God’s Division: Dispensation
One of the greatest failures in the modern church today is the belief that all Bible’s are the same. As we have looked in previous studies, if there is One God, and He so closely identifies Himself as His Word (John 1:1, 14 “past”; 1 John 5:7 “present”; Revelation 19:13 “future”), then there must be One Word (they all don’t say the same thing, you need only compare them verse by verse).
That’s a side note, only to leap frog to the next point, that in our modern church today; there is a secondary hindrance to understanding the Bible, and that is “Dispensations” (Ephesians 1:10, Colossians 1:25).
What Is A Dispensation?
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines it as: “Distribution; the act of dealing out to different persons or places. Said differently, a Dispensation is simply a set of commands or instructions given to a group of people for a time. Put more biblically, a Dispensation is God giving instruction to a group of people for a period of time.
What Point Are You Making?
In order to correctly divide the Word of God, you need to ensure you know who God is talking to and what He requires. One of the biggest mistakes we can make, is believe that as God spoke to Adam, He speaks to us; or what God required from Israel He requires from us. There is some truth and principals that can be applied, but in reality, when God said to Adam “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17) – that couldn’t possibly be for us “literally”? How would we keep that command?
However that instruction was to Adam and it was for him – in regards too how he could continue to have eternal life. But as we know – Adam ate of the fruit of the tree and was soon cursed by God. He did not die spiritually; but death passed upon him (Romans 5:12) – he lost eternal life (Genesis 3:24). Now if it isn’t obvious enough, God’s instructions to Adam is different from ours today, as he was not conceived of a woman and being the first created of men (or the first Adam) by God.
So what’s the point? The point is that in reading our Bibles we need to acknowledge the different ways God deals with groups of people, and His different instruction to them, so as to not apply an instruction for another to ourselves. Imagine in a time of war your Colonel leaves you with a letter of instruction on his desk, vital to yourself and the safety of your men, as you embark onto enemy territory. A most vital instruction wouldn’t you agree? But instead of picking up the right letter, you pick up another meant for a separate battalion with a different timing, which then leads to the death of hundreds of your soldiers – all because the instruction was not meant for you. Do you see the necessity of instruction, it’s timing, and it’s audience; this heeding of instruction is called a “Dispensation”. Loosely speaking a dispensation has the following characteristics: God’s Instruction in regards to Salvation (Eternal Life) for the people of that period God’s Instruction in Regard to Morality (I will skip (b) for sake of length) God’s Character (that is, in every dispensation, a part of God’s character is revealed or emphasized)
An Overview of The Dispensations:
This is an overview to the dispensations which is broken down in 8 parts across the entire Bible. In each part or Dispensation, God deals with man differently, expects something different from Him and gives clear instruction for salvation (eternal life), that is different in itself. Two theme’s remain the same through the entire Bible however; (a) Only through Jesus Christ can sin be ‘removed’. That is in certain dispensations, “works” or “keeping God’s instruction or law” may lead to salvation; that is, the promise of eternal life; but eternal life is only given or attained upon belief (faith) in Jesus Christ and His death on Calvary (Matthew 26:28) (b) Secondly, through every dispensation, “Faith” in God is a requirement (Hebrews 11:7).
Age of Innocence (Genesis 1-3) [Time of Adam] Salvation: Faith + Keeping God’s Instruction (do not eat fruit of the tree of good and evil) God’s Character Emphasized: God’s Goodness (creation)
Age of Conscience (Genesis 3-12) – [Time of Noah] Salvation: Faith + Keeping God’s Instruction (obeying conscience and instruction from previous generation) God’s Character Emphasized: God’s Long suffering
Age of Government (Genesis 12-Exodus 20) – [Time of Abraham] Salvation: Faith + Keeping God’s Instruction God’s Character Emphasized: God’s Just
Age of Promise (Exodus 20-Matthew 26) – [Time of Moses] Salvation: Faith + Keeping God’s Instruction (Ten commandments) God’s Character Emphasized: God’s Faithfulness
Age of Law (Matthew 26- Acts 2) – [Time of Jesus] Salvation: Faith + Keeping God’s Law + Sacrifices God’s Character Emphasized: God’s Holiness
Age of Grace (Acts 2 – Revelation 4) [Time of the Apostles] Salvation: Only Faith God’s Character Emphasized: God’s Grace
Age of Tribulation (Revelation 5-19) [Time of Judgement] Salvation: Faith + Keeping God’s Instruction God’s Character Emphasized: God’s Wrath (anger)
Age of the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20-22) [Jesus’ Physical Reign on this Earth] Salvation: Faith + Keeping God’s Instruction God’s Character Emphasized:God’s Righteousness
Now this may seem rather vague to you perhaps, but it demands a little study, and a little opening of one’s eyes as you read the Bible – understanding that when God speaks, how necessary it is to know, to whom is He speaking, and in what dispensation? That way, you can better understand the bible, and secondly, not misapply an instruction meant for someone else.
God bless you in your desire to understand Him more.