Monthly Archives: June 2018

Was Luke 21:20-24 fulfilled in A.D. 70?

WAS LUKE 21:20-24 FULFILLED IN A.D. 70?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Friend, if you are familiar with prophecy preachers and teachers, you will have invariably heard the recurrent reference to A.D. 70. Is this year significant in Scripture, as so frequently claimed? We are not interested in theological speculations or religious traditions. “For what saith the Scriptures?”

Luke 21:20-24 is perhaps the passage most commonly utilized to uphold the “A.D. 70” position: “[20] And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. [21] Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. [22] For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. [23] But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. [24] And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

Dr. Scofield attached the following footnote to verse 20:

“Verses 20, 24 are not included in the report of the Olivet discourse as given by Matthew and Mark. Two sieges of Jerusalem are in view in that discourse. Luke 21. 20-24 refers to the siege by Titus, A.D. 70, when the city was taken, and verse 24 literally fulfilled. But that siege and its horrors but adumbrate the final siege at the end of this age, in which ‘the great tribulation’ culminates. At that time the city will be taken, but delivered by the glorious appearing of the Lord (Rev. 19. 11-21). The references in Mt. 24. 15-28, Mk. 13. 14-26 are to the final tribulation siege; Lk. 21. 20-24 to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. In Luke the sign is the compassing of Jerusalem by armies (Lk. 21. 20); in Matthew (24. 15) and Mark (13. 14) the sign is the abomination in the holy place (2 Thes. 2. 4).”

Is Luke 21:20-24 in fact, as commonly assumed, a reference to Titus attacking Jerusalem in A.D. 70? While this author once held that view, he has since studied his Bible to see that A.D. 70 is not found here or anywhere else in Scripture. In this study, he will offer his four reasons for abandoning the “A.D. 70 interpretation.”

1. WILL ISRAEL BE DISPERSED NEAR THE END OF THE TRIBULATION, JUST PRIOR TO CHRIST’S SECOND COMING?

The “A.D. 70 proponent” says: “No. Israel was scattered in the A.D. 70 invasion of Jerusalem, but will not be dispersed at the end of the Tribulation. Since Luke 21:24 says Israel will be ‘led away captive into all nations,’ the verse must be speaking of A.D. 70.” (What Scripture can this individual offer to verify his assertion that Israel will not be scattered in the Tribulation? This author knows of no such verse.)

In contrast, this author replies, “Yes, Israel will indeed be scattered at the end of the Tribulation.” Zechariah 14:1-4 says: “[1] Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. [2] For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. [3] Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. [4] And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.”

Verse 4 is obviously Christ’s Second Coming, when Jesus Himself literally stands in wrath and judgment on the Mount of Olives (cf. Acts 1:9-12, especially verse 11). Verse 3 of Zechariah chapter 14 is the Battle of Armageddon, which is paired with the Second Coming. Verse 2, of course, would also be tied to that Second Coming.

What exactly do we find in Zechariah 14:2? “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.” Does this not resemble Luke 21:24? “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” There is war in Jerusalem, the city is captured, the houses are robbed, the women are sexually assaulted and enslaved, half of the city is taken away captive, and a remnant survives and remains in the city. Zechariah and Luke are prophesying the same event!

In light of the above analyses, the “A.D. 70 interpretation” of Luke 21:20-24 only complicates the Bible. On the basis of Zechariah 14:1-4, we would be forced to infer that the Second Coming occurred in A.D. 70. Did it? The preterists say yes, but this author disagrees. He abandoned the A.D. 70 interpretation once he saw these dangerous implications. It is totally inconceivable that Jesus Christ returned in A.D. 70 and fulfilled all Bible prophecy. That was 2,000 years ago, and Satan is working mightily on Earth even now. Israel is still fighting to keep the Promised Land from domineering Gentiles. She is still without her Davidic Kingdom. The curse of sin has yet to be lifted. Is this as good as it will get? Has Christ returned?! (No!) When Christ returns to our planet—yes, that Second Coming is future—we can be absolutely sure all of these problems will be solved. This is how we know Christ did not return in A.D. 70.

