Dispensational Truth and Error
It is no secret that there has been a big conflict between myself and Bro George lately. My disagreement with him is not that there are not dispensations in the Bible. It is not that the word of truth should be rightly divided.
My biggest concern is that this teaching teaches that the Jews are saved in a different manner than the Gentiles, that there is more than one gospel. I personally believe there is only one gospel.
Gal 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel
unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel
unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
That this is the same gospel preached to all believers is shown in chapter 3.
Gal 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham
, saying, In thee
shall all nations be blessed.
A dispensationalist might argue this verse only applies to Gentiles, but the words "In thee" show that it also applied to the Jews.
Anyway, I found this very informative article. The reason I am posting it is because it goes into detail about this very important difference in belief between some of us here. I'm sure it will open up much discussion. I hope that everyone here can discuss their differences with civility.
Here is the entire article.
DISPENSATIONAL TRUTH AND ERROR
By Pastor Lee Spencer
Our Bible Heritage Web Site
A local church ministry of Adrian Baptist Church in Canisteo, New York
"For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." ~ Romans 4:1-5
"The just shall live by his faith." ~ Habakkuk 2:4
" . . . for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified . . . even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." ~ Galatians 2:16; 3:6
"By faith Abraham . . ." ~ Hebrews 11:8,9,17
Abraham, "show me (James, and we who read James) thy faith without thy works . . . was not Abraham our father justified by works ("but not before God") when he had offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou [his faith] . . .?"
~ James 2:21,22
"For without faith it is impossible to please him." ~ Hebrews 11:6
Let me state from the outset, that I am a dispensationalist. But let me quickly add that I am not an ultra-dispensationalist, which is not the way to rightly divide the Word of Truth.
ALL MEN in every dispensation have been made just by God, before God by grace through faith alone, apart from any works they did to earn or keep their just standing before God.
What work did Adam do to merit the covering God made for his nakedness? The only thing Adam did was to stand by and watch God do for him what he could not do for himself. Adam simply believed God and the work that God did for him. He would prove the validity of his faith (not to God, but to others) by his actions of faithfully teaching his son, Abel, the importance of the shedding of blood in any sacrifice that would be acceptable to God. He also taught his other son, Cain, but evidently the attitude of Cain did not allow what his father had taught him to take hold as it did with Abel.
In every dispensation men receive forgiveness, cleansing and justification before God simply by believing the present revelation that God gives of Himself to them in that dispensation.
In every dispensation men receive forgiveness, cleansing and justification before God by simply believing the present revelation that God gives of Himself to them in that dispensation. They testified to others concerning their faith in what God did for them by their obedience to what had been revealed to them. But God knows every man's heart beforehand, and does not need the outward appearance (show of works) to know what is in man (John 2:24,25.
Christ's Sacrifice is the Only Acceptable
Sacrifice in the Old Testament
The study of former dispensations, and God's revelation to them, and their faith or lack of faith in what God revealed to them, is all recorded for our admonition (I Corinthians 10:11). The only way that we can see their faith or lack of it is by seeing their works. God sees their faith without their works, we see their faith by their works Luther and ultra-dispensationalists may have trouble seeing this, and fail to understand Hebrews and James, but men who rightly divide the Word of Truth have no trouble at all in following the Holy Spirit's guidance in these books which are profitable portions of God's truth for this present dispensation.
Men are not responsible for the revelations which God has given in past dispensations. These revelations are progressive, and one dispensation's revelations are built upon a former dispensation's, and thus former revelations are instructive for each succeeding dispensation. We can learn from each dispensation, and apply that wisdom to our present dispensation. An example of this is that we learn that the Law is not given to men to make one righteous, but to act as a schoolmaster to point us to Christ. Thus all dispensations are related to each other, and important to a complete understanding and to right teaching of the whole counsel of God.
Neither are men responsible for what is to be revealed in future dispensations. They only need believe the light which God gives them for that dispensation. It is when men cross over those dispensational boundaries, mixing specific revelations from various dispensations, that cults and false teachings arise, confusing many and clouding the simple truths God has for this present dispensation. An example of that is the placing of Tribulation events and practices in the church age, or placing the Church in the Tribulation. This leads to the confusion of pre, post and mid-trib raptures, and cultic teachings such as the preterit and Jehovah's Witness' claims that Christ has already come.
The example of Adam, who lived in the Dispensation of Innocence in the Garden, and was ushered into the Dispensation of Conscience through the sacrifice of an innocent animal in his place, has already been cited. But let us look at other examples in other dispensations to show the validity of the blanket statement that "by the works of the flesh shall no flesh be justified" in God's sight.
"But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:8). It is then stated that "Noah was a just man" (verse 9), after, and only because he received grace form the Lord. His works followed after, as a testimony to his generation and to us of his faith in God. He believed God when God said it was going to rain upon the earth, when there had never been such a phenomenon as rain in the 500 years Noah had already lived.
He built an ark in the middle of the dry land because he believed God, not to earn his salvation. God entrusted Noah with the task after Noah found God's grace through faith, and because God knew Noah would obey by faith. Noah's faith was made justifiable (perfect) in the eyes of human beings by men (and us) seeing his obedience to God. That is all that Genesis six and James two teaches us. Nothing more, and certainly, nothing less.
How about Job, whom God calls "perfect and upright, and one that feareth God, and escheweth evil." (Job 1:1,8). Was he upright because he kept the Law? Of course not: the Law was not even written until centuries later! Job was upright because he had been redeemed. "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth." (Job 19:25). He also knew and believed more than the sad-you-see Saducees, for he believed God's revelation of a future resurrection, "And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." (verse 26).
