Dispensations of Time in the Bible
Heb 1:1-2 God, who at various times and in various
ways spoke in times past to the fathers
by the prophets and has in these last days
spoken to us by His Son...
A dispensation is a period of time when God deals differently with mankind, showing how He interacts with humanity in various ways. As shown by the above chart, there are seven dispensations of time, covering 7000 years, which are sandwiched in between eternity past and eternity future. God gives us very few details regarding eternity past and eternity future; however, the seven dispensations in between the two, God reveals a lot for us to learn from.
In each dispensation of time, God begins with one man, and that man was to pass on that faith in God to those around him. Sadly, in all dispensations, the people fail to meet God’s requirements, their failure is judged, and God then begins all over again by extending grace to a future dispensation. While there are several dispensations in the Bible, there are seven main dispensations:
1. The Dispensation of Innocense
2. The Dispensation of Conscience
3. The Dispensation of Civil (Human) Government
4. The Dispensation of Promise
5. The Dispensation of the Law
6. The Dispensation of the Church (Grace)
7. The Dispensation of the Millennial Kingdom
The Dispensation of Innocense
In the Dispensation of Innocence God created a man as sinless and innocent - loving, having a daily walking fellowship with His Creator. Adam was God’s blueprint for mankind – and it has not changed. God then created a helpmate by retracting a rib from him, creating a woman, whom Adam named Eve. God created man as an eternal spirit, having a soul, and living in a body, which was meant to live forever. God is asking of every person whom He has created to come into fellowship with Him, remaining faithful to why He created them, and as such, each person was promised life eternal here and forevermore IF they remain faithful unto God.
- Adam and Eve failed, obeying Satan instead of being faithful unto God. As such, they lost life eternal and death was their judgment. Sadly, since Adam was the blueprint for mankind, all succeeding generations were subject to his judgment - spiritual and physical death.
- God gave a responsibility to Adam and Eve and they failed to meet God’s requirement. They both knew they had sinned and were naked. As such, their failure was judged – spiritual death came immediately and physical death followed later. God then covered them with skin, meaning an animal(s) had to be sacrifice for their sin to cover them up.
- God then gave a promise in Genesis 3:15 of the eventauly coming Messiah Who would become the eternal sacrifice for the sins of mankind. As such, mankind could come into everlasting relationship with God.
- God then extended grace to the next dispensation of people. From that time on, the only way man could come to God for forgiveness of sin was through a blood sacrifice of an animal…until the ultimate blood sacrifice would come through the Messiah where He would shed His innocent blood for the sins of mankind.
This Dispensation of Innocence only lasted a week or so, with Adam and Eve, the only people upon the face of the earth, failing to be faithful to God. As such, the Bible gives no indication they were saved, and as such, both died spiritually and physically and were not able to spend their life on earth and throughout eternity with God.
Adam and Eve were created by God in His image as a prototype for all of mankind down through the ages, and sadly all humankind from that point on was born with a sinful nature, their bodies were subject to decay and would eventually physically die. Because of God's love for mankind however, He did offer eternal life after physical death through a blood sacrifice for those who would accept God's love.
The Dispensation of Conscience
The Dispensation of Conscience lasted from the fall of Adam through Seth (Adam's son) until the time of the flood of Noah.
When God created mankind in His image, He created within them a conscience that gave him an inner knowledge of God and a knowledge between right and wrong. As such, God extended His grace upon those born after the fall of Adam and Eve by allowing mankind to come to God through his conscience. Sadly Cain, one of Adam's sons killed his brother Abel and blood was spilled upon the earth.
Throughout the ages, it will be shown that God begins each dispensation of time by using one man and that a blood sacrifice is the key for mankind coming back into right relationship with God.
Adam's future son Seth chose to follow after God and the lineage of the future Messiah would continue on. Seth was governed by his conscience to follow after God. He, however, was only one of a few throughout many generations who chose to follow after God. People lived close to 1000 years at that time, and over the next nine generations of people, only a few remained faithful to God, resulting in a billion people between Adam and Noah either dying beforehand or died in the Noahic flood, never seeing eternal life with God.
During those 1656 years, scripture gives us a glimpse of a few men who were faithful to God and were able to spend eternity with God after they left this earth.
- Enoch, Adam's great, great, great, great, great grandson walked with God and was raptured up into heaven at the age of 365 years.
- Rabbinical literature speaks of Methusalah, the son of Enoch, being the oldest man to ever have lived, who had a relationship with God and was the one responsible for passing down the Word of the Lord to Noah. Methusalah lived 969 years and died right before the flood of Noah.
- The Bible tells us that Noah was the only righteous man on the face of the earth just prior to the global flood that God would bring upon the earth. God asked Noah to build an ark to save him and his family. Only he, his wife, his three sons and their wives were saved. Noah was 600 years old at the time of the flood.
During these 1656 years, science estimates that around a billion people were alive at the time of the flood. God gave many people over a long period of time to come to Him, but they rejected Him. They failed, their failure was judged and close to a billion people died in the flood. God then extended His grace to the next dispensation of people by beginning over again with Noah - a man whom God knew would be faithful to Him, his sons and their wives.
