If the body of Christ, the Assembly, was not formed until the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, what about all of those that trusted in Christ and yet died before Pentecost? Are they brought into the One Body? Or are they part of a different company or group of saints?
The simple answer is that they are a separate company. But, there are other groups, like those saved during the tribulation. So, let’s look at some Scripture to see how various companies are described.
The company that we are most familiar with is the one to which we belong. Since the day of Pentecost believers have been “baptized” (1 Cor 12:13) into the Body of Christ. This body is also referred to as the Assembly or Church (Eph 1:22,23; Col 1:18). This company has a special intimate relation to Christ and so is called His “bride.” (Compare Eph 5:22-33 with Rev 19:6-8; see also Jn 15:15) The Assembly continues as God’s testimony on earth (1 Tim 3:14-16) until the Rapture (1 Thess 4:13-18). During this present time the apostle Paul refers to the Assembly as a chaste virgin (2 Cor 11:2) in anticipation of the marriage described in Revelation 19.
John the Baptist was declared by the Lord to be the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. (Matt 11:9-15) So, all the saints of the Old Testament find their representation in John. John referred to himself as the “friend of the bridegroom” (Jn 3:29,31). I suggest that this phrase is a foreshadow of the Assembly (or Church) being the Bride, since Israel is also referred to as the Lord’s bride (Ps 45:9-17; Isa 54:5) in Old Testament and Millennial connections. So, when we consider the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19 we can think of the Old Testament saints included there as “friends of the bridegroom.”
The Old Testament saints also appear earlier in Revelation as part of another company. In Revelation 4:4 we find 24 thrones occupied by 24 “elders.” A reasonable interpretation is that these represent the combined company of Old Testament saints and the Assembly.
In Hebrews we find another description of companies. Heb 12:22-24 reads,
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
I find this a fascinating passage that lists three companies shown in bold. There may be subdivisions within these categories, as demonstrated by the company of angels, which include both Cherubim and Seraphim. The final class is Old Testament saints shown by describing them as “spirits,” indicating they have all died. This is not universally true of New Testament saints. Yet, that the “spirits” have been “made perfect” shows they have also enjoyed resurrection (Heb 11:40).
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, (Eph 3:14,15)