What is the Church Age?
An “age” is an historical period of time or an era. Some historians divide human history into many epochs and name them according to their defining characteristics: Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Middle Ages, Modern Age, Postmodern Age, etc. Biblical history, too, can be divided into different eras. When those divisions emphasize God’s interaction with His creation, we call them dispensations. More broadly, biblical history can be divided into two periods, roughly following the division of Old and New Testaments: the Age of the Law and the Church Age.
The Church Age is the period of time from Pentecost (Acts 2) to the Rapture (foretold in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). It is called the Church Age because it covers the period in which the Church is on earth. It corresponds with the dispensation of Grace. In prophetic history, it falls between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27; Romans 11). Jesus predicted the Church Age in Matthew 16:18 when He said, “I will build my church.” Jesus has kept His promise, and His Church has now been growing for almost 2,000 years.
The Church is composed of those individuals who have by faith accepted Christ Jesus as their Savior and Lord (John 1:12; Acts 9:31). Therefore, the Church is people rather than denominations or buildings. It is the Body of Christ of which He is the head (Ephesians 1:22-23). The Greek word ecclesia, translated “church,” means “a called-out assembly.” The Church is universal in scope but meets locally in smaller bodies.
The Church Age comprises the entire dispensation of Grace. “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). For the first time in history, God actually indwells His creatures, permanently and eternally. In other dispensations the Holy Spirit was always present and always at work, but He would come upon people temporarily (e.g., 1 Samuel 16:14). The Church Age is marked by the Holy Spirit’s permanent indwelling of His people (John 14:16).
Scripture makes a distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church (1 Corinthians 10:32). There is some overlap because, individually, many Jews believe in Jesus as their Messiah and are therefore part of the Church. But God’s covenants with the nation of Israel have not yet been fulfilled. Those promises await fulfillment during the Millennial Kingdom, after the Church Age ends (Ezekiel 34; 37; 45; Jeremiah 30; 33; Matthew 19:28; Revelation 19).
The Church Age will end when God’s people are raptured out of the world and taken to be with the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:51-57). The Rapture will be followed in heaven by the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9) as the Church, the Bride of Christ, receives her heavenly reward. Until then, the Church carries on in hope, exhorted to “stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
What is predestination?
Romans 8:29-30 tells us, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Ephesians 1:5 and 11 declare, “He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” Many people have a strong hostility to the doctrine of predestination. However, predestination is a biblical doctrine. The key is understanding what predestination means, biblically.
The words translated “predestined” in the Scriptures referenced above are from the Greek word proorizo, which carries the meaning of “determine beforehand,” “ordain,” “to decide upon ahead of time.” So, predestination is God determining certain things to occur ahead of time. What did God determine ahead of time? According to Romans 8:29-30, God predetermined that certain individuals would be conformed to the likeness of His Son, be called, justified, and glorified. Essentially, God predetermines that certain individuals will be saved. Numerous scriptures refer to believers in Christ being chosen (Matthew 24:22, 31; Mark 13:20, 27; Romans 8:33, 9:11, 11:5-7, 28; Ephesians 1:11; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1-2, 2:9; 2 Peter 1:10). Predestination is the biblical doctrine that God in His sovereignty chooses certain individuals to be saved.
The most common objection to the doctrine of predestination is that it is unfair. Why would God choose certain individuals and not others? The important thing to remember is that no one deserves to be saved. We have all sinned (Romans 3:23), and are all worthy of eternal punishment (Romans 6:23). As a result, God would be perfectly just in allowing all of us to spend eternity in hell. However, God chooses to save some of us. He is not being unfair to those who are not chosen, because they are receiving what they deserve. God’s choosing to be gracious to some is not unfair to the others. No one deserves anything from God; therefore, no one can object if he does not receive anything from God. An illustration would be a man randomly handing out money to five people in a crowd of twenty. Would the fifteen people who did not receive money be upset? Probably so. Do they have a right to be upset? No, they do not. Why? Because the man did not owe anyone money. He simply decided to be gracious to some.
If God is choosing who is saved, doesn’t that undermine our free will to choose and believe in Christ? The Bible says that we have the choice—all who believe in Jesus Christ will be saved (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10). The Bible never describes God rejecting anyone who believes in Him or turning away anyone who is seeking Him (Deuteronomy 4:29). Somehow, in the mystery of God, predestination works hand-in-hand with a person being drawn by God (John 6:44) and believing unto salvation (Romans 1:16). God predestines who will be saved, and we must choose Christ in order to be saved. Both facts are equally true. Romans 11:33 proclaims, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”