The Dispensation of Civil Government
The Dispensation of Civil (Human) Government lasted from the Noahic flood to the Tower of Babel - totaling 427 years.
Noah, his wife, three sons and their wives were saved through the flood and began to repopulate the earth. This time, God allowed mankind to create his own human civil government to restrain evil. The first thing Noah did was build an altar and make a blood sacrifice to God. Sadly, his sons and their sons continued in sin characterized by great idolatry and moral degradation.
Eventually, the height of disobedience was the rebellion against God that happened at the Tower of Babel. God then divided humanity into different language groups, and as a result, the people scattered throughout the earth.
For 427 years God watched as approximately another close to a billion people refused to be faithful and obedient to Him and their failure was judged. Other than Noah, everyone died both spiritually and physically, being unable to spend eternity with God. How grievous God must have felt.
The Dispensation of Promise
The Dispensation of Promise is when God again looked for one man whom He knew would be faithful to Him. One man to begin all over again. God found such a man in an idolatrous nation of people. God pulled him out and Abraham left it all to follow after God. This dispensation again began with the call of one man. This time, God made a blood covenant of an animal with this man to build a nation of people that God could call His own. God made unconditional promises, both physical and spiritual, with this man Abraham, which would include his descendants. Eventually, God promised that the whole earth would be blessed through him.
Abraham failed in many ways, but he was a repentant man who loved God. As such, God would keep His promise to him and his descendants. Much of those promises, however, would be futuristic. Most of Abraham's descendants chose not to believe God’s promise, lived an unrepentant lifestyle, and through a series of events traveled to another land and became slaves in Egypt for 400 years. God gave them a responsibility – the people failed, and their failure was judged. Yet, God's grace was being poured out over and over again.
The descendants of Abraham stayed in their bondage until God could find another man – one man whom God knew would come to love Him, live in repentance, and seek after God’s ways. God found Moses, but Moses had to first become a broken man so God could mold and groom him to be a man after God’s heart. When God got a hold of Moses, He was then able to pour out His grace upon the six million children of Israel as Moses led them out of their bondagein Egypt, crossing the Red Sea and into the desert.
This period of time lasted around 430 years, ending on Mt. Sinai when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. This ended another dispensation of time where God would begin all over again with His people. As such, God would work with the people in an entirely different manner. How many were faithful and obedient to the Lord during this Dispensation of Promise? The Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and a remnant few. So sad that 3500 years of procreation of billions of people only a few people chose to be faithful to God.
The Dispensation of the Law
The Dispensation of the Law began at Mt. Sinai with one man – Moses and lasted until Pentecost in the New Testament. In this dispensation Moses was called to lead the Children of Israel back to God. Starting all over again, God gave the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, which was meant to be their teacher to teach them how to live, define sin and point the way to the coming Savior as was promised in the 1st Dispensation of Innocence. These Children of Israel had been in a heathen land for hundreds of years - and they did not know their God.God had to teach them – so He created laws for them to come to God…but through it, God was still desiring a personal loving relationship with His people. Part of that law was to bring animal sacrifices to God for sin, but it was meant as a way for man to become repentant of his sins. God so desires a people who would love Him, worship Him, commune with Him, but He now had a nation of 6,000,000 people who had no idea how to love their God.
Sin grew almost immediately through the breaking of the commandments of the Law – and as they entered into their Promised Land, sin came in the form of idolatry or seeking righteousness by good deeds and ceremonial ordinances rather than by God’s grace. There were no truly repentant people.
Many prophets came forth as God’s ambassadors to the people; however, disobedience and sin against God continued. This dispensation ended with the Children of Israel betraying their Messiah some 1500 years later, who came to fulfill the Law by shedding His blood on the cross of Calvary – being the final atonement for the sins of mankind. Thus, another dispensation came to an end. Again, only a remnant were faithful to God
The Intertestamental Period
At this point, we enter into what is known as the Intertestimental Period which laster 400 years. Most people understand it to be the period of time in between the Book of Malachi and the Book of Matthew in the Bible. We are still, however, in the Dispensation of the Law. These 400 years were silent, in that not one prophet of God spoke. While a lot of history went on during that time, it was a period of spiritual religious deadness. It is doubtful whether anyone was faithful to God during this time.
After these 400 years, while still in the Dispensation of the Law, God brought one man John the Baptist forth – as a forerunner to the Messiah – the long prophesied one all the way back in the 1st Dispensation.
God has continuously used one man – one person to make a difference.
- John the Baptist – being the forerunner to Jesus Christ – the Son of God
John the Baptist was one repentant person God knew He could mold to be faithful to Him – to love Him, to commune with Him, to serve Him and be obedience to His ways. It is so sad that 4000 years of procreation of billions of people on the earth, only a few chose to be faithful to God.
God gave a responsibility to His people – they failed to meet God’s requirements, their failure is judged, and God then extends grace for another dispensation.
