There is one God and within the Bible there are the people that do what God instructs, the people who obey God. That said, within the Bible, there are different instructions that God gives to different peoples and throughout different periods of time within history.
God’s churches have changed over time. Within the Bible, what God has purposed for His saints has changed throughout Genesis to Revelation. It is important for God’s people to know where they belong in God’s timeline so that they can know what their function is at that time in history – what God would have them do and what His will is. There are different functions that God would have people to perform in His purpose for the ages.
Contrary to Covenant Theology teaching, there is more than one church within the Bible. The word “church” means a called out assembly, a congregation. The word “church” comes from the Greek and thus the word is not used within the Old Testament. The Old Testament uses the word congregation:
Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: (Exodus 12:3)
It is this congregation of Israel that Stephen refers to in Acts 7:38, just before his stoning.
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. 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: (Acts 7:37-38)
Thus, the first church identified within the Bible is the “church in the wilderness” spoken of throughout the Old Testament. The church in the wilderness was Israel under the Law. God gave this church, the nation Israel, 613 laws to follow – what clothes they would wear, who they would marry, what food they would eat, and how they would act morally. This church was given a sacrificial system in order to address their sin problem and they were instructed to be separate from other nations. Again, the church in the wilderness was a nation, Israel (Psalm 33:12; Psalm 135:4), and that is contrasted with the Church of today, the body of Christ, which has no national identity as it is an entity that crosses national borders, speaks many different languages, has differing cultures, and has no military. Israel, as a nation, had all these things.
To the church in the wilderness, a kingdom on planet earth was promised (Deut 28:1; Deut 28:13; Ex 19:5-6; Is 61:6). Just like John the Baptist that preceeded Him, the King came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom (Mk 1:14; Mt 4:23; Mt 9:35). The Kingdom was nigh – Israel only needed to accept Jesus as their prophesied Messiah. Thus the King, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ came to planet earth in bodily form, but the nation Israel rejected Him:
But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 15:24)
He came unto his own, and his own received him not. (John 1:11)
Because of this, the King told His nation’s leadership (the pharisees, the priests, the scribes) that He was taking the Kingdom away from them and that He would be giving it to a nation that would bear the fruits thereof:
Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. (Matthew 21:43)
Jesus the Christ stated that the Kingdom would be given to a nation, but which one? The prophets answer that question, as does our Lord’s Olivet Discourse (Mt 24 and 25) and the book of Revelation.
The second church within Scripture that must be understood is labeled as the little flock by our Lord:
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)
The little flock is also known as the Kingdom church. This church, comprised of believing Jews, was led by Peter and the twelve and it preached the gospel of the Kingdom. Matthew 16:18 speaks to the little flock and its inception while Matthew 16:19 speaks to the authority, the keys to the Kingdom, given to the apostle Peter and his ability to add to the little flock or to stop its growth. Acts 15:11 is a fulfillment of Matthew 16:18-19. Acts 15 finds the apostle Peter placing the prophecy program and the little flock on hold until God’s new program, the mystery program led by the apostle Paul, is finished.
During the early part of the Jewish assembly in Acts (chapters 2 through 15), this church, the little flock, did not know that Israel would be set aside. As a matter of fact, it was completely against the prophecies that they knew. They knew that the Gentiles would be blessed because of Israel (Gen 12:1-3). Peter eventually acknowledged that Paul’s teaching was correct at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:11) and this was because of the vision of the sheet and the change of order in the baptisms at Cornelius’s house in Acts 10. After Peter “locked the Kingdom” with his statement in Acts 15:11, Paul could boldly declare that Gentiles were now saved by God’s grace without Israel’s Kingdom program. This was a major turning point in how God would now operate. No Jew would ever have dreamed that God would set them aside, blind them (Rom 11:25), and save Gentiles by grace alone (Eph 2:8-9).
The dispensation of the grace of God (Eph 3:2) will come to an end at the rapture of the Church. At that time, God will resume the prophecy program and will turn His attention back to the little flock (1 Pet 5:2-3), the remnant of Israel spoken to within the book of Revelation.
The defining characteristics of the Kingdom church, the little flock, can be found in Acts 2:44-45; Lk 9:2-3; Lk 12:22; Mk 13:11; Is 35:6; Acts 4:32; Acts 4:34-35; Acts 5:1-10.
The church that believers of today are placed into is the Church (capital C), the body of Christ (Col 1:18; Col 1:24; 1 Cor 12:12; 1 Cor 12:27; Eph 5:23). The Church is known as the body of Christ and it is also identified in Scripture as the house of God, the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). God’s focus, during our current dispensation, has become a new creature, with Christ as the head, rather than Israel’s Kingdom, over which Christ will be king.
The apostle Paul tells us that within the Church, the body of Christ, there is no “Jew” or “Gentile” (Gal 3:28; Col 3:11; Rom 10:12; Eph 2:14-15). Recognize that Paul identified Peter as being a Jew in Galatians 2:14 and that Peter even identified himself as being a Jew, well after Pentecost and Acts chapter 2, in Acts 10:28. If the Church, the body of Christ, started in Acts 2 (which it did not) and there is no Jew or Gentile within the body of Christ, why does Peter continue to identify himself as a Jew as late as Acts chapter 10? The answer is that Peter (and the twelve) were not members of the Church, the body of Christ.
The Church, the body of Christ, did not start in Acts 2, with Peter, but in Acts 9, with Paul. Peter was and is a Jew and he was saved under the gospel of the Kingdom and NOT the gospel of the Grace of God (1 Cor 15:1-4). Peter is waiting for his promised and prophesied Kingdom (the Millennial Kingdom) in which he will receive his salvation (Mt 24:13; Acts 3:19-21; 1 Pet 1:5; 1 Pet 1:7; 1 Pet 1:9; 1 Pet 1:13). The Middle Wall of Partition between Jew and Gentile has been taken down (Eph 2:14-15) during the dispensation of the grace of God. Therefore, there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile today. There is one new creature within the dispensation of the grace of God and that being the Church, the body of Christ.
The Church, the body of Christ, must uphold and affirm the truth. The teaching of Jesus Christ and God’s word rightly divided is a solid platform of truth and other philosophies, worldviews, and teachings claiming to be truth do not stand up to the scrutiny of reality which is only explained through the Scriptures.