There are several characteristics which mark or identify the Lord’s church. One characteristic is the age of the church. For instance, if you knew that John Smith were 40 years old, and you found one that was 20 years old, you have found the wrong one. The same logic could be used in reference to the New Testament church.
In the Old Testament, there were several passages which prophesied of a coming kingdom, or the church. Isaiah 2:2-3 states that in the “last day” the mountain of the Lord’s house (a symbolic reference to the kingdom) would be established. Daniel 2:44-45 is more specific, dating the coming of the kingdom during the Roman Empire. Joel 2:28-32, which is quoted by Peter in Acts 2:16-21, gives the signs of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit which occurred on the day of Pentecost. So these passages pointed to a future kingdom or church.
When one comes to the New Testament, one sees that the kingdom or church was near, or “at hand.” (Matthew 3:1-2; 4:17). Whenever the church was going to be established, it would not be long from the time of John the Baptist and the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. Jesus declared in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” This again places the church in the future. But how far in the future? He said further in Mark 9:1, “Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.”
The Lord proclaimed that the church’s coming would not be far in the future. Another statement is made in Acts 1:8: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” It would not take long for these prophecies to come true, for in Acts 2:1-4, the Holy Spirit came and with Him came power. When He came with power, according to Mark 9:1, the kingdom had come!
Furthermore, after Acts 2, all the references to the church are in the present tense, signifying the fact that it was now in existence. One can readily see this in Acts 2:47; 8:1; Colossians 1:13; and Revelation 1:9. As a man or woman’s age is reckoned from birth, so the age of the church is reckoned from its establishment. The Lord’s church has been in existence for about two millennia. If a church or religious body is founded in the days of Abraham, John the Baptist or Charles Russell, it is the wrong one.