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The Difference Is In The Dispensations
How to make sense of the differences in the Bible
Introduction and Chapter Ia
Timothy S. Morton
Copyright 1997, Timothy S. Morton, All Rights Reserved
All Scripture references and quotations are from the
Authorized King James Version of the Bible
When a person receives the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, he, with the Lord, also receives a desire to know more about his salvation and the one who saved him (John 15:26). This desire causes the new believer, possibly for the very first time in his life, to open the Holy Bible in a serious attempt to learn what God has to say. Once in the Scriptures the believer soon realizes that the Bible speaks of much more than just personal salvation and Christ dying on the cross; it speaks of God's whole program for His entire creation from eternity to eternity. It reveals what God wants man to know about God Himself, His creation, and His purpose with His creation. Unless the believer understands this and divides the Bible accordingly (2 Tim. 2:15), he may become overwhelmed by its vast scope and perplexed by its differences. All the Bible's major differences can be reconciled with some study (sometimes very little), but if the believer neglects to study and sort these differences out, he will cheat himself out of understanding not only God's plan and purpose for man in general, but also for himself in particular.
However, even though the Bible is in some areas complex and interwoven, one notable indication that it is the very word of God is the most vital and important subjects found in it are easy to understand. God has purposely made the crucial subjects of sin, man's accountability to God, Christ's substitutionary death, and personal salvation so simple a small child can understand them. He made these matters clear and easy to comprehend so any person wanting the truth about them could by faith act upon them and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as his salvation. These clear yet vital doctrines are referred to as the "simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3). Though the more complex subjects reveal more of the mind and intentions of God, knowledge of them is not necessary for one to be saved.
Needless to say, the Bible contains both simplicity and complexity by God's direction. He wanted to provide a salvation so simple that a person could understand it and get saved after only being presented with the gospel once (Acts 10:43-44, 16:31, etc.), but He also wanted some other matters more detailed and complex so one would have to labor in the Scriptures a certain degree to sort them out. In this respect some Bible subjects are so mysterious and far-ranging in their scope that no one yet has done much more than scratch the surface of the treasures within them, let alone fully grasp them. Sometimes the Lord even spoke in "parables" to purposely confound those who listen to His words with the wrong "heart" or attitude: those who don't have "ears to hear" (Matt. 13:9-15).
If a person reads the Bible very much at all he is soon confronted with various laws, judgments, ordinances, commandments, doctrines, kingdoms, covenants, testaments, dispensations, gospels, priesthoods, feasts, tribes, churches, etc., and begins to see some of the Bible's complexity. He is further introduced to events known as the Exodus, Israel's Captivity, Daniel's Seventieth Week, the Rapture, the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Tribulation, the Millennium, the White Throne Judgment, the New Heaven and New Earth, etc., that add even more to its broad variety of topics.
Once a reader gets to this point questions usually arise: Where do all these subjects belong? Do they all apply to everyone in every age? Does every precept mentioned in the Bible apply doctrinally to a Christian? What about the doctrines that appear to contradict each other? Is salvation exactly the same in every age? How is one to account for the differences? With this book we will show that the major differences in the Bible can be reconciled by rightly dividing it into dispensations and keeping the different doctrines found in the dispensations in their proper place.
In 2 Timothy 2:15 the Holy Spirit states His word has divisions and the "workman" must "study" to "rightly" divide them. When a believer obeys God's word and with study finds these divisions and applies the truths found in them to their proper place, much of the Bible's complexity disappears and many of its alleged contradictions vanish. Furthermore, many of the different manners, methods, and doctrines in the Bible which often trouble people are reconciled, and the believer begins to see the "big picture" of what God is doing.
Since properly understanding the Bible's divisions is the key to being sound in doctrine and making sense of its differences, failure to do so can lead to dangerous heresies and spiritual chaos. When a preacher or any other believer fails to rightly divide the Bible and discern its differences, he will nearly always end up wresting it. This is one reason there are so many "Christian" cults today. Instead of rightly dividing the Bible, they ignore some or all of its divisions and produce a religious system that is littered with heresies, some of them deadly. When a person takes a precept or doctrine peculiar to one dispensation and forces it to apply doctrinally to another, he ends up with a heresy every time. He may quote several Bible verses to "prove" his doctrine, but it is still a lie once it is divorced from its corresponding dispensation.
