Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dispensationalism: Big Words = Big Concepts

At a prayer meeting last night the word Dispensationalism came up causing me to pop at least 3 mental circuit breakers trying to ponder what it is. The subject was raised because one of my fellow Bereans mentioned that Pastor Lovejoy had admitted to being a dispensationalist. Personally I always thought that a dispensationalist was a recluse who remained in dark rooms lit only by large dribbly candles and wrote awesome lengthy articles with a crow quill pen and published them on poorly designed web pages with a lot of words in bold, italic, UPPERCASE, highlighted, and too many text colors

So I Googled "Dispensationalism" and came up with a lot of charts like the one above and some very wordy explanations of the concept, most of which has to do with time periods, bible chapters, and God's relationship with man. Of course that's the entire explanation of Dispensationalism in a nut shell but most of these articles were written for people who already understand what Dispensationalism is, so I ended up doing the Berean thing ...

The word Dispensation means an exemption from a rule or an unusual requirement. It also means a system of order, government, or organization of a nation, community, etc. as existing at a particular time. If your city were suddenly hit with a freak snowstorm the rules would change regarding travel and public services until the snow emergency was over then the rules and laws return to normal. That's both definitions of Dispensation wrapped up in one example.

Dispensations are a series of chronological eras of Bible history, the number of dispensations depend on which school of dispensationalism you adhere to. There are three, four, seven and eight defined dispensations or ages, with seven being the most common:

1. The Dispensation of Innocence (Genesis 1 to Genesis 3) - this is the time period from the creation to just before Eve took a bite of The Fruit. God created man to live in perfect harmony with Himself and there was nothing known of imperfection or evil. Adam and Eve were innocent until they disobeyed God and their actions brought sin and death into the world. To cover (atone for) their sin God killed and skinned an innocent animal to clothe them. This is where the biblical principal of “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22) came from.

2. The Dispensation of Conscience (Genesis 3 to Genesis 8) - this is the period from the moment Eve ate the forbidden fruit to the flood. During this period man fell into the depths of depravity. We were guided by conscience and supposed to choose good over evil, but Cain introduced murder into the world. Cain should have learned by Abel's example that God prefers a blood sacrifice (Genesis 4:4) over Cain's grain sacrifice. God even told Cain that he could do better and encouraged him to do so (Genesis 4:6-7) but instead Cain slew Abel out of jealousy. Man failed to follow his conscience and in this dispensation only Abel, Enoch, and Noah were called righteous. Those that have not been exposed to God's word are still under the rule of Conscience and this is the standard by which God will judge them (Romans 2:15)

3. The Dispensation of Government (Genesis 9 to Genesis 11) - this is the period of time from the flood to the tower of Babel. After the flood God stepped back from directly judging man until the Second Coming, a human device known as civil government was divinely appointed to restrain evil and protect man from his sinful nature. God gave us one command during this period: "Spread out" which we didn't do. Instead man gathered together and started construction of the tower of Babel. In response God confused our languages forcing us to scatter.

4. The Dispensation of Promise (Genesis 12 to Exodus 19) - this is the period of time from Abraham to Moses on Mt. Saini. During this time God promised Abraham possession of all of Canaan, the Promised Land. Abraham's descendents, the Hebrew people were tested: God promised to protect, bless and guide them, all they had to do was live in Canaan, which they failed to do. A famine came along and rather than trusting in God they moved into Egypt where they ended up in bondage for four centuries. God's grace was delivered through Moses and the Dispensation of Promise ended at Mt. Sinai with the 10 commandments.

5. The Dispensation of Law (Exodus 20 to Acts 2:4) - This is the period of time from the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai to Jesus' death on the cross. Actually the Abrahamic covenant is still in place (God will protect, bless, and guide His people as long as they live in the Promised Land) but God added the Law at Mt. Sinai. The Law is not a tool of salvation but a way for His people to govern their earthly lives. The Law was always meant to be temporary as it says in Jeremiah 31:31-32. The Law is huge and long and impossible to keep without breaking. This is God's only conditional covenant with Israel in that blessings and success depended on people's obedience to the Law... which didn't last long as the Golden Calf in Exodus 32 shows.

6. The Dispensation of Grace (Acts 2:4 to Revelation 20:3) This is the time period from the day of Pentecost to the millennial kingdom. This is also known as the Church Age as this is the time that Jesus is building His church. In this time God draws the Gentiles into His plan of salvation as Paul states in Ephesians 3:6. God's grace is a free gift to the undeserving and through His Church His grace is extended to the whole world as we fulfill the Great Commission and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. In this time the Holy Spirit lives inside of us in the church guiding us, training us, and teaching us. However, like in the other dispensations, failure is always an option. Wordliness among believers and churches falling into apostasy are the hallmark of failure in this dispensation.

7. The Dispensation of the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:4-6) This is the time where Christ rules on earth for 1,000 years. In Mark 14:62 Jesus told us He was returning, and when He taught his disciples to pray "thy kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10) He was referring to His millennial kingdom. There's nothing man can do to hasten His return, nor can we actually build His kingdom as apostates like Rick Warren and Eugene Peterson insist, when God says 'Go' Jesus will return and establish His kingdom. At the end of the millennium the final rebellion is crushed and Satan will will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). Then comes the Great White Throne Judgement where all the unrighteous of all the dispensations will be judged and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15)

I suppose that when God establishes New Jerusalem on a new earth with a new heaven (Revelation 21) this could be considered a final dispensation, but for me I'll just be happy in His presence and won't have to worry about big words like Dispensationalism.

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