The first time the church is mentioned in the Bible is in Matthew 16:16-18, “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Of course, Peter is not the rock upon which the church is built.  Christ, Himself, is that rock.  It was Peter’s proclamation that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” that the Lord was referring to as this ‘rock’.  Later, Christ was declared as the “chief corner stone” of the church (Ephesians 2:20). 

Notice in Matthew 16 how the Lord spoke of the church as a future entity.  He said, “upon this rock I WILL BUILD my church” which shows the church was not yet in existence.  When, exactly, did the church begin?  The church actually began in the day of Pentecost in Acts, chapter 2.  Acts 2:1-3, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.”  This chapter ends by telling us, “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And THE LORD ADDED TO THE CHURCH DAILY SUCH AS SHOULD BE SAVED.” (Verse 47).  With the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell every believer, the church was formed.  ONLY those who were saved were added to the church.  It is possible to join most any church of your choice, but to be a part of the Lord’s church, you must be saved.  You must be a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ.

The church is known by several names in the Bible.  It is called ‘the body’ (Colossians 1:24), the ‘house of God’ (1 Timothy 3:15), and the ‘bride’ (2 Corinthians 11:2). 

Since the church was not formed until the day of Pentecost in Acts, chapter 2, we know that the Old Testament saints are not part of the church.  Neither are they part of the bride of Christ.  John the Baptist had a sense of this great truth for he said of Himself in John 3:29, “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.”  John was the last of the Old Testament prophets and he found his great joy in being a ‘friend of the bridegroom’ which would be similar to what we call today as the ‘best man’.  In this position, I believe John is representative of all Old Testament saints.  Their portion from the Lord is wonderful and caused John to declare that “my joy is fulfilled”, but the church, the bride of Christ, is comprised of those who are saved from the day of Pentecost until the day of Christ’s return to rapture out His church. 

This is not at all to imply that the Old Testament saints were not saved.  Through faith, they were indeed saved.  We read of Abraham in Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”  We also read in Romans 4:5, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  The OT saints and the NT saints are all saved on the basis of faith.  When we believers arrive in Heaven, we will see the OT saints are indeed there and enjoying the presence of the Lord.  However, WE are the church of God.  WE are the body of Christ.  WE are the house of God.  WE are the bride of Christ.  What did we do to have such an honor?  We have done nothing.  It is by God’s grace that He has given us such a blessed place.  We are told in Ephesians 5:25 that, “…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”  (480.2)