In view of this, it is essential that every believer keep in mind that God spoke the words recorded in the Bible in "sundry times and diverse manners" (Heb. 1:1): to different people at different times. Thus the Scriptures were not written only for believers in the present Church Age, they were written for believers (and unbelievers) of all the ages. In short, the Bible was written FOR everyone for their learning (Rom. 15:4) but not addressed TO everyone in every age for doctrine. True, every verse in the Bible applies doctrinally somewhere, but many verses found in it do not apply doctrinally today. Of course, any Bible passage can be used inspirationally in any dispensation to help teach a present truth, but doctrine is another matter. For instance, most will agree the laws God gave to Israel through Moses do not apply doctrinally to Christians. The Israelites had strict religious, social, and dietary laws they had to comply with (Lev. ch. 1-15), but none of these laws, as laws, apply to believers today (Col. 2:14). A Jew at that time even had to have a human priest to work in his behalf towards God; today, every Christian is a priest himself (1 Peter 2:9). If one doesn't rightly divide the word of truth he can't help but wrest it, no matter how "sincere and devoted" he is.
Concerning the dividing of the Bible into dispensations, even the most liberal Bible readers (who often criticize "dispensationalism") will acknowledge at least one division in the Scriptures: the division between Malachi and Matthew dividing to Old from the New Testament. This division is so obvious that even an atheist can find it. Anyone who has read the Bible much at all knows the Old Testament is different from the New Testament and by doing so he admits to two dispensations. This makes him a "dispensationalist" whether he refers to himself as one or not. If these critics would study their Bibles a little more and believe what they read, they would find at least six more important divisions, each one revealing vital lessons.
A very large work would be required for one to try to exhaustively categorize and reconcile every difference found in the Bible, thus this is well beyond the scope of this relatively small book. The main purpose of this book is to present to the reader in a concise manner the principal and most important divisions of the Bible by examining its covenants and dispensations.
In addition, since the subject of personal salvation from sin is the most important and relevant issue to a sinner in any dispensation (and also probably the subject that causes the most debate and controversy among professing Christians today), we will also look at the dispensations from this perspective. In the first chapter we will briefly examine each covenant and its accompanying dispensation, noting the major elements of each; then in the following chapters we will take on the crucial subject of personal salvation in the different dispensations and examine the differences between them in this context.
A great read to understanding that dispensations are not of the devil, but of God in His dealing with man.
In Christ: Phillip
| 2010/7/19 2:09||Profile|
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Just a quick note: The heart of the dispensational system ends up creating "two peoples of God." The first people in God's dealings with mankind is the Hebrew nation. God deals with them from Abraham to the death of Christ, and then will deal with them yet again as His people from the time of the pre-tribulation rapture until the end of the 1,000 year reign of Christ. The first people are concerned with the "kingdom of God." The second people of God would be His "spiritual Israel," also known as "the Church," which God is dealing with from the time of the resurrection of Christ, until the pre-tribulational rapture of the Church, and then in eternity. These people are part of the "kingdom of heaven," which stands in contrast with "the kingdom of God." The kingdom of heaven is spiritual, dispensationalists teach, whereas the kingdom of God is earthly and physical.
As a result of these distinctions, two peoples of God are created, with two different purposes and promises that while running parallel to eachother in history, have little to nothing to do with eachother. One is seen as posessing a works based salvation, the other grace based. One is seen as bound by the law, the other is seen as anti-nomian. One is conditioned based salvation. The other is eternally secure.
Though of course dispensationalist teachers will disagree on some of these points, especially the 'progressive dispensationalists' ones, the old school of Darby and Scofield represent this classic system. There are some hyper-dispensationalists who create another dispensation within the church age, starting with the apostolic ministry of the apostle Paul, who they see as having a revelation that no other apostle before him ever had. As it is, most dispensationalist create two dispensations within the church age as it is. One is the apostolic age, the other being the laodecian age they say we live in now.
Be fair warned, as brother Jeremiah pointed out, dispensationalism is a system of theology that will leave you spiritually bankrupt. You may become an excellent student of the Scriptures through this system. But by embracing it, you will almost certainly embrace a defeated, sub-standard, and sub-apostolic lifestyle that knows nothing of the power of God, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, or the abundant, victorious Christian life. In my honest opinion, I believe the system as a whole to be heresy, and it should be banished from the minds of anybody who considers themsleves evangelical.
| 2010/7/19 9:39||Profile|
| Re: Dispensationalism|
Matthew said, "I searched the topics thing here and what I found only seemed to confuse me so is there anyone that could in a Unbiased way explain to me dispensationalism vs Covenant System?"
I am sorry bro that I am not able to be unbiased...It is a topic I am a bit too passionate about. I hope that you are able to appreciate my honesty about it though.
Matthew Also asked, "And is there any danger to this line of thinking or fellowshiping with one that holds to this line of thinking?"
