Distinctions and Dispensations
“And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne” (Rev. 5:1-7).One of the ways the Lord has of teaching is by setting opposites in position so as to show contrast between the two. For instance, note the contrast between Cain and Abel; Ham and his two brothers Shem and Japheth; Jacob and Esau; Moses and Pharaoh; David and Saul; Daniel and Belshazzar, and in particular, the one we have for our meditation in this article: Christ as the Lamb of God contrasted with Christ as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
It was Isaac in Gen. 22:7, who asked his father Abraham, “Where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?” Throughout the Old Testament we have the Lamb prefigured in type and symbol as well as mentioned directly in prophecy; but it was not until John the Baptist saw Jesus coming unto him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” that the identity of the Lamb was known. Isaiah 53 gives a beautiful picture of the Lamb, and Psalm 22 also shows how the Lamb suffered. Purported pictures of Christ, which at best are only sinful man’s concept and not a true Scriptural presentation, always seem to picture Him as anemic, sickly, and effeminate; whereas, the Word of God pictures Him as the King of kings, and Lord of lords-the Lion of the tribe of Judah. It was as a Lamb that He lived, suffered and died; but He arose and entered into heaven as our great High Priest, from whence we look for Him to return in vengeance to pour out His wrath on all those who obey not His gospel. Note the following Scriptures:
Rev. 19:11-16: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse,’ and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood,’ and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron,’ and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Rev. 14:14-20: “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap,’ for the time is come for thee to reap,’ for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth,’ and the earth was reaped. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire,’ and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth,’ for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.”
Zech. 14:1-3: “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle,. and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women, ravished,’ and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. ”
Joel 3:9-16: “Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles: Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near,’ let them come up,’ Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears,’ let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, 0 Lord. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down,’ for the press is full, the fats overflow,’ for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem,’ and the heavens and the earth shall shake,’ but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.”
Isa. 63:1-6: “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone,’ and of the people there was none with me,. for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury: and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help,’ and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me,. and my fury, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.”
These passages of Scripture uniformly teach that when the Lord returns to the earth with His saints (which will be after He has appeared in the air for His saints) that He is coming in judgment upon the earth dwellers. His feet shall touch the Mt. of Olives and it will cleave in two from the east toward the west. There shall be a very great valley, half the mountain moving toward the north and half toward the south (Zech. 14:4). This manifestly is the valley of Jehoshaphat mentioned in Joel 3:12-14. This valley, filled with innumerable hosts of Christ rejectors, is typified by the winepress of Isa. 63 and Rev. 14. The winepress in Scripture was usually dug out of the side of the hill either in rock or hard clay, with a gentle slope toward the outside so that when the juice of the grapes had been crushed out it could flow to the outside and be put in containers. The ripe grapes were gathered and put into the winepress; the men of the harvest would then get into the winepress with bare feet, and with their robes gathered around their waists, tramp the grapes until all the skins were broken. During such process their robes would become stained from head to foot with the juice of the grapes. This time of the harvest was quite a season and was always enlivened by shouts and songs as they rejoiced because of the harvest.
The Lord’s vengeance upon His enemies is likened to the winepress. His enemies are typified by the grapes, and the Lord himself treads them beneath His feet. Isa. 63:1-3, and Rev. 19:13 tell of our Saviour’s garments being stained with the blood of His enemies. It was alone that He suffered, bled and died on calvary, and it will be alone that He will tread the winepress (Isa. 63:5, 6).
It is amazing how some can say they are not interested in whether the Lord returns or not, when those scenes in and around Jerusalem that witnessed His humiliation will see His honor, power and glory when He returns as King of kings, and Lord of lords. Through His suffering and sacrificial death He has won the right to rule and reign over His own creation. Let us not deny Him that right by saying it makes no difference whether He comes back or not.