Poor Job, we say! But, dear reader, he knew more solid doctrine than the vast majority of professing Christians today! Where did he get all this superior knowledge of God, when as yet not one page of Scripture had yet been penned? He had a Redeemer, whom he knew personally, and thus he knew that one day he would be raised by his Redeemer to walk in glory with the God of all grace.
The only way to explain all that the Bible says about Lot, the compromiser, who walked by sight and not by faith, is through grace. There is no other way you can explain how God can call him just and righteous! "And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished."
Here was a man who strove with righteous Abraham (sounds like a lot of believers today, who like to squabble with other believers). Here was a man who, walking by sight, chose the well-watered lands of the plains, instead of leaving the choice up to God He pitched his tent toward a city of abominable sinners; then he decided he could live with it, it wasn't so bad, and so he purchased a house in the very center of Sin City. He not only backslid, he also came to the point where he was willing to stay in the presence of sin! We have too many Christians today who have fallen into Lot's life-style Christianity!
Next, we see him sitting in the gate of the city: the place of prominence, where the city's elected judges sat! His life had become so compromising that the sinners felt so comfortable around him that they would lift him to prominence and prestige because they were confident his life would never be a rebuke to their wicked life-style! With that kind of living, Lot dare say anything judgmental against the life-style that he tolerated.
Even when God dragged the reluctant compromiser out of the place of wickedness, he had become so accustomed to the life-style that he could not bear to leave the plain. His compromising cost him his opportunity to witness to lost and dying souls destined for destruction. It cost him his family, his possessions and his position. His compromising led to continued sin, including drunken incest with his own daughters!
His disobedient refusal to totally leave the place of sin left abominable sinners a foothold in the land. Here, in Canaan, the Canaanite sinners would multiply and replenish the land, to trouble future generations of God's people centuries later, when they would return from their captivity in Egypt and seek to possess their God-given land! The consequences of compromise exacts a terrible toll, and affects much more than just the compromiser!
How in the world can the Holy Spirit call such a despicable man as Lot just and righteous? He even categorizes Lot with the godly! Whoa, o woe! Did God not see all Lot's backsliding compromise, and the insurmountable damaged it caused to everyone around him and for generations to come? "Thou God seest me," not only applied to Hagar, it applies to every soul who will ever walk the face of this planet, including Lot. Does not God know, does He not care? How His heart must have been breaking for Lot, and for all those whom Lot so wrongly affected. But God still saw Lot through the eyes of grace, apart from works, positive or negative.
As far as James' letter goes, Lot never once showed his faith. To human eyes Lot is not justified in claiming to be a servant of God. But man looks on the outward appearance, while God sees what is in the heart. What man cannot see God sees, and whether we see it or not, God sees Lot as just and righteous. Is God unrighteous to deem such an one as Lot as just? Would you fault God, or can we bow in awesome wonder, and admit that the God of all grace is greater and wiser then we? No wonder God has not made us judges over other men. We would blow it every time!
What one work can you cite in all the Genesis story of Lot that would hint at his righteousness. If it were not for God's testimony to Lot's being just and righteous in II Peter, would we ever guess how God judges him? If men are saved by their works in the Old Testament, then Lot was unjust, unrighteous, ungodly and lost for all eternity. God saw something in Lot (how about the application of His unmerited grace) that we can only see ourselves by accepting God's New Testament witness concerning Lot.
Again, there is the example of Samson. Samson - the practical joker, the man who played games with God and lost! He lost his strength, his eyesight, his credibility and eventually his life. Yet amazingly, in Hebrews eleven, God cites him as an example of a man of faith! Or how about Jacob, the cheat, the liar? Or Moses the Murderer? Or Solomon, the dumbest wise man who ever lived? Or Jonah fish-breath? Show me their faith, or their lack of it, by their works and God will override every example of faithlessness with His incontrovertible declaration, "By faith!"
You may teach and believe error if you love contradicting God, but as for me and my house, we will stand with God when He says, "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." God may have been writing that to the Galatian Christians, but the statement encompasses all men in every dispensation. "The just shall live by [his] faith," not by his works! That truth is so important that God repeats it four times in Scripture: Habbakuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:28. Do you not hear the Word of God, or are you enamored with your own private interpretation?
When God says "The doers of the law are just before God," what is He talking about? Balance what He says in Romans 2:13 with Romans 3:10-23 "There is none righteous . . there is none that doeth good, no not one . . all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." How do you reconcile these two extremes? God cannot lie, neither does He play word and mind games. He means what He says, and says what He means. Jesus, answering men living in the Dispensation of Law, reconciles these two diverse statements in John six. He was asked, "What shall we do, that that we might work the works of God?" (verse 28). Our Lord answers, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." You see, the work of God is to believe on Christ without lifting a finger! A few moments later He would plainly state, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath eternal life." (verse 47).
Now the argument is well taken, at least on the surface, that the Old Testament saints never knew the man called Jesus Christ. Yet it is recorded that many Old Testament saints called upon the name of the Lord. In Enos' day men began to sense their need and to call upon the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26). There are well over 300 names of God given in the Bible. Whatever name God revealed Himself by to these saints in those dispensations, they called upon that name. And that was sufficient to save them, apart from works. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved/delivered." (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Noah, Abraham, Jacob, David, and all the Old Testament saints called on the name of the Lord. That's all God requires for justification and salvation in any dispensation. All men are saved by grace through faith: faith that is placed in the revelation God gives of Himself in each dispensation.
