We always have to keep in mind the time each book of the Bible was written so that we do not become confused. Taking the scriptures out of their proper time causes the scriptures to become anachronistic, and brings confusion. Much of the present tense and future tense verbs and adjectives Jesus and the Apostles used cannot be moved from the 1st century AD into our or some future generation without twisting the meaning of the original text.
“This present evil age” of Gal. 1:4 is one example where most people read it into our generation. It was not our present evil age when the book of Galatians was written. That present evil age directly addressed the false teaching that circumcision was required at the time the letter was written.
Interlinear has “age” from “aion”, Strong’s Gr. 165. (1) It means a space or duration of time, part of a series of ages. The usage at Gal. 1:4 in context spoke of the age the Galatians were living in when the book was written. It is one of the “ages of the ages” of Gal. 1:5 which very clearly means all time, from the beginning to all eternity.
Since most of the commentaries are written with a learned or taught bias that pushes the return of the Messiah to some unknown future date (futurism, or premillennialism, et al), which thinking was began by the Jews very quickly after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, as they denied that Jesus is the promised Messiah, and who are still looking for some unknown Messiah to restore their nation to a temporal world-wide rule with an earthly king,(2) the commentators therefore falsely assume that the “present evil age” of Gal. 1:4 is still on-going until such time as the unknown future Messiah returns to establish a supposed 1,000 year earthly reign of peace (which thinking must limit the future age after the present evil age of Gal. 1:4 to only 1,000 years, and the present evil age continuing from the establishment of the Mosaic covenant at Mt. Sinai in approx. 1446 BC – or 1313 CE according to the Jews – and makes the continuation of “this present evil age” to be approx. 3469 years and counting).
Context matters. An age is a period of time. The present age, or time frame of Gal. 1:4 is not the time when we are reading the scriptures, but the time in which they were written. The book of Galatians was written most probably before the Jerusalem council of AD 50. (3) So we have to look at their time frame, the present evil age that existed when the book was written in the middle of the 1st century AD.
”…to the assemblies of Galatia:” (Gal. 1:2, YLT)
The first audience perspective is required to be able to fully understand God’s word. The audience of this letter was written to those living in Galatia… not to us. We are reading a letter written almost 2,000 years ago. It has to be understood from the historical view point of those people in Galatia during the 1st century AD, and their circumstances. The people of Galatia were being persecuted by the false teachers who were teaching they had to be circumcised and were drawing them away from the gospel to be brought back under the Law (Gal. 2:3-4, 4:21).
The land territory of Galatia has a history that involves the cult worship of the goddess Cybele, especially from the principle city of Pessinus, whose priests were cross-dressers, and practiced castration as part of their worship. Paul’s frustration and despair was immediately concerned with the false teaching of circumcision as a requirement of the gospel. After having directly argued against that false teaching through the first 4 chapters, he makes a very dramatic statement in Gal. 5:12.
” O that even they would cut themselves off who are unsettling you!” (YLT)
”I would that they that unsettle you would even go beyond circumcision.” (ASV)
” wish that those who are troubling you [by teaching that circumcision is necessary for salvation] would even [go all the way and] castrate themselves!” (AMP)
”I wish the people who are bothering you would go the whole way and castrate themselves!” (CJB)
”I wish those people who are bothering you would add castration to their circumcision.” (ERV)
”I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (ESV)
”I wish those agitators would go so far as to castrate themselves!” (NET)
The immediate sense of “this present evil age” is related to the well known Cybele cult practice of castration of their history of the Galli. (4, 5, 6, 7) Paul was specifically reminding them that they were free under the gospel of Christ and they were not to return to either the Law, nor to pagan cult worship.