Sometimes people who are uninstructed in the Word of God ignorantly ask, “Why doesn’t God do something, if there is a God?” These passages of Scripture show very clearly that not only is God going to do something, but they show just exactly what He is going to do. We must always keep in mind that this is the day of grace and that during this day the Lord is seated at the right hand of God the Father, making intercession for His people (Heb. 7:25). He is now discharging His office as our great High Priest. He is yet to be revealed as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. What a paradox we find today in that the Jewish nation has never been able to see their Messiah as the Lamb of God, neither as the suffering Servant in Isa. 53. They look only for the Lion of the tribe of Judah. On the other hand, the Gentile Christians cannot see Jesus as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, neither as the King of kings ruling and reigning here on the earth over His own creation. They see Him only as the suffering Servant, the Lamb of God, dying in humility, but never exalted to His rightful position as the King of kings. The fact of the matter is, there are two distinct lines of prophecy running throughout the Word of God. One such line shows the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God making atonement for sin by dying on the cross. The other line of prophecy portrays Him as the King, Ruler, Conqueror, coming in power and glory, putting all enemies under His feet and reigning for a literal thousand years upon the literal throne of David in the literal city of Jerusalem. One must understand both lines of prophecy to have a clear concept of the Word of God, else he will find himself in despair and despondency because of misunderstanding and misconception similar to that of John the Baptist: “Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matt. 11:2,3). Had John recognized the two lines of prophecy he would have known that the glory follows the suffering-the crown comes after the cross. So dear is the crowning, ruling and reigning of our Lord to God His Father that we are urged to pray, “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
We can praise God that there is a day coming when every wrong shall be righted, every sin shall be confessed, Satan shall be put down, Christ and His church shall reign triumphant, and the Name of the Lord shall be glorified on every tongue. And the Lord has urged us to watch and pray for that day. God grant unto everyone of you, our readers, that you will lift up your heads and begin to look up, knowing that your redemption draws nigh (Luke 21:28).
“Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God” (I Cor. 10:32).
To rightly divide the Word of Truth according to II Tim. 2:15, one must be able to distinguish between the Jews, the Gentiles and the Church. Because modern Christendom has hopelessly confused the Jews and the Church-making them to be one-Scripture has become meaningless to most of them.
The Jews came into existence by a special creative act of God. The Gentiles came into existence by a special creative act of God. The Church came into existence by a special creative act of God. And from the time of the creation of each, throughout eternity, there will continue to be these three classifications of the human race. I want now to take these three groups up in the order in which God names them in the above quoted Scripture and try to show Who? How? and Why?
1. The JEWS: Because mankind in general had failed God-as was evidenced in the days culminating in the Flood and again in the days following the tower of Babel, in which God confounded their tongues and scattered them abroad over the face of the earth-God called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees. From this one individual, God would raise up a people, innumerable as the stars of heaven and as the sands of the seashore. This people would be especially favored with particular blessings and in turn, they were to be a blessing to all mankind. They would be a blessing to mankind in three ways. First, they would be the channel through which Messiah would come (II Sam. 7:12, 13; Isa. 7:14; 9:6, 7). Second, to them would be committed the oracles of God (Rom. 3:1, 2; Psa. 147:19,20). Third, they were to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Isa. 43:9-12). This people, the children of Israel, seemed to have come into existence through the natural process of procreation. BUT in Isa. 43:1 we learn that Jacob, who became Israel, came into existence by a special creative act of God. Therefore, Israel and his children are known as the Miracle Nation, having been created by God.
With the creation of Jacob and the subsequent change of his name to Israel, we have all of the rest of the human race left in a group called in the Scripture by the name Gentiles. Even Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines a Gentile as one who is not of the Jewish faith or race. These people came into existence as follows:
2. The GENTILES: The Gentiles, as the balance of the human race, came into existence by the special creative act of God of which we read in Gen. 1:26, 27. The Gentiles, known as such after the creation of Israel, had as mankind in general failed God before the call of Abraham. After the call of Abraham their condition was as described by Paul in Eph. 2:12: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” In this condition they were pagans, worshiping idols, false gods, and had their big temples of worship in which were practiced the most licentious orgies conceivable to the mind of fallen man. As a general rule, a visitor coming into any of the then known cities of the world would find two places of worship. One was a synagogue in which the children of Israel, the chosen people of God, worshiped according to the Scripture of the Old Testament. The other place of worship would be a temple in which the pagan Gentiles worshiped according to the wisdom of man and the lust of the flesh. These two groups of people were diametrically opposed to each other and had no use for each other. In fact, each usually expressed bitter animosity toward the other.
