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The Eight Dispensations of the Bible
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) KJV
Paul wrote 2 Timothy 2:15 to his son in the faith, Timothy, because false teachers and false doctrines were infiltrating the church. Paul recognized the extreme importance of right division when it comes to the scriptures and he charged Timothy to “study to shew thyself approved.” Paul wanted to ensure that God’s truth was being taught.
Paul’s words not only charged Timothy to rightly divide the word of truth, but he challenges all of us who read the scriptures in right division. Rightly dividing the word is vitally important. Many cults of the world throughout history got their beginnings from wrong division of the scriptures. Others throughout history stood on promises made in the Bible that were not made to them, and therefore, they did not receive what they hoped for. This could cause the word of God to become a stumbling block to them. People have had their faith challenged as a result of wrong division. The whole Bible must be studied to see God’s plans unfold from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21.
The list and descriptions that follow are a summary of the eight dispensations of the Bible. It is all of our story, and God’s plan for humanity.
- The dispensation of innocence began with the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:26. This dispensation ended with God’s judgment on both Adam and his wife Eve in the Garden in Eden, in Genesis 3:22. God created them innocent and provided perfect living conditions for them. Adam and Eve were instructed to tend to the garden and have fellowship with God during this dispensation. Adam and Eve were created innocent by God, but they were only deemed innocent until they were tested. Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden and were found to be guilty of sin. Because of their sin the whole earth was judged by God and cursed. This ended the dispensation of innocence.
- The dispensation of conscience begins with the fall of man in Genesis 3:23 and concludes in Genesis 8:19 with the global flood. During this time period there was no written law for man to live by, so man lived by his conscience. The fault of this dispensation is made evident in the well known story of Cain and Abel. Cain is given to anger because of his brother Abel’s more suitable sacrifice to the Lord. Cain’s jealousy led him to kill his brother Abel. With no written word or law to follow, Cain followed his skewed conscience. Like Cain, the human race fell into wickedness and sinful practices as a result of following their conscience. This diminishing of mankind brought about the famous worldwide flood that destroyed all mankind except for eight people that boarded an ark built by Noah.
- The dispensation of human government began in Genesis 8:15 with Noah and his family. It ended in Genesis 11:1-9 when God came down and confused men’s language at the building of the tower of babel. During this dispensation, God instructed man to replenish and fill the earth. To spread out across the globe and govern what God had created. Capital punishment was implemented during this time period and man was to create righteous laws to live by. Man, did not obey God’s commands. Instead of scattering abroad, man came together and tried to build a tower that would reach into the heavens. This was in direct rebellion to God. In conclusion, God had to confuse man’s language in order to stop them from building the tower and scatter throughout the earth as he instructed.
- The dispensation of promise began after the tower of babel story in Genesis 11:10. It concluded with the death of Joseph and Israel’s captivity in Egypt, found in Genesis 50:26. During this dispensation the whole world was following after idols and worshiping them. Man’s heart was evil and wicked. God then singled out a man named Abraham and promised to give him as many descendants as there are stars in the sky. Abraham was to be the father of a great nation. This nation was Israel. God Promised Abraham land farther than the eye could see and worldwide blessings. Israel was instructed to obey God, serve Him, and stay in the land that was given to them in order to keep receiving His blessing but they did not. As a result, the nation of Israel ended up as slaves in Egypt.
- The dispensation of Israel began while the Jews were held captive in Egypt. This is where God began to deal with his chosen people. The dispensation will end when Christ comes back to the earth at His second coming and He sets up His literal kingdom on the earth. During this dispensation, God gave a man named Moses the law. This law was to govern man throughout the entire old testament all the way to the crucifixion of Christ Jesus. But the nation of Israel rebelled against the law and against serving God. After Jesus was crucified, the Jewish nation rejected God’s Messiah even though God had given them opportunities to repent. It is during this time period that God sent His message of mercy and saving grace to the gentiles and all who would accept His Messiah. God’s prophetic time clock for the nation of Israel has been on hold during this church age or the “age of grace” but He will continue His dealings with them at the conclusion of the dispensation of grace.
- The dispensation of grace began with Israel’s rejection of the Messiah. Because Israel would not accept the sacrifice of God’s Lamb, He dispensed His grace to the gentile world. During this time period we no longer live under the laws that God gave to Moses. All those who have accepted God’s Messiah and His sacrifice at the cross, live in God’s grace through faith. This time of grace was hidden since the beginning of the world and was revealed to the Apostle Paul. God would now deal with people individually and no longer through a nation. This dispensation will end when God raptures the church prior to the tribulation period, or the “time of Jacob’s troubles.”
- The dispensation of millennium is the one-thousand-year rule and reign of Christ Jesus on earth. This dispensation was prophesied in the old testament through many of God’s chosen prophets. Revelation 20:1-6 details this event. In this time period, Jesus will be King over all things and will rule from a visible throne on the earth. This dispensation is a fulfillment of promises that God made to the nation of Israel. That they would have an earthly kingdom and God would be their King. The Lord’s throne will be located in Jerusalem and He will gather all the Jews back to their homeland. The curse will be broken during this time and nature will be restored. Satan will be held captive in the bottomless pit for the entire thousand-year reign. At the end of this dispensation, Satan will be loosed once more to deceive the nations and some will choose to follow him. In the end, Satan and all that serve him will be cast in to the lake of fire forever. He will never be able to tempt anyone again.
- The dispensation of the fullness of times is the final dispensation of the Bible. It is outlined in Revelation 21 and 22. It begins with the end of Christ’s millennial kingdom and the Lord brings in a new heaven and a new earth. Jesus makes all things new, for all that was will have passed away. Everything in heaven and earth will finally be reconciled to God. There will be no more pain, sickness, or fear, in this new heaven and earth. The new city Jerusalem will be on the new earth in all its beauty. There will be no sun or moon in this new setting because Jesus will be our light. There will be kings and nations on the new earth along with the river of life and the tree of life. This dispensation will finally fulfill God’s promise to the nation of Israel. All those who have trusted in Christ Jesus’ finished work at the cross have a heavenly home and heavenly blessings where the Lord God Himself will live among them.
I hope that the eight dispensations listed above will assist you in rightly dividing the word of truth.