Table of Contents
The Church Age
The church age is specifically described in the Bible as the age of the gentiles, the age when God will reveal Himself to all people of every nation and bring together all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. This ‘Age’ begins from the time when Jesus established His Church on earth (Matt 16.18), until future times when He returns in power and great glory to rule the Earth forever (Mark 13.26). In the mean time, the church is His physical establishment on the earth in whom the kingdom of God already dwells. (1 Corin 6.19, 1 Peter 2.9, Luke 17.21)
It is important for believers to not only understand and be able to relate to the founding fathers and patriarchs of our faith, but to understand the many great works that God produced through their lives and the lives of all believers throughout the church age. Many Christian and Church documents have been produced over the centuries.
Even though their writings are not divinely inspired scriptures, they are most assuredly catalysts that can be used to not only spark a deep understanding, revelation or quickening in your own life, but to revive and relive the history of God’s revelations to the church over the past 2000 years. With the changing cultures of the world throughout time and social difference between nations, it is important for all believers to learn from the history of the Church how to deal with all kinds of different situations and learn the life lessons of other believers and missionaries.
Historic Timeline of the Church
The history of the church is categorized differently depending on which school of thought or scholarly teaching that is followed. The format that we will use here is a basic, general traditional history of the church; which is based on various major church events, leaders and/or reforms:
- EARLY CHURCH (33 AD – 600 AD) [ Apostolic Christianity 1-100 AD; Ante-Nicene Christianity 100-300 AD, Church Union with Rome 300-600 AD) Covers the time period right after Christ’s resurrection until circa 600 AD. It covers the time period of the apostles, the early church, Constantine, the council of Nicaea and Augustine.
- MEDIEVAL (600 AD – 1300 AD) [From Gregory I to Gregory VII 590-1073 AD; From Gregory VII to Boniface VIII 1049 – 1300 AD] Covers the time period from Circa 600 – 1300 AD. This covers events such as the Crusades, Charlemagne, and events surrounding Peter Waldo.
- REFORMATION (1300 AD – 1600 AD) [Boniface to Martin Luther 1300-1517 AD; Reformation 1517-1648 AD] includes basic reformation of belief structures, excluding many of the changes made after the apostolic period, includes the Calvinistic Movement 1538.
- POST-REFORMATION (1600 AD – Current) [The Great Awakening 1700] this covers the time period from the reformation until current events, and also includes the history of the first and second Great Awakening.
Various Outlines of Church History
There are various other outlines, diagrams and theories about how the history of the church should be displayed. A few alternatives to the idea can be outlined as such:
- The Apostolic Period: 35-120
- The Apologists: 120-220
- The Third Century: 220-305
- The Imperial Church: 305-476
- The Early Middle Ages: 476-999
- The High Middle Ages: 1000-1299
- The Late Middle Ages: 1300-1499
- The Reformation: 1500-1599
- The Puritans: 1600-1699
- The Great Awakening: 1700-1799
- The 2nd Great Awakening: 1800-1899
- The Modern Period: 1900-Present
Regardless of how the history of the Church is outlined, the critical information is displayed in what different believers went through during the trials and tribulations of their faith in different eras. It is within these life lessons and how churches where build up in different areas of the world that should be studied. This will help to create a better understand of the cultures of ancient times in order to be able to correctly apply those lessons to today’s circumstances.
The Seven Ages Theory
The ‘Church’ age, also described by many scholars as referenced throughout various Biblical statements as: the end times, end of days, last days, days of the gentiles; is believed by many to be detailed in the first few chapters of Revelation. Revelation gives a detailed description of what is going to happen in the last days.
Some Bible students and some scholars over recent years have noticed a great number of similarities concerning the Churches History and the details of the seven church give by Jesus in the first 3 chapters of Revelation. However controversial, it is interesting to note very specific details concerning the 7 churches recorded in Revelation do indeed correlate to specific time periods and major events recorded throughout Church history.
- The Church in Ephesus: Apostolic Church (A.D. 33–100)
- The Church in Smyrna: Era of Persecution Under the Ten Caesars (A.D. 100–312)
- The Church in Pergamum: Era of Church-State Union (A.D. 312–590)
- The Church in Thyatira: Era Spanning the Middle Ages (A.D. 590–1517)
- The Church in Sardis: Protestant Reformation (A.D. 1517–1750)
- The Church in Philadelphia: Era of Revival and Great Awakening (A.D. 1750–1925)
- The Church in Laodicea: Era of “Higher Criticism” (A.D. 1900–Tribulation)
Church Ages Revealed in Revelation
Revelation 2-3 reveals Jesus speaking to 7 distinct churches. The things that Jesus teaches each of these churches is relevant for not only the church at the time this was written but also relates to all churches of every era, dealing with real problems that people have to face. However, it is the specific order, specific problems and specific ordinations to each of these churches that directly correlate to 7 distinct periods of time that the church of God has went through. It is this correlation between the Churches mentioned in Revelation to Church history that makes this theory very intriguing.
This point of view is not accepted by all scholar or believers however that does not invalidate the fact that the history of the church can still be broken down into distinct periods of time, each with its own unique set of variations. In order to better identify an accepted view of this interpretation we have to consider some variables, along with the criticism of this interpretation.
- Age 1: 33 – 100A.D Apostolic Church
- Age 2: 100 – 300 A.D Persecuted Church
- Age 3: 300 – 500 A.D Imperial Church
- Age 4: 500-1500 A.D Papal Church
- Age 5: 1500 – 1600 A.D Reformation Church
- Age 6: 1600 – 1900 A.D Missionary Church
- Age 7: 1900 – Future A.D Ecumenical Church
Even if the church is not literally broken into 7 separate ages in the book of Revelation, and the interpretation is invalidated, we can still view the churches history into separate segments to properly understand the churches history and major events that coincide with the church.