Time Past, But Now, Ages to Come

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

Ephesians 2:11-12

I do not know if you have thought of this before, but Ephesians 2:12 is a very scary verse…  This verse states that Gentiles were “aliens” and “strangers” from Israel and the covenants of promise.  Imagine being without God and having “no hope”!

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

Ephesians 2:19

I think we should all collectively exclaim “PHEW…!” after reading the verse above. Gentiles are “no more strangers and foreigners”.  Have you ever stopped to think that just seven verses seperate these two massive statements?  What changed?  What happened within those seven verses?  What is it that granted uncircumcised Gentiles the benefits they did not have before?

One thing we need to recognize is that if we skip the context found between Ephesians 2:12 and Ephesians 2:19, we’ll draw wrong conclusions and fall prey to the suggestion that the Church, the body of Christ, is now Israel and is the modern-day recipients of Israel’s covenants of promise.  Few things could be further from the truth.

Between verses 12 and 19 Paul explains a change in God’s revelation concerning how He relates to us and we to Him – there is a dispensational change that has taken place.  Ephesians 2:11-12 speaks to how God related to the world, the Gentile nations outside of Israel, in “Time Past”.  In Time Past God purposed to work through the nation Israel in order to bless the Gentile nations.  Israel was the channel of blessings from God to the world.  No one at that time in history had closer access to God than did a Jew. 

Jews were separated from Gentiles by their God given covenants, circumcision, and the Law.  In “Time Past,” Gentiles had no access to God or His blessings except through the nation Israel and their covenants.  Gentiles had no hope without the created nation of priests known as the nation Israel.  “But Now” things are different.

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:13

Within a single verse, the apostle Paul leapt a dispensational boundary from how God operated in Time Past to describing how God operates Now.  Gentiles now have the privilege of being “in Christ Jesus” by the blood of Christ offered to all, both those that were far off in Time Past (Gentiles) and those that were nigh in Time Past (Jews) – Ephesians 2:17.

No longer do Gentiles need to go to through the nation Israel or be partakers of their covenants of promise in order to receive hope and blessings from God.  Ephesians 2:13 describes the privilege of gaining access to God and His blessings by means of the blood of Christ.  Instead of requiring Israel to offer sacrifices to make peace with God, Gentiles could now glory that Christ Jesus is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).  

The same Christ according to the mystery has broken down what separated Jews and Gentiles in Time Past, and which, at that time, gave Israel special access to God and salvation.  Now, all have free access to God through Jesus Christ by the preaching of the Cross. 

Paul continues to explain the change in Ephesians 2:15-16.  Whereas in Time Past there were two peoples (Jews and Gentiles), there is now only one man.  Moreover, the one man is a new man, being neither Jew nor Gentile.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

Galatians 6:15

Both Jew and Gentile are reconciled to God equally in one body by the Cross (Ephesians 2:16).  In Time Past, the house of God was the house of Israel.  But Now, the house of God is a body of believers in Christ.

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

1 Corinthians 3:16

Gentiles today do not need to go through Israel to be reconciled to God.  They now have access in the “one body” of Christ.  Gentiles do not need to partake in Israel’s covenants of promise to have peace with God.  They can now be saved freely by the Cross (Ephesians 2:8-9).  

For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

Ephesians 2:18

These are the benefits and privileges that are now accessible to Gentiles.  In Time Past it would have been a privilege to be part of Israel and heir to Israel’s covenants.  Being a part of Israel and its covenants would have granted exclusive access to God and His blessings.  But Now, access to the Father is offered freely to all men through Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery (Romans 16:25).

Men no longer need to be citizens of Israel to have access to God.  We need to be members of the one body of Christ, the new creature.  Neither do men need to be heirs of Israel’s covenants to receive blessings from God.  We need to be part of God’s promise in Christ to offer salvation freely to all men by His grace (Ephesians 3:6).

In Time Past Gentiles were aliens from Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise given to Israel, making them far off from the only channel of access to God and His blessings.  But Now, a new channel of direct access to God is revealed for both Jew and Gentile, which is through the Lord Jesus Christ according to the gospel of the grace of God. 

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

Ephesians 2:19

There is no more separation between Jew and Gentile within the dispensation of grace.  We are fellowcitizens with all saints (who are no longer called circumcision nor uncircumcision, but saints).  Instead of becoming part of the house of Israel and Judah according to the Old and New Covenants, we are partakers of the household of God, which is the Church, the body of Christ (1 Timothy 3:15).  Instead of strangers, we are all familiar to God, and instead of being foreign we can now receive the benefits of God’s grace as rightful heirs in Christ (Romans 5:2, Romans 8:17).  If any be in Christ, he is no more a stranger or foreigner.

Within chapter 2 of his epistle to the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul provides one of many ways in which the Bible is to be “divided”:

  1. Times Past (Ephesians 2:11-12)
  2. But Now (Ephesians 2:13)
  3. Ages to Come (Ephesians 2:7)

These three divisions within the Bible include the following:

  1. Times Past – everything before the apostle Paul and Acts 9.
  2. But Now – the dispensation of the grace of God (Romans to Philemon).
  3. Ages to Come – everything after the Rapture of the Church (Hebrews through Revelation).

The Bible describes change over the course of time.  This necessitates paying attention to when things were known.  Times must be distinguished and separated within Scripture. Making every verse of the Bible speak to the present time in which you live will only result in massive confusion.

The apostle Paul used the expression “But Now” to mark a dramatic contrast to what had been before, but had now changed.  Through this expression our apostle communicated the wonderful truths vital to one who has believed his gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Whenever we encounter the phrase “But Now” it is a marker that notes “before” and “after” reality within Scripture.  The “before” was our state before Christ’s work on the Cross and God’s revelation of these truths to the apostle Paul.  The “after” is the new state of things as the result of Christ’s work and His revelation to Paul.

We learn these doctrines and truths from the apostle Paul.  Jesus did not reveal these truths in His earthly ministry and Peter and the Eleven were ignorant of them until Paul revealed them (2 Peter 3:14-16).  How did Paul learn these truths?  Paul received the “But Now” truths directly from the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Paul did not learn these “But Now” truths from any man and that includes the 12 disciples turned apostles (Galatians 1:1, 11-12; Ephesians 3:3).

The following are “But Now” truths discussed by the apostle Paul within his 13 epistles:

[Rom 3:21] But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

[Rom 6:22] But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

[Rom 7:6]  But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

[Rom 11:30] For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:

[Rom 16:25-26] Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:

[1 Cor 5:11] But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

[1 Cor 7:14] For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

[1 Cor 12:18] But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

[1 Cor 12:20] But now are they many members, yet but one body.

[1 Cor 13:13] And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

[1 Cor 15:20] But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

[Gal 4:9] But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

[Eph 2:13] But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

[Eph 5:8] For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

[Phil 2:12] Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

[Col 1:26] Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:

[Col 3:8] But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

[Phm 1:11] Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

[2 Tim 1:10] But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:

Time Past, But Now, Ages to Come – this is but one of many ways in which the Christian is instructed to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).  You, dear Christian, are living in But Now!



For more information, please visit our seperate post pertaining to Time Past, But Now, Ages to Come.



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