by A.E. Knoch

THE surpassing excellence of the eon of the eons demands that we give it more attention than we have hitherto. In dealing with the tabernacle a great deal is said about the holy place, just as we are told most about the millennium, yet the chief interest finds its focus in the holy of holies, just as the zenith of eonian truth is found alone in the eon of the eons. Until we grasp some of its magnifical grandeur, as compared with the previous eons, we will fail to feel the force of its name, and think of it merely as later and better, not the very greatest and grandest and most glorious of the eonian times. As our view of the eons as a whole depends partly on our apprehension of its overwhelming proportions, we will try to discover, if we can, something about its magnitude, the vast period of time which it takes up, the innumerable hosts of inhabitants, and the superlative condition of humanity when death will be absent and God present in the earth. It is most important for us to orient ourselves in the course of God's activities. Most of His saints are like a man lost in a strange city, who knows, indeed, where he would like to go, but does not know where he is, hence cannot find the way. Were we to point out on a chart the place in which we find ourselves in the stream of time, we would need to point to two places to really give a correct expression to the truth. As a fact we are in the third eon, in the administration of the secret, before the era of indignation, and have not yet come to the eons of the eons. But in the deepest sense we are not there at all, but have skipped over the time of trouble and the time of restitution, and even the great white throne, and find ourselves in the new creation, whose glories are the best illustration of the spiritual position which we occupy today. This method of graphically locating ourselves on a chart of the cons may be of the greatest help in showing others many truths which otherwise may be difficult for them to apprehend. It puts in the past all such things as the new birth, repentance and baptism, priesthood, and many other matters. True, we have no picture of the new heavens, but even the new earth will help us get past much out-of-date theology, which is considered the very summit of orthodoxy by sincere believers. It is a startling fact that most students of the Scriptures practically ignore the last eon. To them it is only a hazy "eternal state." Hence its value, in connection with the evangel of the conciliation, is largely lost. How many, who make much of the millennium, which will last little more than half the length of the present administration, take a leap into the dark after it is over! To them the great white throne is the end. Some even insist that the Son hands over the kingdom at this time, so little have they noticed the simple facts as to the last eon, which contains the throne of the Lambkin. The fact that there will be no more death on the earth blinds them to the fact that the process of dying continues, and death is only hindered by the presence of the tree of life. We should make extraordinary efforts to spread this knowledge, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the evangel, which depends upon it for a proper understanding. Paul had heralded the kingdom. He had known Christ according to the flesh. This corresponds with the thousand years. But then he determines to put this all in the past. No longer will he know anyone according to flesh. If anyone is in Christ there is a new creation. The old has passed by. How well this divine figure fits the facts of that future physical creation!


We know that the day of Jehovah will somewhat exceed a thousand years in duration, but we have no such clear statement concerning the last eon. At best we can only surmise and give our opinion. And, indeed, there is no need for accuracy here. All we wish to do is to learn what we can of its proportionate duration, in relation to the previous eons. Will it be shorter or longer than they? Will it be another thousand years, or will it exceed the millennium in the number of its days? As the other considerations are somewhat dependent upon this, we will seek to settle its size first, and then go on to calculate the hearts which it will hold, and the satisfaction of their souls. In our Authorized Version we read of the glory of the church, "throughout all ages, world without end" (Eph.3:21). Behind this misleading rendering are words which flood the last eon with light. It ought to read, "for all the generations of the eon of the eons." The Revisers have this in their margin, except that they use age in place of eon. So seldom is this eon specially singled out that, this passage must be considered one of the prime sources of information concerning it. The principal point is very striking. In this eon there will be generations. Mankind will continue to multiply. Time will be marked by recurring births. New members of the human race will continually be added to it.


How many generations will there be? Some idea of the number will enable us to form a rough estimate of its length. The psalmist speaks of a thousand generations (Psa.105:8). I know of no good reason why this should not be taken literally. The length of a generation is not easy to determine, neither is it vital. It could hardly average under twenty years. This would give the length of the eons as no less than twenty thousand years. If we take the generations of Luke's genealogy as covering four thousand years, we find more than fifty years for each one. But the earlier links in the chain were very long, so we will not accept this figure. I have sometimes wondered if the eons are measured by that long astronomical cycle of nearly twenty-six thousand years which is formed by the sun as it shifts its place in crossing the ecliptic, making what is called the precession of the equinoxes. At one time the sun's annual crossing of the ecliptic in the spring of the year, making day and night of equal length, occurred in the sign of Virgo. Now it is in Aries. At the end of the cycle it will be in Leo. It leads from the Virgin to the Lion out of Judah's tribe. All of the symbolism seems to fit this notion. Even the thousand generations may find a place in this speculation. I do not rely upon it. But these figures leave little doubt that the last eon will be an enormously prolonged period of time. Again we are at a loss when we seek to calculate the length of time awarded to the preceding four eons. Of the first we know little indeed. Since Adam we have probably made about six thousand years of history. The next eon will account for more than a thousand years. This leaves nineteen thousand for the first and last eons. The first cannot be counted in the generations, for there were none. It seems most probable that the last eon will be longer than all the rest combined. And this agrees with our spiritual instincts, for God is swift in His judgments, but prolongs the dispensation of His favors. As we shall see, the last eon will be one of unexampled earthly blessedness. God's heart will be able to rest in it. Well may it be stretched out to a length exceeding all that went before, within the eonian times.

