With the commencement of the end times and the millennial reign of Christ that follows, scripture will be complemented once again by extraordinary prophetic empowerment as the knowledge of God will come to fill the entire world see below. The "dispensations" of God's gracious provision of truth about Himself necessary for salvation and spiritual growth are five in number. They are: Gentile Patriarchy: from Adam to Abraham. Jewish Patriarchy: from Abraham to Moses. The Mosaic Law: from Moses to Christ. The Millennium: from Christ's return to the end of history.
After the pattern of Enoch Gen. These men were prophets whom God blessed with special revelation of His truth, and whom He used as means for the stewardship or "dispensing" of that truth about Himself.
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In the Jewish division as in the gentile division, heads of households prominent for their favor in the eyes of the Lord remain the focus of divine revelation, often through direct communication with God as well as through visions, dreams, and their interpretation. The main difference between the Gentile and Jewish dispensational economies is expressed in their respective titles: before Abraham, no familial distinction existed; after Abraham, God made particular and preeminent use of Abraham's seed to witness for Himself and to distribute His truth.
For example, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all functioned as prophets cf. All three patriarchs are recorded in scripture as having received special revelation directly from God e. The procedure of the dispensation of truth is thus identical for the first two divisions of history, only that in the second, revelation comes predominantly through the line of the Messiah.
While prophets would continue to receive direct revelation from God, they were, beginning with Moses, sometimes instructed to record the Word of God. The act of writing down scripture is thus a prophetic one, accomplished exclusively by prophets e. More than this, the entire national lifestyle dictated by the Law was itself designed to teach truth.
The behavioral requirements of the Law functioned as a "pedagogue", so to speak, designed to expose our sinful nature and so lead the way to salvation Gal. Its stipulations for separating the clean and unclean taught God's holiness and the need to emulate it. The sacrifices it enjoined in particular spoke of Christ and His sacrifice for us on the cross cf.
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The tabernacle and its furniture were also rich in symbolic meaning, communicating much truth about God cf. In short, with the giving of the Law, God's dispensation of knowledge about Himself was no longer confined to exceptional individuals, but was now more widely and immediately available, although concentrated in His priest-nation, Israel. With the explosion of grace to the gentiles and the formation of a world-wide family of God, a major change in the dispensation of truth was also required cf.
As a single family, united to Christ, the work of spiritual growth is very much now a group effort. The two key factors which allowed this transformation to take place are 1 the giving of the Holy Spirit; 2 the completion of the canon of scripture. Apart from the early days of the Church and it would be well to remember that all the writers of scripture were either apostles who had seen Christ or were writing under their authority: cf.
For all believers have the gift of the Holy Spirit Rom. That is not to say, of course, that in our current dispensation it is "every man for himself", and that every believer is authorized and capable of "self-dispensing" the spiritual food necessary for growth. To the contrary, we the Church are the most interconnected group of believers in this respect that the world has yet seen.
We are one body, and we function as parts of that body, each one of which is essential, each one of which has great need of all the others 1Cor. As those who have accepted Jesus Christ, we are all here with the same dual-objective: to grow spiritually and to help others do the same. As spiritual advance in the midst of Satan's world is no easy mandate, the mutual support of the body of Christ is essential for effective, collective growth. Furthermore, the dispensation of divine truth is no longer accomplished through prophecy a gift that apparently ceased to function with the passing of the apostolic generation, once the canon of scripture was complete: 1Cor.
We are now free to accept the responsibility of spiritual growth without the burden of following the Law in all its particulars, educational as they may be Gal. For everything we as Christians need to know about God and our role in His plan is now contained in one unique book, the Bible 2Tim. God used inspired men to write this Book of books 2Pet.
This gracious favor has been given to me, the least of His holy ones: to give to the gentiles the good news of the indescribable wealth [that is in] Christ, and to enlighten everyone as to how [the truth] of this mystery once hidden from the ages in God who created everything is now being dispensed , so that the enigmatically intricate wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms through the agency of the Church. It is of this [Church] that I, [Paul], have become a minister according to God's mandate given to me for dispensing [ the truth ] to you, in order to bring completeness to God's plan lit.
To all such God desired to make known what wealth there is in this glorious mystery regarding the gentiles, for it is that Christ — your hope of glory — is in you. And command them not to pursue myths and endless genealogies, things which provoke controversies rather than the dispensing [ of ] the [ truth ] of God by faith. The commencement of the reign of Emmanuel which name means "God [is] with us" will begin for the first time since Adam's fall the personal and direct rule of God on earth in the divine person of the Son of God.
