By: Michael J. Sullivan
1) “who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” (Gal.1:4)
The mention of deliverance from “this evil age,” corresponds to the end of “this [old- covenant] age” in Matthew’s gospel 13:39-43, 24:3. For Mathison, the phrase “this present evil age” is discussing the new covenant age, pointing to “…the “not yet” aspect of Christ’s kingdom” (WSTTB?, p.188). As my friend David Green says to Mathison’s deplorable exegesis here, “Oh joy to the world…” Did Christ come and lay down His life to establish an “evil age” for the church – for some 2000 + years and counting? The problem for Mathison is that the “not yet” of the kingdom as described by the new testament authors is not a 2,000+ years and counting process, but rather a “this generation” and “about to be” “not yet” process. Wouldn’t it make more contextual and logical sense to describe the old covenant as “this evil age” over against the righteousness of the new of which Christ died to establish for His church? Again the Jews commonly understood and talked about two ages, the old- covenant Mosaic age which was marked out by evil and persecutions followed by the new covenant Messianic “age to come” which would be characterized by peace and prosperity. The new-covenant age was not described as “evil”! Since the then present “this evil age” of the old-covenant overlapped the new before A.D.70, Paul is describing the old as “evil” not the new. Paul makes it clear what evil age he is discussing when he points out Jesus was born under “the law” in order to “redeem those under the law” 4:4-5. To be delivered from the then present “evil age” is equivalent to Christ coming to “redeem those under [the evil age of] the law.”
Somewhat controversial Puritain John Locke, whom studied at Christ Church, Oxford under John Owen (being his Dean), understood this passage to be referring to the deliverance from the Mosaical age or world and not the new covenant age, “Aiwnoj toutou, 1 Cor. 2:6, 8, and in other places, plainly signifies the Jewish nation under the Mosaical constitution; and it suits very well with the apostle’s design in this epistle that it should do so here.” “And this kingdom of God under the Mosaical constitution was called aiwnoj toutou, this age, or, as it is commonly translated, this world, to which aiwnoj enestwtoj, the present world, or age, here answers. But the kingdom of God which was to be under the Messiah, wherein the economy and constitution of the Jewish Church, and the nation itself, that in opposition to Christ adhered to it, was to be laid aside, is in the New Testament called aivwvllwn, the world, or age, to come; so that Christ’s taking them out of the present world, may, without any violence to the words, be understood to signify His setting them free from the Mosaical constitution.” But another system of freedom and life was breaking in upon the old and was “about to be” completely revealed and manifested.
2) “And before the coming of the faith, under [the] law we were being kept, shut up to the faith about to be revealed,” (Gals.3:23 YLT)
The “faith” of the new covenant system which was “about to be” revealed corresponds to the coming of Christ and His kingdom that was “about to be” (Greek mello) revealed and would be “at hand” toward the end of their generation (Lk.21:7, 36, 28-32; Gals.3:23). Other translations render law in this passage with the definite article making “The faith” being contrasted with “being kept under the law” (the “elements” of the old covenant “world” Gals.4:3, 9/2Pet.3:10). The only other text in the new testament that use the two Greek words mello “about to be” and apokalupto “revealed” together is 1Pet.5:1. This text is clearly describing the glory of the new covenant salvation which was “ready” to come in its fullness in Peter’s day (1Pet.1:4-12, 4:7).
Paul quotes (Hab.2:4) both here in 3:11 and in (Rms.1:17) where he says, “…the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” There was a system of faith under Abraham and Moses of which pointed in symbolic and typological form to the promises of the new covenant or gospel age under Messiah. Salvation history was moving from “the law” to “the faith” or from old covenant faith in promise form to new covenant faith being realized and “about to be” consummated.
3) “which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar––for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children––but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.” (Gal. 4:24-26)
Another term to describe the then present “evil age” of the old-covenant law was the then “present” or “now is” old-covenant Jerusalem of “bondage.” Both the then “present” evil age of 1:4 and the then “present” “now is” Jerusalem of bondage are equivalents and Paul has clearly identified them as the old-covenant age or world. In describing the new, there are only positive things to say of this Jerusalem from above or “the faith” which was “about to” come. Since Christ comes at the end of “this age” in the gospels, and it is described here as the then present “evil age,” and Jerusalem that was then present was destroyed in A.D.70, this necessitates that the second coming occurred in A.D.70 as well. The old-covenant “evil age” and “Jerusalem” can no longer be said to be “present” or “now is.”
The in-breaking gospel of the kingdom and new-covenant life was making them free children by transforming them into the image of Christ from old-covenant glory to new- covenant glory 2Cor.3:3-14. They were moving from the types and shadows of old- covenant faith into the substance of their new-covenant faith. In Galatians, Paul describes this non-biological transformation process from old-covenant to new-covenant glory and faith as, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal.4:19). “The faith” answered to the New Jerusalem (the new covenant) that was “from above” and was delivering them from the bondage of the Jerusalem that was then present (the old covenant).
The imagery of Mount Sinai is also a fitting description of the then “present evil age” or old-covenant age 4:21-31, cf. Heb.12. John tells us that the new-covenant Jerusalem was coming down out of heaven to earth inseparably connected with Christ coming “shortly” (Rev.21-22:12). This is the same new covenant Jerusalem that Paul describes as “from above” and “the faith” from which was “about to be” revealed. Within that same time period there would be a passing of the old creation or a mountain burning with fire cast into the sea Rev.8:8/Rev.21:1. This mountain on fire corresponds to Paul’s old covenant “MountSanai” that according to Pauline theology produced “the death.” This mountain and its curse of “the death” were destroyed for Christians during the same imminent time frame Rev.8:8/20:14 YLT, 22:6-7, 10-12, 20. The “elements” of that “world” or “first heavens and first earth” were about to be destroyed and “the faith” of the new creation system was “about to be” established and consummated in taking its place. Paul, John, and Peter are discussing the same covenantal “elements” “ages” and “worlds” with the same exact consummative time frame references! Although not a preterist, commenting on Paul’s theology of a new age coming in Galatians Bruce W. Longenecker correctly states, “What Paul has in mind when he envisages the inauguration of a new world is not, of course, the establishment of a completely new physical universe of matter – a world of caused-and-effect relationships, held together by forces of gravitational attraction at the molecular level. Instead, he envisages the establishment of a new realm of existence. It is a sphere of life wholly differentiated from the ‘cosmos’ that has been crucified to Paul, a domain where distinctive patterns of life are operative.”
 John Locke, Paraphrase and Notes on Galatians. http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1556&chapter=81025&layout=html&Itemid=27
 Bruce W. Longenecker, The Triumph of Abraham’s God The Transformation of Identity in Galatians, p.37, T&T CLARK pub., 1998