DID JOHN 10:16 PREDICT THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST?
by Shawn Brasseaux
The Apostle John recorded Jesus Christ as saying in John 10:14-16: “ I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.  As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” Was verse 16 predicting the formation of the Church the Body of Christ? Should we agree with the many who espouse that position in the ranks of Christendom? Let us search the Scriptures.
When we read about the Lord Jesus as “Shepherd” and Him leading “sheep” in John 10:16, our minds should recall Matthew 10:6, when He had previously instructed His 12 apostles, “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In Matthew 15:24, He said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Other verses should come to mind as well. For example, Isaiah 40:11, written over 700 years B.C.: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” However, the majority of these parallel verses are in the book of Ezekiel. Its 34th chapter predicts the restoration of the nation Israel; that is, God bringing her out of her Satanic and Gentile captivity, reestablishing fellowship with her, and bringing her into her land and His earthly kingdom. As the verses quoted above suggest, Jesus Christ began to bring this restoration about during His earthly ministry (along with the ministries of John the Baptist and the 12 apostles).
Let us turn to the 34th chapter of Ezekiel and read the words of the prophet. Please note especially the bolded terms and clauses:
“ And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,  Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?  Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.  The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.  And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.  My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.”
Israel’s religious leaders—the priests and the other Levites—were unfaithful in communicating God’s Word to God’s nation. This was one reason why Israel disintegrated spiritually, economically, politically, socially, et cetera. They were not faithful to the covenant delineated in the writings of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy). Without the foundational doctrine of that Mosaic Law, the Jews embraced Satan’s plan for them. They became increasingly idolatrous, unfaithful to the one true God. God was very upset because the men He had placed to guide His people into His truth had driven them so deep into error, false religion, heathenism. His people were lost sheep, scattered and wandering about. No one cared enough to search for them and bring them back to their spiritual Father. Let us keep reading in Ezekiel chapter 34, again noting the bolded words and phrases:
“ Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;  As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;  Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;  Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.”
Divine judgment was coming upon these shepherds, these religious leaders of Israel, who thought more about themselves than about God’s people they were to lead. (Sound familiar?) God would punish these leaders for polluting His people, His nation in the Earth. He would also deliver His people from these apostate leaders, these phonies, these men of Satan. JEHOVAH God would do for Israel what no one else was willing to do for her. He would search for His sheep, seek them out, and do good unto them despite their unfaithfulness! They were so disloyal to Him as a cheating wife would be to her husband, but He was so faithful beyond words. No matter what, He would keep His word to them! The following verses provide greater detail. Again, continuing in Ezekiel chapter 34, we note the bolded words:
“ For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.  As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.  And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.  I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.  I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD.  I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.  And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats.  Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet?  And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet.”
These phrases resemble the Lord Jesus’ words in the Four Gospels—and now you know He was quoting Ezekiel! The rest of the chapter is just too awesome to ignore, so we will provide it so you can see additional glimpses into the 1000-Year Reign of Christ on Earth. Once again, note the bolded statements: “ Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle.  Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad;  Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle.  And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.  And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it.  And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods.  And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing.  And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them.  And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid.  And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more.  Thus shall they know that I the LORD their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord GOD.  And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord GOD.”
Now, with all of that background from the Prophet Ezekiel, we return to the Four Gospels to understand the purpose of Christ’s earthly ministry. In Matthew 10:6, He had instructed His 12 apostles to “go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And, in Matthew 15:24, Jesus said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The Lord Jesus and His apostles were working to fulfill Ezekiel chapter 34, among other prophecies! They were all trying to lead Israel back to faith in JEHOVAH God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were attempting to rescue Israel from the vain religious system (Satanism, idolatry) that had so corrupted them. They were trying to convert Israel so they could become His kingdom of priests and then be able to reach the Gentiles. Then, the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) and the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:12-16) would be fulfilled.
Returning to John 10:14-16, we now better understand Jesus’ words: “ I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.  As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”
Jesus Christ was the “Good Shepherd”—the Leader of Israel who would do what most of Israel’s religious leaders had failed to do for centuries upon centuries. As we read earlier, the LORD had promised in Ezekiel 34:12: “As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.” The Lord Jesus was starting to fulfill this in His earthly ministry.
Check Luke 12:31-32, Jesus’ promise to give Israel’s kingdom to her believing remnant: “ But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” See also Luke 22:28-30. This “little flock”—John the Baptist’s converts, disciples of Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry, and the converts of the 12 Apostles in early Acts—are those who Jesus Christ has led back to Father God (thus fulfilling Ezekiel chapter 34, for example). They will (future from our day) become the kingdom of priests that God intended to form with Abraham’s descendants!
Returning one last time to John chapter 10: “ I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.  As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” When Jesus spoke these words, there were still more lost Jews who needed to be converted by placing their faith in Him and being water baptized. Remember, later, Peter’s preaching led to the conversion of almost 3,000 Jewish souls on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). Another 5,000 Jews were saved through the Apostles’ preaching in Acts 4:4. John 10:16 was referring to this. Additional Israelites (“lost sheep of the house of Israel”) were now forsaking their spiritual wickedness and ignorance, and coming to understand Jesus Christ as their Messiah-King. This formation of Israel’s Little Flock continued throughout the rest of the book of Acts until we come to Paul’s ministry, before it eventually fell away. That Little Flock will form the earthly kingdom of priests when Jesus Christ returns (1 Peter 2:9-10; Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 11:15; Revelation 20:6; cf. Zechariah 8:20-23; Isaiah 61:6; Jeremiah 3:17; Exodus 19:5-6).
THE BODY OF CHRIST – A SECRET UNTIL THE APOSTLE PAUL
Friend, now, notice this often-overlooked passage from Ephesians. Chapter 3: “ For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,  If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:  How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,  Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)  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;  That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:  Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.  Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;  And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:”
The Holy Spirit led the Apostle Paul to write that God’s people did not always know about the Church the Body of Christ. There was a time when that “fellowship” of believing Jews and Gentiles in one Body was completely unknown to man (verses 3-9). Hence, it is called “the mystery” (secret). These verses say that Paul’s ministry was the “due time” that God finally revealed the secret that He had kept hidden in Himself (see Romans 16:25-26; Colossians 1:24-26; 1 Timothy 2:3-87; Titus 1:1-3). Had Jesus Christ predicted the Body of Christ in John 10:16, then it could not have been “hid in God” until Paul (Ephesians 3:9).
Jesus Christ in no way spoke of the Church the Body of Christ in the books of Matthew through John. John 10:16 is certainly not a reference to us, the Church the Body of Christ. God’s purpose in Christ’s earthly ministry was to form believing Israel, not the Body of Christ. Jesus Christ did not speak about the Church the Body of Christ during His earthly ministry (Matthew through John) because it was not time to reveal it. To force us into Christ’s earthly ministry is just another error that causes us to (wrongly) conclude that we are the nation Israel, that we have replaced Israel, that we are a continuation of Israel, and so on. Do not disregard dispensational Bible boundaries and harmonize the Bible passages that are meant to be separated. We are to “study… rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Friends, let us look at verses in context. A failure to do so will just bring about more confusion.