Though Israel fulfilled two of the three purposes for which God brought her into existence-namely, giving us the Bible and the Messiah -she failed miserably in being God’s witness to the Gentiles. For this reason God created a third man through whom He would accomplish certain purposes. This third man is known as:
3. The CHURCH: We read of this purpose of God in Eph. 2:14, 15. This new man is neither Jew nor Gentile but is composed of individuals from both Jew and Gentile so that God takes of the two (Jew and Gentile) and makes one new man. In II Cor. 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (creation, Greek),” this new man is a new creation by a special creative act of God. With the creation of this new man we have the temporary setting aside of Israel and the commissioning of the new man to be God’s witness to the ends of the earth. This witnessing was to be done in this order: Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
Since this new man was to be joined to his Head, Who is the Lord Jesus Christ, in heaven, then this new man must have a heavenly body. This new man’s promises and blessings are heavenly. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed usiwith all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Therefore, when this new man dies or is caught up alive, his body must be changed into a heavenly body and will be like unto the body of our Lord in His resurrection appearances. But Israel and the Gentiles, God’s two other peoples, being earthly people with earthly promises and earthly blessings, will have natural bodies. And throughout the Millennium and eternity Israel and the Gentiles will be God’s earthly peoples in their natural bodies-that is, bodies like unto those which Adam and Eve and their posterity would have had if Adam and Eve had not sinned and become mortal. The leaves of the tree of life will suffice throughout eternity to maintain the health of these natural bodies. But the bodies of the members of the Church, being resurrected and glorified bodies though bone and flesh, will have no need of the healing which comes from the tree of life. These bodies will have become incorruptible and immortal.
These three groups will be differentiated throughout the rest of the period of history in which time prevails and when we all pass into eternity, there will still be the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God. One never becomes the other and the difference is noted and maintained throughout Scripture. Do not be led astray by the common teaching of Christendom today, that they are all one and the same. I myself, having been a Gentile and now a Christian, am no longer a Gentile. I have many friends who once were Jews but now are Christians and no longer Jews. In the Word of God there is no such thing as a Hebrew Christian or a Gentile Christian. One is either a Jew or a Gentile or a Christian. “Thus saith the Lord.”
When the Apostle Paul in his missionary journeys would enter a city, he would find the two regular places of worship-the synagogue in which the Jews worshipped and the temple in which the Gentiles worshipped. When he left, with but few exceptions, there were three places of worship. In addition to the synagogue of the Jews and the temple of the Gentiles, there was a church for this new man, this third special creation of God. This third group of worshippers was hated and persecuted by both of the other two groups, the Jews and the Gentiles. These three groups are separate and distinct in the mind, plan and purposes of God. And’ ‘What God hath separated, let not man join together.”
GOD’S PRESENT AND FUTURE PROGRAM
As It Affects Both Jew and Gentile “And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:13-18).
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25). 1. Israel is temporarily set aside as a nation-“blinded IN PART”-UN- TIL. The blindness is neither total nor permanent. Individual Jews are now being saved, and one day the whole Jewish nation will be saved. “All Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:26).
2. God is NOW visiting the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name (the present gospel work)-an election of grace from among the Gentiles to be united with an election from among the Jews to form the Church, the Bride of Christ, in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Eph. 2:14-18; John 10:16).
3. At the rapture, when the last Gentile to be added to the Body of Christ is called out, the Lord appears in the air and calls the New Testament saints to Himself. When “the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25), “the dead in Christ and we which are alive” are caught up (I Thess. 4:16,17).
4. “After these things (the rapture of the saints) I will return” -Christ returns to the earth for the second time, the blindness of Israel is lifted and all Israel saved (Rom. 11:25, 26).
5. “I will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down”-the Kingdom is restored to the house of David according to the Scriptures. (Restoration of the tent is an Oriental figure of speech of re-establishing the family in honor and glory according to former position.)
6. “That the residue of men might seek after the Lord”-the salvation of the remnant of Israel (Zech. 13:8,9; Rom. 11:26).
7. “And all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called”-this is the conversion of the vast number of Gentiles to be saved after the restoration of Israel (Rev. 7:9-17; Rom. 11:15). Then and not until then is Genesis 12:3 fulfilled.
God’s order since the call of Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 has always been “TO THE JEW FIRST.”
With this particular article, the editor is beginning a series on dispensations and dispensationalism. So many are saying today that they are premillennialists but not dispensationalists. The folly of such a paradoxical statement will be manifest as this series unfolds.
