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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 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


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