4. The Two-Age Model
A basic model that is used to describe things concerning the Kingdom of God is the “two-age” model. The teachings of Jesus, and also the other New Testament writings speak of there being “this age”, and also the “age to come”. They are used in the context of being two separate periods of time. There is not generally any implication of there being any third age, or any time in which the two ages overlap. For example, this terminology is used in Matthew 12:
Matthew 12:32: "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. NKJV
Difference in the Ages
There are also differences cast between the two ages, showing how the world works differently in each. One example of this is in the case of marriage:
Luke 20:34: Jesus said to them, "The children of this age marry, and are given in marriage. 35. But those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage. 36. For they can't die any more, for they are like the angels, and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. WEB
Here Jesus notes that marriage is a normal custom in the present age, but that it would no longer occur in the future age. Along with that, it states that people would not die anymore in the age to come. That identifies the age to come as one where people would receive eternal life, which is not available at the moment. The other concept introduced here is that of the resurrection from the dead. Although it is not spelled out exactly here, it forms that link between the person in this age, and the person it the age to come.
The writing in 1 Corinthians also mentions the wisdom and rulers of the ages. The word “wisdom” carries with it quite broad implications, because it defines the way people think in a society, and the whole basis of the values system. The nature of the rulers also defines the way that the society works and thinks.
1 Cor 2:6: However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. NKJV
With those words, Paul was saying that values in terms of what was wise and what was foolish would change between the two ages, and that the rulers of this age do not understand the wisdom of the age to come. The wisdom of this present age is always considered evil or inferior to the that of the age to come. In the book of Galatians, claims that the present age is evil in nature and that we should look to be delivered from it.
Galatians 1:3: Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4. who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father WEB
The concept of “eternal life” appears many times in the Bible, and it means to be able to live on forever without dying. In Mark 10 it was recorded that a rich man asked Jesus what would have to do to inherit eternal life.
Mark 10:17: As he was going out into the way, one ran to him, knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" WEB
It is quite clear that the man is talking about an eschatological eternal life, and quite likely had in mind the teaching of the resurrection described in Daniel 12 of the Old Testament. The response to this is of interest to us, because people are naturally interested in their long-term destiny. Apart from following the commandments, Jesus also told him that he wouldn't be able to hold on to both his financial riches as well as the riches of God. That led on this following statement:
Mark 10:23: Jesus looked around, and said to his disciples, "How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!" WEB
This provides a direct link between “inheriting eternal life” and “entering the Kingdom of God”. Just as in Luke 20:36 the resurrected of the “age to come” would not die, here entrance into the Kingdom of God is equated to that same eternal life. From that, we can conclude that one of the features of the Kingdom is that people may live forever in it.
As the passage continues, a further connection is made between “eternal life” and “the age to come”, showing that eternal life was something only to be expected in that new age that was yet to appear,
Mark 10:30: .. he will receive one hundred times more now in this time, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land, with persecutions; and in the age to come eternal life. WEB