The Holy Bible is the Great, Wonderful Revelation of the Creator to His Creature. That there is a God; that Man is His crowning Creation; that God has revealed Himself to Man; that the Bible is this written Revelation-all this the editor accepts as true. That the Bible is written FOR all mankind is also accepted by the editor as true, but the editor does not believe that all of the Bible is written TO or ABOUT all mankind. For instance, God required one group of His people to go to Jerusalem to the temple to worship. He required these worshipers to offer specified animal sacrifices as well as to observe certain annual feasts such as the Passover, the Unleavened Bread, the Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles. As for me, I can worship God wherever I am; I have no required feast days to observe; I am not required to observe the seventh day, neither am I required to go to Jerusalem and offer animal sacrifices.
We find that the Lord says in Matt. 10:5-10, “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers; raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.” Also in Mark 16:17, 18 He says, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues, They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” I have been a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ for a number of years but none of these signs mentioned in the above quoted verses have followed me. I have not been able to speak with new tongues; I have not dared to play with poisonous snakes or drink deadly poison; neither have I attempted to heal the sick nor to raise the dead. I expect to show you in subsequent paragraphs that these commands and orders of the Lord to His disciples who accompanied Him are not commands to His disciples in this present dispensation.
A dispensation is not a way of salvation. A dispensation is not a period of time in which God saves man according to one way and then in another dispensation saves him after a different fashion. A dispensation is a period of time during which God has placed man on probation and in which God is testing him in order to determine his ability to govern the earth. For the want of better terms, I am going to use three expressions to describe in the main three different philosophies of interpretation. Two are diametrically opposed to each other. The third follows a middle course between the two.
1. The Flat-lnterpretationalists: These are literalists who take every word of the Bible literally, who contend that everything i~ the Bible is written to us to be accepted and obeyed. Such ones soon find themselves hopelessly involved and entangled in trouble. They must speak in tongues; they must heal the sick; they must raise the dead; they must play with deadly snakes; they must drink deadly poison, and do many other similar things in order to show their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and their faith in God. Such ones are now manifest in large groups and call themselves Pentecostalists-various and sundry Holiness groups. They immediately show their inconsistency by not accepting many other portions of the Word literally. For instance, they do not observe any of the laws of the sabbath relative to traveling, the building of fires, executing the sabbath violators, letting the land lie idle every seventh year or observing the year of jubilee.
2. The Spiritualizers: This group believes that the whole Bible is written to us and about us BUT the Bible doesn’t mean what it says. It has a figurative or so-called spiritual meaning, which causes them to phantomize the Scripture. Such ones are the Modernists of today. They do not believe in the miraculous birth of our Lord, though they talk of the virgin birth. They do not believe in His actual miracles, though they refer to them often. They do not believe that He arose from the dead in His literal, physical, visible, tangible body; neither do they believe that He is actually, bodily, physically, literally present in heaven today at the right hand of God the Father. These Spiritualizers or Modernists, having no message of God to proclaim, have resorted to the proclamation of what is called the social gospel and world betterment.
3. The Dispensationalists: These individuals accept the literal interpretation of the Word of the Lord but believe, according to the Scriptures, that the Lord delivered different messages to different groups in different periods of time. For instance, I believe that God told Noah to build an ark for the saving of his family, but I do not believe God intends for anyone else to build such an ark. I believe that God had certain rules and orders of worship for the Jews which have no literal meaning whatever to the Church. I believe that God’s dealings with the Jews are separate and distinct from His dealings with the Gentiles, and both of these are separate and distinct from His dealings with the Church. See I Cor. 10:32. Again, God’s dealing with man in the garden of Eden before he sinned were different from His dealings with him after he sinned. God’s dealings with man before the flood and subsequent to the flood were different. God’s dealings with Israel under law were different from His dealings with Israel today, and God’s dealings with Israel were different from His dealings with the Gentiles. And God’s dealings with man since the advent of the Spirit of God on the day of Pentecost are different from His dealings with man before Pentecost.
In a concluding sentence for this particular article, let me say that dispensationalism, as taught in the Bible, recognizes different time periods and different groups in which God deals with each on separate and distinct basis and conditions.
THE FIRST DISPENSATION
In our previous discussion we defined dispensation as follows: “A dispensation is not a period of time in which God saves man according to one way and then in another dispensation saves him after a different fashion. A dispensation is a period of time during which God has placed man on probation and in which God is testing him in order to determine his ability to govern the earth.” We also find in Heb. 11:3 that the ages and dispensations were framed by God.
