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Question:

I have a question about the scriptural significance of what we usually call the Church Age or the Day of Grace. It seems to me that the distinction of a Church Age is a somewhat arbitrary distinction used to better explain New Testament doctrines, but I've heard it used in some funky ways recently. Basically, during arguments about baptism, I was told that the thief on the cross didn't need baptism because he died before the Church Age- that the Church Age had begun on Pentecost with the receiving of the Holy Spirit. I guess it was supposed to follow from this that people in the Church Age were saved differently than the people who were saved while Jesus was still ministering on earth. This particular distinction does not make a bit of sense to me, and I've already gone ahead and moved beyond it.

However, is there any scriptural place to assign the beginning of the Church Age? How does this particular doctrine actually fit in with scripture? It seems to me that John was preaching the Kingdom of God in the wilderness, and that some of the parables of Jesus indicate that the Kingdom had already come, but another arbitrary age could be established at the time of his death. Are these designations useful, scriptural ages with real differences, or they just descriptive differences that help us organize events?

Answer:

I can find no place where church and age or dispensation are clearly used together in the Bible. My conviction is that the church age is part of the broader concept of the kingdom mentioned in the Gospels. I believe that Matt 16, Matt 18 where binding is mentioned is giving governmental authority in this kingdom--in John 20:21-23 this authority is to govern the church (not to save people). John 3:3 brings us into a kingdom. The Church is a mystery (something hidden in the OT but revealed in the new) as given in Eph 3:3. Eph 3:1-13 seems to indicate a "church age"--particularly v 5. The church age would seem to be part of the new covenant or testament of Heb 9:16, and would seem to be the hidden or mystery side of the Kingdom. What dispensation is meant in Matt 28:20?

The thief died after the new covenant went into effect according to Heb 9 even if he technically wasn't part of the church. See Matt 26:28 and also John 19:33 (the Lord died before the thieves), it seems that the thief had the same promises we have.

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