2. WHERE DOES LUKE 21:21 FIT ON THE BIBLE TIMELINE? A.D. 70? OR IS IT YET FUTURE?

Read verse 21: “Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.” According to Matthew chapter 24 (verses 14-21), this will be in the midst of Daniel’s 70th Week. Luke 21:21 must be future because this verse is true during the Antichrist’s reign. Otherwise, we entertained the idea that the Antichrist came in the A.D. first century and forced Jews to flee from Jerusalem then. So, if that is the case, is there a future Daniel’s 70th Week and a future Antichrist? Or, as the preterists argue, is all now past? Inserting A.D. 70 in the Scripture here just adds difficulties… needless snags that could be avoided.

3. WAS “ALL” OF BIBLE PROPHECY FULFILLED IN A.D. 70?

Verse 22 of Luke chapter 21 says, “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” Were all Bible prophecies fulfilled in A.D. 70? As briefly noted earlier, the preterists believe that. Furthermore, if we say Luke 21:20-24 applies to A.D. 70, we have no other conclusion to reach but to agree with them—that all prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70. Was it? Be consistent, dear friend. Do not split up the passage; we do not have liberty to do that. Friend, we cannot have it both ways. Either all four verses are future from us, or all four are history from us.

4. LUKE 21:23 SPEAKS OF GOD’S WRATH ON ISRAEL, YET THERE IS NO WRATH IN THE DISPENSATION OF GRACE!

Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry never, ever spoke of A.D. 70. Verse 23 foretells wrath: “But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.”

There is absolutely no wrath of God being displayed in this the Dispensation of Grace. Israel as a nation does not exist in our dispensation. She is fallen, temporarily blinded; it serves no purpose to judge her when her program is not even operating right now! Read Romans chapters 9-11, friend, and you will see the dispensational boundaries that cannot be crossed. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Keeping prophecy and mystery separate is absolutely critical to our understanding the Holy Bible.

Romans chapter 11: “[11] I say then, Have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?…. [25] For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. [26] And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:….”

Second Corinthians chapter 5 characterizes this the Dispensation of Grace: “[17] Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. [18] And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; [19] To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. [20] Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. [21] For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles [all nations]” (Romans 11:13). As God’s spokesman to all nations, Paul was led on 13 occasions to write, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 3). Each of Paul’s epistles greets the world (including fallen Israel) with “grace and peace” (opposite “wrath and war”). Again, 2 Corinthians 5:19: God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Because of Calvary, God is not angry at nations today. He is being kind to them!

Concerning “the Dispensation of the Grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2), God’s attitude toward all nations is “grace and peace.” There is no Law system operating today as in Israel’s program. Israel’s Law system was simply to prove that God would have to save mankind according to His grace, not man’s religious efforts. Now, He is manifesting His grace (unmerited favor) to mankind in a very special way today—the soul salvation found in Jesus Christ’s shed blood. In the Dispensation of Grace, God is freely and unconditionally offering the nations (including Israel) salvation through Jesus Christ. God is longsuffering, and has been for 2,000 years, for the people of the world to respond in faith. Once they trust His Son, He permanently reconciles with them individually.

Again, through the cross of Christ, God is offering to all nations—all the world—a chance to be reconciled with Him. He has suspended Israel’s special status, that all nations approach Him on an equal basis. They can come as individuals (faith in Christ alone) and join the Church the Body of Christ. This began with Paul’s salvation in Acts chapter 9, and carries on even now. It was true in A.D. 70, which shows us that God could not have poured out wrath on Israel (Jerusalem) in A.D. 70. Luke 21:20-24 applies to a future time, a period after our Dispensation of Grace, when God will pour out His wrath on sinners! Until then, Paul’s salvation is the pattern: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

CONCLUSION

Based on the aforementioned Bible verses, what are to believe about A.D. 70 and Luke 21:20-24? Does the Bible speak of A.D. 70 at all?