Excerpt from Pulpit Commentary at Gal. 5:12 –
“…The sentiment, it is true, seems one which it would be impossible for a public speaker, or even a writer, amongst ourselves to give such open expression to. Nevertheless, when viewed as framed in amid the surroundings which environed it at the time, it wears none of that aspect of coarseness which would confessedly be felt to attach to it under the conditions of modern life. That the worship of Cybele at Pessinus, one of the principal cities of Galatia, was deformed by the practice of such self-mutilation on the part of some of its devotees, was a matter of universal notoriety, and we may confidently assume that the apostle, when in the neighbourhood, heard frequent mention of those apocopi as they were called, and thus was led now to allude to it as he seems to do in this malediction. For it is a malediction, as Chrysostom describes it; a malediction, however, which in severity falls far short of the anathema which has been previously pronounced. Good were it (he means) for the Church, and even perhaps themselves, if they would have the rashness to go a little further with what they call “circumcision,” which in their case is mere concision (Philippians 3:2), and make it clear to all men how purely senseless and unchristian their action in this matter is.” Source: Biblehub
Even so, there is the broader sense of “this present evil age” as the time period of the ending of the Mosaic covenant and its profane animal sacrifices that were still continuing in the temple in Jerusalem. That age has the eternal mark of the time in which the Messiah was rejected and crucified. It will carry that evil distinction throughout all history. Once Christ became the last blood sacrifice that God would ever again accept for forgiveness of sins, the Mosaic law and covenant was about to be annulled (Heb. 7:18).
”in the saying `new,’ He hath made the first old, and what doth become obsolete and is old [is] nigh disappearing.” (Heb. 8:13, YLT)
“.. is vanishing…” when the book of Hebrews was written approx. 60-65 AD during the 1st century AD. Christ told His disciples the end of that “present evil age” with the prophesy of the destruction of Jerusalem which happened at His return in judgment of those who crucified Him (Rev. 1:7) in AD 70.
The answer encompasses both their condition in that time in Galatia, and their eventual release from that present evil age at the ending, the last days of the Mosaic covenant at the fall of the temple in Jerusalem, which many misconstrue as a future end-of-the world apocalyptic event in an unknown future time.
”2 and Jesus said to them, `Do ye not see all these? verily I say to you, There may not be left here a stone upon a stone, that shall not be thrown down.’ 3 And when he is sitting on the mount of the Olives, the disciples came near to him by himself, saying, `Tell us, when shall these be? and what [is] the sign of thy presence, and of the full end of the age?’ “ (Matt. 24:2-3, YLT)
When shall what things be? Specifically answering the question the disciples had asked Jesus about the destruction of the temple!
”4 And Jesus answering said to them, `Take heed that no one may lead you astray, 5 for many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and they shall lead many astray,
“6 and ye shall begin to hear of wars, and reports of wars; see, be not troubled, for it behoveth all [these] to come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 `For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places;
“8 and all these [are] the beginning of sorrows; 9 then they shall deliver you up to tribulation, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated by all the nations because of my name;” (Matt. 24:4-9, YLT)
Jesus told them, “All of these…” were to happen before that temple fell. So, the time frame is still speaking of the time in that generation when the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed.
”10 and then shall many be stumbled, and they shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another. 11 `And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray;
12 and because of the abounding of the lawlessness, the love of the many shall become cold; 13 but he who did endure to the end, he shall be saved; 14 and this good news of the reign shall be proclaimed in all the world, for a testimony to all the nations; and then shall the end arrive.” (Matt. 24:10-14, YLT)
The subject matter has not changed. He is still answering the disciples question in vs. 3, still speaking about the time the Jerusalem temple would be destroyed. He said the gospel would be proclaimed – think probating the will – throughout “all the world” before the end would come. This is the same “all the world” of Luke 2:1 where Caesar Augustus commanded a census be taken of his empire – the Roman empire of the 1st century AD.
The word used for “world” in Matt. 24:14 is Strong’s Greek 3625: “oikoumené: the inhabited earth” and the definition is –
“(properly: the land that is being inhabited, the land in a state of habitation), the inhabited world, that is, the Roman world, for all outside it was regarded as of no account.” See Biblehub
So we may paraphrase what Jesus said as “and this good news of the reign shall be proclaimed in all [the Roman empire]”. Only then would “the end” come for that Jerusalem temple to fall. That was “the end” of the Jewish world as they knew it.
Their present evil age was the time in which the old Mosaic covenant would be finished at the fall of that Jerusalem temple in AD 70. The persecution they lived under, the tribulation they endured was what had been prophesied by Daniel.
”15 `Whenever, therefore, ye may see the abomination of the desolation, that was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever is reading let him observe) 16 then those in Judea — let them flee to the mounts;” (Matt. 24L15-16, YLT)
Jesus was telling His disciples who were listening to Him prophesy the fall of that temple to watch for the abomination which Daniel had spoken of (Dan. 9:27; 12:11) and which Luke clearly identifies as the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem.
”20 `And when ye may see Jerusalem surrounded by encampments, then know that come nigh did her desolation; 21 then those in Judea, let them flee to the mountains; and those in her midst, let them depart out; and those in the countries, let them not come in to her; 22 because these are days of vengeance, to fulfil all things that have been written.” (Luke 21:20-22, YLT)
The days of vengeance, the time of the desolation of Jerusalem, the time of the tribulation spoken of by Daniel, the time of the destruction of the temple, and this present evil age were prophesied to be those days of the 1st century AD when that Jerusalem temple would fall, and which happened in AD 70!
”34 Verily I say to you, this generation may not pass away till all these may come to pass.” (Matt. 24:34, YLT)
1) Strong’s Gr. 165, aion – Biblehub
2) What Do Jews Believe About Jesus – MyJewishLearning
4) The Galli: Cross-Dressing Cybele Cult Priests Who Castrated Themselves – AncientOrigins
5) City of Pessinus – Livius
6) Pessinus – “…was the principal cult centre of the cult of Cybele/Kybele…” and “…the Romans, after consulting the Sibylline Books, decided to introduce the cult of the Great Mother of Ida (Magna Mater Idaea, also known as Cybele) to the city. …” Source: Jatland
7) Galatia – “…That Galatian law was derived from the gods is suggested by the proximity of the sacred city of Pessinus, dedicated to the Mother Goddess Cybele and her consort Attis, close on the border of the western part of Galatia controlled by the Tolistobogii. Strabo claims that Pessinus was the religious center of the Galatians even though they did not control the city.…” Source: WorldHistory
6 thoughts on “This Present Evil Age”
Good stuff. When I realized that “the whole world” was represented by first century Rome, that was the key piece that brought me into full preterism. I think you’ve touched on this before, but do you believe scripture teaches that at a person’s earthly death, that individual either goes to the lake of fire or heaven? And if a soul is cast into the lake of fire, they are destroyed and cease to exist? So there is essentially no eternal torment for them. Thanks in advance for clarifying.
After examining the phrase “lake of fire” analytically, I determined that it is imagery. See my post here for The Lake of Fire (Nov 2018). It breaks down to the meaning of the individual words “lake” and “fire” which are a valley of judgment. The valley of judgment then is a process like a court room, where the Judge pours out His sentence upon the guilty (the unrighteous). The court room is not the jail house. I know there are many who argue for destruction of the soul (Matt. 10:28) as the end of being and existence, which is certainly an eternal judgment. But, we also have to remember the “casting out” of Matt. 22:13 and the “mist of darkness” of 2 Pet. 2:17. So, God is the judge, who pronounces the sentence n the court room / valley of judgment / lake of fire for each unrighteous soul at the time of their earthly demise, and then casts them out into the jail / valley of the dead / mist of darkness.
I am not willing to say if that casting out is also the destruction of the soul for complete non-existence. Because I also remember Rev. 20:20, “tormented day and night forever and ever.” I want to leave the sentencing up to God, as He is the righteous Judge and, in my human desire for vengeance, I believe there are some souls so wicked that winking their conscious being out is too easy for them. But, let’s let God have that final say.
Today, and ever since the separation out of Hades after the temple was destroyed in AD 70, the righteous who have done the “good things of the flesh,” specifically being baptized into Christ, and have stayed faithful unto death (Rev. 14:13) have already passed from death unto life (1 John 3:14), and being covered by the blood of Christ (Rom. 4:7) the judgment passes over us (Passover). At our death, we are changed in the twinkling of an eye, and the heavenly angels (messengers) take us home to heaven. (Discussed in Part VII of It’s Not The End of The World series, also in the post Crossing Over, and in Hades Is No More.) Blessings to you.
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Thanks for the response. What life will be like in heaven is something I struggle to comprehend. There are many things I enjoy in this earthly realm, but even so, I can’t think of any activity on Earth that I would want to do forever. Even my most enjoyable moments here, fizzle out and I lose interest in as time goes by. To think of a world in which there is no boredom is hard to fathom. There must not be any concept of time in heaven.
I firmly believe that what we know and see here in this earthly realm which God created for our well being and our dwelling place (Acts 17:26) are all patterns of the heavenly things which are much more beautiful in the heavenly realm. The earthly temple was patterned after the heavenly temple (Heb. 8:5. 9:23). I am certain that was not the only pattern followed.
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Thank you Gina, I appreciate you!
Most welcome, Daniel Have a good day.