God’s Plan for the Ages – Dispensations, Pt. 9

07Dec12

 

dispensationalism

 

Last time we looked at the first of the seven Dispensations, the Dispensation of Innocence. We said that this Dispensation was called such because during it man was responsible to God in total sinlessness, innocence, and freedom from guilt. We also said that it probably lasted no more than six days. Why do we say that? We suggested four reasons for this, that I will reiterate:

 

 

  1. Only one Sabbath day’s rest is recorded (Gen. 2:2).
  2. Satan, undoubtedly, would have been swift to bring temptation before man.
  3. Adam and Eve had not consummated their relationship (Gen. 4:1).
  4. There had not been sufficient enough time for either of them to visit the Tree of Life (Gen. 3:24).

 

This would make this the shortest of the Dispensations. None of us have ever known a state such as this. We are born into this world morally and spiritually innocent, but not morally and spiritually pure. Every person born into the world is born with an inherent sin nature. We are born with a natural bent toward sin, toward evil, toward wrong-doing, and away from God. Even though a baby is born with a sin nature passed down from the first man Adam, a child is not accountable to God until such a time that they make a conscious choice to sin. In other words, when they knowing the right thing to do choose the wrong thing, that is sin and at that point they need to be Born Again. [See John 3:3] At that point they are accountable to God. When is the so-called, “Age of accountability?” I believe it is not as much about a particular age as it is dependent on the amount of light a child has received. It can come at a much younger age for some, a much later age for others.

 

Even though we are not responsible to God in total sinlessness, innocence, and freedom from guilt today, positionally we can experience it in justification. Why do I say that? Because in justification we are declared, “Not guilty.” It is more than that however, because even though a person is declared not guilty in a court of law, they still may be guilty, but there was not sufficient evidence to bring a conviction. That is why we are also declared, “Innocent.” In declaring us innocent, there was no crime. There is nothing to be brought against us whatsoever. It goes farther than that, because in justification we stand before God as though we had never sinned. Therefore positionally, we can stand before God with absolutely no sense of guilt, condemnation, or shame. Even though that is where we stand in relationship to God because of the shed blood of Christ at the Cross and our faith in that finished work, still it is difficult to wrap our brains around this truth. Why? Because we know we fail God, we continue to miss the mark, we continue in some areas of struggle due to the frailties of the flesh.

 

Thank God, where we stand positionally can become increasingly our practice as we maintain our faith in Christ and the Cross. This is sanctification, and it continues from the time we are born Again, until the time we leave this earth either through death or the rapture of the Church. At the resurrection/rapture, we receive glorification, and are saved from the very presence of sin. Another way to say it is that we are saved from the penalty of sin. We are being saved from the practice of sin, and one day we will be saved from the presence of sin. I think we took a side journey, but it was good nonetheless.

 

We should note here that the word “Dispensation” refers to a system of revealed commands and promises regulating human affairs. In the manner in which we are using the word, it refers to the dealings of God with the human race, and the manner in which these dealings are carried out. Other than the final Dispensation, declension, not progress, is stamped upon all. Each period opens hopefully but ends in Judgment. The third chapter of Genesis narrates the ruin and judgment of the first Dispensation.

 

The command to subdue the Earth and have dominion over it placed Adam as the ruler of the Earth, even as Lucifer had been previously (Ezek. 28:14 – 17). This dominion is described by the Psalmist,

 

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. [Ps. 8:3 – 8 NASB] Adam was fully capable of ruling for God in his perfected state, and could have lived forever and never have died!

 

God originally intended for man and animals to have a vegetarian diet. [See Gen. 1:29, 30] This will also be the case during the Kingdom Age and the New Heavens and the New Earth [Isa. 11:6 – 9; 65:25].

 

The command for the man to dress and keep the garden shows that Adam was not idle or lazy while in the Garden of Eden. His work was, no doubt, much easier than modern-day agriculture, because there were no thorns, thistles, or weeds to contend with. This would have been the farmers dream!