The dispensation of divine truth at that time will be such as the world has never before seen, for, in addition to the other wonders of millennial perfection, the knowledge of God and His truth will be universally and bountifully available:. They shall not harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
However, despite this perfect environment, and despite unprecedented revelation abounding to all, truth which it will be impossible for mankind to ignore or be ignorant of, many will nevertheless resist the truth and choose to follow their sinful natures instead, even to the point of rebelling against the perfect King just as soon as the opportunity arises when Satan is temporarily released: Rev. The Six Chronological Periods of Human History : These six periods divide history from a secular point of view, listing in order the significant divisions of human history chronologically rather than categorizing them on the basis of any spiritual significance which is the basis for the five categorizations that precede and the one which follows.
If, as many exegetes throughout the history of the Church have claimed, "six" is the number of Man, six periods of history from the human as opposed to the divine perspective are all the more understandable. However that may be, for our purposes it is enough to note that history, divided into the six periods listed below, is significant not for any divine trend or characteristic, but for the different emphases of satanic attack manifest in each one.
These six periods, therefore, present history largely from the devil's point of view. Specifically, they highlight the major objects of his attacks on mankind from the fall to the end of history:. Primary satanic target: true humanity. Primary satanic target: freedom and law. Primary satanic target: the people and the nation of Israel. Primary satanic target: the truth of the Word of God. Primary satanic target: all of the above humanity, freedom and law, Israel, truth along with a particular emphasis on eradicating believers from the earth, as the devil employs any and all means available to him in the short time he has remaining.
Primary satanic target: the rule of Christ attacked after Satan is released at the end of the period. Satan's counter-strategy against God's plan , therefore, forms the basis for the six periods listed above. This strategy and its implementation within human history is the subject of section III below and will therefore be reserved for detailed discussion. It should be noted here, however, that from the human point of view, history is a dark, unpleasant progression, characterized only by the successive attacks of the devil upon all that is righteous and truly worthwhile.
Only through God's divine control of history are we delivered from the adversary and blessed in this his evil world. The Seven Days of Human History : When God restored the heavens and the earth to habitable form, He did so in six literal days, leaving the seventh as a day of rest to memorialize the principle of peace and rest available to all who trust in Him.
These seven days of the earth's re-creation began the process of God's judgment upon evil, His restoration of the universe, and His replacement of Satan.
As we saw in section I above, following His divine judgment upon the heavens and the earth in response to Satan's rebellion, God restored the earth and set the stage for the replacement of Satan and his followers with Adam and his progeny. Though the devil thought to disrupt this prospect through his temptation of Adam and Eve, the fall of mankind merely set in motion the grand Plan of God for human history, a design which pivots around the incarnation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and which will culminate in the ultimate replacement of the devil and his followers at history's end.
Besides marking the first phase of judgment, restoration and replacement, these first seven literal days were also symbolic of the entire course of human history that was to come. For the seven days of re-creation correspond to the seven millennia of human history, a definite period of time ordained by God before the foundation of the world within which mankind would be saved by the gift of Christ and within which all things would be judged, restored and replaced.
As we have seen above, different conditions prevail in different periods, both from the standpoint of God's provision of grace and from the point of view of Satan's method of attack. Just as the restoration of what was destroyed in heaven and on earth in the wake of God's original judgment upon the devil and his followers was replaced in phases during seven literal days, so throughout the course of the seven millennia of human history God is phasing in replacements for Satan and the fallen angels, demonstrating in the process His multifarious grace to believers regardless of the vastly different circumstances under which they are called out:.
Days 1 and 2: The Gentiles: ca. The Antediluvian Civilization :. Time Frame : From Adam's fall to circa Noah. Challenge to believers : To maintain and develop faith in God while transitioning from perfect environment to the hardships of the present world. The Division of the Nations :.
Time Frame : From circa Noah to Abraham. Challenge to believers : To maintain and develop faith in God in the face of unprecedented satanic attacks i. Days 3 and 4: Israel: ca. The Nation of Israel :. Time Frame : From Abraham to circa David. Challenge to believers : To maintain and develop faith in God as His unique witnesses and as primary targets of the devil in the midst of a pagan world.
The Kingdom of Israel :. Time Frame : From circa David to Christ.
Challenge to believers : To maintain and develop faith in God as members or associates of His unique nation Israel the central point of satanic opposition in the midst of a world of devil-worshipping nations. Days 5 and 6: The Church: ca. Centralized Christianity :.
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Time Frame : From Christ to circa the schism of the Church. Challenge to believers : To maintain and develop faith in God despite growing opposition to the truth from monolithic, bureaucratic pseudo-Christianity. Decentralized Christianity :.
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