The first period of time, or the first dispensation, begins with the creation of Adam. From the time of Adam’s creation until the day of his expulsion from the garden of Eden, we find the following characteristics of that particular time period which differentiate it from those to follow:
1. Adam was given the dominion over God’s creation (Gen. 1:26): “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Such dominion was lost when man sinned.
2. Adam was commanded to subdue the earth and bring all living creatures under subjection (Gen. 1:28). This has been impossible since man sinned.
3. All vegetable and plant life was to be food for man (Gen. 1:29). Since man sinned, many of the plants and trees are poisonous and are not for food. 4. Adam and Eve were innocent when placed in the garden of Eden. They were neither righteous nor evil.
5. Adam and Eve had the power to respond to any outward stimulus; that is, they were granted the power and freedom of choice.
6. Man exercised this choice and chose to do evil.
7. Because of this sin, man was expelled from the garden of Eden, separated from God.
8. Because of man’s sin, the ground was cursed. Thorns and thistles it was to bring forth. Because of sin, man was cursed and in the sweat of his face he would eat his bread. Because of sin, the woman was cursed, her conception and sorrow multiplied and her husband given the rule over her.
9. Because of sin, death entered into God’s creation.
10. Because of sin, man acquired a guilty conscience.
11. With the expulsion of man from the garden, the gateway of return was barred. At this time God’s great work of redemption begins and man’s long trek back to the garden is inaugurated.
So you see, this first dispensation began with man created in the image and likeness of God, with all the privileges and opportunities of God before him. By his disobedience to God, man proved his unfitness to exercise dominion over the earth and this dispensation closed in judgment, with man being expelled from the garden and barred from re-entry. You will notice as this subject of dispensations develops that all the dispensations begin with the brightness of the promises of God, and because of man’s unfitness, close in judgment.
THE SECOND DISPENSATION
The first dispensation ended with Adam and Eve being excluded from the garden of Eden, as recorded in Genesis 3. The second dispensation begins with chapter 4. Once again by way of emphasis I want to state that a dispensation is a period of time in which God tests man’s ability to rule and reign over the earth according to prescribed conditions. The first dispensation demonstrated that man in innocency was incapable of ruling and reigning by virtue of the fact that he succumbed to temptation and lost his innocency. With the loss of innocency he acquired a conscience and the second dispensation (which belongs peculiarly to the Cainites) finds man being tested according to his ability to rule with his conscience as his guide.
Notice the physical changes that take place. In the first dispensation man’s activities were limited and easy, but in the second dispensation thorns and thistles aggravate the cultivation of plants and man must labor and earn his bread in the sweat of his face. In the first dispensation conception and childbirth were accompanied with little or no pain. In the second dispensation woman suffers severely amid these experiences. In the first dispensation man has easy and unbroken fellowship with God, but in the second, he has fellowship with God only on the basis of shed blood. Man’s innocency is gone and in its stead he has a guilty conscience. The difficulty in being guided by one’s conscience is to be found in the fact that conscience does not come into play until after an individual has done wrong; then conscience can say to the individual, “You should not have done that.” God has given us His Word and His Spirit to direct us in the paths we should go, rather than to follow the leadings of a guilty conscience, which can easily be seared.
Cain and his family, in separation from God, play the leading role in the second dispensation. It is in this period of time that we have the beginning of civilization. What an anomaly. Civilization as we know it owes its origin to castoff Cain and his descendants. Civilization is man’s attempt to live without God; that is, without God’s direction, without God’s blessings, without a sense of responsibility to God. One wonders how far Christians should go along with so-called modern civilization. With Cain we have the beginning of agriculture as a system (Gen. 4:3). Here we have the beginning of the cattle industry (Gen. 4:20), that of manufacturing (Gen. 4:22), and of arts and sciences with emphasis on music and literature (Gen. 4:21-24). Here in the development of civilization we have the breakdown of marriage (Gen. 4:19). Here amid the beginnings of civilization we have the first murders (Gen. 4:8 and 23). It is in this era of the origin of civilization that we have man rejecting God’s sacrifice of the lamb (Gen. 4:3). Jude in verse 11 speaks of people going the way of Cain. This way is seeking to approach God apart from the shed blood and involves the institution of a bloodless worship. Scripture says, “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22).
