Recently I was pondering the term “Church Age” and have taken that term
“church age” and I have looked for it in the Scriptures and have been unable
to locate it. The church age is a term which is used by those in the
Dispensational movement as a period of time between Pentecost and the
pre-wrath rapture of all the saints before the time of the Great Tribulation
The church age has been defined by Dispensationalists with the seven
churches found in Revelation 2 & 3. There is not the slightest indicator in
these two chapters that they are to be understood as each church
representing an era.
Dispensational Church Age Chronology
Ephesian - 53-170 AD
Smyrna - 170-312 AD
Pergamos - 312-606 AD
Thyatira - 606-1520 AD
Sardis 1520-1750 AD
Philadelphia - 1750-1906 AD
Laodicean - 1906-Present
The Dispensationalist teaches that the church age is partitioned into
seven distinct eras. The problem with this analogy is that no church
characteristics in Revelation 2 & 3 were unique to each time period. The
problems listed in each church could be found in various churches at various
times throughout the entire 1958 years. For example, the Dispensationalists
teach that the Philadelphia period produced a very faithful church. Can
anyone give proof that during that 156 years, that no false or apostate
churches existed? The answer is no because there was apostasy in every time
period of theirs as there is today.
There was no period in church history of a perfect church consisting of
100% saved people. Before John Wesley began to preach in England, there was
much debauchery as England sunk into a spiritual low. This was supposed to
be the time of the church of Philadelphia, the faithful church. This is why
it is dangerous to take a doctrine like the seven dispensations and try to
make them blanket doctrines, applying them to every church in the world.
America was having an awakening under Jonathan Edwards while England was
suffering spiritually. To judge the entire world by what happens in one
place is a very flawed practice and will lead to false conclusions.
Now when we read the book of Acts and the Epistles, we read that the
beginning of the church, after Pentecost, the believers met in homes and
because of persecution they met clandestinely in different places to avoid
persecution. Even today, the church in countries hostile to the Gospel meet
in that same manner. Now during the early church era and the middle ages,
the Christians were not meeting in any specific buildings designed for
worship. It was only after the Reformation in 1517 when Christians began to
build buildings to assemble in. Those buildings became known erroneously as
“churches.” The church is not a physical building but it is the body of
believers. Fancy artwork, steeples, and other things were taken from the
paradigm of cathedrals. In fact, I grew up in the Hungarian Reformed Church
in Perth Amboy, NJ and within the confines of that building is an exact
replica of the Pulpit that Luther preached from. I must be honest, it is a
beautiful wooden pulpit, true to old cathedral style.
Since Christians in the middle ages had to avoid persecution, they could
not build, nor could afford to build buildings where they met corporately.
This would invite the local Catholic sympathizers and Inquisitors to have
the ability to hold them inside the church and burn it down with them in it.
Since Christians could not nor did not meet in specific buildings (there may
have been some exceptions), for the first 1500+ years, this means that the
church age is only about 500 years old and not 1958 years old. For the first
1500 years, evangelism was done by groups of people and not by local
churches. It was basically in the 1600’s when Protestant Denominations
started to form and then Christians felt safe attending, so the number of
church buildings grew and with it came the different forms of governing the
local bodies. Then missionary societies grew out of those church bodies and
the church organizations have continued until the present day. Some of the
dates of the founding of the denominations are below:
Presbyterian Church - Founded 1523 in Geneva, Switzerland - To USA in
Episcopal Church - 39 Articles in 1563 - To USA in 1607
Congregational Church - Founded 1581 in England - To USA in 1620 with
Reformed Church - Founded in 1628 in New Amsterdam (NYC) by Dutch
Lutheran Church - Founded circa 1529 in Germany - To USA in 1623
Methodist Church - Founded in 1739 in England - To USA in 1761 by Philip
Mennonite Church - Founded in Zurich, Switzerland 1525 - To USA in 1683
Plymouth Brethren - Founded in Schwarzenau, Germany in 1708 - To USA in
So we see that the “church age” is really a very recent event. Church
buildings for true Christians have not been around for 1958 years and the
majority of Christian work for the first 1500+ years was done outside of any
denominations or church assemblies as we know them today.
Biblical Duration of the Church Age
A question arises. How does the assembling of Christians together in a
building constitute an age? The answer is simple! It doesn’t! Whenever we
look at periods of time or ages, as the Bible puts it, we must go to the
Scriptures for our answer and not a systematized theology based on human
The church began with the calling of the first believer, whether it was
Adam, Eve, or Abel, and will end when the last one is saved. Then cometh the
end. Look at the following Scriptures:
The Present Age
(Rom 8:18 KJV) For I reckon that the sufferings of this present
time are not worthy to be compared with the glory
which shall be revealed in us.