If we allot half of the thousand generations to the last eon, a very little consideration will show that the proportionate population will be beyond an estimate. Even if it should begin with a single pair, as Adam and Eve started the chain in the previous eons, it would baffle calculation, for we must remember that there will be no death, not even serious disease or strife to diminish the number of earth's denizens. The point we wish to press is this, that by far the greater part of mankind in the eons are found in the last of the series, and these know little of the distress which we experience, for there will be no doom and no death. Those who stand before the great white throne will be an enormous assemblage, including all the dead from Adam down, but it is most likely that their number will be eclipsed by the population of the earth alone at the end of the eon of the eons.


Whence come the dwellers on the new earth? The fact that they are called mankind (Rev.21:3) shows that they are the same individuals as were on the former earth. On the portals of the new Jerusalem are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. This seems ample evidence that all the saints in Israel will be there. To go back to the millennium, we find that it begins with four distinct classes. There were the vivified saints, with whom we are not particularly concerned at this time, because they do not marry, so there is no increase from them, either in the day of Jehovah or in the day of God. Besides these, in Israel are the one hundred forty-four thousand, who will rule, and the innumerable throng, who come unscathed through the great affliction. That the former are celibates at the time preceding the kingdom does not necessarily imply that they remain so. Yet this is not vital to our theme. There is a vast multitude, pictured as a faithful woman, who enter the kingdom, just as there is a company called the bride of the Lambkin in the new earth. Constituting the fourth class, in the millennium, are the nations. Many of these find their death at its close. Yet, at the end of the day of Jehovah, not counting those who have died in that era and who go to swell the number to stand before the great white throne, there are still Israel and the nations, as well as the vivified saints. The manner in which these are carried over from the former to the new earth is not given us in the Scriptures, hence has no importance. Suffice it that the same nation and nations, the same race of mankind, is found on the new earth as were known before. There is no new vivification, but those who receive eonian life at the beginning of the millennium will doubtless be there, including all the saints of past time outside the celestial allotment. But these are not our subject at present, as we are concerned only with the generations of the eon of the eons. Besides these vivified saints we read of only two classes, the nations (Rev.21:24) and the new Jerusalem, in which the holy nation will have its habitation. Among these we may find the generations of which the psalmist and our own Paul prophesied. Among these there will be a continual increase, as there will be no death (Rev.21:4), and even mourning and clamor and misery will all be in the past.


We must remember, however, that mankind will still be linked with Adam, death will still be transmitted and those born will be mortals, whose life will be a process of dying. How then can there be no more death? This is fended by a special provision, which is one of the features of this eon. In the garden of Eden was the tree of life (Gen.3:22). Had Adam had access to it he could have prolonged his life indefinitely. Hence he was driven out, and cherubim were set to guard the way to the tree of life. It is evident from this that a tree of life can counteract the effects of mortality. It imparts life, which is the opposite of the death which operates in us. God did not wish Adam to live. In the last eon He does wish the sons of mankind to live. So He provides a tree of life in the very center of the paradise to come, and it will be the portion of all the conquerors in Ephesus (Rev.2:7), as well as all Israel who attain that era. In the new earth there will be far more. There will be the river of water of life, resplendent as crystal, issuing out of the throne of God and the Lambkin. Not only will its vitalizing flood check the deadly virus of Adamic death, but there will be the tree of life, in vast numbers apparently, on either side of it, and Israel will be partakers of its monthly fruit, while the nations will be cured by its leaves. In this way dying will be counteracted and death entirely banished, for the life of the tree, in its fruits and leaves, will counterbalance the death process in the sons of Adam. It is evident that this is far short of vivification yet far beyond the miserable mortality which has been the portion of all during the present eon. There will be a slight experience of evil to humble them in the midst of the glories with which they will be surrounded. Even in the present eon the fruits and leaves of certain trees are conducive to health and longevity. Citrus fruits, the lemon, the orange, and the grapefruit have made a name for themselves for their medicinal value. So also have the leaves of the mate tree, in South America. They are much used to counteract the evil effects of overmuch meat in the diet. But these are feeble intimations of the tree of life. What is needed is not mere corrective medicine, but a real elixir containing the essence of vitality. It would seem that the trees draw this life-giving fluid from the river of life, whose crystal tide flows from the throne of God and the Lambkin. How significant! God is the source of all life, but the life eonian comes alone by the channel of the sacrificial Lambkin. This life is not a reward from God, for works, but a gracious gift which comes to mankind through the death of His Son.