David, in his great sin (no greater than ours), broke all ten of the commandments. His works certainly could never make him just before a holy and righteous God who demands, "be ye holy for I am holy," and "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." How then, was he made just? The only thing left to David was the sure mercies brought to him by the God of all grace. David was saved by grace through faith.
How about the repentant thief on the cross? Born, and now dying under the Dispensation of Law, what work did he do, could he do, under the Law? This thief, fixed to across until he died, could not make restitution to those he had wronged, as the Law commanded. Neither could he enter the temple, bringing a lamb which could be offered upon the altar for his sin. And please do not give me this hedge that this was a transitional period. The Dispensation of Law did not end until the moment Christ died. The Dispensation of Grace did not start until the Dispensation of Law ended - there was no overlapping of the two. Yet the thief was justified and ushered into Paradise with Jesus totally by grace through faith without one work being done by the thief before or after his salvation.
On and on we could go citing multiplied examples of Old Testament saints who were saved by grace through faith. God devotes an entire chapter, Hebrews eleven, to recounting the faith of those whom God justified by grace through faith. Their works never saved them, nor kept them saved, but only testified of their faith to countless generations who have since read God's record. That is the import of the phrase "so great a cloud of witnesses" recorded in Hebrews 12:1.
To put it as clearly as possible: if the Lord Jesus Christ had not shed His precious blood at Calvary, no Old Testament saint would be in heaven today. All their obedience, as perfect as a fallen human being could have performed, would still have left them falling short of God's glory, for that glory can only be obtained through Christ's perfect, sinless righteousness imputed to them by faith (Romans 4:5,6; 10:1-4). Neither is keeping God's Law an intermediate step that made them eligible to receive the atonement provided by Christ. That would imply that something had to be added to Christ's sacrifice to make it complete, or that the Old Testament saints were not saved by the blood of Christ, but by their works. That would mean that God owed them their salvation, because they earned it (Romans 4:4). This is not Bible truth!
It is true in any age, that God saves those who call upon the name of the Lord. Granted, these Old Testament saints did not know Jesus Christ by name. Carelessly, and for the last time I hope, I have use the trite phrase, "They looked forward to Christ." No, they believed God, and put their faith in the revelation that God gave to them in that particular dispensation. That was all they were responsible for, and that simple faith placed in whatever God revealed to them was counted unto them for righteousness.
But many Old Testament saints did see Christ's day, and the work of redemption He would accomplish. Christ, Himself, makes this direct statement concerning Abraham, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and saw it, and rejoiced in it." (John 8:56). Though Abraham did not know Christ by His earthly name, He was the friend of God, and Jesus is God. So whom did Abraham know as his Friend?
Not only that, but Abraham rejoiced to see his Friend's day. Jesus said he did see it and was glad. I, too, would be extremely glad if in seeing Christ's day, the life of my son was saved from slaughter on the altar! He certainly saw Christ's day in the provision of an adult lamb (a ram) who took his son's place, and died in his son's place. No wonder Abraham could say before the fact and with great confidence that "The Lord will provide himself a sacrifice." Abraham knew more than that for which we give him credit: the untampered Hebrew text expresses that "The Lord will provide himself as a sacrifice." The English translation, when read correctly, causes the "as" to be understood in the context.
An interesting sidelight: Mount Moriah, upon which Isaac was to be offered, is Mount Calvary of Jesus' day! I would not be surprised to learn some day that the altar was built on the exact same spot as Christ's cross would centuries later be planted.
Adam certainly saw Christ's day in the sacrifice of an innocent animal after he had momentously disobeyed God's simple command. David saw Christ's day in Psalm 22. Isaiah saw Christ's day in Isaiah 53. No, they did not know Him as Jesus Christ, but they knew Him as their sacrificial Redeemer, by one of His many Old Testament names. More insight into this truth can be gleaned from Nathan Stone's book published by the old Moody Colportage Press, entitled "The Names of God" Further insight can also be obtained in Ervin Hershberger's book "Seeing Christ in the Old Testament," distributed by Choice Books of Northern Virginia, 11923 Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 22030.
Christ's Sacrifice is the Only Acceptable
Tribulation and Millennial Sacrifice
Let us pass on to the future dispensation. First, let it be established that every dispensation ends with a judgment upon the disobedient of that dispensation. Expulsion was the judgment upon the Dispensation of Innocence. The flood was the judgment upon the Dispensation of Conscience. The confusion of tongues and the dispersion at the tower of Babel was the judgment upon the Dispensation of Human Government. The Captivity in Egypt is the judgment upon the Dispensation of Promise. The Cross was God's judgment upon the Dispensation of Law.
The Tribulation period, often placed by some as a separate dispensation, is in reality the judgment of God upon the Christ-rejecters of the Dispensation of Grace. Then we come to the next dispensation, commonly known as the Millennial reign of Christ. Whether you categorize the Tribulation Period as a separate dispensation, or the judgment upon our present Dispensation of Grace, many more serious errors are being taught concerning these two periods of time.
Take, for instance, the teaching that in these two periods people will return to the Old Testament sacrifices for justification before God. True, the unbelieving Jews will set up sacrifices in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, but the 144,000 saved and sealed Jews will "look upon [Christ] whom they have pierced" (Zechariah 12:10; Revelation 1:7). They will recognize their Paschal Lamb as the risen Lord Jesus Christ, and will accept His once-for-all sacrifice for their sins. "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin." (Hebrews 10:4). As the ultra-dispensationalists like to remind us, this is the book for them (the future Tribulation and Millennial saints), not us! If that be the case, Chapters 10 and 11 will teach them that faith in His blood shed at Calvary is the only remedy for sin. The great multitude won by their testimony, will be pointed to the death, burial and resurrection of the soon coming Saviour, King Jesus, not to the temple in Jerusalem, where the Abomination of Desolation shall seat himself as God.
During the Millennium, the Lamb of God, Son of David, King of kings and Lord of lords will sit on the throne/mercy seat in the Millennial temple in Jerusalem, with the veil removed, and all the nations of the world will resort to Him. There will be no temple sacrifice, for that would be blasphemous in the presence of Him who replaced the Old Testament sacrifices once for ever with His one-time, all sufficient sacrifice. Those who teach this error do not recognize the all-sufficiency of the sacrifice that Christ made at Calvary. He died for all men, past, present and future!
In Numbers 2:33, after Moses had numbered the Israelites as God had commanded him, it is recorded that "the Levites were not numbered among the children of Israel; as the Lord commanded Moses." Twelve tribes are named and numbered, but the tribe of Levi is not among them because they are reserved by God "to do the service of the temple." (Numbers 3:7,8). God redeemed and sanctified the sons of Levi to be the priests of God to do the temple service of God, which would include the offering of the animal sacrifices and blood offerings. But when you come to the 144,000 Israelites that will be sealed by God during the Tribulation, the tribe of Levi is not singled out to resume their priestly duties, but are numbered as one of the twelve tribes. Why is this so? Because there will be no priests in God's restored Israel to administer Tribulation or Millennial sacrifices.
On the cross, when Christ cried, "It is finished!" the animal sacrifices ceased forever for God's people, never again to be instituted as a replacement or a suplement to Christ's shed blood. It is Christ's shed blood, sprinkled on the mercy-seat in heaven, that cleanses from sin (I John 1:7). No animal's blood is so holy and pure that it can replace or augment Christ's. To teach otherwise is to count "the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing," and to "do despite unto the Spirit of grace." (Hebrews 10:29).
It is interesting to note that Satan is the one who promotes the continuation of animal, and even human blood sacrifices. God will not allow Voodoo, Witchcraft, transubstantiation and mutilation to pollute His holy altar! Mark this down, if you do not now believe that all men in every dispensation are saved by grace through faith, you will someday! There will never again be the practice of animal sacrifices by God's people. Secular, unsaved Israel more than likely will observe the Old Testament sacrifices, but not God's people!
Jumping back to the Old Testament saints, have you ever wondered why, when Christ died, "the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many" (Matthew 27:52,53)? According to I Corinthians 15:20, Christ is the "firstfruits of the resurrection." Now Jesus, being an individual, is resurrected, but firstfruits is plural. The significance is found in the saints who came out of the grave and appeared to many in Jerusalem. But note: they came out of their graves only after Christ's resurrection. No one could arise with glorified bodies until Christ arose; even Lazarus faced death after his being raised from the dead by Christ.
The order of the resurrections found in I Corinthians 15 correspond to three Old Testament feasts. The wave offering was the _expression of thanksgiving for the firstfruits of the harvest. It signified the initial ripening of some fruit before the major harvest. The major harvest and its accompanying feast of trumpets corresponds to the resurrection of the New Testament saints at both the rapture and the Lord's return. The final gleanings and its feast corresponds to the souls who will receive their glorified bodies when they believe on Christ during the Millennium.
The difficulties that the Ultra-Dispensationists' position present are numerous. First there is their penchant for compartmentalizing God's Word to support their position. They would teach us that the Old Testament books, Hebrews, James and I Peter are not for us today. Have they never read II Timothy 3:16,17: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works?" If Hebrews is not for our day and time, then we cannot talk of Christ's blood doing for us what the blood of bulls and goats cannot do. If this book is solely for the Tribulation and Millennial saints, then it condemns the very practice of renewed animal sacrifices in the rebuilt temple, which they claim is the only valid method by which God will count a man justified and righteous! Suddenly, Christ's sacrifice is not finished, despite His victory cry on Calvary, "It is finished!"
Their position is inconsistent with the whole counsel of God's Word, which they purport to uphold. Now if their whole counsel of God's Word is true, then God's Hall of Faith in Hebrews eleven is not for us today, but solely for the Tribulation and Millennial saints. Rightly dividing God's Word leads us to accept that Hebrews and James are written for both dispensations, and it will teach the 144,000 that faith is what pleases God (Hebrews 11:6) and makes them able to approach His holy presence. But the Ultra-Dispensationalists' version of the whole counsel of God says the 144,000 must be saved by their works! The ridiculousness of this position is so evident to all except those who Satan is able to blind with a man's self-important "better revelation" which they call the whole counsel of God's Word. In reality, it is a false doctrine, a doctrine of devils, deceptive and destructive to all who would embrace and teach it to others. If you want to be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven, go ahead and teach the false doctrine of Ultra-dispensationalism (Matthew 5:19).
Acts 4:11,12 makes a striking statement that bridges the gap between all the dispensations of both the Old and New Testaments. "This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
In the Old Testament God vowed "that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." He repeats this same vow in the New Testament, "As it is written, every knee shall bow to me, every tongue shall confess to God" (Romans 14:11). He leaves no doubt as to who He is in both the Old and New by restating the vow: "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10). This certainly leaves absolutely no one out, no matter resurrected and in heaven, or walking the face of this world, or buried in the grave below! All shall bow, from Adam to the last man born into this world, not to a generic god, but to a living God whose name is Jesus! Only He is the worthy Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world, for all mankind's sin.
