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Edition 245. February 4th 2015
What if there are no dispensations?
What if there are no dispensations?
What are dispensations and why are they important and under attack now?
Firstly let’s define Bible dispensations.
Quite simply the word means a division in time in which some different principles and operations unique to that time-period come into play.
The original word used is “Oikonomia”. This is a compound word. “Oikos” means “household” and “Menos” means to “manage.” The word is also used as a division of an economy, and also has a time element to it.
What is astounding to me is that so many apparently educated people go to such great lengths to deny the existence of this Bible-word and its application.
The word means that God in effect looks into time and He operates with mankind differently in these defined time periods. God never changes, but He has changed in His dealings with mankind. For example, the Millennium will be a dispensation of time different in many ways to the dispensation we are in now.
Dispensations begin and end at a specific moment in time.
Of course there are many things that carry over from one dispensation to the next. But there are some things that do not, characterising the different dispensation.
Dispensations are inventions and creations of our God, not man, found very clearly in His word.
The word “dispensation” is found in nine places in the New Covenant. Dispensations are not a recent invention!
Here are three Bible verses using the word “dispensation.”
Hebrews 1:1-2 “God who at various times and in different ways (Lit=dispensation)spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken by His Son who He has appointed heir over all things, through whom also He made the worlds.”
Ephesians 1:10 “In the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather in one all things in Messiah, which are in heaven and in earth – in Him.”
Ephesians 3:2 “If indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you.”
What is the big difference between dispensations?
There are only two main dispensations that we need to be concerned about. These are the Old Covenant and the New.
The biggest difference is the operation of the Holy Spirit.
In Old covenant times, the Holy Spirit worked in the lives of believers, primarily through the law, law-keeping and external events.
In the Church age or dispensation of grace, the Holy Spirit works by His word in our hearts. He leads us from within. It’s from the inside out. He speaks to us through the “inward witness” and the “still small voice” and the Bible made alive by revelation in our hearts. He operates through the spiritual gifts of discernment, knowledge, understanding and wisdom all from within our hearts.
The gifts of the Spirit were not available as they are today, in Old Covenant times.
A very big difference between the Old Covenant dispensation and the New is the existence of the Church and its members who became known as Christians, first at Antioch.
Acts 11:26 “So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
There is a unity of identity between all who are truly born of the Spirit of God within this Church. There are no divisions within the true Church of the living God.
Another very big difference between the Old Covenant Dispensation and the New is the new birth itself. It is only since the cross, the shed blood of Messiah and resurrection that people can become Christians by and through the new birth. There was no born-again experience in the Old. It is unique to the New.
The Bible clearly spells out the fact that the Old Covenant is a shadow of the New. It is not the central, main thing. It points to the Messiah who is the shadow-caster. In fact all the big events of the New Covenant are the fulfilment of the Old.
Dispensations separate God’s dealing with Israel and the Church:
There is a distinction between Israel and the Church except where Jews have been born-again and saved. Outside of the kingdom of God Israel is the only nation on earth with a call upon it nationally. This relates to the land and the people.
The New Covenant is a parenthesis within God’s overall plan, not foreseen in the Old Covenant. The seven-year tribulation period is the completion of the Old Covenant.
Yes we are one body in Messiah, and not two, but this includes saved Jews and saved Gentiles. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13) The Jews now awaiting salvation are not part of the body of Messiah, but are still separate from others by the call of God upon them. After the close of this dispensation of grace, Jews and Gentiles getting saved become “tribulation saints” and are destined to repopulate the earth in the Millennium.
Anti-dispensationalists claim that the church existed through all ages and dispensations. They use Ephesians 3:21.
Israel is not called the “Church” in the Old Covenant. It was called “the congregation.” The Greek word for congregation can be translated “ekklesia” (the same word for “church”), but it does not mean the Church in our understanding of it. There was no new birth in the Old Covenant. In fact most translations of the Bible never use the word “Church” for Israel of the Old Covenant.
Here is an example of the Old Covenant believers being called a congregation and not the church: Acts 7:38 “This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness...”
The Hebrew word “quahal” meaning “called out,” is translated as “congregation” and not the church. You can be called out and separated from others for many different reasons.
The big attack:
The big attack now is to get rid of dispensations. These attacks come almost exclusively from the Torah keepers, the Hebrew Roots movement and other Messianic groups all attempting to bring believers under the law.
The Bible calls such people “Judaisers”. They believed in Messiah but tried to bring people of the day back under legalistic law-keeping. (Galatians 2:14-16, Acts 15:8-9)
One of their big strategies is to get rid of dispensations and claim that there is no difference between the Old Covenant and the New and the Church was in both.
Is the law still relevant? Of course it is. Not one is to pass away. But what is the law for? The law shows us what sin is and what holiness is and the fact that we can’t keep it. We need the law to point us to the answer which is not law - keeping but the Messiah Himself in our hearts.
The birth of the Church proves dispensations:
Matthew 16:18 “...I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
The verse above shows clearly that the building of the Church at that point in time was a future event. You can’t say “I will build My church” if it has already been built.
The Church began at a specific point in time and will end in an instant.
Fifty days after the Feast of Passover, on the first day of Pentecost, God used Moses to bring the law down from Mount Sinai. According to the tradition of many Rabbis, the writing of the law in stone by God happened on this first day of Pentecost.
Pentecost also becomes the spiritual birthday of the nation of Israel. That’s not the modern birthday, which is May 1948, but the original birthday. The sages of Israel all believe that Israel first became a nation under God at the giving of the law on Pentecost.
So, now we have two great ancient events marked by the day of Pentecost: The giving of the law in stone and the birth of Israel.
