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.
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)