J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 4.)
As regards the shaking of the heavens this age (aion houtos) properly began at Sinai. It was true, Noah began power in the earth, in restraining of evil on the earth, from God, but that was the abstract principle by itself. Power might be transferred to Nebuchadnezzar, here below on earth, when raised up to the dominion of the children of men, wheresoever they dwell, on the departure of the glory from Jerusalem; so the 'times of the Gentiles,' and Abraham called out on the ascription of that power by man's heart (given to Noah) to devils as its source - so in Joshua 24 and Paul, "They offer to devils and not to God" - a condition speedily proved to be in force and vigour, in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon, when given to Nebuchadnezzar. But when Moses was king in Jeshurun, the upright, the Lord came from Mount Sinai, and from His right hand went a fiery law for them, when He spake from earth unto them, and they sat down at His feet, then, through the disposition of angels, receiving the law.
This being the then order of the heavens, and the ministrations of His power - His angels, which excel in strength - then, in its proper order, the aion houtos began (Jehovah so ruled) and manifested itself. The order of Israel would have been the display and beauty of this, and all the world (oikoumene) should have come up to own the beauty of holiness, and the Throne under the Law. Then the Law of God was the law of the earth, but proved in the people He loved (though all the saints were in His hand) and carried on below, in their responsibility, because it was to be a disposition and order of righteousness. All this failed in Babylon, and the angelic powers, the powers of the heavens, became, as we see in Daniel, the exercised administrators of men - providential power among the Gentiles. The oikoumene was persecuted - the seat and order of rule in the heavens unchanged - but "He chargeth his angels with folly, and the stars are not clean in his sight." He spent even the Son of His love in the trial of man under this administration. The righteous angels, His willing servants, but He keeping the Law, made of a woman, made under it, became the rightful Heir of all things, as, indeed, He was the Creator of all things, even the principalities and powers themselves, and having so, by inheritance, a more excellent name than they, and thus the title of all things, by every title, is His - by name, by redemption, by office, by purpose, by headship, by creation.
155 Now, on His rejection, the trial of man closed - though, in grace, there was still trial, testimony by His exaltation and Cross, and, besides that, the sure salvation of the Church. But the heavens were not changed, as to the rule of the world, but all became, on earth, in abeyance as to earthly things, save that, all power His in heaven and on earth, He sends forth, as the "Lamb in the midst of the throne," the seven Spirits of God to do His will, making all things work together for good to them that love God, 'the called according to his purpose,' and ministering the will of His grace. The direct legal administration of angelic blessing, or judgment, was lost with the Law and Throne upon earth - the Lamb's control, to whom all Angels, principalities and powers, are subject, not - and He, hid however in God, the Heavens remain unchanged, but, withal, the power of evil there. The Church, not manifesting the full heavenly power on earth (for man was sinful) by the Holy Ghost, the purpose of God in it has its place, i.e., its heavenly character, and then all, in a further sense, is in abeyance, save the sure accomplishment of the secret purpose of God, who gathers the joint heirs. But the age (aion) is still of the world, and so the Apostle of the Gentiles must call it, though the Apostle of the circumcision might, justly, first propose to the men of Israel, that gospel of the gift of the Redeemer from Zion (to return on their repentance) who should turn every one away from their iniquities. Still, though all things were secretly made to work together for good, and the angels were ministering spirits to the heirs, and, for this, controlling, as agents, whatever was to be controlled, the heavens were unchanged, and not only was man sinner upon earth, and the earth defiled, and the Law slackened and broken, but it was now clearly seen that spiritual wickedness was in heavenly places.
The aion which shook the earth, claimed righteousness on earth, and gave the Law which expected a righteousness from earth - was proved, as regards man on earth, condemnation and death, and therefore was given up, while the Gentile providential economy was therefore let go on to the accomplishment of God's other purposes, while the saints were gathering, by grace, for joint heirs. But though the Church was thereon (specially therefore from the death of Stephen) viewed as heavenly, and known, and knowing itself only there, it was hid there, and did not, in that sense, take its place in the heavens. The heavens were not shaken and changed, though evil was there. Now, before they are, the victory is given to the angelic powers under Michael, the Archangel (the great Prince that stands up for the Jews) and the devil and his angels are cast out by the Lord's power, and in the time of His will. Still the heavens are not properly changed, though cleared. This is still an angelic ministration, but unto angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come whereof we speak, but to man, the Son of Man. That action then is within the period of this age (aionos toutou), and Satan has subsequently peculiar possession, for a short time, of the earth. But then the shaking of the heavens comes, that the Son of Man may come in thunder of His power, His quiescent yet almighty strength, and the Lord's own power be manifested. He whom the King of kings, and Lord of lords shows, the blessed and only Potentate shows, comes forth as Lord of lords and King of kings Himself, and all things in heaven and on earth - the heavens being shaken, and changed as well as earth - are put under man's, even the Son of Man's feet. Then the aion ends, or is changed. This revolution in the heavens, and transfer from creature to Christ, the Son of Man, who is the Lord from heaven's power, is the great revolution that changes all things. Whatever may be secretly and providentially done before this, introduces the great and terrible day of the Lord. Everything is changed. "Yet once more I will shake not the earth only, but also heaven," and this word signifies removing. None, Jew or Gentile, of the princes of this world knew the Lord of glory - this Great One who is to come - or they would not have crucified Him. Therefore, He says to the disciples, "Ye will not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come," though then the end of the aion would come upon them - foolish Israel that rejected Him, indeed their Jehovah that was above all angels; see Isaiah 50.
156 The Church, under the administration of the Holy Ghost, comes in quite specially, being hidden with Christ in God. When He appears, we shall. But Israel is a question between - Israel under this aion and the next. The ruin of this aion is utterly clear to us, in the rejection of the Lord who is to be the Head of the next, whom we own, in whom we, by grace, are proelpikotes (having first trusted) in Christ - not to them, and therefore their trials in the latter day, first looking for the earth, under it when they have rejected the Lord, and therefore thrown, save the preserved Remnant, into the hands of the head of the aion in its worst and concentrated form. But, though grace and testimony may save and deliver them, 'gleaned grapes,' and power preserve them peradventure by flight, the whole changes, and the earth is blessed. The Sun rises with healing and blessing on His wings too, when that great revolution has taken place in the heavens. Then, though judgment and terror may be its first introduction to the wicked, still it is the judgment and manifestation of the Son of Man. It is, whatever the wickedness and pride of man, the age to come (aion mellon) that is come in, for the earth to come (oikoumene he mellousa).
157 Some references to this point will be found in notes on Revelation. It is an important one, and applies itself to much of the order of the divine dealing, and many passages, as for instance, Matthew 24.
Justification of life marks the connection, by resurrection, of the power of life with the setting aside all guilt through Him who is risen.
Note, when the Lord comes, He sets aside Satan's power in the twofold way - as having the power of death, whether by changing and not letting die, or by raising; He has overcome in resurrection, having undergone the power of death - as god and prince of this world, he will cease to be, and be cast out by Christ's reign. This He overcame in the temptation in the wilderness, binding the strong man and spoiling his goods. So He will, as to death, of all, even the wicked. Satan's power, in every sense, will be gone as to them. In the first death, it is not, though his worldly power was. When all power of evil is set aside, good will simply flow - flow, I doubt not, through Him to us as Man, but God will be "all in all."