I have done nothing but fellowship with thousands of people who hold to this view, It never harms me in any way, I just grieve for them when I see their defeated lives and lack of faith and hope in the words of Christ. It sends me to prayer all the time that God would bring revival, and in so doing that He would abolish the systematic theologies of men...
A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump...
| 2010/7/19 11:05||Profile|
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I didn't plan on studying it, from what I understand of it, it is a way of man breaking up the bible into different parts and reading the bible I have always viewed God's People (Israel and those that come to Christ in repentance) as in a dispension of God's Grace to all that are His.
A dispensation of the Law was an act of Grace that Israel had to keep them from certian things for their protection such as Don't eat pork, this law was given for two reasons to my understanding the pagan nations in the area ate pork and so God wanted His consecrated people seperate, two pork couldn't properly be cooked at that particular time saving the Israelites from disease and sickness.
The Law to me was a marvelously gracious thing to God's people just like a Father that sets up certian rules for his child, God as a Good Father did the same for His People.
Though I see the "divisions" in the scripture I don't see them as changing God's Grace towards His people. I view Salvation not as a plan, division, scheme, law, or anything and nothing less than the Person Jesus Christ who if you study Scriptute Learn HE is eternal and active in the Godhead from the beginning of the beginning. So breaking up scripture can help in understanding scripture but for me its all one in Spirit and that is the Spirit of Christ Jesus.
If dispensationalism concern is to make the bible easier to understand though, then they may rethink their charts and graphs confused the heck out of me. I will just have to see what this pastors views really are by fellowshiping with him and testing every spirit my own in general but also his, he seems as one who wants to know Christ like me. Thank you for all your responses any more would be greatly appreciated still.
| 2010/7/19 11:59||Profile|
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Dispensationalism; Reply to mguidner: I agree whole heartedly that a lot of what is taught about Dispensations is just some Bible scholar trying to catch the wind! If you read it, and look at the Charts with an astute eye you will find lots of contradictions to scripture,doctrine that actually separates the Jew and Gentile,at the time when God has joined them together, as you said. The dispensation of Grace is the Nt and the Law is Ot, John the Baptist was the cutoff point. Luke 16:16; The law and the prophets were until John...." You are correct that none of those eras/dispensations showed another way of salvation, (John 14:6) although many teach prcisely that. ...even to the point of insisting that God separates the Jew and Gentile at the Rapture and leaves the "martyred saints" outside the body of Christ. Missing both the Marriage Supper and the Judgement Seat of Christ. You say WHY? They proclaim that they are not part of "the body of Christ." God says not to "split asunder" what He has joined together (Matt.19:6)----but instead they contradict God (Ephesians 2:11-17) and they in fact do just that, so it is impossible to explain to any one today what the "Israel of God" is, (Gal.6:16/KJV Bible) Although you stated it earlier by saying what the body of Christ is. Believe me when I say to you... that knowledge is hard to come by in a church teaching "Dispensations." My Best Tractsman
| 2010/7/19 14:24|
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KingJimmy; Good words, forewarned is fore armed! What is really most horrendous is their misuse of Hebrews 10:26-29 to try and teach that a man can be washed in the Blood of Jesus Christ, with "all" his sins forgiven,and then he can die and go to Hell. What Heb.10:26-29 is talking about is an OT Jew, like those in John 6:66 that were offended at Jesus Christ and "went back"...the only problem was that the blood of their "temporary covenant (Heb. 9:20/Exodus 24:8) did not Perfect forever.("No more sacrifice for sin) The perfect sacrifice is mentioned in Gen.22:8, "God will "provide Himself" a Lamb." (Heb.10:14) "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!" They have taken the Blood of Jesus Christ and put it at the level of the blood of bulls and goats. (Hebrews 9:11-14) It is no small wonder that so many people think that they can lose their salvation. "Unto him that loved us and "washed" us from our sins in His own Blood." (Rev.1:5(c) Tractsman
| 2010/7/19 14:58|
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"Precious footnotes, How they linger!
| 2010/7/19 15:17|
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I heard a wise preaher say about those that would box God in. (Dispensations) God will ooze out that box!
| 2010/7/19 15:19|
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Dispensationalism has several problems, namely its Israel-centered hermeneutic. This creates two different people of God as opposed to one, namely, the elect. Ephesians 2:11-22 clearly states that the distinction between Jew and Gentile no longer exists, what does a dispensationalist do with that verse? Scripture must be read with a Christ-centered hermeneutic and that alone.
| 2010/7/19 15:35||Profile|
| Re: Axe1338|
"Scripture must be read with a Christ-centered hermeneutic and that alone."
This is exactly right. Anything less is shadows and grasping. Thank You Axe...
| 2010/7/19 15:36||Profile|