The Church in the Old Testament


One of the greatest truths to be discovered is the revelation of the Church in the Old Testament. Many Dispensationalists teach that the Church is nowhere to be found in the Old Testament, that the Church is only a New Testament revelation. They say that the Old Testament prophets did not see the Church as it was not revealed to them. They also teach that because the Church was a parenthetical plan of God, during Jewish unbelief and blindness, the Church could not be seen by the Old Testament saints. Hence it was given especially to Paul. In this chapter we consider the fallacy of such teaching, for, the New Testament Church was both prophesied and typified in Old Testament times.

A. The Church Prophesied

As has been seen in Chapter 4 “What Church Is”, Section D, The Church is God’s New Ethnic.

The Old Testament clearly foretold the coming in of the Gentiles into blessing in the Kingdom of God. The New Testament shows the beginning of the fulfillment of these prophecies when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles, and then the Gospel going to the whole Gentile world. Many Dispensationalists place these Scriptures of the Gentiles coming into blessing into the Millennial Kingdom for a Jewish ministry instead of realizing these Scriptures are for this present dispensation–not a future one!

Paul is especially the apostle to the Gentiles, and it is Paul who is the great exponent of the Church as the Body of Christ, made up of Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 3:1-6).

We note again, with additional Scriptures, the Old Testament prophecies of the Gentiles coming into Christ by the Gospel–not in an age to come but in this present age.

* All nations were to be blessed by the seed of Abraham (Genesis 22:18).

* All the families of the earth were to be blessed by Abraham’s seed (Genesis 26:4).

* All kindreds of the nations would worship the Lord (Psalms 22:27, 28).

* In the last days all nations would flow to the house of God (Isaiah 2:2, 3).

* The Gentiles would seek the Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10).

* Many nations would be sprinkled with the blood of Messiah (Isaiah 52:15).

* Many nations would be joined to the Lord in that day (Zechariah 2:11).

* The Name of the Lord would be great among the Gentiles (Malachi 1:11).

* In His Name the Gentiles would trust (Matthew 12:21).

The Old Testament prophets especially foretold the days when the Gentile nations would flow to Israel and the Kingdom of God. Many times these prophecies are placed for fulfillment in the future age. However, the New Testament writers and especially Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, show how the writings of the prophets were in the process of fulfillment right then, as the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles unto salvation.

Isaiah is the great “evangelist-prophet” of the coming of Messianic Times and there are more prophecies of the Gentiles coming into blessing in Isaiah than all the other Major and/or Minor Prophets put together.

A careful reading of Isaiah 11:10; 42:1,6; 49:6, 22; 54:3; 60:3,5, 11, 16; 61:6, 9; 62:2; 66:12, 19; shows the prophesied blessing upon the Gentiles. In Romans 9-10-11 Chapters, Paul shows how the natural branches of the Israel Olive Tree were broken off because of unbelief and the believing Gentiles of the wild olive tree are now grafted in by faith. Here the Gentiles become one with the Israel Olive Tree, partaking of its root and fatness through Christ. Note the quotations of Paul from the Old Testament concerning Gentile blessing, especially in Romans 15.

Romans 15:9 with Psalms 18:49; II Samuel 22:50. The heathen are Gentiles.
Romans 15:10 with Deuteronomy 32:43. The nations are Gentiles.
Romans 15:11 with Psalms 117:1. Gentile nations rejoice with Israel.
Romans 15:12 with lsaiah 11:10; 42:1; Matthew 12:18-21.
Romans 15:21 with Isaiah 52:13-15. Gentiles would see end hear end understand while Jewry would fail to understand.

Paul, as the apostle to the Gentiles, quotes these great Gentile prophecies from Moses, David and Isaiah (Romans 15:16-20).

In Acts 10- 11 Peter is the agent who, by the Gospel, opens the door of faith to let the Gentiles into the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit seals this fact. In Acts 15 the great controversy is settled by James quoting from Amos about the Gentiles coming into blessing in the Tabernacle of David (Amos 9: 11- 15). Christ told his disciples to make disciples of ALL nations (Matthew 28: 1820; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). Through Christ all may become the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16, 29).

The summation of all this is given to Paul when he says that Jews and Gentile are baptized by one Spirit into one Body, the Church of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 3:1-10).

