The Age to Come

(Matthew 13, 25, Ephesians 2:7, 3:9, various)

What is the “age to come” in the Bible? In 1 Timothy 6:17, Paul writes, “Those who are rich in this age, are not to hope in their wealth for the next.” In Galatians 1:4, we learn that Jesus “gave Himself for our sins that He might rescue us from this present evil age.” It seems the Bible teaches two ages: “this age” (or “this present evil age”) and “the age to come.” It appears “this age” refers to our temporal, earthly reality as it passes away with us in it. By contrast, as we await the future “age to come”, we expect the final, eternal state where death, disease and decay exist no more. In this lesson, we’ll look at what the Bible says about this age and the age to come.


  • Understand the difference between “this age” and “the age to come”
  • Differentiate the two ages from the times of the Jews and Gentiles
  • Matthew 13’s Parable of the Wheat and the Tares explained


End of the World or End of the Age?

In Matthew 24:3, when the disciples ask Jesus, “When will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world (or age)?” we recognize their questions are in direct response to Jesus’ declaration that the Temple will be razed to the ground, leaving “not one stone left upon another.” Though I favor the King James version as a sound word-for-word translation, its use of the English word “world” in this passage doesn’t do Bible students any favors. The Greek word here in verse 3 is actually “aiōnos,” (aion) meaning “age”; not “kosmos,” which would be the proper Greek word for “world.”

We have to ask then: How did the Jews think about their present age? Throughout the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles speak of two ages: “this age” (sometimes “this present evil age,” as in Galatians 1:4) and “the age to come.”

Two Ages

As the angel wraps up the final prophetic download recorded in the book of Daniel, he tells the prophet, “But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will rest and rise for your allotted portion at the end of the age” (Daniel 12:13). In essence, the angel tells Daniel, “Live out your days. Upon your death, you will enter into rest (what we call the intermediate state), and upon your resurrection at the end of this age, you will receive your reward.” Thus, we have an Old Testament example of this two-age timeline.


Of course, the question we have to ask is, “How did Jesus see this age?” Turns out our Lord taught this two-age timeline throughout His ministry. In Luke 20, a group of Sadducee leaders approach Jesus with a verbal snare about the resurrection (not something they actually believed in.) Jesus corrects them:

34 Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and the women 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 cannot even die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:34-36, cf. Luke 16:8, Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25)

Here it appears there are the “sons of this age”, and they are contrasted against “those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection of the dead.” In Matthew 12:32, Jesus—again rebuking the religious leaders—points to “this age” and “the age to come”:

“And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age nor in the age to come.”

Finally, Jesus encourages His disciples (while slipping in a subtle promise of persecution): Though they may lose much in this life for His sake, they will be rewarded, both in this life and in the age to come:

29 Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first [Jews] will be last [least], and the last [Gentiles], first [greatest].” (Mark 10:29-31; also Luke 18:29-30.)

(It might be worth noting: Describing the Gentiles as “last” seems to indicate “the age to come” immediately follows the consummation of their time in this age. More on “the times of the Gentiles” in a moment.)


Among Paul’s many references to the ages, there are a few that stand out.

The letter to Titus, traditionally attributed to Paul, encourages Christians to reject ungodly desires and live “in a godly manner in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,” (i.e. the age to come; Titus 2:12-13).

In Romans 12:2, Paul admonishes his audience to “not be conformed to this world (age, aiōni), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

In 2 Corinthians 4:4, our brother reminds us, “The god of this world (age, aiōnos) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they will not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (c.f. Ephesians 2:1-2, “walking according to this course of this world (kosmou).”)

Of the age the apostles write from, we see they consider Jesus to be reigning and ruling following His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the apostle proclaims Jesus’ exaltation as the Son of Man before the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:13-14), declaring Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father, “…far above all principality and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age (aiōni) but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:21). This is one of the clearest examples of Jesus reigning over the kingdom of God now, presently—and in the future age to come.

It is easy to understand Paul sees a two-age delineation between the current temporal age and the eternal age to come. But wait. There’s more.

More than Two Ages?

While all of this might feel clear, there is a little muddiness we should be aware of. Paul frequently shifts from his references to the two ages and uses “ages”, plural:

6 “And raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages (aiōsin) to come He might show the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6-7)

It’s here Bible students get tripped up: Paul seems to blur the two ages. At times he speaks to the clear and established “age” and “age to come”, as in Titus 2:12-13 and Ephesians 1:21 (so we know he believes that), but in Ephesians 2:7, Paul says “ages to come.” He does it again, in an “ages past” way, in Ephesians 3:9:

“and to enlighten all people as to what the plan of the mystery is which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things;”

In 1 Corinthians 2:6-8, Paul refers to the “wisdom of this age” and “the rulers of this age”, allowing us to rest comfortably in the false security he’s speaking of “this age” versus “the age to come”–if only a “before the ages” wasn’t nestled between them in verse 7! He does this again later in 1 Corinthians 10:11 with a “upon whom the end of the ages have come.”

