As we delve deeper into our study on rightly dividing scripture, a great deal of confusion and error in understanding the Bible would be eliminated if we only took the time to learn how to “rightly divide” the Word, and why we must do so as we are called to do in scripture (2 Tim 2:15).
The phrase “rightly divide” means to “make a straight cut.” That both history and God’s administration of it is divided into differing administrations (dispensations) cannot be honestly denied. God Himself has made “dividing cuts” all along the timeline of history; and although the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone has NEVER changed in ANY dispensation, the way God has revealed Himself to man – His unveiling plan for the ages – has been and still is being progressively revealed throughout each of the different dispensations within God’s timeline of both history past and history future.
For example, ALL of the Old Testament prophecies that are given in both the major and minor prophetic books were given to national ISRAEL, and NOT to the Church – not until the appropriate time AFTER Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, AFTER Israel had rejected both her Messiah and the Kingdom He offered them as a nation (**as He already knew that they would). Only AFTER these things occurred was the Church birthed – a SEPARATE ENTITY from national Israel (Acts chapter 2).
** (Zechariah 12:10 shows that the Jews must repent and BELIEVE upon Jesus as their Messiah because, in His omniscient foreknowledge, He knew that they would reject both Him and the kingdom at that time. They must at a future point come to “look upon Him whom they pierced.” And Zechariah 13:8-9 shows that, by the end of the Tribulation, 1/3 of them will).
The Church was NEVER God’s “plan B” but was instead already planned for from before creation because God is omnipotent and omniscient (all powerful and all knowing). He already knew the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10); thus, He already knew that national Israel would reject Jesus as her Messiah and would thus reject His legitimate offer of the kingdom to them. The Church was in God’s plan from the very beginning, but not revealed until God knew the time to reveal her was right; that is AFTER Israel rejected Jesus as her promised Messiah and thusly also rejected the promised kingdom Jesus legitimately offered, exactly as God in His omniscience already knew Israel, at that time, would.
The Church is ONE BODY that is made up of BOTH believing Jews and believing Gentiles (Galatians 3:28-29).
The Church was a “mystery hidden in God” until it was time for it to be brought forth in God’s timing (Ephesians 3:1-11).
We are now living in the Dispensation of Grace – the Church Age. The Dispensation of Grace (the Church Age) began with the birth of the Church at Pentecost after Jesus’ ascension back to the Father, and will end with the rapture of the Church to Heaven BEFORE the 7-year Tribulation begins; because the PURPOSE of the Tribulation is not only for God to bring vengeance and justice to a wicked world, but most importantly to bring to salvation a remnant of ISRAEL so that ALL of God’s unconditional covenants to Israel can be fulfilled forevermore (Daniel 9; Jeremiah 30:7; Zechariah 13:8-9 – specific to Israel DURING the Tribulation, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58; Revelation 4:1 specific to the Church BEFORE the Tribulation).
In order to be able to “rightly divide” scripture, we need to read and study the “whole counsel” of God (that is, the full scriptures in their entirety). We must study them in this manner:
LITERALLY (this means that God means what He says and says what He means. We do not allegorize or spiritualize what God plainly states as truth).
GRAMMATICALLY (this means that although metaphor and simile, and imagery are used as linguistic devices, the truth is still the truth of scripture. For example, when Jesus says He is the “bread of life,” we understand that this is a literary way of stating the truth that Jesus is the only One who can sustain us spiritually – not that He is a literal loaf of bread).
DISPENSATIONALLY (that means historically – where and when events occur on God’s timeline), and to WHOM the recorded events occur.
IN CONTEXT (that means knowing who is being addressed in any given passage) and knowing what the theme or subject matter is being discussed in any book, passage, or verses. Reading in context means that we take the Testament, book, passage as a WHOLE and that we are not “cherry picking” verses out of the context of the entire passage, book, or Testament. We read the verses above any particular verse, and the verses below IT. We keep every verse in the entire context of the passage, chapter, book, Testament. We identify WHO is being addressed, and during what time period; and when we understand these things, we interpret and understand it all LITERALLY.
As an example, nowhere is the Church addressed in the Old Testament; NOWHERE. The major and minor prophetic books in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are ALL addressed to ISRAEL; to the Jews. They deal with Israel’s PAST and with what national Israel WILL BE enduring during the coming Tribulation (for example the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; and Luke 21 are ALL specific to the JEWS – to ISRAEL).
The New Testament book of John is a transitional book between the Old Testament Covenant under LAW and the (then coming) New Covenant of GRACE. The book of John is a bridge between that which WAS – the Old Covenant – and that which was about to begin – the New Covenant. This new covenant, which was to be offered to ALL who would believe (both Jew and Gentile), would be briefly introduced to but not yet expounded upon by Jesus to His disciples just before His crucifixion. Later, the new entity Jesus mentioned as being “His Church” would be birthed in the book of Acts (chapter 2), and expounded upon throughout the epistles of the Apostle Paul whom God had called and ordained as the “apostle to the Gentiles” – to the Church.