When we see that the Gentiles come into THE CHURCH through Christ, then we can understand Old Testament prophecy of blessing on the Gentiles. Although the word “Church” is not used in the Old Testament specifically (though “Qahal” = Congregation and Assembly is), yet the word ”Gentiles” is used. Whenever these references speak of Gentiles coming into blessing with the true Israel of God, that is the Old Testament way of speaking of the New Testament Church.

It is in this way THE CHURCH was prophesied of in the Old Testament by the prophets.

B. The Church Typified

The Old Testament clearly prophesied of the coming of the Gentiles into the Kingdom of Messiah. The thing that was hidden from them, not understood by them, was the revelation that The Church would be THE BODY of Christ made up of both Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 3:1-6).

However, though this aspect of the Church may have been a mystery to them, and hidden from them, the Church was foreshadowed and typified also in the Old Testament. The Church was both prophesied and typified. When the New Testament apostles received the full revelation of the Church, they continually appealed to the Old Testament Scriptures, both prophetically and typically (Romans 16:25, 26; I Corinthians 10:6, 11). They saw that many things were Old Testament types and symbols of the Church. These were foreshadowings of the New Testament Church.

It was not that these things were types to them in the Old Testament but they become types unto us upon whom the ends of the age are come.

Peter says the prophets did not understand some of their own prophecies, but he says that it was revealed to them that they were not only speaking to their own generation but also to our generation which is experiencing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:16-21; I Peter 1:10-12). They spoke for our age timeless truths. Jesus said the prophets would love to have seen and heard the things happening in our age (Matthew 13: 10- 17).

* Moses would like to have seen the New Testament Church and Priesthood (I Peter 2:5-9).

* Isaiah would love to have seen Pentecost (Isaiah 28:10-12).

* Joel would like to have been in the Upper Room (Acts 1-2).

* Enoch would like to see the translation of saints (Jude 14, 15).

* Israel would like to see the true Passover (Exodus 12).

* Elijah and Elisha would like to see Christ’s ministry, lepers cleansed, dead raised.

* Jonah would like to see Christ’s 3 days experience (Matthew 12:39-40).

* Abraham saw Christ’s day (John 8:56-58).

So the prophets ministered to their own generation and also unto ours. Hebrew 1: 1, 2.

Many believers see that the prophets foretold THE CHRIST, but fail to see also that they foretold THE CHURCH just as clearly. National blindness concerning Jewry has robbed the Church of these truths.

These things became “types” to us (Greek “Tupos” = “to strike, make an impression, a blow, a mark left by a blow”). (John 20:25; Acts 7:43; Romans 5:14; 6:17; Acts 7:44; 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11).

Because the following chapter lists a number of various types, symbols and names of the Church in both Old and New Testament, we note in brief just several of the major Old Testament types of the Church which are substantiated by the New Testament writers.

1. Adam and Eve (Genesis 1-2 with Ephesians 5:23-33; Romans 5:14).

There is no mistaking Paul’s use of the marriage relationship as a type of the marriage of Christ and His Church. Paul goes back to the first sinless marriage of Adam and Eve as being prophetic and typically of Christ and His Bride. It is a type rich in details.

2. Israel Nation (Exodus 1-19; Acts 7:38).

Israel is spoken of as “The Church in the Wilderness. ” Without doubt there are numerous things in Israel’s experience which become typical of the New Testament Church. This is seen by the many references of the New Testament writers (I Corinthians 5; 10:1-11).

3. The Tabernacle and Temple (Exodus 25:40; II Chronicles 1-5; Ephesians 2:20-22; I Corinthians 3:16; 6:19).

The Tabernacle and Temple were God’s dwelling place, the habitation of His Name, Presence and Glory. The New Testament uses such things as being symbolical and typical of Christ and also His Church (John 1:14-18; 2:18-22; Hebrews 3:1-5; I Peter 2:5-9; 4:17).

Both Tabernacle and Temple are rich in symbolic and typical truths of both Christ and His Church.

Thus the New Testament continually uses Old Testament pictures, types and symbols to illustrate the revelation of the Church. The Church was indeed both prophesied and typified under the former dispensation, even though the Old Testament writers did not have full insight into their own utterances and ordinances. I Peter 1:9-12; II Peter 1:19-21.

In a subsequent chapter we will consider “The Mystery Body of Christ”, made up of Jew and Gentile, which was revealed to Paul but NOT to the Old Testament saints.