Dispensationalists like to argue that the Church was not revealed until the New Testament. They claim all prophecy of the Old Testament is silent about any idea of the Church, so that the Old Testament is wholly wind-swept empty regarding the Church.
But we should not deem the new covenant era, international Church as a mystery “completely unrevealed in the Old Testament,” as Ryrie does (based on Eph 3:5). Certainly the revelation’s clarity increases in the New Testament, and obviously the audience who hears it expands, but the revelation itself was given in the Old Testament.
Ephesians 3:5–6 reads: “which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” We have already seen that the Old Testament anticipated this. Now we must note that Ryrie and the dispensationalists misread Paul’s statement. Consider the following.
We must understand for whom the revelation was a mystery. Ephesians 3:3–6 reads: “By revelation he made known unto me the mystery . . . which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men” Thus, the mystery now revealed was not previously made know to the “sons of men,” that is, the Gentiles. It was made know to the “sons of Israel” through their prophets. The phrase “sons of Israel” appears often in the Old Testament (e.g., Exo 3:3, 14–15; 4:31; 5:14–15; 6:5; etc.), setting them over against the rest of the world, the Gentiles, the “sons of men.” When God speaks to Ananias he distinguishes between “the Gentiles” and “the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15; cp. Luke 2:32; Acts 4:27).
This is made indisputably clear in Romans 16:25–26. There Paul points out that the “mystery” of Gentile salvation is hidden only from the Gentiles, not from the Old Testament prophets — for he defends his doctrine of the mystery by referring to “the scriptures of the prophets”: “the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” Paul declares that the “mystery” is “now made manifest” to “all nations” — not just to Israel.