 

There was a test with the Dispensation of Innocence. God commanded the man and woman not to eat of a tree in the midst of the Garden, the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What was the fruit on the tree? We aren’t told, but it has been speculated that it was an apple. The type of fruit is not the point. The point is God commanded them not to eat of it. He was testing the man. This test was done to determine whether or not the man could be trusted to carry out the responsibilities of rulership. Of course we know Adam failed the test. Lucifer was no doubt waiting in the shadows anxious to see that man would fail the test so that he again could gain dominion over the Earth.

 

Lucifer quickly moved to bring temptation to Eve. The instrument he used was, as we read in the third chapter of Genesis, the serpent. We should not confuse this particular animal with the common snake, but this animal did not come to be in its current form until after the Fall. We are actually given several statements that let us know this creature was probably a beautiful being. Consider:

 

  1. He was a beast of the field, but was more subtle, cunning, and crafty than the others (Gen. 3:1).
  2. He could talk and carry on intelligent conversation (Gen. 3:1 – 6).
  3. Eve was not frightened by his presence, but was amazed at his reasoning abilities and was actually deceived by his words (Gen. 3:1 – 6).
  4. He evidently walked upright (Gen. 3:14).
  5. He was close to Adam and Eve, and had knowledge of God’s Plan for them (Gen. 3:1 – 15).

 

It should be pretty evident that the modern concept of Satan as a red devil with horns and a pitchfork is obviously not true. In fact, he will use whatever tactics he can to lure the unsuspecting into his trap. If necessary, he can even transform himself into “an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). Such was the case with Eve, he chose that which would attract her the most effectively. If Eve had avoided the tree altogether, she would never have eaten the forbidden fruit, it would have been an impossibility. We can learn some important lessons here. Avoiding temptation, staying away from those things we know are wrong and will cause us problems is much better than foolishly thinking our will-power is strong enough that we can resist the temptation. This is why the Bible tells us to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22).

 

After all of these many thousands of years, Satan has not changed his tactics at all. The same rotten “Bag of tricks” that he used back in the Garden is still working today, and we keep falling for them! He began his conversation with Eve by instilling doubt in her mind concerning the Word of God. He asked, “Has God said?” He next moved to outright contradiction of the Word of God, “You shall not surely die.

 

Satan has used this same lie down through the centuries. Today this lie is most prominent in the teaching of some churches, where barely even a modicum of truth can be heard from the pulpit. Satan uses his lies to systematically dismantle the defenses of the unaware and the misinformed. In the Garden, he next tempted Eve with the very desire that led to his own downfall, “You shall be as gods” (Gen. 3:5; Isa. 14:14).

 

Following the temptation, notice the progression of how Eve succumbed. The Bible says, And when the woman SAW that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, SHE TOOK of the fruit thereof, and DID EAT, and GAVE ALSO UNTO HER HUSBAND with her; and HE DID EAT. [Gen. 3:6 Emphasis added] It is interesting that the first temptation had to do with food, the forbidden fruit; and the first temptation of Jesus had to do with food, turning stones to bread (Luke 4:3). What does this teach us regarding the nature of temptation? Simply that Satan tempts us most easily in the area of our appetites, and he tempted Eve with all three categories of temptation the world has to offer:

 

  1. The lust of the flesh;
  2. The lust of the eyes; and,
  3. The pride of life (1 John 2:16).

 

Eve saw the tree, she took of the fruit, and did eat. And, as is more times than not the case, others are affected by our yielding to temptation. We know that she gave the fruit also to Adam, and “he did eat” (Gen. 3:6). This is the natural progression of temptation leading to sin. The Bible sets it forth like this,

 

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.(James 1:13 – 15).

 

I want to share a few more thoughts concerning the temptation and fall of man, and the subsequent curse upon the serpent, the woman, the man, and the earth. There are more valuable lessons for us to learn, and we will look at those, Lord willing, next time.

 

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