An age (αἰών) is a period in which God shows something about Himself to intelligent beings. Ages are not restricted to time and are distinct from dispensations (οἰκονομία), which are administrations within time during which God shows something to humans about themselves. Ages may overlap with another age, begin at the same time as a dispensation, or run for a period longer than a single dispensation. Ages end when God has finished revealing the intended aspect of His nature to the intelligent created beings. Dispensations change due to judgment coming upon those in the household for failing to abide by the rules and run consecutively and are bound to time.
An age is not the same as eternal or forever. When referring to things that go beyond the ages, such as the eternal life we have in Christ, aiōnios (αἰώνιος) is used, 1 John 5:13. Where aiōn (αἰών) references a period in which God is showing something about Himself to intelligent beings, whether in or out of time. In the future, there will be ages (αἰών) of the ages (αἰών); however, each age (αἰών) is not eternal (αἰώνιος). This is also true in the Old Testament where ōw·lām (עֹולָם) conveys the concept of an age, Psalm 9:6; however ăd (עַד) with the preposition (לְ – to) expresses perpetuity, Psalm 61:8. The Lord will reign from an age (עֹולָם) and perpetually (עַד), Exodus 15:18.
Before the creation of humans, Scripture reveals that there were three ages. God created the spirit beings before He created the universe, Job 38:7. Therefore, the first age was the creation of the universe. During this age, the spirit beings learned of the omnipotent power of God, for they witnessed Him create the universe out of nothing. Genesis 1:1 refers to this act of creation. Each person of the Godhead was involved in the creation of the universe. It was the will of the Father to create it, Ephesians 3:9, the Son spoke it into existence, Colossians 1:16, and the Spirit arranged it, Job 26:13. The second age was the period in which Lucifer ruled the entire universe from Eden (earth), Ezekiel 28:13. There is no biological life on the earth at this time and from a garden of precious stones Lucifer ruled over all who resided in the universe, Ezekiel 28:14. During this age, God reveals His omniscience and uniqueness to all spirit beings. We then enter the chaotic age due to Lucifer sinning and losing his position of authority within God’s government, Ezekiel 28:15-16. Throughout this chaotic age, God shows the spirit beings His omnipresence as the Holy Spirit broods over an earth in ruin to protect it due to the judgment that came upon Lucifer, Genesis 1:2. At the beginning of the next age, the dispensations also began because God established time when He renovated the earth and created a new being that is biological in nature, Genesis 1:14-19. Scripture reveals six more periods, along with the seven dispensations of humans, giving us ten stages of revelation through which intelligent beings learn about God that are known as ages. We are not told how many ages are in total that God has planned, other than in the future, after the dispensations are completed, there will be ages of ages, Ephesians 2:7. With what is revealed about ages and dispensations, we know that we are currently in the dispensation of grace, Ephesians 3:2, along with both the legal age, Romans 12:2 (based on the context) and the malignantly evil age, Galatians 1:4. The legal age began at the giving of the Mosaic Law (Dispensation of law), Luke 1:70, were the malignantly evil age started at the crucifixion of Christ, 1 Corinthians 2:8. The legal age will end at the rapture of the Church, and the present malignantly evil age at the second coming of Christ when He sets up His kingdom upon the earth. The dispensation of grace is the sixth administration revealed in Scripture, and according to the timeline for the seven assemblies given in Revelation, we are currently in the season of the Laodicean assembly, which is the last period of the Church on earth, before the final dispensation and a new age occurs, Revelation 3:14-22.
Satan’s mimicking of an age assists with defining what an age is, especially in contrast to a dispensation. During the present malignantly evil age, as the one who rules over the world system, he has a specific course in place to show forth his wisdom. We see this in commerce, culture, industry, and the judicial system governed by the world today. Satan designed all of these to control the sin nature of humans and keep them passive while displaying his wisdom to the angels that fell with him, 1 John 5:19. This type of wisdom is displayed in self-seeking and selfish ambition, James 3:14-15. Satan is not a creature that is bound to time, nor solely functions within it, for he can still enter the third heaven, and often does, to accuse the brethren, Revelation 12:10. Before the creation of time, Satan ruled over this universe, and now he has usurped authority to rule over the earth. In his sin, he did not seek to overthrow God but to be like Him, Isaiah 14:14; therefore, in this present malignantly evil age, he has determined to show himself worthy by mimicking God. This is also seen in how Satan has sown his sons among the sons of light, which is represented in the parable of the wheat and tares, Matthew 13:37-43, for even he comes as a messenger of light, not of darkness, 2 Corinthians 11:14. However, Satan has no interest in humans, nor fully understands them, therefore, he does not simulate dispensations. We also find Satan’s wisdom in debating. Debating is of this age, not related to the dispensation, for the intent of debate is not to present the truth, but through persuasive words to exhibit the wisdom of this world system by convincing others to accept a point of view regardless of its truthfulness, 1 Corinthians 1:20. Satan is the prince of the power of the air; therefore, he governs the activities of the world system according to this present malignantly evil age, Ephesians 2:2.
The age of the Church is a theological term applied to the time period of the Church; however, it is inaccurate in representing the purpose of an age. It is not based upon Scripture; rather, it was derived from modifying the concept of dispensations. The intent behind the ages is to reveal something to intelligent beings about God. In the ages to come, God will display the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness to intelligent beings through the Church. As for today, God is using the Church to make known His manifold wisdom to the angels in contrast to the malignant evil by which Satan governs, Ephesians 3:9-10. However, to humans, this dispensation shows that although the benefits we have are not based upon merit, and God has given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness, we still reject God’s righteousness and seek our own. Therefore, the judgment on the dispensation of grace is the rapture of the Church, for the Assembly has ceased from living by grace and teaching proper doctrine, Revelation 3:17-18. Since a Christian is not under the Mosaic law, and anyone seeking to place themselves under any quality of law is sinning, for anything not done out from faith is sin, Romans 14:23, and the law is not out from faith, Galatians 3:12, the issue regarding legalism a saint has today involves the age, not the dispensation; therefore, we are instructed to not put on a mask as ones who are following the legal age; rather, we are to use the renewed mind we have in Christ to discern the desirous will of God, Romans 12:2. There is no concept in Scripture of an age of the Church; rather, we are in the dispensation of grace during the legal and malignantly evil ages. Therefore, this theological term will produce confusion about ages and dispensations.