A dispensation is a transitional period of time in the Bible where God deals with man in differently on the aspects of sin and salvation. There are seven set dispensations in the Bible we can acknowledge. Each of these dispensations show a different approach and action by both God and man toward each other. The present dispensation ongoing today is the dispensation of the church. This dispensation was originally intended for the Israelite nation; yet due to their rejection of Jesus the Gentiles have inherited the benefits. The Israelite rejection brought about a transpiring of events known as the postponement theory. The church and the nation of Israel are completely separate entities, yet both will inevitably receive their reward spiritually and physically.
The Stages of Divine Order
As a result of man’s attempts to determine the stages of divine order, specific terms have been linked to these stages; one of these terms is the word dispensation. “The etymology of the word dispensation is from the Greek word oikonomia, a compound of two words, oikos meaning ‘house,’ and nomia meaning ‘law.’ The word implies how one manages and organizes the affairs of a household” (Couch, 2000). The term dispensation, in relation to a theological context, can be defined, “A dispensation is a period of time in which God deals with man in a particular way as to sin and salvation” (Wilson & Locke, 2009). Upon examination of Scripture we find there are seven set dispensations. These dispensations are: Dispensation of Innocence, Dispensation of Conscience, Dispensation of Human Government, Dispensation of Promise, Dispensation of the Law, Dispensation of the Church, and the Dispensation of the Millennium (Wilson & Locke, 2009).
The dispensation of innocence notes the span of complete innocence found in the world prior to the fall of Adam and Eve. This dispensation came to an end when Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden it gave way to the dispensation of conscience. This dispensation notes the alleviation of the God-conscience found in Adam and Eve, giving way to the self-conscience we have today. The dispensation of conscience ends in Genesis 6 where we find a world in complete disarray and disconnection from God, resulting in the Noahic flood. The dispensation of human government is noted as the time when law and order began to find it’s way into humanity. The foundation of modern human civilization was laid during this time. The result of this dispensation came about in man’s attempt to reach heaven by his own means and knowledge, the Tower of Babel. The dispensation of promise is the era in which God extends his promise to the seed of Abraham. This dispensation ends in the nation of Israel being enslaved by Egypt. The dispensation of the law came about during the time when God gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. This dispensation spanned clear into the New Testament when we find John the Baptist proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. While most dispensations have an unmistakable end, this dispensation, while it has concluded, can still be found in the dogmatic legalistic mentality of people today. The dispensation of the church came about during day of Pentecost, and will culminate with the rapture of the church. This is the present dispensation we live in today. The millennial dispensation will be ushered in by the battle of armageddon and will last one-thousand years. During this time earth will finally achieve complete peace since satan will be bound. At the end of this millennial period satan will be released, and a battle will ensue resulting in him eternally being cast into the lake of fire and the saints enjoying heaven eternally.
The Dispensation of the Church
As mentioned previously, the dispensation of the church is the present dispensation we live in today. This dispensation emerged at the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost (Wilson & Locke, 2009). At this time it is important to note that the promise of this dispensation was originally given to the Jewish people, and was for the Jewish people (Couch, 2000). Yet, due to the rejection of Jesus Christ by the Jews the promise was made available to the Gentiles. We can see this in effect today being at the church is comprised almost entirely of a Gentile populous. This assertion of the rejection to the promise of the Israelite nation and the benefit of the Gentile church today poses the question of the connection between the dispensation of the church and the Israelite nation.
“Of the seven transitional periods we call dispensations, the Church age dispensation is the only one in which the primary action is God ‘calling out’ a people from the Gentiles for His namesake. While Israel will be used in the future to bring Gentiles to God… Gentiles are brought to God today primarily without Jewish involvement” (Wilson & Locke, 2009). Today, during the dispensation of the church it is believed that the Israelite nation as a whole is blinded, but there will come a day when the scales shall be removed from their eyes. This belief continues the assertion that the Gentile people are currently benefiting from a promise that is truly for the Jewish nation. The church today is totally separate from the nation of Israel. While the church today is truly benefiting from a spiritual promise, there will come a day with the nation of Israel will receive the literal promises from God.
The Postponement Theory
Continuing in the vein of thought regarding the rejection of Jesus by the Israelite nation, Couch (2000) gives the fundamentals behind the postponement theory, “Dispensationalists believe that the kingdom was set aside… But dispensationalists also hold that they earthly Davidic kingdom will yet come when Jesus returns.” The postpone theory is the notion that the literal promises made to the Israelite nation was postponed due to their rejection of Jesus. This rejection opened the door for the church, and the initiation of Gentile saints. Currently, the Israelite nation is at a lull while the church age is advancing. Yet, there will come a day when the eyes of the Israelite nation will be opened and they will receive their intended physical promise.
Couch, M. (2000). An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics: A Guide to the History and Practice of Biblical
Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
Wilson, N., & Locke, R. (2009). Rightly Dividing The Word. Sacramento: Insignia Publications.