Just as there are two major sections of the Bible, there are also three time periods in the Bible. Recognizing this fact is very important in order to understand what is, and is not, directly applicable for us today because the Bible reveals that God's methods of interacting with mankind have not always been the same. These three time periods are:
- The Patriarchal Age
- The Mosaic Age
- The Christian Age
The Patriarchal Age
A patriarch was man who was the leader of a family and its related social groupings. A patriarch was usually the oldest male member of a family or tribe. This time period is so named because God communicated directly with the heads of families. Some examples are Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. This time period extended from the creation of the world until the time of Moses.
The Mosaic Age
This age is named for the prophet Moses because God's dealings with mankind changed significantly during Moses' lifetime. God, through Moses, established His covenant or contract with the descendants of the patriarch Abraham. Abraham's offspring later came to be known as the Israelites but were also referred to as Hebrews or Jews. During this age, God mainly spoke to people through prophets. A prophet is a person selected by God to communicate His message to the intended audience. Most people think of a prophet as someone who predicts the future. Sometimes God foretold the future through His prophets, but usually God used the prophets to instruct and admonish the people. He also communicated warnings through the prophets when the people were behaving sinfully. A few of the prophets were Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel and many others. This period extended from the time of Moses until the time of Jesus.
The Christian Age
This age is named in honor of Jesus the Christ. The word Christ is actually a word that is used as a title referring to Jesus and is not a name. The word Christ means "anointed". Jesus Himself was the fulfillment and culmination of God's covenant with the Jewish people. Since the first covenant was completed, Jesus established a new contract with those who would become His followers. All those who are now or ever have been faithful disciples of Jesus enjoy and partake of the promises of the New Covenant. The Christian age began in the time of Jesus and will be in effect until the end of the world.
Making the Distinction
The reason it is important to understand the distinction in these ages is so that we can properly understand how God interacts with mankind today. God does not directly deal with head of families today as He did in the Patriarchal Age. He no longer delivers His messages to us through prophets like He did in the Mosaic Age. During the Christian Age, God has spoken to us through His Son - Jesus.
In the past God spoke to our people through the prophets. He spoke to them many times and in many different ways. And now in these last days, God has spoken to us again through his Son. He made the whole world through his Son. And he has chosen his Son to have all things. Hebrews 1:1-2 ERV
Jesus told His closest disciples that He would send them the Holy Spirit who would guide them into all truth and that the Holy Spirit would not speak His own words, but only the words He would receive from Jesus (John 16:13-15). These disciples in turn recorded these truths in what we now call the New Testament portion of the Bible. Jesus' envoy, Paul, said the following about the Holy Scriptures.
All Scripture is given by God. And all Scripture is useful for teaching and for showing people what is wrong in their lives. It is useful for correcting faults and teaching the right way to live. Using the Scriptures, those who serve God will be prepared and will have everything they need to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ERV
So, be cautious when modern day "prophets" profess to be revealing new revelations from God. Be skeptical when people talk about directly hearing God's voice either audibly or inaudibly. Jesus revealed "all truth" to His disciples and they in turn wrote it down. Paul says the Scriptures contain everything we need to be prepared. Since all the instruction we need from God is already contained in the Scriptures, we needn't expect direct revelations from God today. In the Christian Age, God has spoken to us through Jesus!