Church in the Bible
NOTE: The Revised Standard Bible translation (RSV) is used in this Learning Activity.
Not unlike many Christians, in my journey I have devoted a large commitment of time to studying the church. I have concluded from my studies that to comprehend what the institution known as “church” is, a person has to approach church from three distinct vantage points.
The Old Covenant Church existed from its inception in the Old Testament until it began to phase out during the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. His teaching fulfilled the Old Covenant and began the introduction of the New Covenant. The New Covenant and its church did not completely come into fruition until the Parousia, circa AD 70, when Christ came back to earth (spiritually) during the Destruction of Jerusalem, which coincided with the complete doing away of the Jewish priesthood in the Temple, and the physical Temple itself as it was destroyed by the Roman Army under the Roman General Titus!
The New Covenant and its church began to phase in with the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth and was fully established in the spiritual realm circa AD 70 at the time of the Parousia. What this results in notably is an overlapping of the Old and the New Covenant church resulting in a period of approximately forty years where, if you had been living at that time, would have been a mixture of the old and the new. The apostles, and especially Paul, was a leader in taking the people in the Old Covenant church and “insisting” on them moving forward without the trappings of the Old Covenant church (which was physical in nature).
The major emphasis in this Learning Activity is the New Covenant church as it is the one that we are part of today as Christians. All else passed away in God’s “eyes” when the full implementation of the New Covenant came into being at the Parousia of Christ in AD 70.
The Old Covenant church consisted of types and shadows of the New Covenant church. This is the era where God describes Himself as dwelling in temples made with human hands.
1. Exodus 25:8 _________________________________________________________________________________________
2. What instructions were given to Moses in the verse above? ____________________________________
3. 1 Kings 5:5 ____________________________________________________________________________
4. What is Solomon describing in the passage above? ___________________________________________
Everything recognizable about the Old Covenant church was physical in nature and could be distinguished by the five senses God had given to mankind.
5. Exodus 28:1 ___________________________________________________________________________
6. What physical activity is highlighted in the verse above? ______________________________________
7. Exodus 31:18 __________________________________________________________________________
8. What did God give to Moses in the verse above? _____________________________________________
9. Genesis 17:11 __________________________________________________________________________
10. What did God tell Abraham and his descendants to do in the verse above? ______________________
There are numerous traits of the Old Covenant that you may add to the above list through your own personal study of the Scriptures. What I would like to do now is to contrast the three Old Covenant traits above which were intended to be types or shadows of spiritual realities in the final New Covenant.
11. 1 Peter 2:5 ___________________________________________________________________________
12. What kind of a “house” are we according to the verse above? _________________________________
13. Are we also priests? ____________________________________________________________________
14. The Old Covenant priests offered animal sacrifices to God. According to the verse in #11 above, what kind of sacrifices do we offer? _______________________________________________________________
15. Does this mean that we use the title of “priest” for ourselves and wear priestly garments? _________
16. Hebrews 10:16 ________________________________________________________________________
17. Where are the laws of the New Covenant to be found today? __________________________________
18. Romans 2:29 __________________________________________________________________________
19. In the New Covenant, what part of the body is referred to as being “circumcised?” _______________
20. Does the verse above tell you this circumcision is literal or spiritual? __________________________
21. Colossians 2:11 ________________________________________________________________________
22. Does the verse above describe the New Covenant circumcision as being physical or spiritual? ______
Like the Old Covenant, the New Covenant has many traits that you may add to the above list through your own personal study of the Scriptures. I conclude from this study that the Old Covenant was physical in nature and could be monitored by the five physical senses that God has given to us. I also conclude that the New Covenant is entirely spiritual in nature and cannot be monitored by our five physical senses.
But what about the concept of the “Transitional Church” that was mentioned at the beginning of this Learning Activity?
Many believers today do not understand that we live today in a different time than those who wrote the New Testament. Those writers lived in what is known in the Scriptures as the “last days” which refers to the last days of the Old Covenant.Those last days began with the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth (circa AD 30) and ended with the Destruction of Jerusalem, its Temple, and the Parousia of Christ circa AD 70. This forty year period of time of transition encompassed the Old Covenant being phased out and the New Covenant being phased in. It was a time of overlap of the two covenants and the believers were living their lives in a state of mixture of the two covenants. This led to many passages appearing in the Bible that would make little sense to the reader without having an understanding of that time period.
23. Galatians 3:3 __________________________________________________________________________
24. The flesh here is indicative of the Old Covenant while the spirit indicates the New Covenant. What do you think was going on that would cause Paul to write as he did to the Galatians? ___________________
This was a work in progress to go from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.
25. Ephesians 2:22 ________________________________________________________________________
26. What does the verse above tell you about the transition of the believer? _________________________
27. 1 Corinthians 1:7 ______________________________________________________________________
28. What words in the verse above indicate the transitional nature of the time era? __________________
29. Philippians 3:20 _______________________________________________________________________
30. For how long did the Philippians have to wait for their Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ? ____________
31. Hebrews 9:28 _________________________________________________________________________
32. When did Christ appear “a second time” as indicated in the verse above? _______________________
I occasionally receive communication from some Christians who think it to be absurd to believe that God would have an arrangement where two entirely different covenants would be standing alongside each other in the Scriptures as “God is not the author of confusion.” But their belief is contrary to the scripture.
33. Read Galatians 4:21-31.
In this allegory we have two women, Hagar and Sarah. The allegory clearly states that these two are symbolic of the two covenants and the two biblical Jerusalem’s – one being the physical Jerusalem of mortar and bricks, and the other being spiritual Jerusdalem. The inportant point for this Learning Activity is that Hagar coexisted with Sarah (indicating that both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant coexisted for a time). Eventually Hagar and her son were cast out just as the Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant!
Therefore, during an approximate period of forty years there was a continuing but dwindling presence of the Old Covenant mixed in with the incoming New Covenant. This mixture was facilitated by the presence of the Temple in Jerusalem along with its sacrificial services and trappings. Believers in the transition church struggled to bring along these practices into the New Covenant church. The Apostle Paul constnatly writes against this practice to discourage the believers doing this. It is unfortunate that some in the church today are still doing this same thing.
After the Parousia we are no longer in that transitional church although many Christians through human effort keep vestiges of the Old Covenant alive in their belief systems. We are not to live in “hope” but rather in the “presence” of God today! We live and move and have our being in Christ and are living in the spiritual New Jerusalem that was described in the book of Revelation that came down to earth!
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