Steve and Linda Jo Harvey

"The peace of God that passes all understanding..." Phil 4:7

Seven Dispensations

A dispensation is a period of time in God’s divine economy during which God gives a special revelation and commands people to obey that specific revelation.  Scripture unveils seven distinct dispensations: innocence (Genesis 1:28), conscience (Genesis 3:7), human government (Genesis 8:15), promise (Genesis 12:1), law (Exodus 19:1), the church (Acts 2:1), and the kingdom (Revelations 20:4).

The Dispensation of Innocence (Genesis 1:28)

God created Adam and Eve in total innocence and placed them in an environment of perfect harmony.  God established one simple test of obedience: Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Satan first tempted Eve, and Adam chose to follow his wife’s rebellion.  They both disobeyed God’s test of obedience and instead yielded to sin.  The consequence for their failure to obey God was their expulsion from Eden.

The Dispensation of Conscience (Genesis 3:7)

As a result of Adam and Eve’s sinful rebellion, people now possessed the knowledge of the difference between good and evil.  God revealed a new test of obedience.  People were to follow the dictates of conscience, rejecting evil and following good.  Yet humanity followed this test of obedience too, resulting in worldwide corruption and violence.  Consequently God sent a terrible flood to destroy the world, leaving only eight survivors from Noah’s family.

The Dispensation of Human Government (Genesis 3:7)

Noah’s family was given the command to repopulate the world and to organize a society that would follow the principles of God’s law.  This new dispensation involved the creation of human government, under the command of God, to protect the sanctity of human life and to rule with righteousness on earth.  Though God authorized human government, history tragically records humanity’s failure to rule in righteousness.  Human governments have been marked by cruelty, corruption, and injustice.   This dispensation of human government will be set aside when Jesus Christ returns at Armageddon to establish His kingdom in Jerusalem and to rule the world in righteousness forever.

The Dispensation of Promise (Genesis 12:1)

This dispensation revealed God’s intent to use Abram and his descendants to provide a savior for all people.  Abram and his descendants were to be obedient to God and faithful to Him.  God unconditionally promised to bless them (5:15), make them a great nation (12:2), and give them the promised land as their eternal inheritance (15:18-21, 17:7-8).  In addition, God promised to bless all who would bless Abram and his descendants (12:3), while those who cursed Abram and his offspring would reap judgment.  The history of the rise and fall of many empires can be understood in light of this promise to bless or curse those who bless or curse Israel.

This dispensation of promise has not been eliminated even though Abram’s descendants have not obeyed God.  Though the dispensation of the law given to Moses at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:1-3) superseded this dispensation of promise, the Bible contains many promises about Israel’s future blessing and restoration to the promised land (Isaiah 44:49; 51:3-9; 66:8-9;Jeremiah 31:3-14)

The Dispensation of the Law (Exodus 19:1)

This dispensation covered the time period from the giving of God’s law on Mt. Sinai until the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross.  Humanity had failed each of the previous tests of obedience, but Israel promised to obey this revelation of God’s law.  The law provided Israel with a divinely sanctified way of life that functioned as a tutor, or disciplinary school master, to test Israel’s obedience to God’s will (Galatians 3:24).   Though God commanded the sacrifices, personal righteousness, rituals and worship ceremonies, these sacrifices and rituals could not in themselves, ever eliminate sin.  The law merely pointed to the need for a permanent salvation through Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the world.  Tragically, history records histories continual rebellion and violation of God’s law, proving that Israel failed this test of obedience.  Therefore, it was necessary for God to send Jesus Christ to die as the perfect sacrifice for all sin.

The Dispensation of Grace (Acts 2:1)

This dispensation corresponds to the church age, beginning at the cross and continuing until the resurrection of the saints (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).  During this time period, humanity faces the testing of their response to God’s offer of salvation based on Jesus’ sacrificial death.  Many will deny Jesus’ claims and introduce false doctrines into the church (1Timothy 4:1-3).  Others will scoff and refuse to accept God’s gracious gift.  Still others will verbally profess faith in Christ but never truly repent and will join in the apostasy of the false church during the last days.  This dispensation of grace will conclude with the rapture of the saints, those who have truly repented and loved Jesus Christ, to their home in heaven.

The Dispensation of the Kingdom (Revelations 20:4)

The last dispensation concludes God’s plan of redemption for humanity, establishes His eternal kingdom on earth and ultimately fulfills God’s unshakable promises to Israel, the Gentile nations, and the church.  The Messiah, Jesus Christ, will rule the earth from the throne of David forever.  Righteousness and justice will replace oppression and misrule.  Israel will be restored and converted.  And the final consummation of the dispensation of this coming kingdom will be the deliverance of creation from its bondage since the time of Eden.