It has been said that the age of grace is a parenthesis, but others have suggested that the age of the Church is the big reveal of God’s eternal purpose. Could you please clarify this?
There are two different perspectives being presented. First, if we are looking at God’s dealings with mankind as Man on earth and also Israel in particular, then the Church period (or age) appears as a parenthesis. This perspective corresponds to the fact that the Church is not explicitly mentioned in the Old Testament. A familiar example is found in Daniel 9. At the end of this chapter we read:
After the sixty-two weeks, the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one week. In the middle of the week, he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. (Dan. 9: 26–27, NIV)
Verse 26 describes the events leading up to the cross and the immediate judgments afterward. The events described in verse 27 have not yet come to pass. Also, compare Isaiah 61:1–2 with Luke 4:17–21. (Notice where the Lord stopped reading.) Another interesting example is found in Zechariah 9:9–10, which is partially quoted in Matthew 21:5. The present Church period fits between the two verses in Zechariah. So the Church period is a parenthesis when we consider God’s dealing with Israel. This view is essential for making sense of the Old Testament prophecies. Not seeing this has led some Christians to apply Old Testament prophecy incorrectly to the Church. Remember too that the Church is a called out company. During the Church age, God is not dealing directly with Israel or the world.
Second, and in contrast, the Church period is the time when God has been fully revealed through the Person of the Son (Heb 1:1–4). This is a large topic so let me just very briefly connect this to the fact that “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12) has come, so it is now appropriate that heavenly and eternal purposes be fully revealed. This is effected through the completion of the written word (Col 1:25) and the giving of the Holy Spirit to Christ’s followers to properly understand that revelation. So, in this way, the Church period is the most blessed of all the ages.
So, both views are true: the Church age is a “parenthesis” and it is also a “big reveal,” but each in its own way.