How could anyone stand before the precious, spotless, holy Lamb of God and tell Him that His loving sacrifice is not absolutely sufficient for a man's salvation in any age? This is a slap on the face of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ that I cannot stand idly by and ignore. I take it personally when anyone maligns the one who loved me and gave Himself for me. You may say, do not get so personal and emotional about it, but I say, do not treat the Lover of my soul so carelessly. After all, if it was not for Him, you would not stand a chance, and neither would anyone else!
Christ's Sacrifice is the Only Acceptable
Sacrifice for You and Me Today
We do not live in any of the past dispensations. We who have been saved by grace through faith in this dispensation will not need to be overly concerned with how souls will be saved in any future dispensation. In, fact, other than to establish dispensational truth, for believers to focus on this one aspect of doctrine and to separate from others who do not hold to the same view, is to major on a minor. To treat it as though it is of major importance to our own salvation and our living godly lives in Christ, is to shift the focus of our attention away from the simplicity that is in Christ. How Satan loves that! Anything to side-track us from the main task for which Christ has left us here.
Souls are not saved by knowing how people supposedly got saved in other dispensations. I have yet to meet anyone who has been led to Jesus Christ by being taught the first thing about previous or future dispensations, unless it be that judgment lies ahead for all who refuse Jesus Christ. Souls are saved by pointing them to Jesus Christ and living such a life before them that they desire to have what we have.
The Apostle Paul had a prolific ministry in difficult and dangerous times. Hundreds of thousands of souls came to Christ in that first century. Hundreds of churches sprung up throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, many of them the result of Paul's missionary journeys. What was Paul's secret?
"I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:16,17). That is why Paul would tell the Corinthians, "I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." (I Corinthians 2:2).
"For Christ sent me . . . to preach the gospel"
(I Corinthians 1:17). And what is this Gospel that the Lord sent him to preach? In I Corinthians 15:1-4 he describes it: "Moreover, bretheren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preach unto you . . . how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." Anything that takes up time preaching or defending other themes that do not pertain to the Gospel is a subtle device of Satan designed to rob us of time doing what Paul did - reaching souls for Jesus Christ.
The whole issue seems to appeal to men's egotistical desire to have some corner of "truth" that no one else has. Suddenly one has more knowledge than his "less spiritual" brothers. And if these brothers will not acknowledge that superior knowledge, then he must separate from them in order to remain unhindered in his teaching the "whole counsel of God." This is nothing more than spiritual pride.
Personally, I have watched helplessly as a few close associates and long-time friends have embraced this untenable position. They soon become arrogant, hostile and condemning. Their self-imposed separation tends eventually to lead to bitterness and isolation. No one knows the truth they alone possess!
Our hope is in Christ. Our message to others is "be ye reconciled to God." (II Corinthians 5:20). Like Paul, we ought to approach others with this scriptural attitude: "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." (I Corinthians 2:2). Ultra-dispensationalism takes the focus off of Christ and Him crucified.
If you have drifted into this clever distraction of Satan, get your mind and heart off of that which "are words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers." (II Timothy 2:14). Be careful, dear friend, that what you teach does not "overthrow the faith of some" (II Timothy 2:18), even if it is not exactly what Hymenaeus and Philetus taught.
Quite the contrary to you having to break fellowship with other bretheren, you may place yourself in the position where the bretheren may have to obey God and break fellowship with you. "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings . . . from such withdraw thyself." (I Timothy 6:3-5).
"Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth" (Romans 10:4). In context, that was written concerning the Old Testament Jews, but it was also written as an example warning us to cease from our own self-righteous efforts, and call upon the name of the Lord. His sacrifice is the only acceptable sacrifice for the remission of our sins in this day and age, as well as in every age. "He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2).
At the risk of being redundant, it is very important for the sake of emphasis, that we repeat once more the tragedies of ultra-dispensationalism. No matter what one believes about how people get saved in other dispensations, the dispensation we have to deal with is this dispensation. Our plea to unsaved men is not based upon what we believe about other dispensations.
To major on teaching men about other ways of salvation in other dispensations clouds the present issue of how they must be saved in this dispensation (Acts 4:12). It is a cleverly designed ploy of Satan to keep us focused on the unimportant, while souls slip by us into an eternity without Christ. Precious souls, for whom Christ died, are dependent upon our giving them what they need to know about how they can be saved today.
Furthermore, it needlessly divides brothers in Christ. It feeds the starving ego (which should be dead - Romans 6) of a believer looking for recognition as a teacher of the "whole counsel of God." It is a form of one-upmanship that in reality makes that one someone who will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19). It eventually affects one's relationship with other believers.
A man can have right doctrine, and still live wrong, which sadly describes the problem of many who seek to follow Christ today. But a man cannot have wrong doctrine, and still live right. Works for salvation in any dispensation is wrong, and it puts stumbling blocks in the paths of others who are seeking God's truth. It is direct disobedience to the plain command of God: "Judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way." (Romans 14:13). "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him." (I John 2:10).
The SEVEN DISPENSATIONS
The seven dispensations are progressive in nature, each bringing to man a more detailed revelation of God and His dealings with man. In each dispensation man is justified by God through a man's willingness to believe in the present revelation God has given them (Hebrews 11).
Each dispensation is also a revelation of man's failure in his response to God's newer revelation to that dispensation. Each dispensation ends in a judgment by God upon that dispensation for men who have refused to believe God.
1. INNOCENCE EXPULSION
2. CONSCIENCE FLOOD
3. HUMAN GOVERNMENT BABEL
4. PROMISE CAPTIVITY
5. LAW CROSS
6. GRACE TRIBULATION *
7. MILLENNIAL REIGN GOG & MAGOG
* Some teach the tribulation as a separate dispensation, but it is God's judgment on the day of Grace.
