study of the dispensations by dispensations
we mean marked spiritual sections into which God has divided the history of
mankind so far from being merely an interesting Bible study, is vital to our
understanding of the Bible; and, even more important, it is vital to our
pleasing God. If (for example) we were
to begin practising Circumcision and observing the Passover once most
definite commands of God so far from pleasing Him, we should definitely
provoke the displeasure of the Most High.
Why? Because we would be acting
out of our dispensation: we should be
ignoring the fresh revelations God has made for a fresh epoch. The knowledge and practice of dispensational
truth is vital to our approval at the Judgment Seat of Christ. So the Holy Spirit says: Study to show thyself
put heart and soul into making yourself approved unto God an approval won long after conversion, and wholly dependant on intense application
a workman that needeth not
to be ashamed, rightly dividing neither wantonly mutilating, nor
lumping the Scriptures together as one, but correctly dividing: the
word is used of the priests division of the sacrifices: serving the truth into
its right joints and correct sections, as a master surgeon the word of truth (2 Tim.
THE PATRIARCHAL AGE.
the number of the earth: its elements are four earth, fire, air, and water;
its seasons are four spring, summer, autumn, winter; its empires are four Chaldea, Persia, Greece, Rome; its human divisions, four
tribes, peoples, nations, and tongues; and so
on indefinitely: so also four are the
great Dispensations into which the history of this earth, so long as it exists,
is divided: the Patriarchal. Beginning with Adam and lasting (roughly)
until Abraham two thousand years we know extremely little. Whatever of primitive revelation it may have
had, nothing with the exception of a fragment from Enoch (Jude 14) has survived to our own day: it was the
era of CONSCIENCE, when
conscience, acquired in Eden, was the guide; it was (in Scripture typology)
starlight (Rev. 12: 1); what light it had
revolved around the twelve Patriarchs, God‑chosen
fathers of the human race, the Stars of the Void. Its fundamental was this: Gentiles which have no law are a law unto themselves; in that
they shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their
thoughts one with another, accusing or else excusing them (Rom. 2: 14).
2 - THE LEGAL AGE.
dispensation was the Legal; that is, the age of written and revealed LAW, spanning another two
thousand years, from Abraham to John the Baptist; the Moon (Rev. 12: 1) incomparably brighter than the Stars,
but only drawing its light from a still unrisen Sun. In this age God selected a single nation
Israel - to whom He revealed His law, and whom He placed under ideal conditions,
so as to conduct a gigantic experiment over two millenniums - to see if man
could work out his own salvation by obedience: so that all mankind might learn
- what, of course, God knew from the first - that under no conceivable conditions can man, the sinner, produce a
righteousness in which to appear before God. So the bedrock principle of the Law was: Cursed is every one that continueth
not in all things that are written in
the book ol the law to do them (Gal. 3: 10).
3 - THE CHRISTIAN AGE.
third dispensation is the Christian, spanning another two thousand years, from
the first advent of Messiah to the second: far the most peculiar - indeed
wholly unique - of the dispensations, it is not starlight, nor moonlight, but
the rising of the Sun of GRACE. The gigantic
experiment of salvation by works having utterly failed, God - as is His wont,
in such a case - sweeps the board clean; sends Messiah, as mans substitute, to
work out a perfect righteousness for the salvation of the race; is calling
out a people from all nations - called the Church* - on the principle of salvation through grace
alone; and commands the entire action of
this People to be based on grace also. Its fundamental is this: By grace have ye been
saved through faith; and that
not of yourselves, it is the gift of
God (Eph. 2: 8).
[* It should not be overlooked that the church existed before this time, for we read of Israel, after they left Egypt and passed through the Red Sea, described as: This is the Moses ... this is the one [Moses] having been in the church in the desert with the angel speaking to him in the Mount Sinai and with the fathers of us, who received oracles living to give to you. (Acts 7: 37- 39, Greek).]
