I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
We are currently involved in a series of teachings we have entitled: “God’s Plan for the Ages – Dispensations.” The study of Dispensations is a method of Bible study and interpretation that recognizes seven distinct periods of time of varying lengths, and how God has dealt with humanity, and more specifically how man has been responsible to God, within these various periods of time. By way of review, these Dispensations are as follows:
- Human Government
- Kingdom Age
I suppose we could add an eighth Dispensation, eternity or the Perfect Age to come to this list.
What is a Dispensation? The word, “Dispensation”, appears 4 times in the KJV. Each time it does, it translates the Greek word, oikonomia. It is the administration, or management of a household or estate. It is an economy, specifically in this context of a religious nature. In fact, in the pronunciation of the Greek word, you can hear our English word, economy. Even though the scriptures don’t spell out in so many words these seven (or eight) dispensations, I believe we can see them as we study the people and events that occurred during these times.
You and I were not alive during the first five dispensations. We were all born in the time of the sixth dispensation, to date the longest, the Dispensation of Grace. We are beginning our look at the Dispensation of Grace this time.
It has been said by many, and I believe accurately so, that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. The Law prepared the way for the promised Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to the saints in Galatia:
“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” [Gal. 3:24]
Each of the prior Dispensations revealed two things: 1) The ever-increasing evidence of the sin and guilt of fallen man and 2) The ever-unfolding plan of God to send a Redeemer into the world. God first showed through the various animal sacrifices that, “…it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” [Lev. 17:11b] Every sacrifice was an execution of the death sentence of the Law upon a substitute for the sinner. Through the offerings of the people, God was pointing sinners to the Savior who was yet to come.
At the close of the Dispensation of Innocence, (no doubt the shortest of the Dispensations), God announced that the Redeemer would be the “Seed” of the woman (Gen. 3:15).
In the Dispensation of Conscience, God continued the revelation by accepting Abel’s blood sacrifice and by refusing Cain’s offering (Gen. 4:4, 5).
In the Dispensation of Human Government, a blessing was pronounced upon Noah’s son Shem, through whom the “Seed” would come (Gen. 9:26).
In the Dispensation of Promise, it was revealed that the Redeemer would come from the Nation of Israel and from the Tribe of Judah (Gen. 12:3; 49:10).
During the Dispensation of Law, God promised David that his family would bring forth the Savior (II Sam. 7:12 – 16).
Then, 700 years before Jesus came into the world, Micah the Prophet named the very place where He was to be born (Mic. 5:2).
God revealed to Isaiah that Christ was to be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14) and further stated:
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” [Isa. 9:6]
The Old Testament not only contains minute details about the Messiah’s birth, but also prophetically covered in great detail His death, and Second Coming to the Earth to rule and reign.
The ironic element of these Old Testament prophecies is that the Prophets didn’t seem to perceive the time span between the First Advent of Messiah as Redeemer and the Second Advent of Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. The Apostle Peter detected this:
“Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” [1 Pet. 1:10, 11]
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did not separate the many Prophecies that foretold His sufferings from His Glory; therefore, they rejected Christ as their Messiah. Many of our dear Jewish friends continue in this rejection of Messiah today. They believed that all of the Prophecies concerning Messiah were to be fulfilled at His First Coming. They failed to see that the Cross of Christ would precede His Crown. The span of time they failed to discern; separating the First Advent and the Second Advent of Christ is the Dispensation of Grace, the period of time in which we presently live.
We can compare the Prophecies of the Old Testament to the separate peaks of a mountain. When viewed from a distance, the peaks appear to be close, almost touching. But the nearer a person gets to the mountain, the peaks are seen in many cases to be miles apart, separated by deep valleys. The Old Testament Prophets failed to see the “valley” of the Church Age that separated the First Coming and Second Coming of Jesus Christ. For example, the Prophet Isaiah stated that the Messiah would come, “…To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God…” [Isa. 61:2a].
These two events, which are separated by a mere comma, actually span a period covering the entire Dispensation of Grace, which already has lasted nearly 2,000 years! Likewise Jeremiah made no distinction between the coming of a “Righteous Branch” and the coming of a “king (that) shall reign” (Jer. 23:5, 6). Other examples of this great parenthesis separating the two Advents of Christ are Psalm 2:6, 7; Isaiah 9:6, 7; 11:1 – 5; Daniel 9:25 – 27; Micah 5:1 – 4, and many others. One thing we can be absolutely certain of is that just as the Prophecies concerning Christ’s First Advent were literally fulfilled, so also will be the many Prophecies concerning His Second Coming!
We have given you much to “chew” on this time. I will pick up, Lord willing, in our next post on more concerning the Dispensation of Grace. Plan to join us if you can.
Until next time,
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson