In each dispensation, revelation relates to mankind the changes to man’s responsibilities in the world. Much of the New Testament pertains to the Church; why it is on the earth, what it should be doing, and how it should be organized. Some of the chief passages come from Paul’s letters, especially those to Timothy where he explicitly instructs Timothy on the organization of the church.
The book of Ephesians also has much to say about the Church, both universal and local. In Ephesians 4, Paul states that God gave gifts to the churches to help believers grow in their understanding of doctrine and their knowledge of Jesus Christ. The people are listed in verse 11: Apostles, (New Testament) prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. When the Church began, it had no revelation as to either its essense or its purpose.
God used the eleven apostles and other prophets during the early years to guide and direct the church. Once the New Testament Scriptures were completed, the apostles and prophets were no longer needed, and eventually only pastors and teachers remained.
The end of the dispensation of the Church is the Rapture of the Church before the Tribulation Period. The Church itself will continue, but in heaven. Thus, God’s management on earth can no longer be characterized as the church; it must be something new.
Paul teaches about the Rapture in both 1 Corinthians and again in 1 Thessalonians. Taking these two passages, combined with the Old Testament teaching on the Tribulation Period, we can see that the taking of the Church out of the world must occur first. In fact, it is the next event on the timeline of end time events.
In summary then, God’s ruling principle is the Church itself. This dispensation began with the creation of the Church and will end when the Church is removed from the earth. Man’s responsibility during this time focuses on those who are members of the Church universal: bear witness to Jesus Christ, teach and uphold truth, and live worthy of the Gospel.