Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 24 Number 7 July 2022
Page 2

Editorial

This Present Evil Age

Louis RushmoreGalatians 1:3-4 reads, “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age [“world” KJV], according to the will of our God and Father” (NKJV). To a greater or a lesser degree, every age since sin entered into the world has been a “present evil age.” However, there have been several occasions throughout history where sinfulness resulted in a tipping point with God, whereupon He exacted widespread retribution upon sinners. A tipping point is “the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place” (“Tipping Point”). No one can deflect God’s wrath when He determines to react against an “evil age.”

Some Significant Historical
Tipping Points with God

A staggering percentage of 100% of humanity at the time – Adam and Eve – were banished from the Garden of Eden for their sin of disobedience (Genesis 3:23-24). Hundreds of years later, nearly 100% of humanity was killed in the universal flood of Noah’s days (Genesis 7:21-23). “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:5, 11). God, therefore, “condemned the world” (Hebrews 11:7), sparing only “eight souls” (1 Peter 3:20). The sin of homosexuality (Genesis 19; Jude 7), rampant in Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim (Deuteronomy 29:23), was “very grave” (Genesis 18:20) and reached a tipping point with God so that He destroyed those cities with “brimstone and fire” (Genesis 19:24-25).

Hundreds of years later, the Israelites traversed the Sinai peninsula and repeatedly reached a tipping point with God, whereupon He punished the nation again and again. Finally, God sentenced Israel to 40 years of wandering in that desolate place as a penalty until everyone – except Joshua and Caleb – 20 years and older who had departed Egypt died (Numbers 14:29-33). About two generations of families perished before God allowed a new generation to enter Canaan. Then, the whole period of the judges was a collection of tipping points with God because of sin, whereupon He permitted enemies of Israel to subdue it only to be freed later by a judge God raised up; a series of fifteen judges aptly denotes the rise and fall constantly over hundreds of years.

There was not a great improvement after the establishment of the monarchy in Israel, but following the division of the Israelites into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, greater tipping points with God occurred. Almighty God allowed the Assyrian kingdom to overthrow Israel because of its sins, chief of which was idolatry (2 Kings 17:5-12, 23). Later, God permitted the Babylonians to overthrow Judah also because, like the northern kingdom, the southern kingdom also practiced idolatry (2 Kings 24-25; 1 Chronicles 9:1; Zephaniah 1:4). This initiated the 70 years of captivity for Judah that God’s prophets had forewarned would occur unless the nation repented and turned back to God (Jeremiah 25:1-12; 29:10). God’s chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6-7; 14:2) became as much a part of an evil age as the balance of ungodly humanity.

The Present Evil Age

Some Christians muse from time to time that one reason that Almighty God may delay the destruction of planet Earth preceding Final Judgment (2 Peter 3:7) is because of the large number of New Testament Christians today; after all, the Lord agreed to Abraham’s bargaining not to destroy Sodom if there were ten righteous persons living in it (Genesis 18:32). Is it possible that the children of God constitute one reason that stalls the inevitable fiery end of the world and Final Judgment? Of course, the apostle Peter penned that the “longsuffering” of God – extending time for sinners to repent (2 Peter 3:9) – explains why God has not already brought about the destruction of the created universe. Nevertheless, the world and time itself will end, as well as Final Judgment must happen – without warning and when we do not expect it (2 Peter 3:10). Consequently, the children of God need to always be ready (Matthew 24:36-44; 2 Peter 3:11).

No godly person would deny the obvious debauchery characteristic of the “present evil age” in which we live today. Sins are hardly “secret” today (Psalm 90:8), no matter how despicable they may be. Moreover, even the vilest sinners who are guilty of disgraceful deeds are not the least embarrassed. “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; Nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time I punish them, They shall be cast down, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 6:15).

Homosexuality’s pride parades, defenders of abortion from protesters to world leaders, gross immodesty, pornography, shacking up “and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21; cf., 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Revelation 21:8) represent clearly noticeable specimens of “this present evil age.” Unfortunately, Christians and the Lord’s church are not immune to the prevalent immorality typical of the ungodly world all around us. Besides all this, lawbreakers abound in every degree, including the more violent offenses of robbery, assault, murder and wars. Hardly can we imagine that the wickedness and violence for which God deluged the world (Genesis 6-8) were any worse than the same in “this present evil age.” There are, though, more than eight souls – Noah and his family – today worshipping and serving Almighty God. There are more than ten souls worshipping and serving God than there were in Sodom.

Living in the World
but Not of the World

The word “age” (NKJV) or “world” (KJV) in Galatians 1:4 is translated from the Greek aion, which means “…properly, an age… by implication, the world” (Biblesoft’s). “These words [Galatians 1:4] cannot mean created nature, or the earth and its productions, nor even wicked men. The former we shall need while we live, the latter we cannot avoid…” (Adam Clarke’s). Though the children of God have no choice but to live amidst wicked humanity, they are called upon by God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ to distinguish themselves from impenitent sinners. Regrettably, however, many Christians do the same things as ungodly people and somehow suppose that God will ultimately overlook their willful sins. “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. …do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:1-3). Willfully practicing sin dispenses with the only redemption available – Jesus Christ. “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a [any other or an] sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26).

Christians ought to be different from unrighteous and worldly people, often including family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers and acquaintances. We are God’s “special” (NKJV) or “peculiar people” (KJV) (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9). Jesus noted the contrast between the children of God and children of the world. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14-16). Imitating Jesus distinguishes Christians from the ungodly and worldly people surrounding us at every turn.

Our Lord used the Greek word kosmos, translated “world” in these passages. Kosmos is used in the same ways we used the word “world,” sometimes referring to the planet on which we live and at other times referring to humanity. Jesus referred to ungodly humanity in contrast to God’s “special” or “peculiar people.” However, Christians can only be and remain “special” and “peculiar” as long as they do not assimilate into the world. “…Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

Sadly, many Christians have developed a spiritually unhealthy relationship with the world, about which an inspired half-brother of Jesus warned. “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity [hatred] with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). The apostle John, likewise, cautioned Christians about worldliness. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

Conclusion

Christians once, before their conversion, many times were among the most committed and diligent sinners, but they were “washed,” “sanctified” and “justified.”

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Christians are not who they were formerly.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

Indeed, we live in a “present evil age,” but faithful Christians live their lives noticeably differently from the world around them – not trying to be different but attempting to emulate the model Christian depicted in the New Testament. Christians don’t do some of the things the world does; neither do they go some of the places that ungodly people frequent. True Christians don’t talk like the world around them. The children of God have a completely unique worldview that has as its goal a heavenly, forever home. “Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you” (1 Peter 4:4 KJV). That unique worldview, though, indirectly condemns the world around us (Hebrews 11:7), to which the world pushes back. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). If the ungodly world hasn’t pushed you around at all, it may not even know that you profess to be a Christian! Is there enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian?

Historically, the children of God often became as much a part of an evil age as the balance of ungodly humanity, and the same observation may be applicable to many churches of Christ in our time, too. Are you and I different from the world around us, or do we admire and approve of sinfulness (e.g., drinking and reveling, Galatians 5:21; fornication; adultery; immodesty; indecent language; pornography, Matthew 5:28; etc.). “Who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32 NKJV).

The world around us is motivated and animated by Satan. “Whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Who is motivating and animating you – Satan or Jesus? “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

Works Cited

Adam Clarke’s Commentary. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Electronic Database. Seattle: Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, 2010.

“Tipping point.” Merriam-Webster.com. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tipping%20point.> 27 Jun. 2022.


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