  1. Israel being scattered is not limited to A.D. 70. According to Zechariah 14:1-4, there will be a dispersion of Israel just before the Second Coming of Christ. If the scattering of Israel in Luke 21:24 is A.D. 70, that leaves open the possibility that the Second Coming occurred 2,000 years ago as well. This is exactly what the preterists believe, but this author rejects that postulation entirely. In fact, we know that Luke 21:24 is speaking of Israel’s dispersion just before the Second Coming because verses 25-28 are the Second Coming and its precursors. A.D. 70 is not in view in Luke 20:21-24.
  2. Israel fleeing to the mountains in Luke 21:21 is yet future because the companion verses Matthew 24:15-21 and Mark 13:14-19 are also future (the Antichrist desecrating the Jerusalem Temple). Luke 21:20-24 is entirely forthcoming—none of it was fulfilled in A.D. 70. Furthermore, despite what people say about Luke 21:24 supposedly pointing to A.D. 70, its companion verses (verses 21-23) look 2,000 years into the future… to a time even beyond our day. A.D. 70 cannot be inserted here.
  3. Luke 21:23 allows only “all” prophecies to be fulfilled—yet, “all things” were not fulfilled in A.D. 70. Or, if we believe Luke 21:24 was fulfilled in A.D. 70, then we make ourselves vulnerable to saying all of the passage (including the Second Coming and its signs in verses 25-28) was fulfilled in A.D. 70. Was all Bible prophecy fulfilled in A.D. 70? If not, then Luke 21:23 says verse 24 was not fulfilled in A.D. 70 either.
  4. The most glaring error in saying Luke 21:24 was fulfilled in A.D. 70 is to insert the prophetic program into the mystery program. We have the awkward transition from mystery to prophecy and back to mystery again. The Dispensation of Grace (mystery program) is operating with Paul’s ministry in Acts, but it would have to give way to the prophetic program in A.D. 70 so Jesus’ words in Luke 21:24 can be fulfilled. We now have Jesus in His earthly ministry predicting an event in the Dispensation of Grace, which weakens the “secret” emphasis of said dispensation. Mystery somehow (?) returned after A.D. 70, which is where we find ourselves today. If all prophecy has been fulfilled, then the prophetic program is permanently terminated instead of temporarily interrupted.

If the “A.D. 70 interpretation” stands, unanswerable confusion results. There is no smooth narrative in the Bible passages. Two attacks of Jerusalem are not in view in the Olivet Discourse of Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13, and Luke chapter 21. These verses look toward one attack of Jerusalem future from us—just prior to the Second Coming of Christ. In no way would Jesus in His earthly ministry speak of an event that would happen in the Dispensation of Grace. Jesus Christ would never reveal the Dispensation of Grace in His earthly ministry because that information would be kept secret until He revealed it to Paul (Ephesians 3:1-11).

While much more could be said, this author believes the dangers of “A.D. 70” have been underscored enough that this study can now conclude. A.D. 70 has nothing to do with anything in the Bible and the Bible has nothing to do with A.D. 70.

Also see:
» Are we “doom and gloom” prophecy believers?
» What is the Dispensation of Grace?
» What do you mean—“the prophetic program” and “the mystery program?”

Why did Naaman want some of Israel’s soil?

WHY DID NAAMAN WANT SOME OF ISRAEL’S SOIL?

by Shawn Brasseaux

For those unfamiliar with him, Naaman appears in 2 Kings chapter 5. He was what we would call a proselyte—a Gentile convert to Judaism (Israel’s religion).