4 - THE MILLENNIAL AGE.
dispensation before the old earth is finally destroyed - the Millennial - covers the closing
thousand years of the worlds history, and is the second rising of the Sun
- this time the Sun of RIGHTEOUSNESS. It is the great epoch of justice, or judgment:
in it the Messiah returns, to enforce
righteousness on the whole earth, and in it also the Church is judged for
her works: it is an epoch of an iron rod over the nations of the world, ending
at last in the judgment of the great White Throne. Grace
will as much disappear in judgment as law disappeared in grace. Its fundamental is this: The day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of
God; who will render to every man
according to his works (
So now we can summarise. Conscience - Law - Grace -
Judgment; Conscience - two thousand years, Law two thousand years, Grace -
two thousand years, and then the Sabbatic Rest - one thousand years*; these are the four
great God-divided sections of history, in each of which the Divine principles
and attitude are wholly distinct, and so the principles and attitude of Gods
people also (Eph. 5: 1, R.V.). And the four
divisions - and this is how we know they are God-made sections, and not
man-made fancies - are deeply separated by great outbursts of miracle: at the
close of the Patriarchal Age, the Flood, and the judgments in Egypt and the
Wilderness; at the close of the Legal Age, the stupendous miracles of Christ
[* Such is the traditional prophecy of Enoch:- Two thousand years,
the Void; two thousand years, Law; two thousand years, Messiah; and one thousand
Now the supreme peril we have to avoid is confounding the
dispensations, and living out of our own. The confusion in triany
minds is astounding. Some, like the Roman Catholics, put the Law in place of
the Gospel: others, like Tolstoi, press grace
to the utter denial of all law: others, like the Gnostics, are so upset by the sharp contrast between law and grace that
they say the two come from rival Gods: the ordinary Evangelical seems to
say that we are under grace for justification, but under law for
sanctification. Now the truth is this. Jews, to-day, choose to keep themselves under
the Law of Moses, and so will be doubly judged: Gentiles - so long as they
remain Gentiles are under the law of conscience, and Gentile rulers are commissioned
by God to administer State law: we believers are taken wholly from under the
Law of Moses, and are under law to Christ alone. For Christ is THE END - the final finish, the perfect completion of the law unto [the obtaining of] righteousness - whether the passive righteousness of justification, or the active righteousness of sanctification to every
one that believeth (Rom. 10: 4). That is, our rule is never the Old Testament,
but always the New: Old Testament promises, commands, practices, must be left to the Old Testament; while the Church [of today]
concentrates, heart and soul, on Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypse. If a
command under the Law is repeated by the Spirit under the Gospel, we obey it;
but we obey, it not because it is in the Law, but because it is in the Gospel.
Confounding the dispensations is the root of all Sacerdotalism,
which falls back to law and a fleshly religion of sacramental works; it is the
root of the Higher Criticism, which, stumbled by the curses and blood-draught
of the Old Testament, fails to understand the profound and purposed chasm
between Law and Grace; it is the chief
intellectual sin into which Christians have fallen all down the ages - a sin
which, by affording an escape from the exacting commands peculiar to our
dispensation, forfeit reward; and, in its final development, it is branded
by God with one of the most solemn designations of the Bible Babylon, confusion, unholy mixture, spiritual
[* The Gospels, together
with Acts opening with Peter and closing with Paul (Gal.
2: 7), are a hinge, an exquisite melting of the old into the new; but
the awful central event ‑ the actual advent of Godhead ‑ is the
watershed after which (Acts 5: 11) the Church, though foretold (Matt.
