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Seven Dispensations

By following the identifying marks of a biblical dispensation (see last post), I see seven dispensations in human history, with the eighth and final dispensation being the eternal state. In the Bible, seven is God's number of perfection and eight is the number of a new beginning.

It is important to understand that dispensations are not cut and dried time periods and that there is overlapping (e.g. conscience and human government) and transitions (Gospels – OC to NC, Prophecy to Fulfillment; Acts – Law to Grace, Israel to Body, Peter to Paul; Hebrews – OC to NC, Tribulation to Kingdom).

By gaining a basic understanding of the different dispensations, we gain a general framework of the whole Bible.

I. Innocence (Gen. 1-3)
A. Revelation – Man was created in the image of God and given dominion on the earth. God placed the man and woman in a perfect garden and told them to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.
B. Spokesman – God
C. Responsibility – Adam was to dress and kee…
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Biblical Dispensations

The word “dispensation” is used four times in the Bible by the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2; Col. 1:25). A dispensation is basically a dealing out, distribution, or dispensing of something. It is an administration or stewardship. The Bible was given by progressive revelation. A biblical dispensation is a dispensing of divine revelation. It is a particular way that God deals with man. Dispensations are not periods of time. Ages are periods of time (Eph. 2:7; 3:5), but dispensations operate within ages. 
A biblical dispensation is marked by five things: 1.Divine revelation (brings about clear change in God’s dealings with men) 2.Human spokesman (e.g. Moses for the Law and Paul for the Mystery) 3.Human responsibility to the revelation (testing)  4.Human failure (every dispensation ends in apostasy except the last one) 5.Divine judgment 
There are at least five different dispensations that the apostle Paul refers to: 1.Promise (Gal. 3:16-18) – began with Abraham (2,000 BC) 2.Law (Gal.…

The Threefold Division of Scripture

In Ephesians 2 the apostle Paul shows us how to rightly divide the word of truth. Since he is the only one in the Bible who tells us to rightly divide, doesn't it makes sense that we should look to him for an example of how to do it?

In the first part of the chapter (vs.1-10), Paul talks about the past, present, and future of individual believers:
1. Time past (vs.1-3)
2. We are (vs.4-6, 8-10)
3. Ages to come (v.7)

In the latter part of the chapter he talks about believing Gentiles as a whole:
1. Time past (vs.11-12)
2. But now (vs.13-22)
3. Ages to come (v.7)

I. Time Past (vs.11-12)
The terms “circumcision” and “uncircumcision” identify a basic physical and social distinction; one that was in the flesh and made by hands. In time past the Gentiles were also spiritually alienated from God and thus said to be “without Christ." That was their condition because they were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” and “strangers from the covenants of promise.” So, the physi…

Israel vs. The Body of Christ (pt.2)

The Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:4)

I. Purpose
As we saw in our study of the twofold purpose of God, the nation of Israel is God’s agent to reconcile the government of earth to Himself, but the Body of Christ is His agent to reconcile the heavens (Col. 1:16-20). Israel is God's earthly people. The Body of Christ is His heavenly people (Eph. 2:6-7; Phil. 3:20-21; Col. 3:1-4). The Body of Christ (one new spiritual man) was God’s plan before the foundation of the world, but He kept it secret since the world began until He revealed it to the apostle Paul (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1-13).

II. Origin
The Body of Christ is God’s eternal purpose (Eph. 3:11), so technically it existed in the mind of God before the world began. There are a number of views concerning the historical beginning of the Body of Christ (Adam, Christ, Pentecost, mid-Acts with Paul’s salvation and ministry, Acts 28). This is an important issue because it has major doctrinal ramifications. W…

Israel vs. The Body of Christ (pt.1)

One of the fundamental tenets of right division is understanding and maintaining the difference between Israel and the Church which is the Body of Christ. Our last three studies on the main division (prophecy vs. mystery), the twofold purpose of God (heaven and earth), and two ministries of Christ (earthly and heavenly) clearly prove this difference. In this study and the next, we are going to take a very basic overview of Israel and the Body of Christ.

ISRAEL

I. Purpose
As we saw in our study of the twofold purpose of God, Israel is God’s agent to establish His kingdom on the earth (Ex. 19:5-6). The nations will come to worship God through their ministry (Isa. 2:1-5; Matt. 28:19-20). God spoke about this purpose through His prophets since the world began (Lk. 1:70; Acts 3:21).

II. Origin
When Adam fell he lost his dominion on the earth. God immediately promised a Savior who would redeem what Adam ruined (Gen. 3:15). As God progressively revealed His plan, it be…

Two Ministries of Christ

The Lord Jesus Christ is foundational and central to all that God does, but there is a difference between His earthly ministry to Israel and the nations and His heavenly ministry to the Body of Christ.
Romans 15 8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: 
16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
17  I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. 

It’s imperative to understand that the earthly ministry of Christ was one of CONFIRMATION (to confirm what was already promised to the Jewish fathers) and not INAUGURATION (to reveal His secret purpose). Israel is God’s earthly people, and He promised them a land and world-wide kingdom over the nations. Christ plainly said that He was “not sent but unto the lost …

The Twofold Purpose of God

The main division in the word of God is between prophecy concerning Israel and her kingdom (spoken by the prophets since the world began, Acts 3:21) and the mystery of the Body of Christ (kept secret since the world began, Rom. 16:25). This main division reveals the twofold purpose of God. 
Perhaps a better way to say it is that God has one great purpose that will be fulfilled through a twofold plan for the ages. God’s one great purpose is to be glorified through the Lord Jesus Christ. The twofold plan through which He will accomplish this is implied in the very first verse of the Bible. God will be glorified in heaven and earth (Gen. 1:1). As the most high God, the Lord is the possessor of heaven and earth (Gen. 14:19, 22). There has been a rebellion in both, but Christ will reconcile all things in heaven and earth back to God (Matt. 28:18). The twofold plan concerns how God will reconcile the governments of both heaven and earth back to Himself (Col. 1:16-20). Israel is His vehicle t…