The Dispensation of the Church
In this Dispensation of the Church, God began with His Son Jesus the Christ. It began on the Day of Pentecost and will continue until the 2nd coming of Christ.
Jesus passed what God gave Him to His apostles and disciples. He left a part of Himself through the power of the Holy Spirit, who will dwell in the hearts of His believers. God has turned His back temporarily (for a dispensation) on His people - the Jews - because they rejected and crucified His Son. Instead, God is looking for a new people - and He looked to the Gentiles. In this dispensation Jesus has been building His Church as God has been pouring out His unmerited favor among those who would choose to accept to have a relationship with God’s Son Jesus as the true Messiah - Gentile and Jew alike.
This period of time is known under other names as well:
- The Dispensation of the Church
- The Dispensation of Grace or Age of Grace
- The Church Age
- The Dispensation of the Gentiles
- Age of mystery
During this period of time grace enables the believer to be saved, sanctified - meaning set apart for God to do a work of holiness within them, teach, discipline and empower them in the ways of the Lord by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit living within the hearts of each believer. Believers can now claim the power of the blood of Jesus to be operative in their life. This is something that no one in all of the other dispensations had.
The Dispensation of the Church is a mystery in that it included Christ’s virgin birth, life, death and resurrection. Included in that mystery of the Church Age is the Rapture of the Church – when Jesus comes back and in the air to call His bride unto Himself and bring them into heaven just before the time of the Tribulation upon the earth. This dispensation will end with the 2nd coming of Christ when Christ comes with His saints to earth to judge the earth at the Battle of Armegeddon.
Hopefully there will be millions who have died or will go in the Rapture of the Church to spend eternity with God forever. In the same way that Noah and his family were saved in the ark from the flood, God is preserving His people – the Church – from the wrath of the Tribulation Period through rapturing them into heaven just prior to the atrocities that are ready to come upon the earth.
This dispensation of the Church has lasted 2000 so far where many, many billions of people have lived and failed to meet God’s requirement and judgment will come.
This dispensation will end when God has decided the fullness of the Gentiles have been complete. In other words, when sin has reached its full potential. That way, God gave the Jews over 2000 years to come to Him, and now He has given the Gentiles 2000 years as well to come to Him. For those who denied God, Christ will come to judge the earth at the Battle of Armegeddon, followed by a cleaning up of the earth to refocus His attention back on the Jews, as He had covenanted with Abraham way back in the . As such, we will enter into the time of the Dispensation of the Millenial Kingdom.
The Dispensation of the Millennial Kingdom
This last Dispensation of the Millennial Kingdom will not be a repeat of the last six dispensations. God is no longer be looking for a man – someone who will be faithful to start a new dispensation of people. Instead, those who were faithful to God in all of the previous dispensations can enter into this last dispensation of the Millennium. God will honor both the Jewish people in keeping with His covenant to Abraham and to allow the faithful from the Church Age to return with Christ at His 2nd coming from heaven in glorified bodies to rule and reign with Him for 1000 years over those who survived the Battle of Armegeddon. Populations of survivors will grow in a more perfect world as Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit for nearly the full 1000 years. Jesus Christ will be hailed as Lord over all the earth, with His resurrected saints by His side as His bride to rule and reign with Him (Rev 20:4 & 6).
The Abrahamic Covenant
The Dispensation of the Millennium will also be a time when God will honor His covenant to the Jewish people. All the promises given to Abraham in the Abrahamic covenant will be honored by God as the resurrected King David will sit on the throne over the Jews as Jesus will reign as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lord over all the earth.
The Jewish population will grow during this last dispensation as the sands of the sea, just as God promised Abraham. All earthly Jews will again be allowed their ancient sacrifice of animals at the temple, setting up their earthly priesthood. The Levites will serve in the millennial temple – going back to their former sacrifices, feasts, and rituals of temple worship. This time, however, the sacrifices will not be for their sins, but celebration of what Jesus has done for them.
During the thousand year reign of Christ, the natural survivors on the earth will probably live to around 1000 years. For the openly disobedient, however, they will be killed, as this is a time where Jesus rules and reigns with a rod of iron upon the earth, but to produce love and peace. Most of the natural people upon the earth will live the full thousand years of the Millennial Dispensation. Toward the end of this 1000-year dispensation, Satan will be released from the bottomless pit to again tempt mankind to follow him. Those who were submissive to Christ's reign but not sincere in their faith toward Jesus as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will flock to Satan as the sands of the sea. They will all gather together in Jerusalem to attempt to overtake Jesus as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. At that time God will come down and wipe Satan and all of his followers and cast them ALL into the eternal lake of fire for all eternity.
Thus this dispensation will end with God cleansing the earth with fire and bringing in a new heaven and a new earth to begin eternity with all those who have been faithful to God. Thus, eternity future will begin, of which the Bible does not give us a lot of information on, but this God promises us - it will be glorious as we spend the rest of eternity with God, Jesus Christ in a heaven and future worlds that God has created in love to those who have been faithful to Him. (For more information on the Millennium, refer to the article on the Millennium.)