Ages and Dispensations
Vol: 21 Issue: 9 Saturday, April 9, 2016
We often refer to the time in which we live as the Age of Grace, but, theologically speaking, it isn’t exactly correct. Actually, we are living near the end of the Age of Human Government, during the Dispensation of Grace.
We tend to use the term ‘age’ and ‘Dispensation’ interchangeably, but actually, they are distinct terms that describe different concepts.
Theologically speaking, the difference between an “Age” and a “Dispensation” is that an “Age” stands for a period between two great physical changes in the earth’s surface, while a “Dispensation” stands for a “moral” or “probationary” period in the world’s history.
A Dispensation, therefore, denotes a period of time when God dealt with man under a specific set of rules.
For illustration, the “Present Age” began with “The Flood,” and ends with the return of Christ to the Mount of Olives at His Second Coming.
The Flood caused such physical and climatic changes that the length of human life was reduced from 900 to 100 years.
While the Dispensations are probationary periods, Divine administration is different, and contains progressive revelation with each Dispensation.
There are three distinct ‘ages’ and seven different identifiable Dispensations. The three Ages of Man are the Antediluvian (before the Flood) this Present Age, (Flood to the 2nd Coming) and the Age of Ages (Millennial Kingdom) to come.
During the Antediluvian Age, men lived nearly 1,000 years. In this Present Age, our lifespans are much more limited. During the Age of Ages, mankind will resume his Antediluvian longevity.
Within those ages of man, there are seven identifiable Dispensations;
Eden, Antediluvian, Postdiluvian, Patriarchal, Legal (Law), Ecclesiastical (Church), Messianic (Kingdom) and finally, the Fullness of Times (Eternity Future).
The Postdiluvian Dispensation is known as the Dispensation of Human Government. It was followed by the Patriarchal Dispensation that lasted from the Call of Abraham until the Exodus from Egypt.
The giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses ushered in the Dispensation of the Law, which then lasted until the Law was fulfilled on Calvary by Jesus Christ.
During these different Dispensations, God judged man according to the revelation as given. God gave Moses the Law, and then judged Israel according to how well or how poorly they kept it.
We are now in the Dispensation of Grace, a period of time during which salvation is extended as a free gift to whosoever will receive it and judgment is reserved for those who reject it.
Like each of the previous Dispensations of God, the Dispensation of Grace has an identifiable beginning, and an identifiable end. The Edenic Dispensation ended with the Fall of Man. The Antediluvian with the Flood, the Patriarchal with Moses, etc.
Each Dispensation begins and ends with a progressive revelation from God. The Patriarchal Dispensation began with God’s revelation to Abraham, and it ended with God’s revelation of the Law of Moses.
The Dispensation of the Law began with the Ten Commandments, and ended with the fulfulment of the Law on the Cross. The Dispensation of Grace, what we commonly call the “Church Age” began at Pentecost with the indwelling of believers by the Holy Spirit.
In the previous Dispensation, man was guided by the Law as given to Moses. In this Dispensation, man is guided by the Holy Spirit of God Who lives and dwells in him.
According to the Prophet Daniel, there remains one unfulfilled week (of years) of the Dispensation of the Law. The remaining seven years of the Law will take place at the conclusion of the Dispensation of Grace, and is distinct and separate from the Dispensation of Grace.
Like the Dispensation of Grace, it will also begin with progressive Divine revelation. Daniel’s Seventieth Week is also the last Dispensation of this Present Age.
So, where is this all leading? As we’ve seen, there are three Ages and Seven Dispensations of God. All have an identifiable starting point. And all have an identifiable end point. So, where is the identifiable end point for the Dispensation of Grace?
Let’s revisit what sets the Dispensation of Grace apart by looking at its starting point.
“And there appeared to them parted tongues, as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with [the] Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave to them to speak forth.” (Acts 2:3-4)
Acts tells us that, once indwelt, the Apostle Peter, the coward who previously denied Christ three times, stood up boldly and gave the Gospel to the multitude, and Acts 2:41 tells us “and there were added in that day about three thousand souls.”
What sets the Dispensation of Grace apart from the Dispensation of the Law is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Dispensation of Grace has as identifiable an endpoint as it does a beginning.
It began when the Holy Spirit indwelt the Apostles at Pentecost. It concludes when the ministry of the Holy Spirit is withdrawn, paving the way for the conclusion of the final Week of the Law.
The Apostle Paul reveals that during the final week of the Law, the Temple will be in full operation, and Paul goes a step further, legitimizing that Temple by referring to it as the “Temple of God.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:4)
But during the Dispensation of Grace, we learn that Church Age believers are the “Temple of God.”
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1st Corinthians 6:19)
Since the Dispensations are separate, unique and do not overlap, the Dispensation of Grace must end before Daniel’s 70th Week can begin. The Final Week of the Law cannot take place concurrently with the Dispensation of Grace.
The ministry of the Holy Spirit cannot be withdrawn, signaling the conclusion of the Dispensation of Grace, and still indwell believers on the earth. If He still indwells believers, then His ministry has not been withdrawn.
If He is withdrawn FROM believers on the earth, then Jesus has broken His promise that the Comforter will indwell the Church until He comes for it.
There is only one theologically accurate and logically acceptable answer to this conundrum.
Believers are withdrawn at the Rapture with the Holy Spirit. And since the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit marks the end point of the Dispensation of Grace, that event must take place before the onset of the final week of the Dispensation of the Law.
It doesn’t matter how one approaches the subject, analyzing it logically, and following the Dispensational pattern so clearly outlined by Scripture, the only conclusion that fits is that the Rapture of the Church takes place at the beginning, and not the middle or end, of the final week of the Dispensation of the Law.
I don’t see how anyone could conclude otherwise. And I’ve tried.
“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)
So keep looking up. He is coming!