Dispensation

DISPENSATION – In its verb form the word dispensation means to manage, administer, regulate, or plan. The Biblical usage of this concept, however, has a deeper theological sense, in which certain responsibilities are placed on mankind by God during different ages. In Ephesians 3:2 and 3:9 Paul indicates that the current dispensation (age of grace) has been extended to the Gentiles, a mystery revealed by Christ that was kept hidden in past ages (dispensations – e.g. age of the law). Paul indicates earlier in the epistle that there is a coming future end time dispensation “to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment” in order to “bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:10). This is something that will not happen during the age of grace. See also Colossians 1:25–29. This seems to suggest that Paul believed there were at least three dispensations of God dealing with mankind: past, present, and future. John echoes this in Revelation (“what you have seen, what is now, and what will take place later” – Revelation 1:19).

Clearly there has been progressive revelation as God’s plan of salvation unfolded. This is not to say that there have been and will be multiple ways of salvation in the different dispensations. Salvation was, is and always will be, by grace through faith alone (Romans 4). (1) Some see that there are as few as two dispensations (Old and New) while others see as many as eight or more subdivisions (Figure 1.8). (2)

Rev 1.8

ISRAEL’S MISSING WEEK – Another aspect of dispensationalism is Israel’s so-called missing “week” in God’s unconditional promises to Israel that many interpreters take from chapter nine of the Book of Daniel.

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people [Israel] and your holy city [Jerusalem] to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him (Daniel 9:24-27).”

In this teaching, the basic sense of the word sevens is taken to mean a “period of seven,” or more specifically, a period of seven years. (4) Many believe that after the sixty-nine sevens (“from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens’ and sixty-two ‘sevens”), and until “the Anointed One” was “cut off” (Christ rejected by Israel and crucified), the promise was suspended in order to give way to the Church Age. If so, Israel is still missing its final seven years, which many believe will correspond to the Tribulation, in God’s unconditional promised program for them (Figure 1.9). Thus, if the promise is unconditional, and if God is to keep His Word, then God must not be done with Israel yet. They still have some work to do in His plan for the ages. As such, it should come as no surprise why a remnant of a race so dispersed, persecuted and subjected to attempted genocide was preserved and restored as a sovereign nation after World War II.

Rev 1.9

Next Up – Abomination of Desolation.

  1. Zachariades, D. (2003). Dispensation. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 431). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  2. Zachariades, D. (2003). Dispensation. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 431). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  3. Zachariades, D. (2003). Dispensation. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 431). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  4. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1930). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
  5. Chisholm, R. B. (1998). The Major Prophets. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 337). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  6. Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1362). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  7. Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1363). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  8. Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, pp. 1363–1364). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  9. Chisholm, R. B. (1998). The Major Prophets. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 337). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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