PERSONS: God the Father;
God, the Son and
God, the Holy Spirit
existing as the one true and Eternal God.
PLACES: Heaven, the sinless and eternal abode of God.
ENVIRONMENT: Sublime and sinless perfection.
GOD'S HOLY WORD: "Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven." (Psalm 119:89).
REDEMPTION: It was in eternity that God predetermined that Christ would die for the sins of all men (Revelation13:8), and stated in His sovereignty that "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." It was then that God foreknew who would trust Christ and it was then that He predestinated them "to be conformed to the image of his Son." (Romans 8:29). That God's predestination applies to believers only is revealed in Christ's statement, "Depart from me, ye that work iniquity, I never knew you." (Matthew 7:23)
"In the beginning God created the heaven* and the earth." (Genesis 1:1). It was during this time that God also created the angels, for they were there when God laid the foundations of the earth, beginning in Genesis 1:2.
(Job 38:4-7). Creation means to make something out of nothing, a feat that no man can do and intellectual scientists and philosophers cannot explain. The theories of evolution
. and the "big bang" must start with something; God started with nothing but Himself!
* Most modern translation read "heavens," but God did not divide the heaven until day two
1.The Dispensation of INNOCENCE
Begins with the creation of man on day six and continuing until Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden. (Genesis 1:25-3:24). Most likely the shortest of all the dispensations; it could have lasted only as long as from day six to day eight.
The expulsion of the first family was God's judgment upon that dispensation. That God did not slay them on the spot is the direct result of that lamb dying in their place. The substitutionary sacrifice of an innocent animal foreshadows the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world. Thus it was probably a lamb that died in order to keep true to the typical pattern laid out in Scripture.
The lessons to be learned are that even when man is innocent, he does not possess the capacity to obey God. The environment was perfect, so sin is not the result of environment. They had direct access to God, so sin was not the result of a lack of knowledge or education. Paul says that "Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, slew me." (Romans 7:8). How true this was of Satan, who took occasion by the simple commandment of God given in Genesis 2:16,17, and deceived and slew the guilty pair.
2. The Dispensation of CONSCIENCE
The Dispensation of Conscience begins with the expulsion and continues through the flood, which was God's judgment upon that dispensation. It shows the failure of man to properly respond to the pricks of God to the individual conscience of fallen man. It teaches us that, although God still holds the reins* of control over man's conscience, its depravity is clear, for in the end of this era, "God saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth,
and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only
* A study of the word "reins" shows that God controls fallen man through conscience.
evil continually." (Genesis 6:5).
Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord and was commanded to build an ark. He responded in faith, seen by his obedience. Noah was saved by grace through faith, and his faith was made perfect by his works after receiving grace and faith. Faith, given by God's grace, always produces good works, but man's good works never merit God's grace. If your faith produces no good works, my friend, your faith is vain.
All men could have been saved from God's judging flood by the same grace that Noah found, for God gave them 120 years to repent before He judged them.
Some of the other characters introduced to us during the Dispensation of Conscience are Cain, the first murderer, and Abel, the righteous brother he slew. In the days of Enos, men began to call upon the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26). Men are always saved by calling upon the name of the Lord, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). This answers the question of how Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord is found in Noah's believing God's promise and calling upon the name of the Lord.
The man who lived to be the oldest man to ever live, Methusaleh (969 years), and Enoch, who walked with God and was not for God took him, were two other characters who lived during this period. It is very appropriate that Methuselah died in the same year as the flood came, for his name basically means, "When he shall die, it (God's judgment) shall come."
Man flooded the world with sin; and God flooded the world to wash away that sin and give Noah and his family a new chance in a new dispensation. The period of this dispensation covers a span of approximately 1650 years, from the time of expulsion to the end of the flood. Eight souls emerged to find a further revelation of God in the Dispensation of Human Government.
3. The Dispensation of HUMAN GOVERNMENT
The Dispensation of Human Government begins with Noah and is judged by God at the Tower of Babel with the confusion of tongues and the scattering of the people across the face of the earth. Prominent characters of this period are Noah's three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth; Nimrod, his son, Asshur (Ninus in ancient history), who built Ninevah.
It was with the death of Nimrod, possibly at the hands of Shem, and the birth of Asshur that goddess worship began. According to ancient records, Nimrod had been raised to the status of a god. Shortly after his death his wife, Semaramis, gave birth to a son, who was proclaimed to be the reincarnation of Nimrod.
The son was proclaimed by Semaramis to be the son of god, and she the mother of god. This tradition carried on to almost every religion around the globe. In Phoenicia she was known as Ashteroth or Ashtoreth, from which came her pagan festival known as Easter. In Canaan God forbade His people to worship her as the queen of heaven (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-25).
In New Testament times these attributes and titles filtered down to Diana, goddess of the Ephesians. In 431 a.d., Rome incorporated her worship into the organized church, and assigned those titles to Mary. This pagan worship of a fantasized mother of god and queen of heaven permeates the church of Rome to this day.
4. The Dispensation of PROMISE
During this period God would establish the family of Heber as His people through whom He would teach the world of Himself and His love. It was also during this period that Abraham, who would be known as the father of faith, would see Christ's day and be glad in it (Genesis 22:713; John 8:56; Hebrews 11:1719).
