Monday, July 23, 2018

Dispensational Layout of the Bible

The Bible is one Book made up of many different books. It has unity and diversity, just as its Author who is one God in three persons (1 Jn. 5:7). God used about 40 different writers (various backgrounds and locations) over a period of about 1,500 years to write the 66 books of the Bible. These books cover about 7,000 years of human history and give glimpses into eternity past and future. The Bible is not everything God knows, but it is everything God wants us to know about Him and His plan and purposes. The revelation was given progressively. That 66 books make up one book without error or contradiction proves that the Bible is given by inspiration of God.

There are 1,189 chapters, 31,101 verses, and 791,328 words in the King James Bible. Not only did God inspire and preserve His words so that we have a perfect copy of it today in our own language, He led men in the proper arrangement of its books as well the chapter and verse divisions so that the Bible is laid out in a divine order perfectly designed for our edification. Chapter and verse divisions greatly enhance our ability to search the scriptures. In this computer age searching the scripture is easier than it has ever been and yet it is also more neglected.

The Bible is a big book, an inexhaustible gold mine of divine revelation. We could spend a lifetime studying it in detail and never learn it all, but we should seek to learn as much as possible. The purpose of learning the Bible is not just knowledge, but the knowledge of God. The Bible is God’s perfect revelation of Himself to man. God preserved the whole Bible for us because we need all of it (2 Tim. 3:16).

It is important in Bible study to have a basic overview of the Bible in our heart and mind because it will greatly help us in studying it in detail. Sometimes we can't see the forest for of the trees. It is best to start with a panoramic view of the whole Bible before we examine its books, chapters, verses, and words. A key in Bible study is to understand the larger context. In other words, a verse must be studied in light of the surrounding passage, the passage in light of the chapter, the chapter in light of the book, the book in light of the testament, and the testament in light of the whole Bible.

There is unity in the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16):
It reveals one God – Gen. 1:1; Rev. 22:21
It reveals one main purpose – the glory of God
It reveals one main theme – the person and work of Christ (Jn. 5:39)
It reveals one main goal – the establishment of God’s kingdom on the earth
It reveals one plan of redemption – by the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:22)
It reveals one set of moral principles - God’s moral principles never change
It reveals one main enemy – Gen. 3:1; Rev. 12:9
It reveals a harmonious unfolding of progressive revelation – changes, no real contradictions

There are divisions in the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15):
Failure to acknowledge the divisions God put in His word is the root cause of all manner of heresies. The most obvious division is between the OT (39) and NT (27). However, it is not correct to say that the whole OT was the Law and the whole NT is grace, or that the OT was for the Jews and the NT is for the church (only Rom. – Phil. was written TO the Body of Christ).

The main division is not between the OT and NT but between the prophetic kingdom program of God’s earthly people (Israel) and the mystery program of His heavenly people (Body of Christ). The burden and emphasis of the prophecy spoken to Israel is the King and His kingdom. Prophecy concerns that which was SPOKEN since the world began through all the prophets (Acts 3:19-21). The burden and emphasis of the mystery revealed through the apostle Paul is the spiritual organism, the Body of Christ. The mystery concerns that which was kept SECRET since the world began (Rom. 16:25). The things that were SPOKEN by the prophets since the world began cannot be the same things that were kept SECRET and hid from the prophets since the world began.

Twofold Division:
1. Prophecy: Earth - from the foundation of the world - Christ the King - Israel over the Gentiles
2. Mystery: Heaven - before the foundation of the world - Christ the Head of one Body - neither Jew nor Gentile

Threefold Division:
1. Time past – Genesis through Acts (difference between Jew and Gentile)
2. But now – Romans through Philemon (no difference)
3. Ages to Come – Hebrews through Revelation (difference resumed)

Six-fold Division (the King and His Kingdom):
1) OT – promised and prophesied
2) Gospels –presented and rejected
3) Acts – re-offered and rejected, transition
4) Pauline Epistles –postponed, mystery of one Body revealed
5) Hebrew Epistles – resumed and proclaimed
6) Revelation – established

Eight-fold Division (not time periods, some overlapping, transitions)
1) Innocence (Gen. 1-3)
2) Conscience (Gen. 4-8)
3) Human Government (Gen. 9-11)
4) Promise (Gen. 12 – Ex. 19)
5) Law (Ex. 20 – Acts)
6) Mystery (Rom. – Phile.)
7) Kingdom (Heb. – Rev.)
8) Fulness of Times (Rev. 21-22)

Paul wrote the last book of the Bible (Col. 1:25). Hebrews through Revelation were placed after Paul’s epistles because they deal with things to come after this present age.

Monday, July 16, 2018

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 keep the garden. He could eat of every tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Man had to be tested.
D. Failure – The woman was deceived by the serpent and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The man obeyed his wife instead of God (Rom. 5:12).
E. Judgment – The man and woman were cursed and expelled from the garden. The ground was also cursed.