Captain of the Syrian army, Naaman (a Gentile, non-Jew), is “a mighty man in valour [courage, heroism]” and “a leper” (suffering from a skin disease) (verse 1). When Naaman hears of a prophet (Elisha) in Israel who can heal him of his disease, the king of Syria permits Naaman to visit the land of Israel (verses 2-9). Naaman arrives at Elisha’s home to hear some rather strange advice: he is to wash in the (filthy) Jordan River seven times and be healed of JEHOVAH (verses 10,11). Naaman questions, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage” (verse 12). Upset and disappointed, Naaman refuses to go to Jordan.

A servant of Naaman reasons with him, encouraging him to obey God’s Word through Elisha (verse 13). Naaman finally goes to the Jordan River, still thinking Israel’s God is quite bizarre. “Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (verse 14).

Naaman, utterly shocked, returns to give Elisha a gift, but the prophet refuses (verses 15,16). Representative of the few Gentiles who have faith in Israel’s God, Naaman confesses, “Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel.” Earlier, recall that Naaman said Syria’s rivers were better than all of Israel’s bodies of waters (verse 12). After his healing, Naaman recognized JEHOVAH, Israel’s God, was the one true God. He learned that the land of Israel was unique because the God of Israel was incomparable. In fact, he asked if he could take two loads of Israel’s holy soil back home to Syria!

We continue reading in the chapter: “[17] And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules’ burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD. [18] In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing.”

Evidently, Naaman, having spent time with Jewish people (the little Jewess of verses 2-4; the prophet Elisha, and his servant; et cetera), learned a few things from the Mosaic Law (Israel’s Bible). Naaman understood that Israel’s God was the one true God, and came to see that the gods of his native Syria were worthless idols. Therefore, he promised to worship Israel’s God alone. Why did Naaman want some of the soil of Palestine though?

Evidently, Naaman requested some of Israel’s soil to follow verse 24 of the twentieth chapter of Exodus. Notice Exodus chapter 20: “[23] Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold. [24] An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. [25] And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.” Although Naaman lived far away in Syria, he had converted to JEHOVAH God. Obeying Moses, he took some Palestinian soil back to Syria in order to build an altar of earth to Israel’s God. It would be on Israel’s soil—though in a foreign land—that Naaman would sacrifice to the LORD God.

NOTE: Dear friends, I recently re-taught and re-uploaded three videos from the 2017 Slidell Grace Bible Conference. Sessions 2, 3, and 8 are now on YouTube as they were originally meant to be all those months ago. The first two sessions are two hours total on Daniel’s 70th Week. The last session deals with The Millennium. I hope and pray that these studies will help you better understand Bible prophecy dispensationally delivered! You are welcome! Click here for the playlist. 🙂

Also see:
» What does “a land flowing with milk and honey” mean?
» How were Gentiles saved before our Dispensation of Grace?
» Why did Israel have to keep so many strange laws?

Do we live in the “Church Age?”

DO WE LIVE IN THE “CHURCH AGE?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

The answer is an emphatic “NO.”

An age is a period of time. Regardless of the age, God has always “called out” a people from the world’s population. (The Greek word rendered “church” in our New Testament Scriptures is “ekklesia/ecclesia,” with “ek-” meaning “out” and “kaleo” defined as “call.”) Throughout human history, the God of the Bible has constantly maintained a small group of believers (servants) He has “called out” from ordinary mankind. Consequently, every age can be appropriately considered a “church age.” Although a term frequently used by dispensationalists, this author can no longer agree with the expression “Church Age.” Here are the verses that helped him correct his understanding, and toss out his own traditions of men.

THE MOSAIC CHURCH

Stephen preached in Acts chapter 7: “[37] This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. [38] This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: [39] To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,….”

The Bible calls the nation Israel under Moses’ leadership “the church in the wilderness.” JEHOVAH God had “called them out of” (ekklesia) Egyptian bondage, for He intended them to serve Him in His land (the Promised Land). He delivered them from Pharaoh’s captivity and separated them from all the peoples of the world. This is a national separation.