It was in the second dispensation, while man was governed by his own conscience, that the fallen angels entered into illicit relationships with the daughters of men and produced a progeny of giants which polluted the blood stream of the entire human race, with the exception of Noah and his immediate family.
In this dispensation, as in all dispensations, matters wax worse and worse until God must deal with man in judgment and destruction. The second dispensation closes with God destroying all living flesh from off the face of the earth by the flood, sparing only Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives. This is spoken of as an act of the grace of God (Gen. 6:8).
The second dispensation ends with the utter and absolute failure of the Cainites. But a ray of hope shines through in the names of the godly men of that time, particularly that of Methuselah, which means “by (or in) his death, he shall bring”-which points forward to relief or redemption coming at the time of the death of Methuselah.
Just a cursory glance will reveal marked differences in God’s dealings with man in the time from his creation to his expulsion from the garden of Eden, and in the period beginning with Cain and Abel and ending with the flood. Let no one say that there are no dispensations in God’s plan.
THE THIRD DISPENSATION
As noted in the previous discussion of the second dispensation, the flood-with its destruction of all flesh from off the face of the earth, except Noah and his family-marked the end of that particular time period. The disembarkment of Noah and his family from the ark ushered in a new time period which we call the third dispensation.
We haved noted in God’s dealings with Cain that capital punishment was prohibited during the second dispensation, but as we come into the third dispensation, God institutes capital punishment as the basis of civil government. “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Gen. 9:6). It is especially interesting today, as so many are seeking to do away with capital punishment, that God Himself has never repealed nor revoked the law of execution of the murderer on the testimony of two or more witnesses (Num. 35:30, 31).
So many changes that are being advocated by man today are done so because of the philanthropical and philosophical reasoning of the unregenerate mind. Such individuals ignore completely God, sin, the Word of the Lord, redemption, eternal retribution for the lost and eternal glory for the redeemed. Vainly, unregenerate man imagines things will improve with the advancement of worldly wisdom. Let capital punishment remain as the basis of civil government where the Lord God Almighty placed it.
You will note in the second place that, whereas man was a strict vegetarian in the second dispensation, he is now permitted to eat meat of all description in the third dispensation. “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things” (Gen. 9:3).
In the third place, it is in the third dispensation that God makes a covenant with Noah that He will never again destroy all flesh by water but will reserve the present heaven and earth for destruction by fire. The seal of this covenant is the rainbow which was set in the skies, but not until the beginning of the third dispensation.
Fourth, all authority of rule in the third dispensation seems to be bestowed upon Noah and he exercises such office as a dictator. However, because he is a sinful being, government under such an individual is doomed to failure and results in the building of the tower of Babel. It is at this time that the Lord God comes down from heaven, confounds the tongues of the people, divides them into nations and families, scatters them abroad over the face of the earth and then divides the earth into continents and islands, separating such bodies of land by waterways. See Gen. 11:8, 9 and 10:25. This dispensation, as all dispensations, comes to an end in judgment and confusion.
I wish to state again, as I did at the beginning, that a dispensation is not a way of salvation-whereby saying that God has many different ways of saving individuals-but a dispensation is a period of time in which man, being placed on probation, is given an opportunity to rule and govern the earth according to certain conditions created and imposed by the Lord. And I wish to state once again that all of the Christians that I know and of whom I have heard proclaim a belief in at least two dispensations by worshipping on Sunday instead of the sabbath.
THE FOURTH DISPENSATION
During the first three dispensations God had dealt with the human race as a whole and because of the failure with which each dispensation ended, God proceeded with a different method. With the beginning of the fourth dispensation which, I judge, begins with Genesis 12, God calls out a special individual, Abram, and is going to deal with the human race through Abraham and his seed. The election of Abram in this dispensation is not for the damnation of all of the rest, but that through Abram’s posterity God can bless the majority. In the first three dispensations God’s revelation, that is, the gospel, was written in the stars of the heaven (see Psa. 19:1-6). But in this new dispensation God’s revelation is going to be given to Israel and recorded by them (Psa. 147:17-20; Rom. 3:1, 2). God is also going to give man a revelation through His Son, who is the living Word.
With the calling out of Abram and his posterity, there arises a great wave of enmity toward this God-chosen people called anti-Semitism. In its ultimate analysis anti-Semitism is nothing but atheism, a denial of the existence of God and of His revelation, both written and living.
