Dispensational Truth

by | Updated February 18th, 2023

Dispensationalism is a particular hermeneutic system for interpreting the Bible based on a literal translation, and which stands in contrast to the traditional system of covenant theology used in biblical interpretation.

God clearly dealt with mankind in different ways at certain periods throughout history. We’ll begin this study by making the case for dispensationalism by comparing the law and grace and showing God plainly is dealing with us now on the basis of grace and no longer the law. After which we will lay out the various ways the Lord has dealt with the human race throughout time.

The Law and Dispensationalism

The Ten Commandments are not done away with. They’re even the basis upon which most laws are based. However, man could not live up to the law completely which is why Jesus had to come and give His life for us. We simply could not live up to it. If we fall short in any aspect we stand condemned. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them” (Romans 10:4-5). “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).

Jesus Declares We’re Under a New Covenant

Jesus Himself declared we’re under a new covenant. “This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). We are not under the old covenant but that doesn’t mean it is not applicable to us today. “Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Everything in the Old Testament is there for us today but we know it is impossible for us to be justified by the law.

Now Under the Dispensation of Grace

“If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:2-5).

“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:19-22). We need grace because we all fall short (Romans 3:23).

Balance is Imperative

I’m not a hyper dispensationalist but there is truth in it as with most things. Balance is imperative! Some have taken it to a far extreme which enters into error but just because some take things to an extreme doesn’t negate the truth that’s there. People frequently go to the other extreme to come against the extreme they see which becomes error too. The truth is usually somewhere in the middle. It’s apparent God dealt with mankind in different ways at points in time. For instance, before the giving of the law man was clearly not under the law because it hadn’t been given yet. Now, though the law is there for us as an example to learn from and give us insight on how we ought to live, we are clearly under grace. Otherwise, we would all be lost and have no salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Our Righteousness is in Christ Alone

God deals with us on the basis of grace now. I have absolutely no righteousness of my own. “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). My righteousness is in Christ and Him alone. “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Isaiah prophesied of this, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of His righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). As the old hymn said, “My hope is built on nothing less than His blood and righteousness.”

An Explanation of Dispensationalism

A dispensation is a way of ordering things—an administration, a system, or a management. In theology, a dispensation is the divine administration of a period of time; each dispensation is a divinely appointed age. Dispensationalism is a theological system that recognizes these ages as ordained by God to order the affairs of the world. Dispensationalism has two primary distinctives: 1) a consistently literal interpretation of Scripture, especially Bible prophecy, and 2) a view of the uniqueness of Israel as separate from the Church in God’s program.

A dispensation is simply a period of time in which God dealt with mankind in a certain way. Paul said, “you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me” (Ephesians 3:2). It is Biblical as Paul clearly refers to the dispensation of the grace in this verse. The word “dispensation” means “a system of order, government, or organization of a nation, community, etc., especially as existing at a particular time.” Looking through the Bible, we can find seven distinct dispensations, or “ways of doing things” that were God-ordered and God-ordained.

Nine Separate and Distinct Dispensations

Each dispensation has a purpose in the overall story. Classical dispensationalism identifies seven dispensations in God’s plan for humanity. Some believe there’s more than seven. I will add an additional two which takes us from creation into eternity.

  1. The Dispensation of Innocence. This dispensation covers the time from the creation of man to the fall of man (Genesis 1:28-30, 2:15-17, and chapter 3). Clearly before the fall Adam and Eve lived in a state of innocence. They didn’t know sin and walked with God in complete sinlessness. Obviously after they sinned the time of innocence ended. They were no longer innocent.
  2. The Dispensation of Conscience. The expulsion from the garden began the dispensation of conscience—a time when man was left to rule himself by his own will and the dictates of his conscience, both of which had been tainted by sin. It was a disaster, and ended in disaster—the worldwide flood and universal deluge (Genesis 3:8—8:22).
  3. The Dispensation of Human Government. The dispensation of human government began just after the flood. God made promises and gave commands to Noah and his family (Genesis 9-11). This dispensation began with Noah and his family after the flood and ended with the tower of Babel and the call of Abraham.
  4. The Dispensation of Promise. The dispensation of human government lasted until the call of Abraham. The call of Abraham, the lives of the patriarchs, and the enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt all fall under the dispensation of promise. This was the time when Abraham’s descendants waited for the promise that was given to Abraham: that God would make Abraham’s descendants a great nation and give them their own land (Genesis 12:1-7). This dispensation ended with the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Once they left Egypt they were officially a nation, led by God into the wilderness toward the Promised Land at which time the law was given.
  5. The Dispensation of Law. The dispensation of law lasted almost 1,500 years, beginning with the Exodus and ending with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The delivery of the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law is found in Exodus 19—23. As stated earlier this does not mean the law is completely void. It was given for our example and measuring rod, and school master to lead us to and show us our need for Christ.
  6. The Dispensation of Grace (Ephesians 3:2). The dispensation of grace and the church age started at the resurrection of Jesus Christ and continues today. It is the new covenant in Christ’s blood (Luke 22:20). This is also called the “age of grace” or the “church age,” and scholars believe that the entire dispensation—more than 2,000 years—occurs between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 9:24. This dispensation ends with the beginning of the tribulation period. at which time the primary focus is on Israel again.
  7. The Dispensation of Judgment or Jacob’s trouble. This deals with the seven year tribulation period. The tribulation is a seven year period that is referred to as a “time of trouble” in Daniel 12:1, the “time of Jacob’s trouble” in Jeremiah 30:7, the “great tribulation” in Matthew 24:21, the “hour of trial” in Revelation 3:10, and “the great tribulation” in Revelation 7:13-14. This ends at the second coming of Jesus.
  8. The Millennial Kingdom of Christ. The Millennial Kingdom begins with the defeat of Satan (Revelation 20:1-3) and ushers in 1,000 years of peace, where Christ will reign on the earth (Revelation 20:4). The kingdoms of this world will at this time be subject to Christ. This will be the greatest time of peace and prosperity the world has ever known. During this period Jesus’ faithful followers will rule and reign with Him.
  9. The Eternal Kingdom. This dispensation begins after Satan is loosed for a season and then subdued and cast in the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:7 and 10). This is when there are new heavens and earth and the new Jerusalem appears and we enter eternity where the throne of God and and Christ are established and He reigns forever more (Revelation 21-22). What a glorious time this will be. This kingdom and dispensation will have no end.
  10. So God clearly dealt with mankind differently at certain times throughout history. I am glad and do rejoice that we are presently under the dispensation of grace. I pray for, look to, and long for the coming of our Lord when we’ll enter into His Millennial Kingdom and eventually the Eternal Kingdom. At the appearing of Jesus Christ we will become like Him when we see Him in all His glory no longer struggling with sin and shame.

    1 John 3:2-3 – “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.”

    Hebrews 9:28 – “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

    Titus 2:13 – “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

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