The phrase ‘church age’ usually pertains to a period of time in the history of God’s people. Some students of the Bible see history as being divided up into different ‘ages’ or ‘dispensations’. A dispensation is defined by Webster as, “a general state or ordering of things” (1). The ‘church age’ is seen as a parenthesis, or a pause, in God’s dealings with His chosen covenant people.
While it is generally agreed that the ‘church age’ does exist, it is not agreed upon as to its exact nature. Although an exhaustive study is beyond the scope of this article, I will try to touch on the most popular definitions of the term ‘church age’. The term ‘church age’ is not found in the Bible; therefore, I will present a brief survey of current religious thinking concerning it.
This topic often involves intense arguments between those of the differing viewpoints, therefore the purpose of this article is not to divide, but to inform. What one believes concerning this issue does not save one nor does it prevent one from being saved. Salvation  is based on faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, not on one’s specific doctrinal stance on non-essential issues. May God guide your response to the contents of this article.
Differing views of the ‘church age’
Premillennialists see a marked distinction between Israel as God’s people and the church as God’s people, “The church stands distinct from Israel and did not begin until the Day of Pentecost, and thus did not exist in the Old Testament period” (2). According to this view, the distinction is so pronounced between Israel and the Church, that the church is seen as existing in a ‘time out’ period while God is not busy with Israel, “The Church Age ends and God’s plan for Israel resumes when the Church is raptured  at the beginning of the Tribulation” (3).
Dispensational Premillennial View
Another group, called “Dispensational Premillennialists”, share the same idea, “Dispensationalists insist that God has two redemptive plans, one for national Israel, and one for Gentiles during the “church age.” …Therefore, church age, or the “age of grace,” is to be seen as that period of time in which God is dealing with Gentiles prior to the coming of the kingdom of God during the millennium” (4).
Many who see the ‘church age’ in this way say that it will end at the rapture when Christ comes invisibly to take all believers (excepting OT saints) to heaven. Most of those who hold to this view believe that the nation of Israel is God’s real focus, but the nation of Israel turned its back on God, so the church are those people God is dealing with while waiting on Israel to repent.
Postmillennialism differs, “…from all other views is its optimism concerning the success of the gospel in the Church Age. Will there be universal peace, prosperity, and spiritual revival? Will the Church carry out the Great Commission? Will all nations serve the Lord Jesus? (Not every individual, but every nation as a whole.) Will the gospel prevail? Yes! says the postmillennialist. The Holy Spirit has that power. The gospel has that power. God is willing. He has promised, and His promises cannot fail” (5). This is a very positive view of the power and reach of the Gospel , fueled by the Holy Spirit’s convicting power, and the church’s faithful witness.
Postmillennialism sees the Church as the new Israel; the church consists of both Old and New Testament believers. The great appeal of the Postmillennial view is its optimism concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This view believes in the reality of God’s power to change the hearts of sinners. God certainly has the ability to save everyone, and He desires all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4); therefore, I cannot help but wonder if the church is not to blame for the seeming lack of the Gospel’s progress.
Amillennialists believe that the events mentioned in the book of Revelation are being played out presently in the church age (6). They see many of the prophetic events spoken of in the New Testament (the tribulation, the millennium, the Kingdom) not so much as literal physical occurrences, but as things taking place within the hearts of men and women involved in the ongoing spiritual battle between good and evil. Many times Bible uses physical symbols to portray spiritual truths. According to Amillennialists, the church age is simply the Kingdom of God on earth, lived out by His followers.
Whatever else may be said, we know that whenever the church exists, it must be the ‘church age’. Every person who repents of his or her sin, and turns to Jesus in faith, becomes part of the church. The church is a ‘called out’ group of people who love and serve God, who have been forgiven of their sins and graciously granted eternal life. This group seeks to serve, love, glorify, and honor God out of gratitude for all He has done for them.
This group of forgiven sinners is also called the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12; Colossians 1:18, 24). This means that we are His representatives here on earth. We share His love, speak His Words, and help those as He would if He were here physically. He is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 4:15, 23; Colossians 1:18; 2:19) to whom we are accountable and Who strengthens us to live as He wants us to live. We are the church that exists in the ‘church age’…and forevermore.
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Resources – (1) http://www. merriam-webster. com/dictionary/dispensation. (2) Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. Victor Books, 1988. p. 399. (3) http://www. christianciv. com/eschatology_bs_Sect1.htm. (4) http://www. fivesolas. com/esc_chrt.htm. (5) http://www .christianciv .com/eschatology_bs_Sect1.htm. (6) http://www. evidenceandanswers. org/articles/Three%20Views%20of%20Millennium.pdf. YouTube “The Church Triumphant” by Gaither Gospel Group