6. THE CHURCH AGE - Acts 2:2 - Revelation 4:1
There are some very important things to know about the transition from the dispensation of the Law to the dispensation of the Church. The most obvious is that the Bible references to the Church Age fall within the references to the Law. The Church Age is the only dispensation that was hidden from Old Testament Bible scholars. The Church is described as a mystery (Mk. 4:11; Rom. 11:25; Eph. 5:32; Col. 1:26-27; etc.). As a result, even the Apostles had a difficult time recognizing they were no longer to focus upon converts becoming Jews, but upon new believers becoming members of the Body of Christ (Acts 15:1-29; Rom. 9-11; Gal. 1:1 - 5:1). Peter, as holder of the keys to the Kingdom (Matt. 16:19), was the Apostle who ushered into their fellowship the Samaritans and the Gentiles (Acts 8:14; 10:1- 48). Ironically, many denominations and cults still fail to recognize that the Church is not bound by the Old Testament Law. The most obvious example is Sabbath worship.
Also, a study of the Book of Acts will show the gradual transition between the two dispensations. The Old Testament was quoted over and over again in the first fifteen chapters, but only twice after (23:5; 28:26-27). The reason it ceased to be as significant in reaching the lost for Christ had to do with their audience. The Gospel, having been preached in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, was now being preached to the uttermost part of the world (Acts 1:8). The Apostle Paul had been recognized as the Apostle to the Gentiles at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:22; 2 Pet. 3:15-16). Paul also makes his apostleship abundantly clear in the beginning of all of his epistles except Second Thessalonians and Philemon.
Probably the most significant reason that the Church Age falls within the dispensation of the Law is that the Lord is using Israel's jealousy to prepare her for conversion (Rom. 10:19; 11:11, 26). As noted yesterday, the Tribulation is the judgment ending the dispensation of the Law. It is also known as Daniel's Seventieth Week and the Time of Jacob's Trouble (Dan. 9:24-27; Jer. 30:7). It is therefore appointed for Israel and not the Church. With the exception of the Church Age, every dispensation ends with God's judgment, His motive being to persuade those who follow to trust and obey Him. However, the Church Age is known by many as the Age of Grace because salvation is no longer by obedience, but it is by accepting Christ through the gift of faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Judgment for the Church took place at Calvary. Christ offered Himself once for us, and there is therefore no condemnation or judgment for the Church (Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 3:18; Rom. 8:1). Praise God for His magnificent grace!
Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will discuss the end of the Church Age: the Rapture.