The Word, Rightly Divided
Vol: 47 Issue: 31 Wednesday, August 31, 2005
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (2nd Timothy 2:15)
The Scriptures are not merely the historical record of the nation of Israel or the history of the life and times of Jesus Christ.
The Bible is the record of God’s systematic revelation of Himself to mankind, an unfolding system of revelation, given to man piecemeal, “at sundry times and in diverse manners,” according to Hebrews 1:1.
Of itself, the Bible says, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2nd Peter 1:21)
Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit during a period of 1604 years, extending from B. C. 1492 to A. D. 100. The Bible consists of 66 separate books; 39 in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New. These books were written by about 40 different authors.
By kings, such as David and Solomon; statesmen, as Daniel and Nehemiah; priests, as Ezra; men learned in the wisdom of Egypt as Moses; men learned in Jewish law, as Paul.
By a herdsman, Amos; a tax-gatherer, Matthew; fishermen, as Peter, James and John, who were “unlearned and ignorant” men; a physician, Luke; and such mighty “seers” as Isaiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah.
It was written in the wilderness of Sinai, the cliffs of Arabia, the hills and towns of Israel, the courts of the Temple, the schools of the prophets at Bethel and Jericho, in the palace of Shushan in Persia, on the banks of the river Chebar in Babylonia, in the dungeons of Rome, and on the lonely Isle of Patmos in the Aegean Sea.
Although it was composed over a period of roughly 40 generations, the Bible is much more than a compilation of historical eyewitness accounts. It is a progressive account of unfolding Divine revelation.
The judges knew more than the Patriarchs, the Prophets than the judges, the Apostles than the Prophets. The Old and New Testaments cannot be separated. You cannot understand Leviticus without Hebrews, or Daniel without Revelation.
The language of Scripture can be categorized into three distinct styles; figurative, symbolic and literal. The figurative style is explained by the context. The symbolic is either explained by context or by cross references to other passages of Scripture.
Anything that doesn’t fall into one of those two categories should be taken literally.
The Scriptures, while written FOR all men, is not written specifically TO all men. Part of it is addressed to the Jews, part to the Gentiles, and the remainder to the Church. These represent three of four ‘classes’ of spiritual creation, with the fourth being the creation of the angelic hosts.
Paul identified the three classes of human creation, saying, “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:” (1st Corinthians 10:32)
It then logically follows that, while the Bible was written for the instruction of the Church, it isn’t all written about the Church. The Old Testament is mostly taken up with the history of one nation, that of Israel.
When we take the Old Testament promises and apply them to the Church we rob the Jew of that which is exclusively his, by Divine decree.
The Old Testament is mostly taken up with the history of one nation, that of Israel. When we take the Old Testament promises and apply them to the Church we rob the Jew of that which is exclusively his.
The Book of Isaiah, for example, is largely applied to the Church, although Isaiah opens by specifically addressing ‘Judah and Jerusalem’ (Isaiah 1:1)
And some of the New Testament is addressed, not to the Church, but to the Jews, as in the Letter to the Hebrews or the Book of James, which is addressed to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. (James 1:1)
One can identify seven separate dispensations in Scripture. The best definition I can come up with for ‘dispensation’ in layman’s terms would be ‘a period of time in which God dealt with specific persons or groups in specific ways’.
The Dispensations are;
1) The Edenic Age, in which God walked with Adam in the cool of the evening.
2) The Ante-diluvian Age, also called the Age of Conscience, during which time God allowed fallen man to govern according to his own conscience.
During this Dispensation, the human bloodline was corrupted by fallen angels, as part of a Satanic effort to break God’s prophecy that the Messiah would come from Eve’s bloodline.
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.”
The Ante-Diluvian age ended with the Flood, and Noah and his family were spared to preserve and restore the human bloodline. “Noah was a just man and PERFECT IN HIS GENERATIONS. . .” (Genesis 6:9)
3) The Post-Diluvian Age, during which time God spoke directly with Noah and effected the repopulation of the earth.
4) The Age of the Patriarchs, beginning with Abraham, during which time God dealt directly with Abraham and his descendants through Issac.
5) The Age of the Law, when God revealed the Law of Moses and set up the system of Temple worship and sacrifice for the Jews.
6) The Age of Grace, or the Church Age. This is that parenthetical dispensation that occurs between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week of Daniel. The purpose of this Dispensation is to gather out a “People for His Name,” called the ‘Church’ (ekklesia — the ‘called out’ or ‘assembled’ ones). We are currently living the final hours of this present dispensation.
7) The Messianic Age, or the Millennial Kingdom Age. There is to be a period of 1000 years during which Satan shall be bound and Christ shall reign over the earth, as clearly revealed in the New Testament. This period is mentioned six times in the Book of Revelation.
There is a widely-held heresy within the Church that stems from wrongly dividing the Word of Truth and viewing the Church Age as a continuation of the Age of the Law.
In this view, the Church is the inheritor of the promises of Abraham, the new ‘chosen people’ to whom the Abrahamic Covenant was transferred. The modern Jew, in this view, is no longer part of the eternal plan of God.
Since the Old Testament promises of riches and glory have been transferred from the Jew to the Church, Israel is just another country.
Which is why so many mainstream Protestant churches are taking actions like divestiture to punish Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians without worrying they may be interfering with God’s Plan for the Ages.
God has no eternal plan that presently includes the Jews, they believe.
Called ‘New Covenant’ or ‘Replacement Theology’, this view postulates that all prophecy was concluded with the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, that the Emperor Nero was the antichrist, and that the role of the Church is to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth before Christ can return at His second Coming.
Replacement Theology is the well spring of antisemitic thought within much of mainstream Protestant theology. It has four major premises:
1.The Jewish people are now no longer a “chosen people.” In fact, they are no different from any other group, such as the English, Spanish, or Africans.
2. Apart from repentance, the new birth, and incorporation into the Church, the Jewish people have no future, no hope, and no calling in the plan of God. The same is true for every other nation and group.
3. Since Pentecost of Acts 2, the term “Israel,” as found in the Bible, now refers to the Church.
4. The promises, covenants and blessings ascribed to Israel in the Bible have been taken away from the Jews and given to the Church, which has superseded them. However, the Jews are subject to the curses found in the Bible, as a result of their rejection of Christ.
Without an understanding of Dispensational truth, confusion reigns supreme and the Bible becomes a mass of contradictions. Which is correct?
“And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Deuteronomy 19:21).
Or. . . “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)
What about. . . “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1st John 4:4) and, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them:” (Revelation 13:7)
How does one rightly divide two conflicting verses? Is it an eye for an eye, or turn the other cheek. Do we overcome because of the indwelling Holy Spirit, or does the antichrist overcome the Holy Spirit when he makes war with the Tribulation saints and overcomes them?
Clearly, both cannot simultaneously be true, which them means at least one of them in each of these cases is untrue.
If replacement theology is correct, half the Bible needs to be tossed out. To get around this difficulty, they teach that Revelation is filled with symbolism and none of it is intended to be taken literally.
Replacement Theology has other difficulties, as well.
James, written ‘to the twelve tribes scattered throughout the earth’ discusses the application of works, (valid under the Judaic system) whereas Paul, writing to the Gentiles, says “salvation is a gift of grace and not works, lest any man should boast.”
The Apostle John writes of both the permanent indwelling of the Comforter who cannot be overcome by ‘he that is in the world’ and of the overcoming of the Tribulation saints by ‘he that is in the world’ during the Tribulation.
‘Dispensational truth’ is so called because it is true. Church history reveals that the early fathers believed in different administrations and economies within the Scriptures and that belief in them does not have a late date.
Justin Martyr, who died in AD 165, believed in four phases of human history in God’s program. The first was from Adam to Abraham; the second was from Abraham to Moses; the third was from Moses to Christ; and the fourth was from Christ to the eternal state.
Irenaeus, who died in AD 202, also identified four distinct dispensations that he identified as; 1. From the Creation to the Flood. 2. From the Flood to the Law. 3. From the Law to the Gospel. 4. From the Gospel to the Eternal State.
The teaching of dispensations does not lead to the conclusion that other parts of the Bible are unimportant or uninspired.
It teaches that the Word of God, rightly divided, is “sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
The Bible is true, and we are currently living in the last generation of the Age of Grace. At its conclusion, (which all the signs indicate point to this generation to the exclusion of all others), the Apostle Paul writes;
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:15-18