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Was there a church in the Old Testament?
Many people think of Israel as the church and the New Testament as the
continuation of this. This is a category mistake that needs to be corrected
because a number of false teachings are its offspring and introduced to people
that affect their view on Israel and the Jews.
Israel is a nation, a people that were Jews or Gentiles that converted to
Judaism. The prophets spoke of a coming Messiah who would come to his own people
first. When He came, he came to his own the house of Israel and was rejected
because of the leaders.
Luke 9:22 “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders
and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”
Luke 17:25: “But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this
Mark 12:10: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief
The temple was built Herod and would soon be discarded, but before this happened
the new temple was built with Christ being the chief cornerstone. This temple
was not physical but spiritual (1 Pt.2:4-5).
Even when Jesus was here the disciples who were told to spread the gospel were
told to avoid the gentiles.
Matt 10:5: “These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go
into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.”
Mark 16:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to
After Jesus died for sin and was resurrected He ascended and began a new work,
one that He said would be accomplished after Israel rejected him. He sent the
Holy Spirit to birth a new entity, called “the church.” Called the Church of God
which he had to purchase first with his own blood (Acts 20:28). He would take
those who were Jews that believed and were willing to follow Him to use them to
reach out to the Gentiles (all non Jews) to bring them together in a gathering
of newborn people of the Spirit. The Greek word is ekklesia (which is used 114
times in the New Testament) which means a called out assembly (Ek = out of,
Kaleo= to call).
To Joseph was prophesied that Jesus would be “A light to bring revelation to the
Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).
It was only after Pentecost, when the Spirit came to Israel first and was now to
indwell man that they were commissioned to go bring the Gentiles the good news.
In the Old Testament one had to convert and become a Jew to be part of the
covenant God made with Israel through Moses. In the New Testament both Jews and
Gentiles must be reborn of the spirit to become part of the church, a new entity
which is the body of Christ. Gal. 3:26: “For you are all sons of God through
faith in Christ Jesus” both Jews and Gentiles are equal spiritual brethren in
the body of Christ.
One of the proofs that the church was not in the Old Testament is that its
inception began on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) with the disciples and the Jews that
believed their message. They did not join Israel or become part of the temple,
they were called out from that. And we become part of this same Church today the
same way they did, by spirit baptism, by being born again of the Spirit
(Jn.3:5). The Church is built upon what Peter said, Christ is - The Son of the
living God - the eternal one who came in human flesh. Thus it could not exist in
the Old Testament, since it is the body of Christ.
Gal. 3:8 “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by
faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the
nations shall be blessed.”
This makes it clear the Gentiles were not included in the covenant of Israel
until faith came. And we find that when faith came the Spirit was given.
Gal. 3:14: “that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ
Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
A transition from the law to the operation of faith was necessary; this came by
the New Covenant which happened when Jesus was crucified. Gal 3:23-25: “But
before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which
would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to
Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no
longer under a tutor.”
There were only a few who were given the Spirit of God in the Old Testament.
Only when God had a specific purpose did he anoint a man. In the New Testament
all who believe the gospel are anointed and given the spirit.
After the Spirit was poured on the Jews; Paul is saved and specifically sent to
a group of people God had not focused on. But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he
is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the
children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
However Paul had to wait for Peter went to open the door to the Gentiles to
enter the body of Christ at Cornelius’ house. After this Paul was able to
minister to the non Jews he was called to. Acts 11:1 “Now the apostles and
brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of
This was unusual; in the Old Testament the other nations and peoples did not
want the law that was given to the Hebrews. But now the way is open to all
The New Testament Church is never confused with Israel, this is why it is not
spoken of as continuation from the Old Testament into the New Testament.
Believers do not become Jews; both gentiles and Jews participate together in the
New Covenant, but they are still Jew and non Jew.
Eph. 2 addresses the middle wall of partition being broken down and God making a
new entity. The church is neither Jew or Gentile but consists of both. The two
put together make one “new man,” a third entity that is neither Israel, nor
Eph 2:13- 22 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been
brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made
both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in
His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances,
so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that
He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby
putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar
off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one
Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and
foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of
God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus
Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being
joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are
being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
While we are in the church age, an age where grace is being offered through the
gospel to all, this will end one day as the number of Gentiles are completed.
Rom. 11:25: “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this
mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has
happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”
When we enter the Tribulation period God will again concentrate on the Jews in
the same manner he concentrated on the Gentiles in this church age. He will
anoint 144,000 to evangelize the world (Rev.7) and bring the age of mans
government to a conclusion.