Now we come to the modern day of Pentecost.
On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out in fullness. This obviously implies that the operation of the Holy Spirit was different before this outpouring. Yes the Holy Spirit has always been here and He never changes, but His dealings with man changed.
Hebrews 8: 10 “...I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be My people.”
Ancient Pentecost sees the writing of the law in stone and the birthday of Israel, while modern Pentecost sees the writing of the law on the hearts of believers. This becomes the birthday of the Church.
This is the overall picture:
●On the first day of Pentecost, under the old dispensation, the law written in stone.
●This was also the original birth of Israel.
●On the first day of Pentecost after the cross (the new dispensation) the law was written on the hearts of believers.
●This was also the birthday of the Church.
This day of Pentecost marked the end of the dispensation of the law (although the seven-year tribulation completes it). This day marked the beginning of the dispensation of grace or the Church age.
What changed? The main thing that changed was a new dimension of the operation of the Holy Spirit. This also marked the end of the dispensation in which God acted in huge demonstrative ways bringing great visible supernatural judgements on people, cities and even the world.
Please don’t point to some tsunami or earthquake in these days and say that is God’s demonstrative judgements at work. NO ITS NOT! In the Old Covenant, the great judgements were all preceded by warnings from God of the specific judgement to come. And they were almost all supernatural events.
What we have today is events of nature, with no specific warnings beforehand and no great supernatural events like fire coming down from the heavens and destroying cities.
The age or dispensation of grace is clearly characterised with this big difference (amongst many other things.)
My friends please understand that there are many people out there with no intention to deceive you, but they do so out of their ignorance. There are some who deliberately and intentionally want to draw you Satan’s way. But most that are in error are not aware of it.
If we are to get right with God by keeping the law, why do we need the law of the Spirit in our hearts (since Pentecost)? Perhaps this is the reason why some law-keepers reject the new-birth! In fact there are some of these Messianic Judaisers and Torah observant people who deny our Messiah as well.
The problem with the anti-dispensationalists is they use all the verses of the law never changing etc, but they ignore the verses of the NT epistles. Many of them are very argumentative, and judgmental. Their fruits are rotten!
For more on this subject have a look at the teaching entitled “Under the law or not” which you can find HERE.
It goes without saying that dispensation-deniers believe that we will all go through the tribulation period, because there are no different dispensations in which God deals with the Church and Israel differently.
The church age or dispensation began at a point in time. This was Pentecost as we have discussed. The church age will likewise end at a specific point in time, an instant called the rapture.
It is obvious then that dispensation-deniers must deny and get rid of the rapture. In their thinking, there will be no rapture. Some believe that there will be a post-tribulation rapture.
Those who get saved during the tribulation become a different company of believers and not the church as such.
If there are no dispensations:
We would all be under the law.
There would be no new - birth.
There will be no rapture.
There would be no Church which began at a point in time (Pentecost) and will end at a point in time with the rapture.
Believers both Jew and Gentile will then go into and through the seven-year tribulation period. There will be no blessed hope of an escape through rapture.
The Spirit of God would not have been poured out in a new a special way as at Pentecost.
God would still be acting demonstratively with massive supernatural judgements as in the days of the Pharaohs, Sodom and Gomorrah, Babylon, the flood etc.
A great deal of the prophecies of the Bible would make no sense, be irrelevant and open to all manner of fanciful allegorical interpretation.
The New Covenant Epistles would have to be cast down or twisted and re-interpreted.
Isn’t it interesting that the Judaisers within the Messianic movement who reject dispensations, largely ignore the New Covenant Epistles, which are the main teachings for the Church, in which Peter says we are to be “established” (2 Peter 1:12)
Isn’t it interesting that these same Judaisers reject the gifts of the Spirit, found in the New Covenant Epistles? Isn’t it interesting that the Judaisers ignore the teaching of the New Covenant Epistles relating to the order of Church government and how it is to be set up and run?
What about the Torah?
There is nothing wrong with the Torah. I personally honour it. I recognise the importance of the law as a schoolmaster to lead people to Messiah. I recognise that no one can keep the law. I recognise that the teaching of the law demonstrates what holiness and sin are. I understand that most of the church today is in full rebellion to God by ignoring the law and what it is to be used for. I recognise that judgement is coming upon the church and the world for this very reason.
BUT I do not subscribe to and I fully reject those who say and teach that we must come under the law and obey external laws in a legalistic manner. Get this into your head: If you do that, you do not have the law operating by grace in your heart. You are under the law or grace, never both!
The Torah observant crowd always use the same lame attack on us. They say that because we are not law-keepers like them, we are lawless. No sir, that’s not the case. We are not lawless; we are observers of the law in our hearts by and through the living Holy Spirit. It is in fact they that are the raving hypocrites, because they say they keep the law, yet the Bible says no one is capable of keeping the law. Besides, if you are going to live as an external law-keeper, the Bible says you are under a curse!
There are some who take dispensation to a ridiculous level. They basically claim and believe that nothing from an earlier dispensation is still relevant in the next. Obvious logic dictates that many things cross all dispensations. We must simply be led by logic and the Spirit.
Know the attacks:
This entire issue is one of the attacks of error upon the truth in these days. We must know and be aware of the devil’s devices.
I will not even get into or entertain the outrageous error propagated by the anti-dispensationalists who claim that dispensations (including the rapture teaching) are modern concepts.
The people who swallow this garbage deserve t be deceived by ignorant blind teachers. If you want to find the answer to and against the “recent doctrine” proponents – read this edition again.
I took the background picture detailing lichen on a rock. Then I mixed some colourful textures into the dragonfly picture and combined the two to create the effect.
Shalom and grow in grace!