16: 18) and legislated for (Matt 17: 17)
by our Lord, is stated for the first time as now on earth; and, spanning and
embracing all the Epistles, it last appears as a corporate entity within the
Apocalypse, and on the threshold of judgment. Too sharp a severance of the
Testaments, or still subtler sub-divisions of the New, tend to
Gnosticism: the confusion of the Testaments culminates in
Finally, the junctions of the dispensations (1 Cor. 10: 2) so merge into one another as to dovetail, interlace, overlap, interlock.* Enoch was rapt some hundreds of years prior to the Flood, and the slow construction of the Ark further accentuated a dying age, while yet the twelve final Patriarchs were still unborn: the birth-moment of the Law it is impossible to lodge exactly - whether in Abrahams call, or Passover night, or the Decalogue on Sinai, or the consecration of the Temple: Law died slowly, as Grace drew on - Grace dawning with the Baptist, unfolding with Christs ministry, definitely arrived with the Advent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, left alone and supreme with the burning of the Temple; so also huge world upheavals, accelerating judgments, silent withdrawals, grace-ebb and judgment-rise ‑ no hard, black line divides this Age from the next. But the penumbra is upon us. EACH JUNCTION HAS SEEN AN ADVENT OF GOD. God came down at the birth (Gen. 3: 8) and in the death-moments (Gen. 18: 21) of the Patriarchal Age: God came down in Laws birth on Sinai (Exod. 19: 20); God came down when Law died, and Grace was born (Matt. 1: 21): WE ARE NOW AWAITING AN ADVENT OF GOD.*
[* It is of great practical importance for us, in a
closing age, to visualize vividly these overlapping age-ends; a mysterious belt
of border-land, dark, confused, piebald with elements both of the dying age and
the age unborn. It is in this travail-era with which God always appears to furnish
Prophets. An exceedingly striking
example is the survival of the
[** That is, after the Great Tribulation: Immediately after the distress of those
days ... At that time the sign of the
Son of Man will appear in the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels ... and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from
one end of the heavens to the other ... When you - [i.e.,
disciples, the word embraces all
followers of Christ; there is no distinction between Jew or Gentile, we are all
ONE in Christ Jesus.] - see ALL these
things, you know that it [the Second Advent of Christ/Messiah] is near . . . (Matt.
Ye desire again to be in
servitude from above (Gal. 4: 9).
servitude of old-time saints was appointed (Gal. 4:
9; Heb. 2: 15). But redeemed ones
now have not received the Spirit of servitude again
to fear (Rom. 8: 15). Hence the Galations
wished to put themselves back to another dispensation. Days and months, and
times and years belonged to the period before Christ. But if believers should wish to re-establish
Jewish feasts to-day, they would sin against God. To re-instate the seventh day, to arrange a
Jewish-Christian assembly, to erect elaborate buildings for worship, to ordain
an earthly priesthood, to introduce musical instruments in worship, to approve
of Christians taking part in warfare, to enter into vows and oaths all these
things are un-dispensational, and thus against the mind of God. Some of His people see this as to some
matters, but hesitate in others. And
when we pray for an all-round realization of His will, in the
Spirit, how we need to pray for victory over the subtle contrast-error; for
some have the swing of the pendulum, and deny the Lords Supper and the Lords
Day, which are graciously given from above, and fitted for a people viewed in
heavenly places in Christ Jesus. PERCY
Over all the earth
You reign on high,
Every mountain and stream.
Every sunset and sky.
But my one request,
Lord my only aim:
Is that You reign in me again.
Lord reign in me,
Reign in Your power;
Over all my dreams,
In my darkest hour;
You are the Lord of all,
So wont You reign in me again.
Over every thought,
Over every word,
May my life reflect
The beauty of my Lord.
Cos You mean more to me,
Than any earthly thing,
So wont you reign in me again.
[I am the Vine; you [my disciples] are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers ... If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, AND IT WILL BE GIVEN YOU (John 15: 5-7).
Dare we interpret the above passage in any other way than it being a conditional promise of God to His redeemed people? Particularly, when we know of some, who have had in time past, because of their disobedience, experienced the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit from their lives?
Ill go out as before and shake myself free, - said Samson, unaware of the consequences of disobedience, and believing the Power of God could not be taken from him - but he did not know that THE LORD HAD LEFT HIM (Judges 16: 16: 20, N. I. V.)]