by Alan Burns

"Unto him be glory in the church of Christ Jesus
throughout all ages, world without end.

THE writer would preface his remarks on the above passage by owning to the possession of a great respect for the King James version of the Scriptures. To him there is a wonderful dignity and stateliness attached thereto--hallowed it may be by the associations of childhood; and perhaps enhanced by the fact that from it he learned to read the English language. And while many of the so-called "Twentieth Century" versions put some passages in a much more pungent and powerful form, yet somehow they lack the regal poise and balance of movement apparent in the authorized."

However, there are little foxes which spoil the grapes. The little foxes of human theory, human philosophy, human prejudice and human assumption, have spoiled many luscious grapes from the vine of revelation. The verse before us is an illustration of how extremely little the translators knew of an extremely important doctrine in the divine library. When those who were responsible for this literary atrocity came to this verse, they did not translate it, they tortured it. Like Torquenada's fiends of old they placed the Greek in the thumbscrew of Theology, and in the verse before us we behold the mangled, crippled and distorted corpse which was the fruit of their labors. As this verse stands, instead of being a cathedral of truth, the golden shrine of a precious revelation, it is the morgue wherein lies interred the unidentified remains of a divine verity. And this is not the only ruined temple, or morgue, or shambles, in the English Bible: there are many such scattered all over the field of New Testament literature. In them lie truths dead and buried and forgotten of men, wrapped in the grave clothes of human glosses and human guesses, awaiting a resurrection to bless sincere seekers after truth.

In most of the cases which are similar to this it is evident that what those good, and well-intentioned men did was not to translate God's wisdom, but their own ignorance, into the English language. And what we read in verses of this class is not divine revelation but bankrupt human philosophy--and very rusty, moth- eaten philosophy at that. There is not a verse in the English Bible, either in the Old Testament or the New, containing the words "everlasting" or "eternal," which does not witness to the fact that, as translators of these particular terms, these gentlemen would have made, and did make, excellent literary butchers.

The count against those who perpetrated this is twofold. First, they left out what God put in. Second, they put in what God left out. In the original, there is absolutely nothing corresponding to the phrase "world without end;" nor is there an allusion to all the ages, but a reference to one definite age, and one only, which, while it is the flower and fruitage of them all, is certainly not synonymous with all. And not only did they contradict what God said here, but they even contradicted what they themselves had said elsewhere, for in Matt.28 they make the Lord himself say "unto the end of the world," and here, if you please, they reveal that the world will have no end at all!

Irreverence has no right to demand our respect--we need have, should have, no reverence for irreverence. There are those who look on the Authorized Version as if it were almost an improvement on the original Greek. They seem to think that the translators really have "gilded refined gold." What they have done, in this and other instances, is to cover the refined gold with the dull, dead paint of their wretched conceit. This particular passage is irrelevant to the original manuscript, and irreverent to its original author. Nor does age add verity to fiction, or change error into truth. When it becomes an established law that the older a man grows the holier he becomes, then shall we accept the dictum, that the older a doctrine is the more truth is it likely to be.

But the translation of this verse if not true is at least useful in this: it shows exactly what the dogma is that the translators were anxious to have the Bible teach. The English contains a parallelism and balances "throughout all ages" as an equivalent over against the phrase "world without end." Here they enshrined their fundamental dogma concerning age-time, viz., that it was, or rather, will be, endless.

Before widening out into the larger aspects of our subject let us remind ourselves of the correct and literal reading of this verse. "Unto him be glory in the church through Christ Jesus into all the generations of the age of the ages."

You will have perceived that Ephesians is divided into two great sections, a doctrinal section and a practical one. Now note that this scripture comes at the close of the doctrinal portion. It is a doxology--one of those peculiarly Pauline outbursts of praise which marks the completion of a cycle of revelation. In Ephesians 1 the doctrine of the Irresistible God has been displayed; His all-embracing purpose has been expounded; His all-encircling love has been unveiled; and now the glory of that work, which includes all things in heaven and on earth, is ascribed to Him to whom it shall yet ascend "from all the generations of the age of the ages."

A similar doxology is found at the close of the ninth to eleventh chapters of Romans. It is Paul's triumphal shout, his glad challenge to every lying theory of man. In Romans 11 Paul has been dealing with two great fullnesses. The word "fullness" means "full-number." On the one hand he alludes to the full-number of the Jews, and on the other to the full-number of the Gentiles. In Ephesians he deals not only with the full-number of people but the full-number of periods as well. There he refers to the fact that the full-number of the Gentiles, and the full-number of the Jews, with the added thought of the full-number of the heavenly creatures, will come to their divine destiny in a certain period which marks the completion of the "fullness" or "full- number of the times." The "all things on earth" of Ephesians includes the full-number of Jews and Gentiles in Romans 11, which again is the equivalent of the "all in Adam" of Romans 5.