II. Conscience (Gen. 4-8)
A. Revelation – Man now operates with a personal and experimental knowledge of good and evil- of good as obedience, of evil as disobedience to the known will of God (Rom. 1:19; 2:14-15). God revealed the necessity for a blood sacrifice to cover sins (Gen. 4:1-8). No written law (Rom. 5:13-14).
B. Spokesman – Adam (930 years), firsthand witness of creation and the fall
C. Responsibility – Choose the good and refuse the evil, offer a blood sacrifice for sin (Gen. 4:7).
D. Failure – Gen. 6:1-8
E. Judgment – The flood

III. Human Government (Gen. 9-11) – 2350 BC
A. Revelation – Man is to be governed by man (Gen. 9:1-7)
B. Spokesman – Noah
C. Responsibility – Mankind; Israel; times of the Gentiles
D. Failure – Babel; breaking covenant; Babylonian system (Rom. 1:18-32)
E. Judgment – Confusion of tongues; lost kingdom; Day of the LORD

IV. Promise (Gen. 12-Ex. 19) – 2000 BC
A. Revelation – Abrahamic covenant
B. Spokesman – Abraham
C. Responsibility – Patriarchs were to trust God to fulfill His promise
D. Failure – unbelief and disobedience by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, 12 sons
E. Judgment – Slaves in Egypt

V. Law (Ex. 20-Acts) – 1500 BC
A. Revelation – The law and land covenants
B. Spokesman – Moses
C. Responsibility – Obey and be blessed in the land, disobey and be cursed
D. Failure – breaking covenants (rejection of Father, Son, and Spirit)
E. Judgment – Captivities, dispersion, fall in Acts

VI. Mystery (Rom. - Phile.)
A. Revelation – Body of Christ and corresponding mysteries (Rom. 16:25; 1 Cor. 4:1; Eph. 3:1-13)
B. Spokesman – Paul (Rom. 11:13)
C. Responsibility – Follow Paul (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:7)
D. Failure – Apostasy from Paul’s message (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 1:15; 3:1, 5; 4:3-4)
E. Judgment – Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:10-17; 2 Cor. 5:10)

VII. Kingdom (Heb.-Rev.)
A. Revelation – Christ is King in Jerusalem reigning over the whole earth, Israel teaches the nations God’s law (Isa. 2:1-5)
B. Spokesman – Christ (Heb. 1:2); secondarily: Peter, James, and John
C. Responsibility – Obey the King
D. Failure – Rev. 20:7-8
E. Judgment – Rev. 20:9-15

Monday, July 9, 2018

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. 3:19-23) – added 430 years later, began with Moses 
3. Grace, or Mystery (Eph. 3:1-7; Col. 1:24-27) – began with Paul 
4. Kingdom (1 Cor. 15:24-28) 
5. Fulness of Times (Eph. 1:9-10) – the eternal state when God’s purposes as revealed in the times of human history will have finally come to fulness.

Paul also refers to man before the fall (innocence, 1 Cor. 15:45-47; 1 Tim. 2:13-14), conscience (Rom. 1:19; 2:14-15), and human government (Rom. 13:1-7). 

By following the five marks of a biblical dispensation, I see seven dispensations in human history (7,000 years) 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 (Rev. 21-22). 

I will present an overview of the seven dispensations in my next post. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

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 physical distinction only pointed to the more important spiritual alienation the Gentiles occupied in time past.

Individual Gentiles could come to God in time past, but they had to come through Israel (like Ruth and Rahab). Gentiles were not blessed if they did not first bless the seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:3). God gave circumcision to Abraham (Gen. 17) as a sign of the covenant He made with him and his seed after him. It was an outward sign of the spiritual privilege God had given to them and was a required mark of their identity and covenant privileges. It was the beginning of a middle wall of partition that God put up between Israel and the nations (Num. 23:9). When He revealed the law through Moses, that wall was strongly reinforced. Israel was raised above the nations (Deut. 4:5-8).

Therefore, whenever we see God making a distinction between Israel and Gentiles in the scripture, we know that we are not reading about this present age in which there is now no difference. Most Bible believing Christians clearly see this distinction in the Old Testament, but fewer see it in the Gospels and early chapters of Acts because they are blinded by tradition (Rom. 15:8; Matt. 10:5-6; 15:21-28; Acts 1:6; 2:14, 22, 36; 3:19-26; 11:19).

II. But Now (vs.13-18)
This is one of several significant “but now” passages in Paul’s epistles. The Body of Christ was a mystery (or, secret) that was first revealed to Paul (Eph. 3:1-12; Col. 1:24-27).

Some try to use this Eph. 2:16 to teach that the Body of Christ began historically AT the cross, but notice that it says, "BY the cross." Not everything that Christ accomplished by His cross was revealed or carried out at that time. For example, He destroyed Satan through His death and resurrection, but Satan is still loose and at work (Rom. 16:20). The Body of Christ is made possible “by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13) and “by the cross” (Eph. 2:16), but entrance into this Body is “by the gospel” (Eph. 3:6) and “by one Spirit” (Eph. 2:18; 1 Cor. 12:13).

The main characteristic of the Body of Christ is that all believers are made to be “ONE NEW MAN”. There is neither Jew nor Gentile in the Body of Christ (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). Gentiles are not being blessed through Israel's rise, but through their fall (Rom. 11:11-15). The only place in the Bible where we read about Jews and Gentiles being in one spiritual Body is in Paul’s epistles. It is in his epistles alone that we find the specific doctrine, position, walk, and destiny of the church which is the Body of Christ.

III. Ages to Come (v.7) 

After the present dispensation of the Mystery closes with the mystery of the rapture (1 Cor. 15:51), God will resume and fulfill the prophetic kingdom program of Israel (Hebrews through Revelation). The “wrath to come” (Matt. 3:7; 1 Thess. 1:10) will be fulfilled. The distinction between Israel and the Gentiles will once again be in place (e.g. Jam. 1:1; Rev. 2:9; 3:9). The Body of Christ will reign in the heavenly places (2 Cor. 5:1; Eph. 2:6-7) while Israel reigns over the nations on the earth (Isa. 2:1-5).

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