dispensationalism

 

For those who may have thought I had fallen off the face of the earth, or for those who care, I am happy to report I am still here! I started a new job in November and the adjustment has been a bit tough on my body. I worked in a sedentary position for years, and this job is very physically demanding; so when I come home I am pretty wiped out. At any rate, I wanted to try and get back on track with posting our teachings. Many have reported that they are a help to you. I appreciate that.

 

We of course are on a series currently on dispensations. Interpreting the Bible dispensationally, as far as I am concerned, causes the scriptures to harmonize in a way that no other method does. When we speak of a dispensation, we are speaking of the manner in which something is administered. In Christian terms, looking back, it refers to a certain period in history where God dealt with man in a specific way. (I.E. Conscience, Law, Grace, etc.)

 

We finished our examination of the dispensation of innocence. Man was responsible to God in a state of moral and spiritual innocence in this dispensation. The one and only test of this dispensation was the tree in the midst of the Garden, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The man and the woman were not to eat of the fruit of that tree. God told them, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.[Gen. 2:16b, 17] There are a couple of things here I want you to notice. First, man was on probation to determine whether he would obey God, on the basis of free will, or not. Privilege always creates responsibility. The man who is given free will, must with that free will be given a test to see if he will obey God. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was the test. Was there anything inherently wrong with the fruit on the tree? I don’t think so. The point was, God said not to eat of it.

 

Secondly, God said that in the day man ate of the fruit, he would die. He wasn’t referring merely to physical death, because it would be another 900 years before Adam would die physically. Death in the Bible refers to separation. The man and the woman were separated spiritually from God the instant they partook of the fruit of the tree. They also were instantly separated from God’s presence and fellowship, and they were driven from the Garden. The Bible tells us that cherubims and a flaming sword were placed at the east of the Garden to keep the way of the Tree of Life. [See Gen. 3:24] Had man been allowed access to that tree, he could have eaten the fruit and lived forever in a fallen state. God in His great mercy was giving the man and the woman the opportunity to repent and come back to Him. Whether or not they ever took that opportunity, we are not told.

 

The Dispensation of Innocence was the shortest of all the dispensations, possibly lasting around six to forty days.

 

The Dispensation of Conscience is the next dispensation. It began with man outside of the paradise God had made especially for him. Man was now in a fallen state, and the only hope God had given was the promise of the “seed” of the woman bruising the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). I don’t believe that the man and the woman could have possibly understood the full ramifications of this promise, but still they offered sacrifices unto the Lord that typified the fulfillment of this prophecy, and taught their children to honor God with their substance (Gen. 4:4, 5).

 

The Dispensation of Conscience is given this name because during this period man was tested on the basis of obedience to his own conscience. The dictionary defines “conscience” as, the sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one’s own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good. The Apostle Paul described this Dispensation in his Epistle to the Romans: For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)[Romans 2:14, 15]

 

Please understand, the title of this Dispensation does not imply that man was without a conscience before or after this period. It simply suggests that God governed mankind during this economy through his conscience, in a predominant manner. Obedience to the dictates of the conscience was man’s chief stewardship responsibility and accountability to God. “Let your conscience be your guide” proved to be a poor code of ethics for fallen, unredeemed man.

 

While we don’t know for certain how long the Dispensation of Innocence lasted, we know the Dispensation of Conscience lasted some 1,656 years – from the expulsion from the Garden of Eden to the flood of Noah. How can we calculate this? By simply studying the genealogy of Genesis 5:1 – 29; 7:11. I’ll not take the time to break all of this down, but study this section on your own and you will see the figures before you.

 

God’s purpose in the Dispensation of Conscience was to see if man would voluntarily serve Him or Satan. Without coercion or restraint, God gave man the opportunity to choose who his master would be. You could say this was an “age of freedom”, because man was free to be led by his conscience or to disobey his conscience, without fear of being apprehended by the Law. Through this Dispensation, man would learn how sinful he could become by choosing to live selfishly without regard for others.

 

A strong case in point are the firstborn sons of Adam and Eve. Cain and Abel were taught the importance of offering sacrifice unto the Lord. Cain, being a farmer, brought his produce to offer on the altar. Abel brought the best of his flock to offer before the Lord. God accepted the offering of Abel, the Bible says, And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering [Gen. 4:4b] “Respect” is the Hebrew, shaah. It is a primitive root that can be translated variously, but twice in this chapter and in Psalm 119:117 it is to “look at” or to “gaze at”, in this context, favorably. He looked this way at both Abel and his offering. Why? Because Abel brought what God required, a blood sacrifice that pictured the coming Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who would shed His precious blood on the Cross; once and for all paying man’s sin debt and completely satisfying the claims of divine justice. Make no mistake, God could only look favorably on Abel because of the offering he brought. God made it clear to Cain that he too could change his standing, but he refused.

 

Instead he brought his works, his labor, before the Lord. God cannot and will not accept anything that man can produce. All must come by way of the blood. God gave Cain another chance, and explained to him the importance of the Sin Offering (See Gen. 4:6, 7). Even so, Cain was overcome with jealousy and murdered his brother. Because of this great sin, Cain was to become a vagabond and fugitive, but the Lord placed a protective mark on him,which was an oath that whoever killed him would receive judgment sevenfold. We are not told what this “mark” on Cain was, although many have speculated down through the years. Whatever it was, it apparently was recognizable and known to all.

 

The Bible tells us that Cain and his wife dwelt in the land of Nod, where their son was born. Cain built a city and named it after his son, Enoch. Many have asked the question, Where did Cain get his wife? The obvious answer is that he took one of Adam’s daughters (Gen. 5:4), to be his wife. Such a marriage could not be avoided since the entire human race descended from a single pair! After the Earth had been adequately populated, this practice was strongly forbidden.

 

Some have also wondered where Cain found enough people to build a city. Understanding that the average life span was 800 or 900 years, a person can easily see how quickly the human race could have multiplied. Also, it is possible that many years had passed after Cain’s flight from Eden before he built the city.

 

Cain’s descendants and their occupations give insight into the lifestyle of the Dispensation of Conscience. We know nothing of the generation following Enoch until we come to Lamech who was the fifth from Cain. Lamech broke the primeval law of marriage and became the first polygamist, which shows the ongoing deterioration of the family of the Cainites. Lamech also committed murder, apparently killing someone who had caused him harm (Gen. 4:23).

 

The sons of Lamech were: 1) Jabal – Who was the first to dwell in tents and was also the first rancher, making a living raising cattle; 2) Jubal – Who invented the harp and the organ to be used in song and dance; and, 3) Tubal-cain – Who invented the mechanical arts and designed weapons of brass and iron. Why is this significant? Jabal’s ranching abilities probably introduced flesh and milk as food, to escape tilling the soil. Jubal’s music added to the pleasures of a crowded society. Tubal-cain’s brass and iron instruments were used as weapons of war in a violent land (Gen. 6:13).

 

This is the last record of the family tree of Cain as separated from the rest of the world. Its first ancestor was a murderer, Cain; its last recorded descendant was a polygamist and a murderer, Lamech. Sin not only had increased, but had begun to fill the Entire Earth. (See Gen. 6:11)

 

I want to dig into this Dispensation much deeper. We will do that, Lord willing, next time.

 

 

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