THE MESSIANIC CHURCH

Although Israel was a separated people from the world, there were unbelievers in the nation. JEHOVAH God therefore took a remnant of believers “out of” (ekklesia) national Israel. The ministry of John the Baptist began to draw people out of apostate, corrupt, satanically-inspired Israel (see Matthew 3:1-17, Matthew 11:7-19, and Luke 1:13-17). These Jewish people believed that Jesus was Messiah/Christ, the Son of God.

Matthew 16:16 tells us: “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Also, John 11:27: “She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” The rest of Israel was apostate, fallen away from the truths that God had revealed to her. Most Israelites, consumed by self-righteousness, refused to believe on Christ Jesus; yea, they crucified Him in unbelief (Acts 2:22-23).

Paul commented about Israel’s unbelief in Romans 10:19: “But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.” The “no people,” the “foolish nation,” is the Little Flock, Israel’s believing remnant (cf. Deuteronomy 32:21). Christ Jesus spoke of them in Luke chapter 12: “[31] But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. [32] Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This group of believers will enter the Millennium, the 1000-Year Reign of Christ, as God’s kingdom of priests (cf. 1 Peter 2:3-10).

Let us look once more at Matthew chapter 16: “[16] And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. [17] And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. [18] And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [19] And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Hebrews 2:11-13 also speaks of the Little Flock: “[11] For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, [12] Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. [13] And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.” Verse 12 is from Psalm 22:22; verse 13 quotes Isaiah 8:17-18. The Old Testament prophets spoke of the Messianic Church, the church of Matthew 16:18.

The Messianic Church is not every Jew, but every true Jew, every Jew circumcised in the heart and not just in the flesh. Romans chapter 2 comments: “[28] For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: [29] But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” God wanted Abraham’s seed not only to be physically circumcised but spiritually as well. Their sin problem had to be addressed, and their vain works-religion was not enough.

Notice these other references to the Messianic Church:

  • Acts 2:47: “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church such as should be served.”
  • Acts chapter 8: “[1] And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles…. [3] As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.”
  • Hebrews 12:23: “To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,….”
  • 1 Corinthians 15:9: “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
  • Galatians 1:13: “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:….”
  • Philippians 3:6: “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”

Non-dispensationalists have repeatedly tried (unsuccessfully) to use the above verses to say that the Church the Body of Christ had to have existed before Paul because Paul says he persecuted “the church” as a lost man. To claim this is to do nothing but advertise Bible ignorance. Of course there was a church prior to Paul. To say otherwise is to claim that Paul was the first person ever to get forgiveness of sins, have eternal life, and be called out to be used of God! (And this author knows of no dispensationalist—including himself—who believes such silliness.) The Messianic Church existed before Paul, but the Body of Christ did not exist until Paul.

THE MYSTERY CHURCH

When we come to the mystery program (Romans 16:25-26 cf. Acts 3:21), we find a third church in God’s dealings with man. This is the Church the Body of Christ, of which we are a part today if we have trusted Christ. There is no nation Israel today in the Dispensation of Grace, and no Little Flock today. However, God has another group of people “called out” (ekklesia) for His name. He is calling this group out from Jews and Gentiles without distinction—namely, anyone who will come by faith alone in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for their sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Romans chapter 11: “[11] I say then, Have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:….”

Notice the Church the Body of Christ as found in the Pauline Epistles alone:

  • Ephesians 1:22-23: “[22] And [Father God] hath put all things under his [Christ’s] feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, [23] Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
  • Ephesians 5:23: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.”
  • Colossians 1:18,24: “[18] And he [Christ] is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. [24] Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:….”

As noted earlier, the idea of today’s “Church Age” stems from the common misconception that there is only one church in the Bible. This author, many years ago, was shocked to read a major denomination alleging that the first member of the Church the Body of Christ was Adam! What nonsense. If we are living in the “Church Age,” then there would be nothing but a “church age” throughout history. In fact, the “church age,” as some would reckon it, would actually go all the way back to Adam!