The new Dispensation of Grace was instituted only AFTER Christ had finished His work of procuring and securing our eternal salvation at Calvary, and by His bodily resurrection and ascension back to the Father, thus postponing the Dispensation of Law (the final 7 years of that dispensation that will be completed during the 7-year Tribulation).
The birth of the Church at Pentecost (AFTER Calvary), as related in Acts chapter 2, marks the beginning of the newly begun Dispensation of GRACE; a dispensation unlike any other in time whereby God made ONE NEW BODY of believers of BOTH Jews and Gentiles who believe upon Christ alone for their salvation (John 3:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Another unique aspect of the Dispensation of Grace is that, during this dispensation – that is, during the Church Age – the Holy Spirit is actually SEALED WITHIN each believer. This was not the case in any dispensation previous to the Church Age, nor will this unique indwelling and sealing of the Holy Spirit in believers be in effect during any dispensation afterward. The function of the Holy Spirit before the Dispensation of Grace was to “come upon” or “come beside” believers – leading, strengthening, guiding and enabling them. This function will again be the function of the Holy Spirit after the rapture of the Church; the event that will end this unique dispensation of Grace – the Church Age.
The identity, function and destiny of Israel and the Church are not the same. The Church and Israel are two separate and distinct entities. Both are loved by God, and both play distinct roles in God’s plan for the ages. We must never mix the two or assign to the Church any of the promises that were made specifically to Israel.
National Israel was promised by God an EARTHLY kingdom, while the Church is promised a heavenly one. Israel is God’s land and Jerusalem God’s city. God has placed His mark on both the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. God made certain specific unconditional covenants with Israel through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob concerning the land, while to the Church God has promised a heavenly kingdom eternal “in My (Christ’s) Father’s house.”
During the Millennial Kingdom on earth, Christ will rule from David’s throne in Jerusalem, Israel, fulfilling ALL of the covenants He made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their physical posterity. Those of us who are the Church will rule and reign with Christ on earth during the coming Kingdom, but it will be a redeemed and fully believing national ISRAEL who will be the center of earth’s rulership whose center will be JERUSALEM, God’s holy city.
During the Millennial Kingdom, we who are the Church, along with the Old Testament Saints and the martyred Tribulation Saints, will then be in our redeemed and glorified bodies. The others in the Kingdom will be MORTALS, both Jews and Gentiles who survived the Tribulation and who will ALL enter the Kingdom as believers, but still in their mortal bodies.
Thus, the Millennial Kingdom will consist of both mortal and Immortal beings. The Church will be ruling along with Christ, administering justice in the earthly kingdom – judging both the still mortal believing ethnic Jews and the believing mortal Gentiles who will have survived the Tribulation and who will have entered the Millennial Kingdom while still in their mortal bodies. It will be these mortals, both Jew and Gentile, who will marry, procreate, and populate the Kingdom for 1,000 years.
During this 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth, ISRAEL will be the focal point for all the nations of the earth. ISRAEL will at last enjoy ALL of the blessings that God has always promised that she would be given.
At the end of this 1,000-year earthly reign of Christ on this present earth, all of the lost dead from every dispensation who have been temporarily housed in Hell (also called Sheol in Hebrew and Hades in Greek), along with Satan, every fallen angel, every demonic spirit – ALL fallen entities and ALL lost and eternally condemned souls will at last be judged by Christ at the Great White Throne Judgment. ALL will be found guilty and ALL will be thrown into the eternal Lake of Fire there to endure great anguish and torment for eternity. This final judgment ENDS all 7 dispensations throughout TIME.
After that, God will create a new heaven and earth. The Holy City – the New Jerusalem – will “come down” from heaven and will occupy a place in the atmospheric heavens somewhere between the third heaven and the new earth. This New Jerusalem will be the abode of the glorified Church. The glorified Church will be able to move freely between there and the new earth where the new land of Israel and the redeemed city of Jerusalem will forever be the center of the earth (Revelation 21).
At the end of the 1,000 years after the judgment of the Great White Throne, Time as a created construct will end and will merge forever into what will be the “eternal now.” This will at last be the great culmination of everything that God began from the instant He created the angelic realm. This will be eternity where there will NEVERMORE be any sin, any pain, any death, any heartache, any disappointment, any impurity of any kind, nor will there be any remembrance of this former earth (Isaiah 65:17).
Creation will, at long last, be all that God had intended for His perfect creation to be. Sin, Satan, Death, Hell, Time, and the Grave will have been forever vanquished, and Christ will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s over the new heaven, the new earth, from the New Jerusalem forever.
This is why we must learn to “rightly divide” the Word of God so that we do not misapply or misinterpret scripture. Always remember to approach scripture literally, dispensationally, grammatically, and in the proper and full context of the entirety of the whole counsel of God (both testaments). If we do this, then all errors in understanding, all seeming contradictions, and all misapplications will dissolve as we begin to see the whole counsel of God – penned by 40 different men over a period of 1,600 years – dovetailed seamlessly together – no contradictions, a seamless melding of God’s perfect Plan of the Ages.
Rightly dividing the Word shows us just how incredible this one-of-a-kind, inerrant, infallible, immutable, God-breathed, absolutely supernatural book really is.