By his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the “last days,” the time of the Church… (CCC 732). Help me be ready.
I view history in three epochs. The first epoch is the Old Testament (BC) period. The second is the time of the Gospels. The third is the time of the Church (AD) period. Each is defined by our relationship with God in the three persons of the Holy Trinity. Each expands and matures our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Each is a season of growth for His people. Each ends in a harvest of His people.
The Old Testament begins with the creation of all things, including our first parents. They walked with God and were given the task to cultivate and care for the Garden. Their Fall from Grace led to their expulsion from the Garden and the beginnings of our sojourn in this valley of tears. Through a series of covenants (explained more fully elsewhere), God raised His wayward children and reformed His family.
In the Epoch of the Old Testament, God the Father is our understanding of God as a person. He is stern in the discipline of His children and guides them to grow in their relationship with Him. It’s a time of spiritual childhood when children mostly hear, “thou shalt not” and “because I said so” in response to their inquiries. The people of God received His Ten Commandments directly from Him… but rebelled immediately. Stricter discipline was implemented for their infidelity in the Mosaic Law.
The last books of the Old Testament Bible are the books of Maccabees in the deuterocanonical works. These tell the story of Israel as a remnant nation fighting to restore their religious observances. Among the stories of rebellion are heroic stories of faithfulness through incredible adversity. The Martyrdom of a Mother and Her Seven Sons tells of steadfastness in faith even through the pain of torture and death (2 Macc 7). Maccabees tells of a scattering of the flock and a harvest of the faithful.
The Gospels are the story of God walking among us in the person of Christ. He came to gather His sheep lost through fear of death (Heb 2:14-15). It is a time of spiritual adolescence as we come to understand the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of Christ. He came to show us how to love and serve God. He came to be our pascal sacrifice on the cross. All of His life led to the cross. In our Lord’s final hours, the flock was scattered… but He was faithful to them. This short Epoch of the Incarnation showed Christ living out the Old Testament in Himself (Luke 24:27) to become the harvest.
Our Lord spent 40 days with His Apostles after His Resurrection and until His Ascension teaching them of the Kingdom (Acts 1:3). He established His Church in the world, the visible Kingdom (CCC 567). The Epoch of the Church brings humanity to spiritual adulthood. Our Lord promised the Holy Spirit to the Church to teach and remind us of all that He taught the Apostles (John 14:26). In this epoch, we have Tradition (2 Thess 2:15) to ground our faith, New Testament Scripture to hear God’s voice (2 Tim 3:16), and the Magisterium of the Church to teach and expound upon truth (Acts 2:42).
Scripture and the teachings of the Church tell us there will be a harvest at the end of this epoch as well (Rev 14:15). There will be a scattering of the flock and a harvest of the faithful. Our Lord will come like a thief in the night (1 Thess 5:1-2) with no one knowing the hour or the day. We must be ready for His return. We must be vigilant in our faith. We must be ready for the harvest.
If the Epochs of the Church may be described as I have here, we may see a triune God reaching out as individual persons to a maturing humanity. Our story begins with God the Father as our primary image in the Old Testament. We meet God the Son who is Christ in the Gospels. We move with God the Holy Spirit in the age of the Church. Each epoch involves our growing and deepening relationship with the Trinity. Each epoch ends in a harvest of the faithful.