Isaac, Jacob and Joseph would all play major roles in God's further revelation of Himself and His love to man. "These all,, having obtained a good report THROUGH FAITH, received not the promise: God having provided something better for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." We see their faith by their works, and we know they are justified in their faith, because we see their example of works that were the result of their faith (James 2:20-22).
How beautifully and completely God's Word fits together when we rightly divide the Word of truth! (II Timothy 2:15). But, as with all of the dispensations, man failed, and God judges this dispensation with Israel's bondage in Egypt. Truly, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
5. The Dispensation of LAW
God's loving discipline of His wayward children may be long and sometimes severe, but it is never eternal (Hebrews 12:5-11). Four hundred years would elapse before God had prepared the children of Israel for His next revelation of Himself and His love.
Their journey into a more perfect understanding of God would begin with another lesson in the importance of the shed blood of an innocent sacrifice being God's ultimate remedy for sin. Knowing that God is omniscient, it is no mistake that in every major language, the sea they crossed was the Red Sea! Despite modern theologians who scoff at God and His miracles, it was not the Reed Sea they crossed. Beware of Bible maps that show their path as crossing the lower Nile delta: they passed through an over-their-heads sea of water.
Neither is their forty years of wanderings in the Wilderness of "Sin" accidental. Oh, I know these two words are English, and not Hebrew, but God knew it all along! Sometimes I believe God has a little fun with the confusion of earthly languages.
The main lesson we can learn from this dispensation is that the Law was never designed by God to make a man righteous. Quite the contrary, the Law was given to lovingly point out the fact of how far short of God's glory all men come (Romans 3:10-23).
As Paul says, "The law . . . was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made. But the scriptures hath concluded ALL UNDER SIN, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:19,22,24). The all includes both Old and New Testament saints and the promise is given to all who believe, both Old and New Testament souls who have, will or shall call upon the name (by which they knew Him) of the Lord.
Hebrews eleven names many from the Dispensation of the Law who by faith in the God they knew, called upon Him and were saved. God's judgment upon this dispensation culminates in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, who fulfilled all the Law for all those who, in all ages, could never fulfill the Law. To believe that any man in any age could fulfill the whole Law and bypass Jesus Christ and His sacrifice, or add to His sacrifice, is a slap in the face of the Saviour "who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood." (Revelation 1:5). It shows a woeful ignorance of God's Holy Word, and an inability to rightly divide the Word of truth.
6. The Dispensation of GRACE
"For the law was given by [through] Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." (John 1:17). Each dispensation has its own special revelation of God and His love. The Dispensation of Grace is so named not because it is the only dispensation where God deals with man by grace, but because it is this dispensation that the wonderful grace of God is fully understood in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and he certainly did not live in the same dispensation in which you and I live. God's grace through faith has been and will continue to be in operation in every dispensation, but it is only now, in this dispensation, that this great mystery has been fully revealed (Ephesians 3:2-6).
Christ did it all for everybody in every age (Ephesians 2:11-18). The atonement was not limited, as some would claim. The Lamb of God was slain for the sins of the whole world (John 1:29; I John 4:14). He is the propitiation for the sins of unbelievers as well as believers (I John 2:2).
Today, over six billion souls populate the earth that God created for man to inhabit. That is more than 50% of all the people who have ever lived from Adam to now. There is no more opportune time for God's grace to be manifested to the fullest. There is no more opportune time for God's people to proclaim the good news that Christ died for you. Yet Satan has devised so many deceptive lies to keep us from sharing the grace of God with others. Just think, if all men would be saved (as God desires - II Peter 3:9), over half of all the soulls ever breathed into existence by God would be in heaven instead of hell!
What a terrible tragedy if we do not buy up every opportunity to get the eternal Word of God into the eternal souls of men! But what a glorious opportunity to reap the golden harvest if we keep ourselves busy about our Father's business as our Lord did. How long do we have? What if we fail?
The tragic judgment of God lies just over the horizon when Christ will appear in the clouds and call the believers home (I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 4:1-5:14). Then the wicked one will be revealed (II Thessalonians 2:9). The seven-year Tribulation Period will begin when God will pour out His wrath upon a Christ-rejecting, unbelieving world (verses 10-12). This is the judgment which concludes the Dispensation of Grace.
The Dispensation of MILLENNIAL REIGN
Much has been made by some of the re-institution of the Levitical sacrifices during both the Tribulation and Millennial periods. This will probably be the practice of those Jews who reject Christ as their Messiah, but it will not be the practice of believers. Christ is our great High Priest, not after the order of Aaron, but after the order of Melchisedec (Hebrews 7:11,23-27; 9:11-14,24-28).
The Saviour died once; He will never die again. Christ shed His blood once; He does not, as the church of Rome teaches, offer Himself daily. He sprinkled His shed blood on the mercy seat in heaven once; it will never need to be sprinkled again. His sacrifice and His blood were so perfect, that once accomplished, it need not be repeated ever again. Truly, as He cried, "It is finished!"
Do we return to the weak and beggardly elements? Do we replace the perfect with the imperfect? As Paul asked the Galatians. "Who hath bewitched you?" Why would God "do away with the old" and replace it with the new, and then go back to the old? Watch that old wine bottles do not burst when they cannot hold the new wine!
Offer an animal sacrifice when the final Sacrifice sits on His throne in Jerusalem? You look Him in the eye, and tell Him, "Lord, just in case Your sacrifice is not sufficient, I want to add to Your sacrifice, just to be on the safe side!" If you believe this, you brand yourself an unbeliever, who does not know the whole counsel of God.
"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). When God says something once, we had better take heed; when He says something twice, we had better hasten to examine ourselves before it is eternally too late!