God is the great Placer. The element -the- in Greek denotes PLACE, and Theos, the name of God, from which we get Theology, and many other like words, denotes the One Who places. This may have been a translation, originally, of the Hebrew Aleim, from the root al, DISPOSE, for it denotes practically the same, the Disposer. Even unbelievers have the proverb, "Man proposes: God disposes," which gives an excellent idea of the basic idea of deity. In this same family, PLACE, are two very interesting words, one of which deals with God's placing or disposing. This is kata-the-ma, DOWN-PLACE-effect, doom. The element kata, DOWN, Sometimes has the idea of adverseness, as DOWN-JUST, convict; DOWN-ABLE, tyrannize; DOWN-JUDGE, condemn; DOWN-TALK, speak against; DOWN-EXECRATE, curse. So here it seems to have almost the literal sense of the elements, place in a downward position. The potter has the right to make a vessel for dishonor. The clay has no right to object. If God wishes to display His indignation and make His power known He has the right to make appropriate vessels of indignation suited to destruction (Rom.9:22,23). This He does during the eons which precede the great white throne judgment. In the last eon, however, God has made known His indignation against sin. His power has been fully displayed. As the great Potter He finds no more call for vessels of indignation. All are vessels of mercy adapted to display His glory. There is no more doom. The fact that God no more dooms His creatures to display His inevitable yet dreadful indignation, nor, as He did with Pharaoh, places them in positions of power that He may display His own, gives the eon of the eons a character radically diverse from all before it, even the much lauded millennium. It is a fearful mistake to suppose that God's present activities are normal, or that they will be eternal. His creatures could never love or adore a God Who damned His own workmanship with a ruthless hand. This leads us to a consideration of the second word, katathematizoo, DOWN-PLACEize. It is the same in meaning as doom, only it is a verb. The third time that Peter renounced His Lord he did so with the characteristic vehemence of the oriental, damning and swearing that he was not acquainted with Him (Matt.26:74). Usually easterners call down upon their victim a great variety of evils, merely to satiate their feeling of hate. With an entirely different motive, God does this, not merely in word, but in deed. He damns some of His creatures, or dooms them, to undergo evils, in order to display His attributes. In the judgment any apparent wrong will be fully righted, so that none of His creatures will ever hold it against Him. This activity of His does not enter the last eon. When we consider the untold hosts of His creatures in the concluding eon on the earth, as well as the countless company in other confines of the universe, all of whom will be spectators of the tragedy of the eons, especially the middle three, and compare their number with the small fraction who are upon the center of the stage during these eons, even though their sum seems large to us, they dwindle down to insignificance, and we find ourselves viewing the evil of the eons much as Paul looked upon our personal experience. Even when we endure a long life of suffering, we may speak of it as a "momentary, light affliction" which produces for us a "transcendently transcendent eonian burden of glory" (2 Cor.4:17). This expression also carries with it the implication that the last eon is of untold length and glory, for the preceding one is too short and too thoroughly characterized by evil, on the earth, to warrant these superlative expressions.


Although it is not faith to "spiritualize" the blessings on the new earth, there can be little doubt that their literal fulfillment will be significant of the spiritual realities which will accompany them. Thus we read that night will be no more (Rev.22:5). That this is literal is evident from the fact that lamps will not be needed, nor even sunlight. Just how the Lord will illuminate them is not explained. Yet the appearance of heavenly visitants, endowed with superabundant vitality, when allowed to shine forth, has been luminous. Our Lord hid His glory, except when He was seen on the mount of transfiguration, or when Saul saw Him on the way to Damascus. Then the light was blinding in its intensity. The glory of God shone about the messenger who announced the birth of the Saviour to the shepherds (Luke 2:9). Even today many fishes carry with them a means of illumination in the dark depths of the sea. So that it is quite possible that the bold figure of the apostle, "you are light in the Lord" (Eph.5:8) may not only become fact in our case, among the celestials, but may also be true of the dwellers on the earth in the eons of the eons.

The illumination seems to apply particularly to His slaves, that is, His servants in Israel, who, as the passage provides, will reign for the eons of the eons. The nations will walk by the light of the holy Jerusalem (Rev.21:24). Undoubtedly this luminous exterior will correspond with an enlightened heart and mind. All will know God then, especially His slaves, for, it is significantly added, they will offer Him the service which is His due (Rev.22:3). He is their Light and their illumination in a sense far deeper than the visible brilliance of their frames, for this is the great requisite preliminary to becoming their All. Life is needed before men can have light, and light goes before love. So He will reveal Himself in the eon of the eons, not by the dark contrasts of sin and Satan, but by the increasing life, the brightening light, the positive lavishing of His love. The superabundant life and the unlimited light of this final eon approach the glories of the consummation with its supreme revelation of God's boundless love.

In view of all these glories, let us give a much larger place in our thoughts and meditations on God's activities to the final, finishing eon. Let us not view the others without giving it its proportionate place. It will mellow our conceptions of God's dealings during the eonian times. Its life and light will do much to relieve the death and darkness of these somber, sin-shadowed days. The eonian times will average much higher in earthly bliss if we add to the dark, dismal, dreadful days in which we live, and the much more terrible times that lie ahead, the long, life-filled, light-flooded, love-lavished eon which is the last, the longest and the most excellent.

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