The Church Age

Excerpt from The Church Truth Series

Many Christians do not understand where the Church fits in God’s time table. Many confuse the New Testament Church with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. As a result many bring Old Testament law and principles into the New Testament Church. This leads to great confusion and error.

It is very important that we see the clear distinction between the Church and Israel. The Bible clearly teaches us that the New Testament Church is a "mystery." (Eph. 3:1-11) This does not mean the Church is "mysterious." A "mystery" is truth that was hidden in God, and is now revealed to man. (1 Cor. 2:7) In other words, it is something that God knew, but held from man until His appointed time. Such is the Church!

The Old Testament prophets did not know about the Church. (1 Peter 1:10-12) We can look back now and see illustrations of the Church in the Old Testament, but the Church itself did not exist then and was unknown to the prophets. While the Old Testament clearly indicates that Gentile nations would come into blessing through the promised Messiah (Gen. 18:18; 22:18), the truth that Jews and Gentiles would be brought together, on an equal basis, in one new man in Christ was never revealed in the Old Testament. (Eph. 2:15; 3:5, 6)

The Old Testament prophets looked forward to Christ’s reign in His kingdom on this earth. (Jesus’s disciples thought the time had come for Christ to set up His kingdom on the earth, with Israel being the center of blessing on the earth. [Acts 1:6]) The prophets were not given to see the Church Age in which we now live. It is a parenthesis in God’s time table with the nation of Israel, whom He promised to restore in the land. (Ezek. 36-37).

In Daniel chapter 9, Daniel was informed of God’s future dealings with the nation of Israel. He was told that 483 years (69 weeks of 7 years each) after the decree was given to rebuild the city of Jerusalem (Dan. 9:25; Neh. 2:1-8), the promised Messiah would be cut off (9:26). This was perfectly fulfilled in Christ when He was crucified. Daniel is also informed of another week (7 years) in which the nation of Israel will sign a covenant with a world leader, only to have him break it after half a week (three and a half years).

Christ referred to Daniel’s prophecy and spoke of the tribulation that would come upon Israel in those last seven years, and in particular of the "great tribulation" that shall come during the last three and a half years after the covenant is broken. (Matt 24:15-24) This period is known as "Jacob’s trouble." (Jer. 30:7)

Since Daniel’s prophecy concerning the cutting off of the Messiah has taken place and his prophecy concerning the seven year tribulation period has not taken place, there must be a gap between the 69th week (483 years) and the beginning of the 70th week (484-490 years). This gap of unknown length in God’s time table with Israel is known as the "Church Age." It is this period of which the Old Testament prophets had no knowledge.

During this age Christ is building His Church just as He said He would (Matt. 16:18). The Gospel concerning God’s Son Jesus Christ is being taken unto all nations, and each new believer, whether Jew or Gentile, is being added to the Church. (Acts 2:47)

The age is characterized by the fact that the Holy Spirit has been sent to earth by the glorified Christ to unite believers, both Jews and Gentiles, together into the body of Christ and to indwell each believer. (Acts 2:33; 1 Cor. 6:19; 12:13)