In our ongoing look at the eschatology of the New Testament (which started here), we now turn our attention to the letter to the Galatians.
The dating of the letter is difficult to determine, as are the location of the recipients and, some argue, if it’s even written by Paul. However, most believe it to be an “authentic” letter and written in roughly late 40’s to early 50’s CE, about twenty to thirty years before the war of the Jews and Romans.
In the first chapter, Paul wrote:
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave himself for our sins, so he could deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. To God be the glory forever and always! Amen.
Paul couldn’t be any more clear about his assessment of the age in which he was living. He called it, “this present evil age” (ὁ ἐνίστημι πονηρός αἰών — ho enistēmi ponēros aiōn). Jesus referred to this same age as, “this evil generation” (Matthew 12.45). Paul’s not speaking about the so-called “Christian” or “Church” age, as some maintain. As we’ve seen over and over in Paul, and indeed, the rest of the New Testament so far, Paul was still living in the then present Jewish age. His comments and expectations were regarding the closing of that age in anticipation of the coming age.
And let me say here: As we saw last week, this “wilderness” period was the temporary transitional period between the end of the old age and the beginning of the coming age. Just like the Hebrews were not fully rescued from Egypt until they entered the Promised Land (Joshua 5.9), the followers of the Way of Jesus in the first century weren’t fully rescued from their bondage until the fall of the Temple.
It was that age, that generation, who would have to answer for “all the righteous blood that has been poured out on the earth.” Jesus assured them, “all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23.35-36; cf. 24.34). As we’ve seen, Paul was still waiting for that to happen. He and his contemporaries were still waiting for Jesus’ words to be fulfilled. It’s to that event that these exclamations are pointing.
Next time we’ll briefly look at Paul’s letter to the Romans. Click here for the next post in this series.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC