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If you’re not a dispensationalist, you’ve got big problems regarding how you understand your Bible! Biblical Dispensations are divinely ordained and easily distinguishable time periods prevailing throughout the Bible.
In a nutshell, a dispensationalist believes God doesn’t change, but He does change how He deals with people on the earth. So when you read your Bible, to understand the context, you need to understand to whom each verse is directed.
For instance, in Matthew, a book describing Jesus and the Jews before the cross, Jesus says your forgiveness depends on what you do … if you forgive, then you’ll be forgiven.
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 6:14-15
Yet Paul’s post-cross letter to the Ephesians says you’ve already been forgiven—written in past tense.
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
God didn’t contradict Himself. He just dealt differently with people living before the cross than those living after the cross. We see seven of these distinguishing time periods/dispensations in the Bible.
Looking at the dispensation chart below, you can see seven dispensations. God dealt differently with Adam before and after he sinned. God dealt differently with people on earth before and after the global flood, as well as before and after the Tower of Babel.
And as we just saw regarding forgiveness, God deals differently with people before and after the cross. He will deal differently with people before and after the Rapture and before and after the 2nd Coming. This is fact, not theory.
Notice it’s the cross that is the dividing line between Israel and the Church Age, not Matthew 1. This is because Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are accounts of Jesus interacting with people living under the Jewish Law, prior to the cross. So the divider should be Acts 2, not Matthew 1.
Here’s an example of why it’s critical to read your Bible via dispensations when interpreting Bible prophecy. Many non-dispensational teachers have taught that one of the prerequisites to the return of the Lord is that the Gospel must first be preached to every nation on earth—based on this verse:
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14
There are some large national ministries that use this verse to fund-raise for world evangelism, interpreting it to mean Jesus can’t come until the world has heard the gospel. But trust me, there’s no way God is sitting around waiting for sinful humans to evangelize every nation before He can act.
The fact is, the verse is written to the Jews under the Law regarding the future Tribulation dispensation which they will endure. It is not written to us living in the Church Age. And during the Tribulation, every nation in the world WILL hear the gospel preached by an angel from the sky:
“And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;” Revelation 14:6
Dispensations clear up so many seeming contradictions in the Bible. If you wish to download a video explaining dispensations in depth, go to compass.org and search for “Biblical Dispensations.” When you check out, use the discount code DISP and it will be a free download. Once you have a comfortable grasp of dispensational theology, you’ll grow deeply in God’s Word!
by Bill Perkins, Director, Compass International, Inc.
© 2018 Compass Int’l, Inc.
Bill and Susie Perkins founded Compass International, Inc. in 1993 as a non-profit, non- denominational ministry. For information on Compass’ Steeling the Mind Bible Conferences, Good Morning Lord! Bible studies, books, DVDs and Biblelands Trips and Cruises, go to compass.org