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Bonus Bible Study Articles

How the Dispensations Help in Bible Study, by William McDonald

Although God does not change, His methods and policies in connection with mankind often do. The fact that we are not commanded to offer animal sacrifices shows that there has been a change of dispensations. While we can get good out of everything in the Bible, not everything was written to us. All the promises are not intended for us. For example, the land God promised Abraham from the Mediterranean to the River Euphrates. That is for the people of Israel, not for the Church. In different ages, God has tested man under different conditions. We speak of these different administrations as dispensations.

Itís similar to what happens in an average household. When a couple first marries, a certain schedule is set up. When a couple first marries, a certain schedule is set up. Then a baby comes along and an entirely new program comes into existence. But this changes again then the child is five or six. And there is a radical difference when that child becomes a teenager, as we all know. Hopefully that clarifies things a bit.

Here Are the Seven Dispensations as Widely Taught:
  1. INNOCENCE - Before Adam sinned, he walked in fellowship with God without any jarring note. As long as he remained innocent, he would have continued to live in the garden. But the rebellion of Adam and Eve brought this idyllic dispensation to an end.

  2. CONSCIENCE - With the entrance of sin, a new situation prevailed. Fellowship was broken and Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. They learned that a sinful person can approach a holy God only on the basis of a substitutionary sacrifice.

  3. HUMAN GOVERNMENT - After the worldwide flood, God ordained human government when He ordered capital punishment for a murderer. Although the Bible does not specifically say so, this punishment would not be meted out by a family blood feud but as a result of a proper government trial where guilt could be proven.

  4. PROMISE - Beginning with Abraham, the Lord started a period during which He made lavish promises to the patriarchs and Israel.

  5. LAW - Then from Exodus 20 to the end of the Old Testament, Godís earthly people were tested under law. The Ten Commandments were designed to show man his utter inability to merit or earn Godís favor by his own efforts, to convict him of sin, and to drive him to the Lord for salvation.

  6. THE CHURCH - Whereas ďthe law was given by Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus ChristĒ (Jn. 1:17). At the present time the Church is Godís new society, not under law with penalty attached, but with Christ as the new rule of life. Following the rapture of the Church, God will pour out His judgments on a world that crucified His Son. This administration, known as the Tribulation, will last seven years. The last half will be the Great Tribulation, the worst period of trouble that the world has ever known or will ever know.

  7. THE MILLENNIUM - The millennium, or thousand year reign of Christ, will be a dispensation characterized by peace and prosperity. It is the golden age of all time. Some think of the eternal as Godís final dispensation. Sin, sorrow, sickness, and death will be abolished and believers will be with Christ in heaven for eternity.
Contrary to popular accusations, dispensationalists do not believe that there is a different gospel in different ages. Salvation always has been and always will be by faith in the Lord and on the basis of the work of Christ on Calvaryís cross. In the Old Testament God saved men by faith in whatever revelation He gave them. As far as we know, they did not know about the coming Saviorís substitutionary death; it was still in the future. But God knew about it and put all the value of Christís work to their account when they believed. Today we put our faith in the Savior who died for us nearly two thousand years ago.

The careful use of dispensational truth helps us to explain, for instance, why we do not offer animal sacrifices today and why the Old Testament laws concerning clean and unclean foods do not apply to us. But extreme, or ďultra-dispensationalismĒ can rob us of portions of the Word that are filled with spiritual teaching.