The writer of Hebrews also moves between, “In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son” (Hebrews 1:2; also “last times” in 1 Peter 1:20), to “the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5), and into “the consummation of the ages” (Hebrews 9:26).

Are there more than two ages in the Bible?

At first glance, it would seem our neat and tidy two-age calendar might not be quite so neat and tidy! Indeed, certain eschatological views (who will remain unnamed; you know who you are) try to make a big deal of this variance, using it to defend a position that holds to more ages than this present, evil age and the post-resurrection, post-judgment, glorified age to come.

Yet, Paul already established he shares the same two-age understanding Jesus taught. How do we understand these uses of “ages” then? Fortunately, Paul answers the first question himself in Colossians 1:26 when he refers to “the mystery which had been hidden from the past ages and generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.” This is the same generational “ages” he uses elsewhere, as in Romans 16:25, 1 Corinthians 2:7, 1 Corinthians 10:11 and Titus 1:2 (c.f. Ecclesiastes 1:10 and Daniel 7:18 for Old Testament examples of “ages.”) In these moments, Paul is not alluding to the great epoch of earth’s history versus the greater resurrected age to come. He is simply pointing to the generational passage of time; similar to how we say “in centuries past” or “for generations to come.”

Did the disciples believe they were in the end times?

Secondly, when the disciples speak of “these last days” and “the end of the ages”, did they expect the end times were upon them? The disciples knew there would be an end to the Temple system. Not only did Jesus drive that point home in His Olivet Discourse, declaring the destruction of the Temple would fall within “that generation” (within 40 years; Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32), but prophets like Daniel and Joel also saw this day of the Lord would come. In fact, Joel said this judgment would be so awful, it would not be matched again “to the years of many generations” (Joel 2:2). This expectation for “many generations” following 70 AD’s day of the Lord assures us the disciples did not believe Christ’s Second Coming was imminent. “Coming in the clouds” is “day of the Lord” judgment language; it is not a reference to Jesus’ Second Advent. The “last days” the disciples anticipated were the last days of the Old Covenant law; not the end of the cosmos.

“When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is about to disappear” (Hebrews 8:13; also 9:26).

Jesus also pointed at the dissolution of the Mosaic law when He referred to the passing away of heaven and earth in Matthew 5:17-18 (here, a reference to the Temple system and its sanctuary, not the literal heaven and earth.)

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

The unclear passages must be interpreted in light of the clear, and Scripture plainly teaches two distinct ages.

The Times of the Gentiles

There was a time when I thought and taught the “end of the age” meant the end of the Jewish Temple, taking with it the Old Covenant Mosaic rites and sacrificial system. We know the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD ended the times of the Jews. We also know the “times of the Gentiles […] until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24) began when the Gospel spread to all nations during Paul’s ministry. Paul writes to the Roman church that national, ethnic Israel has experienced a partial hardening “until the full number of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25). In his letter to Galatia, Paul also says, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law” (Galatians 4:4).

So, we have “this age” and the “age to come”; do we simply overlay “fullness of time” and “the times of the Gentiles […] until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”? I thought, “These must be the same! It’s so clear!”

Alas, when I hunted for age/age-to-come examples that clearly pointed to the Old Covenant/New Covenant transition, I found none. I had heard this taught—and even momentarily adopted it myself—but the more I looked, the more I failed to find evidence of it. Instead, I found the age/age-to-come references spoke to our present material reality versus our eternal ethereal glorification. I now believe conflating the “times” with the “ages” is wrong. The “fullness of time” and “times of the Gentiles” simply speak to divisions within this present age, prior to the age to come.

In fact, it was the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30) that gave me the most trouble. What to do with the two-age references in that parable, which almost certainly speak to future end-times judgment between believing saints and unrepentant sinners? Both Jesus’ Olivet Discourse and His parable of the Wheat and Tares speak of judgment, angels, gathering the righteous and the Lord’s return, so they must be speaking of the same moment? But if Matthew 24 is a picture of day of the Lord judgment over Israel, how does that mesh with this parable that feels so eschatological? Maybe the word “age” was being used differently? Maybe Jesus was talking about the impending end of the Old Covenant age in Matthew 24 but was referring to the full expanse of human history in Matthew 13?

