People today are talking about the world coming to an end. Yes, there’s a worldwide pandemic, but is it a sign of the end? We’ve got news for you, in a manner of speaking, the world has already come to an end once. That’s what our passage is about today: the transition of one age to the next, the previous world to the present. We’ll end our devotional today by looking at some ways to determine which age you’re really living in.
The End of the Old Age
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand…’” (Mark 1:14-15a). There’s quite a bit going on here, so are you ready to dig in? Let’s go for it! First, remember what we learned in our last study of Mark 1:12-13, The Outsider. We learned how Jesus rebuilt the human race by becoming the Second Adam. Jesus went back to ground zero and reenacted the drama of the Garden of Eden, only this time he got it right. Where Adam failed in paradise, Jesus prevailed in the wilderness. Not only did Jesus defeat the devil, but also he became a fully righteous human being. By doing this, Jesus ushered in a new age, the age of the faithful second Adam. This means Jesus is the first person of the new age. The age of Adam ends and Jesus brings in the age of the kingdom of God. If this is the case, then John the Baptist is the last person of the first age of Adam. That’s why Mark mentions John’s arrest. John the Baptizer is about to be beheaded, bringing the first age of Adam to a bloody curtain call.
Elsewhere, Jesus makes a stunning comment about John, which makes sense if John is the last person of the first age. Jesus said of John, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11). Note, although John is the greatest person in the first age, even the lowest person in the next age (called either the “kingdom of heaven” or its synonymous phrase “kingdom of God”), is greater than John.
To summarize, there are two ages, the age of the first Adam and the age of the second Adam; John ends the first and Jesus begins the second.
The Two Barrels
Next, take note of the curious way Jesus speaks of time. Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled” (14). The Greek word behind “time,” kairos, can also mean “age.” As for the word “fulfilled,” imagine an enormous oak barrel being filled up with water, drop by drop. This barrel is the first age. At last, the final drop falls into the barrel, filling it to the brim. This last drop in the “First Adam” barrel was John the Baptist. John’s arrest and death, “fulfilled” the first barrel, or age. In turn, Jesus is the first drop in the second barrel, or age. The second barrel, as mentioned, is called the kingdom of God. Ever since Jesus, drop by drop, the kingdom of God barrel is being filled-full, or fulfilled. What happens when the second barrel is filled (which is the one we are living in right now)? Then there will be a new heaven on a new earth, where all people and creatures dwell immediately in the presence of God. How do we get there? This is what Jesus begins to do in Mark 1:14-15. Here’s a chart to help you sort things out:
|Barrel 1||Barrel 2||(Barrel 3)*|
|Age of first Adam||Age of Second Adam (Jesus)|
|John the Baptist is last person||Jesus is the first person|
|Former age||Kingdom of God or heaven (began with Jesus and continues to the present)||(New Heaven and Earth)|
|John the Baptist is the greatest person||The lowest person is greater than John the Baptist|
|Law||Gospel||*for a later discussion|
Jesus Takes the Baton
John the Baptizer was the great disturber of his age, which is why he was put to death. He hated hypocrites and called all people, high or low, to confess the truth about themselves, as we discovered. So, put yourself in Jesus’s shoes, as the first person of the new age, what do you do now? Your friend John was arrested and soon will be beheaded for his message. Should you “take it easy” for a while? Tweak your message? Not Jesus. Jesus takes the baton that John the Baptist handed him and picks up where John left off.
“…Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.’” (14-15). As we learned, John called people to confession and repentance. Jesus takes his baton and runs further with it, calling people to repent and believe in the gospel. Can you see? In the old age, the age of the law, you can only be made aware of your sins and repent of them. The gospel of God has not yet been revealed; and there is no eternal hope for you in the old age. Jesus brings in the new age of the gospel good news. The kingdom of God has begun!
The Gospel in a Nutshell
We’re going to take a moment to give you a summary of the gospel message. We won’t elaborate too much on it here, but we will in future devotionals. Essentially, think of the gospel message through these three statements:
- Our problem,
- God’s solution,
- Our response.