With the beginning of the fourth dispensation and the designation of Abram, Isaac and Jacob as the ones through whom the blessings are to flow, Israel receives a great responsibility-to make known the truth of God to the ends of the earth.
It is in this fourth dispensation that God makes two great convenants with the children of Israel. The first one is with Abram, Isaac and Jacob (see Gen. 13:14-18; 15:18-21; 26:1-5; 28:10-15). This covenant has to do with the land as an everlasting possession of the children of Israel.
The second covenant God makes is with David, and we read of that in II Sam. 7:1-17. This covenant has to do with the establishing of the throne of David upon which shall be seated the Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh when He returns to rule and reign for a thousand years.
This dispensation has been called the dispensation of law because of the giving of the law with which Israel was to be governed. A very concise description of the people, their purposes, their worship and ministry is to be found in Rom. 9:1-5. This dispensation continues from the call of Abraham until the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. You will note that there is an overlapping of this dispensation of some 40 years since the next dispensation begins at Pentecost, about 40 years before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Even those who pride themselves on being anti-dispensationalists acknowledge that God dealt with man differently during this period of time than He did before or has since. I find very few people that do not recognize the dispensation of law and the dispensation of grace; and when one acknowledges by recognition these two dispensations, he has paved the way for any other dispensations and can no longer deny being a dispensationalist himself.
In and during this fourth dispensation the only place one can worship God is in the temple in Jerusalem. The only way one can approach God is through the animal sacrifices ministered by the order of the priesthood. The day recognized by God is the seventh day and everything in and of the worship points to the coming Messiah who will suffer and then enter into His glory. Also during this dispensation of law the land is to lie idle every seventh year. Any volunteer crop of the fields, orchards or vineyards is to be for the poor, the widows and the orphans. Every fiftieth year the land is to revert to the original owner, all debts cancelled and bond slaves freed.
As we take up the fifth dispensation in our next article you will be able to distinguish very clearly between the dispensation of law, as described in part five above, and the dispensation of grace under which we are now living.
THE FIFTH DISPENSATION
With the dispensation of law ending in the rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah we have a new dispensation referred to by some as that of grace, by others as that of the Holy Spirit, by others as that of the church. Many of us hesitate to call this the dispensation of grace because some misunderstand and think that we are teaching that in other dispensations God doesn’t deal with man in grace. Perhaps it had best be said here and now that ALL of God’s dealing with man from eternity to eternity are on the basis of grace.
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as the Seed of the woman shall crush the head of the serpent. As the Seed of Abraham He is to be a blessing to all the nations. As the Seed of David He is to rule and reign over God’s creation. When He came unto His own and His o;wn received Him not He turned from Israel, and having already turned from the Gentiles He creates a new man which is neither Jew nor Gentile (Eph. 2:15; II Cor. 5:17). Those from among both the Jews and the Gentiles are called out by the grace of God (Eph. 2:8, 9). This group saved by grace constitutes a heavenly people with a heavenly Head, a heavenly home, heavenly blessings and heavenly promises. The enjoyment of these in time to come necessitates that the recipients of such blessings shall have heavenly bodies. Such is not true of Jews and Gentiles.
In this dispensation of the Holy Spirit or, if you choose, of grace, our mission is to preach the gospel in all the world. God is calling out of the masses a people for His Name. We are to sound forth the Word of the Lord whereby the sheep will hear and in response to the call come to the Lord. We are ambassadors of heaven; weare strangers here. We are not to worry about the government of this world; we are to leave it in the hands of men under the direction of the god of this age, the prince of the power of the air. Our prospect of governing the world is for the time when we shall return from heaven with the Lord as He establishes His kingdom. We are to pray, not for reformation, but transfiguration, not education but regeneration, not organization but vitalization, not moral growth but the new birth.
This dispensation is that of evangelizing the world; and when I use the word evangelize I use it in its Scriptural sense, which is to tell the good news that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. Christians are to proclaim this good news to all the world. Evangelize doesn’t mean Christianize; evangelize doesn’t mean civilize; evangelize doesn’t mean Americanize; evangelize simply means to make the proclamation that atonement has been made for the sins of the world. The Holy Spirit will take it from there.
This dispensation will end with Christendom apostate, the nations of the world united in rebellion against God, the rapture of the saints, the appearance of the antichrist, and the inauguration of the great tribulation. Any and all may be spared such prospect through simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.