Before getting into the answer to this question I want to point out some things from its parts.
First, that there is a “Church of the New Testament.” This is a fundamental point of the gospel of Christ. We understand that the gospel is “the good news about Christ.”
Sometimes people fail to realize all that is involved in that “good news.” The gospel is the “good news” of God’s love for man, with its ultimate expressions in Christ’s death for the sins of man (John 3:16).
That gospel is the “good news” that — through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ — we have the availability of salvation from our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12; et al). The gospel is the “good news” of all that was accomplished by the sacrifice of Christ, including the church (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28; Acts 2:47; et al).
So, the church is an essential part of the gospel.
The first time the word “church” is used in the King James Bible is in Matthew 16:18, when Jesus promised to build His church. When He said that the gates of Hades would not prevail against His church, He is referring to His death.
Not even death would prevent Jesus from building His church! Rather, it would be by His death that the church would be made possible (cf. Acts 20:28).
The “church of the New Testament” is the church that Jesus built by His death, burial and resurrection! It is His church, not man’s.
It is “the church of God” (Acts 20:28), the church of Christ (Romans 16:16), most commonly referred to in the New Testament simply as “the church” (92 times).
Another important point from the question is that God has a plan. Several passages very clearly state, or indicate, that God had a plan before He even created anything.
“He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:20–21, NKJV). “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” (2 Timothy 1:9–10, NKJV).
These, among many other passages, are very clear that God had a plan from before the creation and that plan culminated in the gospel of Christ.
Sadly, the question also indicates a third point that is nowhere taught in the Bible. That is, that the church was not part of God’s original plan but was instituted after God’s plan was rejected by the Jews.
The idea is Christ came to rule over an earthly kingdom from Jerusalem but, because the Jews rejected and crucified Him, that He instituted the church until such time as He could return to be received as king to reign over an earthly kingdom for a thousand years.
This is the rudimentary concept of the man-made doctrine of Premillennialism. The doctrine of Premillennialism has sold millions of books, inspired movies and TV shows and has even been the theme of a successful haunted house chain every Halloween. However, it is not a biblical doctrine.
Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as “The Rapture,” the seven years of tribulation, zombies or any other aspects of the Premillennialist doctrine.
For Premillennialism to be true, there cannot be any references to the church until after such time as Jesus’ rejection by the Jews. That’s why Premillennialist false teachers twist all of the Old Testament prophecies about the church into something else. They use those Old Testament prophecies to refer to an as yet future earthly kingdom, completely jumping over the entire New Testament age.
Rather than the church being an “afterthought” in God’s plan, it is the fulfillment of God’s “eternal purpose.”
Paul said, “To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Ephesians 3:10–11, NKJV).
How could the church be the fulfillment of God’s “eternal purpose” — accomplished through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ — and also be an afterthought in God’s plan? Someone has to be wrong here.
I’m thinking that the men who came up with Premillennialism are wrong and God is right. What about you?
The church is clearly spoken of many, many times in Old Testament prophecy. It could even be right said that the very first reference to the Savior in the Bible is also a prophecy of the church.
“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15, NKJV).
When God told the serpent in the Garden that he would bruise the Messiah’s heal it is a reference to the crucifixion. That is, the servants of Satan would cause a painful injury to Christ but Christ would cause a fatal injury to Satan.
Christ rose from the grave! And, by so doing, destroyed the power of the devil (Hebrews 2:14, 15). Acts 20:28 says that God — i.e. Jesus — purchased the church with His own blood. In this very first Messianic prophecy (Genesis 3:15), is included the blood of Christ that purchased the church!
In Acts 2, Peter preached the gospel sermon that opened the way into the church, that is, he used the “keys to the kingdom” (Matthew 16:19).
In that sermon, he quoted David as speaking about the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:29f) after referring to Joel as speaking about the establishment of the church (Acts 2:16f). How can people say that the church was not part of God’s plan when Joel prophesied the events of Acts 2 when the church would be established?
The very events the Joel prophesied where the events fulfilled when we read about the church being present for the first time in the Bible (Acts 2:47). Every time before this, the church is spoken of in promise, as being in the future. However, after Acts 2, the church is always spoken as being present.
So, in answer to the question, yes! The church was in God’s plan from eternity (Ephesians 3:10, 11). The church is the ultimate fulfillment of all the restored kingdom promises of the Old Testament (cf. Isaiah 2; Daniel 2; Joel 2; among many, many others).
Norm Fields is the minister for the Church of Christ Northside meeting at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange. He may be reached at 706-812-9950 or [email protected]