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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…

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…

Prophecy vs. Mystery

When it comes to rightly dividing the word of truth, it is imperative that we first of all identify the main division in the scriptures. Once we do that, the details in understanding God’s word will start falling into place as we study the with the main division in mind.
Most would say that the main division in the Bible is between the Old and New Testaments. You will hear preachers and teachers say things like, “The Old Testament was for the Jews and the New Testament is for the Church.” Technically, the Old Testament did not begin with Genesis but about 2,500 years later in Exodus, and the New Testament did not begin with Matthew 1 (Heb. 9:15-18). Israel will be saved by the blood of the NT (Matt. 26:28). When the Jews are gathered out of the nations into their land and kingdom they will be a NT church (Ezek. 11:17).
Another serious blunder is to suppose there is only one church in the Bible. A church is simply a called-out assembly. Israel was a “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38…

Dispensational Truth

God does not change in His person, principles, or promises (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8), but He certainly does change in His dealings with man. If you don’t understand that, the Bible will be a confusing book to you. We cannot possibly obey everything in the Bible. 
Consider the basic issue of what we are to eat: 1. Adam (Gen. 1:29) = no meat 2. Noah (about 1500 years later, Gen. 9:3-4) = meat without blood 3. Moses (about 1000 years later, Lev. 11:46-47) = clean meats 4. Paul (over 1500 years later, 1 Tim. 4:1-5) = nothing is to be refused
We must distinguish moral truth and dispensational truth. There are moral principles that never change. For example, murder is wrong in every dispensation. The sabbath day is an example of dispensational truth. God gave Israel sabbaths to observe, not the Body of Christ (Col. 2:16). Paul reaffirmed 9 of the 10 commandments (Rom. 13:8-10).
All scripture is profitable for us (2 Tim. 3:16) but we will not gain the profit that God has for us in His word unless we …

Paradise

The word "paradise" appears just three times in the Bible, and in each reference we find it in a different location.
1. Time Past (Lk. 23:43) - In the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:40) 
2. But Now (2 Cor. 12:4) - Above the earth in the third heaven 
3. Ages to Come (Rev. 2:7) - On the earth 

Understandest Thou What Thou Readest?

That was the question that Phillip asked the Ethiopian eunuch as he sat in his chariot reading from the book of Isaiah (see Acts 8:26-40). The eunuch responded, "How can I, except some man should guide me?" He didn't know if the prophecy in Isaiah 53 was about the prophet himself, or some other man. He didn't have the spiritual understanding to see it was about Christ because he was yet to receive the Holy Spirit. He needed a spiritual man to show him Christ in the scriptures. 
It is not my point in this post to expound the passage. I realize that it concerns the kingdom program of Israel. By the way, what was the eunuch reading that would make him ask about water baptism (v.36)? I believe the answer is found in Isaiah 52:15. I just want to draw an application in regard to understanding the Bible.
There are many people who read the Bible but do not understand it. How important is it to have understanding? It is a "wellspring of life unto him that hath it" …

The Sufficiency of God's Word

Dr. E.W. Bullinger wrote the following words in 1897: "God's word is the all-sufficient instrument to accomplish all the Divine purposes in this world, we have no need of any other agency. It is "the power of God unto salvation," it is "able to make wise unto salvation." It must "prosper" and cannot fail to accomplish all the Divine purposes and counsels. Oh, let us beware, that as God's workmen (2 Tim. 2:15), we never adopt any means or take up with any new methods, which tend in the slightest degree to imply the Word of God has lost any of its power, or needs any handmaids or helpmeets, to help it. God's Word is given to God's workmen as the one and only implement to accomplish God's work. This Word he is solemnly charged to preach, and though men "turn away their ears" the exhortation remains the same: "Preach the word" (2 Tim. 4:1-4). If we have His message we must deliver it, and if we have not, we had bett…

Rules for Bible Study (pt.2)

5. The word of God has its own built-in dictionary
We must not rely on man-made definitions to understand Bible words. All of the words in the Bible can be understood by the studying the Bible itself. There is no need to look to outside sources to understand Bible words.
A. Look up the first mention of the word
B. Consider the word in context
C. Note parallelism (e.g. fellowship defined in 2 Cor. 6:14-16)
D. Check cross-references

6. Context, Context, Context!
The Bible is not a collection of sayings. All false teachers use the Bible, they just use it out of context. Consider each passage in light of it’s dispensational context (prophecy or mystery). What is the context of the book? What is the context of the chapter? What is the immediate context?

“It shall greatly help ye to understand Scripture if thou mark not only what is spoken or wrythen, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goeth before and wh…

Rules for Bible Study (pt.1)

1. We are to take the words in their normal and literal sense (Neh. 8:8)
The word of God uses some figurative, symbolic, and allegorical language, but most of it is written in plain, literal language. We must always take the words in their normal and literal sense unless it is clearly not possible to do so. For example, when Christ said, “I am the door,” He was obviously not saying that He was literally a wooden door on hinges. Words have meaning, but the allegorical approach claims that the Bible does not mean what it says. This approach attacks the clarity, authority, and integrity of God’s word. 

2. The scriptures are self-interpreting (2 Pet. 1:20)
There is only one right interpretation for every passage of scripture. It is not our place to interpret the Bible (Gen. 40:8). The living word of God interprets itself as we study it God’s way. So, you can just forget man-made rules of hermeneutics. Never build a doctrine on an isolated text.

3. We must compare spiritual things with spirit…

The Word of Truth

The “word of truth” refers to the gospel (Eph. 1:13) and to the whole Bible (Ps. 119:43; 2 Cor. 6:7). How would we know for sure the gospel is right if the whole Bible is not right?

We must rightly divide the word of truth because:
1. There are different gospels revealed in the Bible - The "word of truth" by which Israel will be born again (Jam. 1:18) is not the same word of truth by which we are saved today.
2. There are different dispensations and ages revealed in the Bible. God gives different instructions to different groups living at different times. We cannot possibly follow the whole Bible.

Believing the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16) and rightly dividing it (2 Tim. 2:15) go hand in hand. The only way to understand the Bible without changing any words and just letting it say exactly what it says, is to rightly divide it. The KJB is a dispensational book. That is amazing in light of the fact that the translators were not dispensationalists.
1. It is the only English translatio…

What is Our Motive in Bible Study?

Our Bible study should be a spiritual exercise and not just a mental one. The Bible is the living word of God, not a textbook. We should study the Bible out of a relationship with God, not religious ritual. Bible study should not be just about gaining knowledge, but the knowledge of God. We can only know God and His truth through His word.
Why did Paul say that we must study to be approved unto God? Aren’t we complete in Christ (Col. 2:10) and accepted in the beloved (Eph. 1:6)? We are approved as to our standing (unchangeable position in Christ), but he is talking about our state (changeable condition). We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of our service. We will not serve God according to His will for this present age unless we rightly divide the word of truth (Rom. 14:10-19; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 4:1-5; 2 Cor. 5:9-11).
What is our motive in Bible study? 1. The fear of God, or man? (Prov. 29:25)  2. The approval of God, or man? (Jn. 12:42-43) 3. The judgme…