Are we living in an age of Grace?
Carlton Foster – August 22, 2020
Billy Graham said, “God’s offer of forgiveness and a new life still stands. But this period of grace will not go on indefinitely, and someday it will be too late for men and women to repent and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ (https://billygraham.org/story/are-we-still-living-in-the-age-of-grace/).” What is this period of grace and when did this period start? As I searched the Bible, I found interesting answers. Most people would not realize that the God of grace and mercy is always gracious and that from the beginning He has a wonderful plan of grace for mankind.
I know that some Christians often refer to the expression that ‘we are living in the age of grace’; that this is the period when God still grants grace to those seeking salvation through Jesus Christ. Some refer to a period time described as the church age of dispensationalists. They believed that there are seven periods of dispensation, and since the cross of Christ until now, we are living in the sixth dispensation which is grace. This expression is borne out of the following verses from the Bible: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:4-9 NKJV).” Verse 7 said that in the ages to come, God might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Jesus Christ. This period of the ages to come is being referred to as the ‘age of grace’.
They believed that the period before the age of grace was the ‘age of Law’, or the ‘dispensation of law’ where God gave the laws to Moses. However, during the Age of Grace, they believed that Christians are no longer under the law but under grace, because Paul said in Romans 6:14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” They believed that God’s laws have been fulfilled because Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill”. Some Christians said that this period of grace began on the Day of Pentecost after Jesus’ death and that many believers of dispensationalist defined this as the ‘church age’ that we are in today.
But when we studied the Bible, we saw where God has always been gracious, and His messages to repent started long before the Day of Pentecost; so could it be that the sayings ‘the ages to come’, God was referring to Jesus at the cross as another example of His many graces throughout earth’s history? When Christians divided the history of the earth into seven periods and contained the salvation activities solely to those periods, we make the mistakes that God is not consistent throughout those periods. For example, if when the period of the law ended (because it is said that Jesus fulfilled it), does it means that obedience to the law also ended? Also, what about the other period of God’s grace before the time of the cross? Let’s look at them.
Godly people got saved by their faith when they believed that God would send a Savior to die for their sins. Job alluded to this in the Book of Job 19:25-27, ”For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”. The process of salvation is still the same for Job and us today. The prophecy started in Genesis 3:15, when God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” The ‘He shall bruise your head’ refers to Jesus defeating Satan and death at the cross for those who believed in this promise by faith. From that moment, I believed humans started to experience God’s grace and mercy. When Adam and Eve sinned, God gave them mercy and grace to redeem them. When Cain killed Abel, Cain also received a grace period. When the land was filled with wickedness in the time of Noah and God was about to end creation, God gave humans grace by saving Noah, the animals, and Noah’s family by giving them a period of grace. When more disobedient people started building the Tower of Babel, God gave them grace and dispersed them all over the earth. I could mention many more examples such as Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Jacob, David, and all the others who made mistakes in their lives but God gave them a period of grace so they can repent and be saved by faith in the belief of the coming messiah.
All people, those that lived before the death of Christ and those who are born today are all saved by God’s grace through faith in the promise of Jesus Christ – the messiah. Therefore, we have been living in the age of grace since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. This period will end on the Day of Judgment when Jesus and the angels in heaven come for the 1st resurrection process. Titus 2:11-14 confirmed this, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Thanks to God for His grace and mercy that He decided to give humankind a second chance to life everlasting.
So Christians are making theological mistakes when they divide the history of the earth into seven periods and isolating God’s salvation activities to specific periods. The so called ‘age of grace’ started when Adam and Eve sinned and continues until Jesus comes for the saints in the first resurrection. The so called ‘age of law’ or consciences started when God said to Adam and Eve that they must not eat of that one tree in the garden, and that period will continue for eternity.