The lesson to be learned from the Millennial period is simple. Satan will be bound for all but a very short season at the close of the era. No one will be able to blame their sin on Satan.
Neither will anyone be able to blame their sin on the environment, for Jesus will have restored all things as they were meant to be in creation. The environmental doom sayers of our day do not believe the Bible, therefore they are in a panic over even legitimate environmental usage. Nothing is ever out from under God's control. We who believe need not fear what men may do to the ozone. Polluted oceans, rivers, streams and toxic wastes will be neutralzed by the Lord who now sustains all things.
The Millennial Reign will end with the release of Satan for a short season, who will go out to deceive the nations, gathering them against the people of God in Jerusalem. Fire will come down out of heaven and devour Christ's enemies.
The Great White Throne Judgment will take place and all who have rejected God's revelation of Himself and His love in all ages will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ to be judged. The proof will be irrefutable. The guilty of all ages will be cast live into the Lake of Fire, to be tormented for all eternity.
If you think they will be annihilated, burnt to a crisp in the eternal flame, just ask Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego. Ask the rich man who will still be crying for Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool his parched tongue.
Are you ready for eternity - God's way? If you play with eternal fire you will be eternally burned. If you know you are a sinner, bow your head right now and tell Jesus. He is the Friend of sinners: He loves you.
If you do not know you are a sinner, you had better find out quickly! Read Romans 3:10-23 one more time and see if it does not describe you accurately. Since it does, for it describes us all, acknowledge your sin and throw yourself on the mercy of the loving Saviour. He is able to save now!
Every soul will live in eternity in one place or the other. The saints will be in Heaven with Christ and anywhere Jesus is will be Heaven! The unsaved will be in the Lake of Fire.
The saints will enjoy untold bliss. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that are prepared for them that love him" (I Corinthians 2:9; from Isaiah 64:4). This is a promise to both Old and New Testament saints.
For the unsaved, their expectation is far different. "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever" (Revelation 14:11) "It shall not be quenched, the smoke thereof shall go up forever" (Isaiah 34:10) "for their worm (soul) shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched" (Isaiah 66:24). Not a very inviting prospect for even the most wicked of sinners!
If you are not saved from this foreboding event, you have right now, this very moment, grace from God to repent and trust the Lord Jesus Christ and His shed blood for the remission of your sins. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13).
Oh, dear soul, do it today. Eternity may begin this very hour! Spend your life with Christ and explore the unseen and unheard things that God has for you.
To the believer, one parting word. Dispensationalist or not, you bear a heavenly responsibility to every lost person around you. You may be their only link to Christ and salvation. You are an ambassador for Christ; you represent Him in this foreign country. They cannot see Him, but they can see you. They can hear Him through you. Live for Him before them, that they may see your good works (wrought by Him) and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Then speak unto them the reason for the hope that lies within you!
What about Jeremiah 33:18 and
similar Old Testament verses?
The question arises as to promises made by God in the Old Testament concerning the re-establishment of the Levitical priesthood and the function of their office. "Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings and to do sacrifice continually." (Jeremiah 33:18). As previously stated, the unbelieving Jews will rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and re-establish the functioning of the Levitical priesthood. Though they possess a zeal for God, but still "not according to knowledge" (Romans 10:2), these are unbelieving Jews, for they still have not turned to Christ, their Messiah.
In their ignorance they will believe and adhere strictly to Old Testament teachings. Their eyes will not yet have been opened to the truth of Romans 9 - 11 and the book of Hebrews. But Christ, the only Priest "forever after the order of Melchisedek" (Hebrews 7:17), superceeds and supplants the functioning of the Levitical priesthood. Because of the supreme sacrifice of "the Lamb of God, which [alone] taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), "every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins" (Hebrews 10:11).
What do you think will happen when the blind eyes of the Jews (Romans 9-11) are opened to the Gospel so long possessed by Gentile believers (Psalm 146:8; Isaiah 42:7)? When they "shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son" (Zechariah 12:10; Revelation 1:7), then they shall not want a man, for they shall have Jesus!
Again, the ceasing of the Levitical priesthood as a functioning entity is indicated in their being named as one of the twelve tribes to receive an inheritance the restored Israel of the Millennial period (Revelation 7:7). In the Old Testament economy the Levites received no inheritance, for the Lord was their inheritance (Deuteronomy 18:1,2). Now, in Christ, their Inheritance, they enter into a kingdom of priests, with Christ as their eternal High Priest (I Peter 2:5-9; Hebrews 9:11). This kingdom has no sacrifices to be performed, because the supreme, eternal Sacrifice, once made by the Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient for all sinners of all ages.
What could an earthly priesthood add to such a complete and all-sufficient sacrifice? Absolutely nothing! God (Christ) will not share His glory with another. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive riches, honor and glory (Revelation 5:9,10)!!!
Amen and amen.
e-mail Lee Spencer
Pastor, Our Bible Heritage Web Site, A local church ministry of Adrian Baptist Church in Canisteo, New York
Dispensationalism Today by Charles Caldwell Ryrie.
Published by Moody Press, Chicago, IL.
Although the entire book is a good read, chapter six, "Salvation in Dispensationalism," pages 110-131,gives added detail on God's method of salvation in any dispensation.
God's Dispensations by C. McKay Smock.
Reprinted by permission by Our Bible Heritage, Canisteo, NY.
Names of God by Nathan Stone.
Published by Moody Press, Chicago. IL.
Seeing Christ in the Old Testament by Ervin Hershberger.
Distributed by Choice Books of Northern Virginia, Fairfax, VA.