillment of one of the key Messianic texts of the Old Covenant, Joel 2. Further, Paul said that his proclamation of the mystery of God was grounded in the Old Testament prophetic scriptures. If the Old Testament did not predict the mystery of God, or the Church, Paul could hardly preach that doctrine, correctly, from the OT.
There is no Biblical merit to Ice’s bold claims. Ice has slipped again.
1. Ice says that Zechariah 14 cannot be A.D. 70 because Jerusalem was not delivered, but destroyed. Of course Zechariah 14 speaks of both the destruction and deliverance of the City. Thus, Ice claims that the prophecy cannot refer to A.D. 70. What Ice fails to see is the doctrine of the Two Jerusalems. The Old Covenant city, the one that killed the Lord, would be destroyed (Zechariah 14:1-2), but the Heavenly Jerusalem, the one being persecuted, by the Old, would be delivered. See the development of this in my book Who Is This Babylon?. Undeniably, the Bible has a doctrine of Two Jerusalems, one earthly, one heavenly. In prophecy, it is never the earthly city that is the focus of redemption and deliverance. The Old was but a shadow of "better things to come," and the better city is the body of Christ, the church (Hebrews 12:21f).
2. Ice claims that the "power of the holy people" of Daniel 12:7 is Israel’s stubborn will, and that Daniel 12 will be fulfilled at the Second Coming at the end of the seven year Tribulation. The trouble is that the Hebrew word translated as "power" Strong ‘s #3027, is never used to speak of a stubborn will! Further, to suggest that Israel’s rebellious heart is her "power, her strength" is to make exalt rebellion, which is the same as witchcraft to God, to a positive position. Again, the word translated as power is never used in that sense.
3. Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, Prophecy Watch, (Eugene, Ore, Harvest House, 1998)44
4. Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, Fast Facts on Bible Prophecy, (Eugene, Ore, Harvest House, 1997)158.
5. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. 6:3:4 and 3:7:7 (Peabody, Mass, Hendrickson, 1989) Updated version.
6. In his debate with Kenneth Gentry, Ice appealed to Deuteronomy 4:25f as the roadmap of the future for Israel and said that Deuteronomy 28-30, specifically chapter 30:1-10, contains the prediction of a yet future return from captivity. Kenneth Gentry and Thomas Ice, The Great Tribulation a written debate, (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1999) 71+.The trouble is that Ice maintains that the Mosaic Covenant has been, "forever fulfilled and discontinued through Christ." (Watch, 258). It is patently illogical therefore, for Ice to affirm on the one hand that the Mosaic Covenant has been forever removed, and then appeal to that abrogated covenant as a roadmap of the future!
7. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, in an article, "How the New Testament Uses the Old Testament," sent to me by Thomas Ice.
8. I am just finishing a book, with John Anderson, on the Last Days. In that book, it is proven that Israel’s last days ended with the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Lord willing, the book will be published shortly, and we do not mean "shortly" in the dispensational definition of things!
9. I am currently writing a book chronicling some of the more glaring examples of how the millennialists blatantly deny the inspired statements of scripture. There are many passages in the NT in which the NT writers directly quote OT Messianic Kingdom prophecies and say that the church is "that which was spoken" by the OT prophets. Yet, in spite of these plain statements, our dispensational friends deny that the NT writers meant what they said. The dispensationalists are Disciples of Denial.
10.We are not saying that the Day of the Lord foretold by Joel came on Pentecost. Joel spans the time from Pentecost to Holocaust, as my friend John Anderson likes to say. The events of Acts two were the initial acts of fulfillment, i.e. of the outpouring of the Spirit. However, as a result of the out pouring of the Spirit, signs and portents were to follow, and finally the Day of the Lord was to come.