Then Comes the End of the Age 1 Cor 15:24
When we write then comes the end of the age are we deliberately attempting to change what the text says? No, we are simply expressing what the text means. In this, segment of our study, we will build on the last segment regarding the death of Adam.
In addition, we will demonstrate that “the end” of 1 Corinthians 15:24 is not the end of time as in some sort of destruction of the planet. Rather it is the end of the age, a concept very familiar to the first century readers, but unfamiliar to many Western readers of the 21st century.
Let’s look first at the end of the age in Matthew, then compare it with the same in Paul’s writings.
The End of the Age in Mathew
The phrase, “end of the age” occurs only five times in the Scriptures, with an additional related phrase in 1 Corinthians. Four times, it occurs in Matthew, three in chapter 13 the parable of the tares and once in Matthew 24.
In Matthew 13:39-40, we are expressly told that the harvest is the end of the age. It is further defined as the end of “this age”. That means, we should identify the age of which Jesus speaks.
Age, from the Greek word aion, means an epoch or period of time. It does not mean the planet. Unfortunately, it is sometimes translated “world” which is incorrect.
Jesus spoke of two ages, i.e. “this age” versus the “age to come”. When he referred to “this age” he spoke of the age in which he lived, (Matt. 12:32). In Mark 10:30 and Luke 18:30 it is called the “present time” versus the “age to come”. Thus, references to the present time in the N.T. equal the Jewish age or Old Covenant age.
Jesus was born of a woman, born under the law, (Gal. 4:4). Therefore, the age in which he lived, was the Jewish age or Old Covenant age.
Daniel 12 and Matthew 13
Jesus is quoting from Daniel 12 in Matthew 13:39-43. Daniel connects the great tribulation, the resurrection, the shining as the sun, and the time of the end all in the same temporal context. That means they occur very closely together in the same age. Daniel calls this resurrection or harvest, the “time of the end”, an equivalent phrase to the end of the age.
The resurrection harvest is the end of the age. The astute reader will also notice these same themes in 1 Corinthians 15.
Matthew 24 and the End of the Age
In Matthew 24, the phrase, “end of the age” (Gk. sunteleias tou aionos) which means “consummation of the age” is the subject of the disciples’ question, Matt. 24:3. They do not ask about the end of the planet or universe. They ask about the end of the Jewish age. They are concerned about the visions Daniel saw that trouble him about the fate of the Old Covenant nation of Israel.
Jesus’ response is that the end would come when the gospel had been published to all the nations, Matt. 24:14. Fulfillment of this requirement is well documented from texts including the book of Acts, Rom. 1:8 10:18, 15:26, Col. 1:5-6, 23. Thus, the end would come in the first century generation, but in connection with the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD, Matt. 24:34.
The last reference in Matthew is found in Matt. 28:20. Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.” This is the promise of Christ to be with the apostles in their preaching of the word and the confirmation of the same with miraculous signs. See Mark 16:19-20.
The End of the Age in 1 Corinthians
With the above in mind, we approach 1 Corinthians to understand Paul’s use of the end in chapter 15. In 1 Corinthians 1:6-8, Paul refers to the use of miracles in confirming both the testimony (gospel) of God and the saints. They would be confirmed until the end.
But, the miraculous gifts are no longer operative in the church since the first century. Therefore, the end occurred in that generation. That harmonizes with the teaching in Matt. 24.
In 1 Corinthians chapter two, Paul speaks of the “rulers of this age” who were coming to nothing. But why were they being stripped of their authority and power? It is because in their ignorance, they crucified the Lord of glory, (1 Cor. 2:8). Can it be said of any other rulers of any other generation that they murdered the Son of God? No, that can only be said of the Judeans in the first century. (1 Thess. 2:14-16).
Hebrews 9:26 also clearly states that Jesus was crucified and offered up as a sacrifice in the end of the age. “…but now, one at the end of the ages, he has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Thus, we have another clear indication of the Old Covenant age and the activities of its rulers.
The End of the Ages Have Come Upon Us
In chapter ten, Paul writes that the end of the ages, (Gk. tele ton aionon) had arrived upon them. In other words, he says clearly, that he and his first century brethren were living in the end of the age. (1 Cor. 10:11)
Then Comes the End of the Age 1 Corinthians 15:24
With the above in mind, we now are ready to properly understand Paul’s use of the the end or “telos” in 1 Corinthians 15:24. He follows the pattern of Christ in speaking of the end of the age.
In our previous two sections, we discussed the harvest analogy related to 1 Corinthians 15. Christ is the first of the firstfruits, the N.T. saints are the second portion of firstfruits and the Old Covenant saints (the dead ones) would be raised in the final harvest at the end of the age.
This corresponds directly with Israel’s harvests of the barley at the time of the Passover (Christ’s death), the wheat harvest (50 days later at the time of Pentecost) and the harvest of the fruit trees, etc at the end of the season following the latter rain. Remember, Matt. 13:39-40 taught that the harvest is the end of the age.
Correlating Time with the Death of Adam
Now, to demonstrate, how this applies to spiritual death, we use the same principle that was used to determine the nature of the death of Adam, i.e. “time”. God told Adam in the day you eat you will die. However, Adam did not die physically the day that he ate. We are forced therefore to conclude that Adam died a spiritual death, because the time frame for his death does not coincide with his physical demise.
In like manner, the end equals the end of the Jewish age. The harvest would occur at the end of the age. We shown that the harvest refers to spiritual death, both with the firstfruits concepts and the death of Adam. Also, there is no physical resurrection that corresponds with the end of the age in 70AD.
People continue to die physically, just as Adam continued to live physically. Thus, the resurrection cannot be a physical resurrection because of the time frame for the end of the age. It is therefore a reference to the defeat of Spiritual death.
Stay tuned for the next lesson on Delivering up the kingdom and the abolishing of death.