Our problem is sin; every person is born without righteousness and with a sin nature. Sin has thoroughly corrupted every part of life, the natural world included. Second, God has a solution for us, and his name is Jesus Christ. Jesus will make the world right again. Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the grave, offering to us the free gift of salvation. Third, the gospel demands a response from us. In order for the gift to be applied to our lives, we must have faith. The word faith can also mean “trust” or “belief.” That’s why Jesus calls people to repent and “believe.” Our problem; God’s solution; and our response. That’s the gospel message in a nutshell. This message is the greatest theme of our age.
Practitioners of the First Age
There’s more for us to learn from these verses, which we will do in part two of this devotional. However, let’s take a moment to apply today’s truths to our lives. We learned today that Jesus ushers in a new age, leaving behind the old age of Adam. However, even though this is the case, some of us are still living in the first barrel. Although a new barrel is available to us, we’re still swimming in the old, putrid waters of the last age of Adam.
How can you tell? As mentioned, the age of Adam was the age of the law. This meant that in order to be successful in the age of Adam, you have to keep the law as much as possible. The more you keep the law, the “greater” you are. Think of the law as any accomplishment that makes you look good in the eyes of God or the eyes of humans. Those who live in the first barrel are worried more about looking good than being real, because their identity and salvation are at stake. Those who continue to live by the rules of the first age seek to impress rather than serve, gain attention rather than give affection, and use God rather than love God. They are all about glorifying themselves. And if they are not recognized for their efforts, then their world comes crashing down. If you take away their false god, life won’t be worth living for them. They constantly seek to earn approval. They are defined by ethnicity, nation, or gender. They think God loves them less when they sin and more when they succeed. They judge others harshly; they judge themselves even more harshly.
Even more, they fall prey to the lies of the devil. Some of these lies psychologists call “cognitive distortions.” See if any of these sound familiar to you:
My needs don’t matter.
I have to be perfect.
Nobody cares for me.
I am all alone.
I can never be forgiven.
Everybody is against me.
I’m really not that bad.
I made a mistake…so I’m a stupid failure.
There’s nothing I can do…
I should…I ought…I must…
If I only would have (fill in the blank) things would have turned out better.
Life owes me…
These are some of the lies of the old age, still echoing into the new age. Everybody tells themselves these lies, but you don’t have to listen! You can learn to fight back with the truth of the new age, the second barrel.
The Importance of Preaching
That’s why it’s so important to see that Jesus came preaching. “Jesus came…proclaiming the gospel of God” (14). Jesus preached the good news of the gospel age! These days, we don’t like to say the word “preach,” because we think it sounds too preachy. But, you know, sometimes you have to preach the lies out of your head. When the old age tells you “Your needs don’t matter,” then you have to preach to yourself, “God made me with needs and they matter to him!” When the old age tells you, “You have to be perfect,” then you have to preach to yourself, “I don’t have to be perfect, but I have to be whole, which includes both my strengths and weaknesses, my successes and failures. I have to embrace my failures, not reject them.” When the old age says to you, “You’re so much better than others and at least you’re not like that other person,” then you have to preach to yourself, “Don’t take myself too seriously, I’m replaceable and need to learn to laugh at myself; I’m thankful for whatever God has given me and I celebrate what God has given to others.” Above all else, you have to preach to yourself the gospel:
I am a sinner.
Christ died for my sins and rose from the grave.
I trust him for my salvation.
Act Your Age
Some of us say we’re Christians, but we live more in the old barrel than the new. We’re practitioners of the old age, even though we say we’re Christian believers. You say you believe Christ, but you believe your old lies more. If this is you, then here’s one more incentive to take the plunge into the barrel of the new age. Once upon a time, Jesus went to a wedding celebration (John 2:1-11). When the host ran out of wine, Jesus found some barrels of water, which were being used for ceremonies of the law. To the disciples’ great surprise, Jesus turned this water into wine. This is how we’re to think of the new age: it is filled with the best wine you’ve ever tasted! The old age of the law contains stagnant water for dead rituals of self-promotion, but the new age of grace bubbles up with wine for celebration and love.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” —Mark 1:14-15
- Can you explain the gospel message (according to the devotional)? Put it in your own words.
- Which lies do you struggle with in particular?
- What would it look like to live in the new age of the kingdom of God? How would your life change if you truly embraced the age of grace? How would it stay the same?
- How does living in the age of grace free you up to be yourself?