(1 Cor 7:26 KJV) I suppose therefore that this is good for the
present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so
(Gal 1:4 KJV) Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us
from this present evil world, according to the will of God and
(2 Tim 4:10 KJV) For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this
present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to
Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.
(Titus 2:12 KJV) Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly
lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present
(Mat 13:40 KJV) As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the
fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
(Luke 20:34 KJV) And Jesus answering said unto them, The children
of this world marry, and are given in marriage:
(John 8:23 KJV) And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from
above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.
(Rom 12:2 KJV) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye
transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is
that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
(1 Cor 3:19 KJV) For the wisdom of this world is
foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own
(Eph 2:2 KJV) Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air,
the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Look at the characteristics that represent this present world:
Romans 8:18 - This is a time of suffering
1 Corinthians 7:26 - This world is a time of distress
Galatians 1:4 - This world is evil
2 Timothy 4:10 - This world draws us back with all its sinful
Titus 2:12 - This world is comprised of ungodliness and worldly lusts
Matthew 13:40 - This World will have an end
Luke 20:34 - There is physical marriage
John 8:23 - Christians are not of this world but are of Heaven
Romans 12:2 - Christians are not to be conformed to this world
1 Corinthians 3:19 - The Wisdom of this world is foolishness
Ephesians 2:2 - Before Christians were saved, they walked according to
the sinful ways of the world.
This is how the Bible sums up the present world or age that we live in.
It is an age that began at the time of creation and will not end until the
last one becomes saved on the last day. Now let us look at the other age
that the Bible speaks of:
The Age To Come
(Heb 13:14 KJV) For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
(Heb 9:11 KJV) But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with
hands, that is to say, not of this building;
(Heb 6:5 KJV) And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of
the world to come,
(1 Tim 6:19 KJV) Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation
against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal
(1 Tim 4:8 KJV) For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is
profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of
that which is to come.
(Eph 2:7 KJV) That in the ages to come he might show the
exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through
(Eph 1:21 KJV) Far above all principality, and power, and might, and
dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in
that which is to come:
(Luke 18:30 KJV) Who shall not receive manifold more in this present
time, and in the world to come life everlasting.
(Mark 10:30 KJV) But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time,
houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands,
with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
Every one of these nine verses carry a common theme, and that is eternal
life. The things of this world are passing away and are but shadows. As we
read them we see there is a permanency attached to the ages or world to
come. That next age is going to be the New Heaven and the New Earth.
(2 Pet 3:13 KJV) Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new
heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Absence of a Church Age
We have seen that the Bible speaks of only two ages on earth. The
present age began with Adam and Eve, and will end when the last one of God’s
Elect will be saved. The second age is the eternal age. The Bible does not
designate a specific age for believers meeting in special buildings. In
fact, the Bible is silent on how Christians are to meet. There is nothing
commanding us to meet in special buildings nor is there any command for us
to meet in homes. The command for the believers is that they gather on the
Lord’s Day which is Sunday and not Saturday. The meeting place is academic.
Throughout history believers have met in many different places and as I
already have pointed out, church buildings did not come into permanency
until the 16th-17th century. The word church is the
Greek word “ekklesia” and it means “called out assembly.”
This means that the church is the body of believers and not the
building. In the Epistles of Paul, there were the seeds already planted for
future church buildings and congregations. This is why God gave Elders,
Pastors, and Deacons to care for the flock of God. These offices were
already in use at the time of Paul. These offices were then transferred to
the larger churches when they began to multiply and grow. House churches are
to be under the same type of government as the large churches.
If there was a church age and an end to this church age, before the
Lord's return, would not that constitute a sign that we are living in the
final hours? Did not Jesus say that an evil and adulterous generation seeks
a sign? Then He said the only sign was that of Jonah. So if we try and start
piecing together all these numbers in Scripture to try and come up with a
date of Christ's return, then we are seeking a sign, in fact, many signs,
and that is against Scripture. Is it not true that there will be two in one
field and one bed, and one will be taken and the other left? This means
business as usual. If God revealed the date of Christ’s return and if people
knew what day that was, how could they sleep and why would they work? What
would be the purpose?
There is not one Scripture in the Bible that teaches a dispensational
“church age,” whether seven time periods or one time period. The church age
is imbedded with this present age as God is saving His Elect out of it to
prepare them for the next age, which will be eternity. Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob are just as much part of the church as any other blood bought
believer. God is calling out of this present world system His children for
eternal life. When the last one becomes saved, then that ushers in the end
of the church/present age.