And now we gather up these thoughts and come over to Ephesians 3, where we find the concluding era of the full number of the times--"the age of the ages"--joined with the full number of the Adamic and angelic races alluded to under the embracing description "all the generations," which apparently will be found in their allness or completeness in "the age of the ages." It is Paul's vision of the completed "purpose of the ages." In that completing age "every knee shall bow," and Paul becomes a forerunner of that throng innumerable when he anticipates the worshiping courtesy of creation; "for this cause I bow the knee unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named." What does that mean? Does it not link the "knee" and the "name" together in a way reminding us that when "every knee" does bow it will be "in the name of Jesus...to the glory of God the Father?" And if it is "to the glory of God the Father" do we not see that glory ascending in Ephesian 3 from "all the generations of the age of the ages." And, mark you, it is "ALL the generations." You cannot leave one moment out and have all the ages; nor can you leave one individual out and have all the generations. Our verse, as God wrote it though not as man translated it, marks that period which exhausts both time and creation.

Now here in Ephesian 3 we have three great allusions to the "times of the ages." First we are carried back into the mysterious depths of the past, beyond the hours and days and years of time as they have been recorded on human calendars; past the dim dawning of an earthly creation when great horned beasts alone were masters of primeval earth; back past the birth of sun, moon and stars; past the first, faint movement of the nebulae in yawning space; back to the far-flung horizon of Time itself; back to a point "the beginning of the ages" (v.9). Theologians tell us that the Greek term "the ages" is synonymous with eternity; they tell us--and they are used to being believed--that the idea may be symbolized by a mighty ocean with its waves unnumbered breaking upon the rocks and so they would have us look at the ages as being the endless wave-series on the bosom of eternity.

Now if "the ages" in Greek be synonymous with that idea of eternity then eternity had a beginning. It says so, right here, "from the beginning of the ages." So much for the commencement of age-time.

Let us now observe how Ephesians 3 touches upon age-time in its continuance. Read verse 11. The "purpose of the ages" is the divine justification of their existence. The divine plan running all the way through. The purpose God had, and has, in every age, and year, and day, and hour, and moment of eonian time. If the moments had a voice that voice would utter the fact: "In Him we live and move and have our being." Not a moment of all the mighty oceans of age-time but is saturated with divine purpose. A divine tendency, a heavenly urge, a celestial impetus resides in, and is communicated to its contents, by each moment of time by virtue of the informing purpose which dwells within. It is that purpose which makes human life and human history a thing of reason. Without it existence would be idiotic--the empty drivel of blind chance, without either whence or whither.

And the word "purpose" I assume to mean the same with God as it does with man. It means this at least that God has "made up His mind" concerning the outcome of creation. The ages are unfolding the determination of God. And the puny rudder of man's misnamed "free-will" cannot resist the surging tides of God. Always remember that what we find in the ages is not a possibility, but a PURPOSE. Humanity is not a divine speculation, but rather one of God's investments. God is the God of certainty and not of chance, and He has "made up His mind" and the ages are working out the nature of His plan.

Having looked at the continuation of the ages, let us now note their consummation as touched all in verse 21. The "age of the ages" is marked by what? GLORY. There you have the purpose of the ages explained. God's glory is His own goal, and you can never divorce the Creator's glory from the creature's good. What is associated with, or involved in, the glory may be seen even in the answer of Jehovah to Moses' request "show me thy glory" (Ex.33:18,19). The request is glory, and the answer is grace. "Judgment is His strange work."

But in that coming crowning age of the ages there will be a vehicle for that glory. And the vehicle is--THE CHURCH. In chapter 2 we have already seen the church as the vehicle of grace in "the ages to come." Here then we behold it as the vehicle of glory in the age of the ages. And as Moses learned that the grace of God revealed the glory of God, so here it seems to be the display of grace through the coming eons that calls for the ascription of glory in their crowning, climactic era.

But not only will there be a vehicle for that glory, but there will also be its efficient cause "Christ Jesus our Lord." He through whom the grace will descend will channel the returning glory back to the throne of the Father.

In addition to all this we have the sphere in which, and to which, and through which, that glory will shine, viz., "all the generations." Were we to pause here and show how the age of the ages is to be marked by that final resurrection which destroys death, we could perhaps expand on the inclusiveness of the phrase "all the generations." Suffice it here to remark that it is a "birth term," and as such brings the thought close up as a parallel to the comprehensive phrase in verse 15 "the whole family in heaven and earth." Thus we have Christ--a full Christ--Image of the Invisible God, Splendor of His glory. We need, the church needs, the universe needs ALL that God has made Him to be. And all that Christ is, and has, is here for us in faith. We have Christ, and we have the Church--a completed Church, a Body without a missing member, not a single gap in its ranks--all completed in the pleroma of Christ their Saviour and Head. A full Christ; a completed church; and an entire creation. Grace has first come down in and through Christ to the church; then through the church into creation; and now it returns in the form of glory through the church to Christ, and through Christ to God. Theology views creation as God's speculation which makes an eternal torture-house, or else an eternal tomb, out of a portion of His universe. It would seem to be the inevitable cost of any gamble. But this verse would rather show that God's investment in creation will yield Him large returns in destiny when the incense of glory beyond glory ascends from Christ, Creation and the Church in the eon of the eons.

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