Theological Vision Guides

5. The Church Age: An urgent gospel mission

Key Theme: The Church Age

We have seen that our union with Christ, restoring our relationship to God, does not mean less than the restoration of our humanity. Justified through the resurrection of ‘the last Adam’, we enjoy rightful participation in the original and now eternal human vocation: a royal priesthood, called to do good with the rule over creation, and to bring its praises back to the Creator.

But does our union with Christ also entail something more for our current vocation? This requires us to first understand the age, or period, in which we find ourselves as members of the universal church. So what is the ‘church age’?

Paul teaches that creation’s story turns on only two figures, both of whom are given dominion over creation: the first Adam and the last Adam, Christ (Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 15:45). These, in turn, define two ages: that of the first creation and that of the new creation. Each of these began with respective Adamic bodies as the archetypes of their descendants: Adam’s natural body and Christ’s glorified resurrection body. In the case of Christ’s exaltation, with everything under his feet, Daniel’s vision of the son of man saw Christ being given all authority, and the worship of all nations (Dan 7:13-14).

But the nations do not yet all worship Christ. Although Christ’s resurrection has already inaugurated ‘the age to come’, and although believers are actually united by the Holy Spirit to Christ, the Last Adam, we still have our fallen bodies as we inherited them from the first Adam in ‘this age’, and the earth on which we live still labours under the curse. Although we are being renewed on the inside by the resurrection power of Christ’s Spirit, our bodies will continue to die before he returns (2 Cor 4-5).

Recap: the creation mandate and gospel mission

Diagram 7: Recap
Permanently restored in Christ to our rightful position and role as humans

Diagram 8: Continuing Christ’s gospel mission until he returns

Synthesis: we embody these two responsibilities together as the church in the ‘now-and-not-yet’ age

Diagram 9: The Church Age
We participate in both the creation mandate and the gospel mission

Diagram 10: Christ’s body on earth during the church age


Consultation Exercise

GAP is an ongoing project. For the sake of evangelical unity and clarity, this article has already been enriched by a broad consultation process and now that it is posted here we hope it will benefit from wider input from our readers. We would invite you to bring your constructive feedback by clicking the button below. We can’t promise to reply to every comment, but we will keep updating the text as the project progresses.

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