Sadly, whenever such traditionalists see the word “church” in the Bible, they automatically think of the Body of Christ. Using this philosophy, they will remove the word “church” from the Bible text when it does not fit their preconceived idea. They want to retranslate, or soften, “church” in Acts 7:38. They force the Body of Christ into Matthew 16:18, Acts 2:47, and various other places. Such widespread failure to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) is the reason why unbelief and confusion run rampant in our assemblies! No wonder people dislike the Bible, criticize the Bible, throw out the Bible. Dear friends, may we get this issue straight—or we will indeed lose Bible clarity!

A MORE CORRECT TERM

The Dispensation of the Grace of God covers a period of time. A dispensation is not a time period but it covers a time period. That time period is an age. Ephesians chapter 3 says: “[1] For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, [2] If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: [3] How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, [4] Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) [5] Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;….”

In “other ages” (verse 5), the mystery was not revealed. However, it is known in this age. Jesus Christ revealed it directly to the Apostle Paul, and then the Holy Spirit used Paul’s ministry and writings to show everyone else. That body of information is titled “the dispensation of the grace of God” (verse 2). We can thus call our age “the Age of Grace” (as some have rightly done over the years). But, this too may generate a question—which this author anticipates and will answer now.

Has not God always been gracious? For example, in Genesis 6:8, did not Noah “[find] grace in the eyes of the LORD?” Indeed. God has always manifested His grace, but Ephesians 3:2 says the Dispensation of Grace has not always been operating. Grace as demonstrated in this the Dispensation of Grace is the Gospel of the Grace of God that was committed to Paul’s trust (Acts 20:24). Never before in human history has God ever granted the whole world—when it was so deserving of His wrath—equal access to Him and salvation though the shed blood of Christ. We can be justified before Him by faith and escape that righteous wrath that is still coming. Refer to the first five chapters of the Book of Romans, especially chapter 3.

It is not until our dispensation when God began uniting believing Jews and Gentiles in one body—the Church the Body of Christ (see Ephesians 2:11-22 and Ephesians 3:1-11). Prior to that, God was forming the nation Israel. If a Gentile (non-Jew) wanted to participate in what God was doing, he had to come through Israel (Genesis 12:1-3). This distinction is temporarily suspended, and will be until our dispensation terminates at the Rapture (the Body of Christ gathering to Christ in Heaven).

CONCLUSION

Despite what you have heard, dear friend, we do not live in “the Church Age.” Throughout human history, God has constantly maintained a small group of believers (servants) He has “called out” from ordinary mankind. Every age is a “church age.” Furthermore, there is more than one church in the Bible. We can think of at least three churches in Scripture.

The first “church” is the nation Israel in the wilderness under Moses (Acts 7:38); we can call that the Mosaic Church. The second “church” is the Little Flock, formed of Israel’s believing remnant beginning with John the Baptist’s ministry (Matthew 16:18); this is the Messianic Church. The third “church” is the Church the Body of Christ, which began with the Apostle Paul when he was converted in Acts chapter 9 (cf. 1 Timothy 1:15-16); we can call this the Mystery Church (Ephesians 3:1-11). It is very important to keep these churches “rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15) or we will get confused in Scripture.

It is therefore entirely misleading to say one single time period, especially our present day, is the “Church Age.” Despite popular belief, the word “church” is not unique to our dispensation. Contrary to the common opinion, there is more than one church in the Bible. It is thus equally wrong to say that we live in the “Church Age.” If you want a term to use for our age, try “the Age of Grace.” God Almighty is manifesting His favor to man in a special way today—the Gospel of the Grace of God (Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 3:21-28).

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Also see:
» Did the Church the Body of Christ begin in Acts chapter 2?
» Did John 10:16 predict the Church the Body of Christ?
» Is the Church the Body of Christ spoken of in Matthew 16:18?