Matthew 13: The Wheat and the Tares

Amidst a parable rapid-fire, including mustard seeds, fishing nets, hidden treasures, pearls and leaven, Jesus delivers His Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. The parable tells of a landowner who plants good seed. His enemy sneaks in while the servants sleep, sows tares (weeds) among the wheat and leaves. As the crop matures, this foul play becomes evident. Rather than risk destroying the wheat alongside the weeds, the landowner instructs his servants to:

“Allow both [wheat and tares] to grow together until the harvest; and at the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:30)

At the pleading of His disciples for more clarity, Jesus explains:

37 And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man [Jesus], 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the weeds are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 So just as the weeds are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:37-43)

As a bonus, Jesus repeats this teaching in a short parable about fish being caught in a dragnet, whereby the bad fish are discarded, being separated from the good which are kept:

49 “So it will be at the end of the age: the angels will come forth and remove the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:49-50)

Obviously, the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, and this one about the fish, unpacks eschatological judgment at the end of this age. This fiery end of the unrighteous aligns with the book of Revelation’s White Throne Judgment, following the resurrection of the dead, where “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). Since we have already seen these ages established in the previous examples, it is clear Jesus is talking about the final judgment; not making an allegory for the transition between Old and New Covenants.

Matthew 25: Separating the Sheep and Goats

Let’s return to the three original questions Jesus’ disciples asked in Matthew 24:3:

  1. “When will these things happen, and
  2. what will be the sign of Your coming, and
  3. of the end of the age?”

I go into great detail on answering the first two questions in a two-part lesson on the Olivet Discourse. These two questions are the same ones recorded by Mark and Luke in their gospels. Yet both Mark and Luke skip recording the third question regarding the end of the age. Their accounts of the Olivet Discourse also leave off where Matthew 24 ends; they offer no equivalent to Matthew 25.

Matthew, however, doesn’t cut his account of Jesus’ response short. Matthew includes the question about the end of the age in 24:3 and reports Jesus’ answer in chapter 25, a picture of final judgment! On His way to answering this question, Jesus speaks to the “already/not yet” nature of the kingdom of heaven with two parables: the ten virgins, and the servants and the talents. Then, in Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus (the Son of Man) returns in His full glory, takes His throne, and the nations are brought before Him. He separates them “as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (v32), sheep to the right, goats to the left. The sheep are welcomed into the kingdom of God, but the goats are thrown into the same lake of fire we just saw in Matthew 13:49-50 and Revelation 20:15. Popularly known as “Judgment Day” or the “White Throne Judgment,” this is an image of the last day of this present evil age as we enter the age to come.

The End of The Age to Come

In this lesson, we’ve established there are two epochal ages viewed in the Bible: this age and the age to come following the return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment. We recognize these ages are not to be mistaken for the times of the Jews versus the times of the Gentiles; those times divide this present evil age. We’ve connected Jesus’ Parable of the Wheat and Tares to the closing of this age and the opening of the age to come. Finally, we’ve explored the third question in Matthew 24 regarding the age to come and found its answer in Matthew 25 in the separation of the sheep and the goats.

Knowing the difference between this age and the age to come is important for understanding certain prophetic passages throughout the Old and New Testaments. In His Great Commission, when Jesus commands us to, “Go […] and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that [He has] commanded [us],” He reminds us He is with us always, “to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). In this then, we can be sure He promises to be with us until He returns again.


DeMar, Gary. “Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future.” American Vision, Inc. 2008. p184-185.

Riddlebarger, Kim. April 23, 2008. “The Two-Age Model as Interpretive Grid – Amillennialism 101.” The Riddleblog. http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/the-latest-post/2008/4/23/the-two-age-model-as-interpretive-grid-amillennialism-101.html.

Riddlebarger, Kim. October 17, 2008. “The Two Age Model Chart.” The Riddleblog. http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/the-two-age-model-chart/.

Riddlebarger, Kim. “A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times.” 2003. Baker Books. p79-82.

Waymeyer, Matt. April 27, 2006. “Amillennialism and the Ages to Come.” Faith and Practice. https://faithandpractice.blogspot.com/2006/04/amillennialism-and-ages-to-come.html.

Waymeyer, Matt. May 1, 2008. “Amillennialism and Two-Age Interpretive Grid.” Expository Thoughts. https://expositorythoughts.wordpress.com/2008/05/01/amillennialism-and-two-age-interpretive-grid/.