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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A lesson given at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Friday Evening, August 29, 2014

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son...” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

Progressive revelation recognizes that God’s message to man was not given in one single act, but was unveiled in a series of successive acts, through various stages. These “stages” are called “dispensations.” A dispensation is God’s distinct plan in various periods of human history. Dr. Ryrie said,

A dispensation is from God’s viewpoint a plan; From man’s viewpoint a responsibility; In relation to progressive revelation, a stage in it (Dispensationalism Today, p. 32).

1.  The Dispensation of Innocency, Genesis 1:28-3:6.

His responsibilities were to take care of the Garden; and not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit, and far-reaching judgments were passed on him, his wife, mankind, and all creation.

2.  The Dispensation of Conscience, Genesis 3:23-8:14; Romans 2:15.

Man’s responsibility was to follow the guidance of God through his conscience. Only a few followed the guidance of God in their consciences: Abel, Enoch and Noah are listed as heroes of the faith in Hebrews, Chapter 11.

Cain rejected God’s plan to offer a blood sacrifice, and he murdered his brother, Genesis 3:21; 4:4-5. Mankind became demon possessed by unnatural sex, Genesis 6:2, 4. The whole human race revolted against God and became “only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Noah found grace in God’s sight. Only Noah and his family escaped the great Flood.

3.  The Dispensation of Civil Government, Genesis 8:15-11:9.

This period extends from Noah through Abraham. Animals became afraid of man (Genesis 9:2). Man was allowed to eat the flesh of animals for the first time (Genesis 9:3). Capital punishment was instituted (Genesis 9:6). Instead of obeying God’s command to scatter throughout the earth (Genesis 9:1), they decided to stay together and built the Tower of Babel to achieve their aim (Genesis 11:4). God scattered them in judgment, and confounded their languages (Genesis 11:9).

4.  The Dispensation of Promise or Patriarchal Rule, Genesis 12:1-Exodus 18:27.

The title “promise” comes from Hebrews 11:9. Until this dispensation all mankind had been directly governed by God’s plan. Now God selected one family in Abraham and one nation, Israel. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The responsibility of the patriarchs to believe and serve God. They failed to stay in the land, but went to Egypt where they became slaves. This dispensation ends with Israel in slavery.

However, God gave the Abrahamic Covenant several times during this dispensation. The dispensation ended with the giving of the Mosaic Law. But the Abrahamic Covenant continues to this day because it was an unconditional covenant, Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:8. The gift of the land is modified by prophecies of three dispossessions and restorations, (1) Into Egypt, then led back to the land by Moses, (2) Nebuchadnezzar took them to Babylon – Cyrus gave them permission to go back under Ezra and Nehemiah, (3) Romans drove them into all the nations. They began coming back in 1948; Ezekiel 37:11-12; 38:8, 16; Luke 21:24; Matthew 24:32-34.

5.  The Dispensation of Mosaic Law or the Dispensation of Israel.

The Hebrew people were given, through Moses, the great code that we call the Mosaic Law. It was made up of 613 commandments covering all phases of life. It revealed in detail God’s will for that dispensation. No one was saved by keeping the Law in this period, however. It is clear from Hebrews 11:23-29 that they “obtained a good report through faith.” Salvation was always by grace through faith in this dispensation, and all the others as well.

The main body of Hebrews went into idolatry again and again. The ten northern tribes were sent into Assyrian captivity. The two southern tribes were sent into Babylonian captivity, and were finally dispersed throughout the world when they rejected the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 23:37-39).

6.  The Dispensation of the Church or the Christian Dispensation.

It is unfortunate that many modern Dispensationalists have called this “the dispensation of grace.” This, I believe, has caused some to say that Dispensationalists believe in several different ways of being saved. But Dispensationalists have never taught salvation by keeping the law, in the dispensation of Mosaic Law, or any other dispensation.

The church age, or “Christian dispensation” as Dr. Isaac Watts (1674-1748) called it, began with the birth of Christ, since the church was built on Christ (Matthew 16:18). I do not agree that Pentecost was the “birthday” of the church. The church had its origin in the incarnation of Christ, “Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20) – and its incipient growth as Christ called the Disciples, and its empowerment in the first great revival at Pentecost.

In this dispensation God is no longer dealing with Israel alone, but Jews and Gentiles are combined in one body when they have faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22).

The vast majority of people have rejected Christ. The church-age ends in apostasy for most (II Timothy 3:1-4:4) – and revival for many (Revelation 7:3-17). The main body of the church will become part of “The Great Whore” – “Babylon the Great” (Revelation 17-18). The seven-year Tribulation is the final section of the church age or dispensation. The dispensation covers the birth of Christ to His Second Coming.

7.  The Dispensation of the 1,000 year Kingdom.

The Kingdom will be set up at the Second Coming of Christ, back to this earth. It will last for 1,000 years on earth (Revelation 20:1-6). Satan will be bound and Christ will rule the world. At the end of this dispensation, Satan will be loosed, and an unsuccessful revolt will take place. The rebels will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone (Revelation 20:7-10).

It seems reasonable that there are probably seven dispensations. They have certain characteristics. One man usually stands out at the beginning of each dispensation. Adam was the head of the first two. Noah was the man at the head of the third, and Abraham of the fourth. Moses headed the fifth, and Christ heads the sixth and seventh. Each dispensation ends in the failure of man. As each dispensation shows the sinfulness of man, each one also shows the faithfulness and mercy of God as well. Amen.

This lesson has been modified and condensed from Dispensationalism Today, by Dr. Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Press, 1965.

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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son...” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

1.   The Dispensation of Innocency, Genesis 1:28-3:6.

2.   The Dispensation of Conscience, Genesis 3:23-8:14; Romans 2:15;
Genesis 3:21; 4:4-5; 6:2, 4, 5.

3.   The Dispensation of Civil Government, Genesis 8:15-11:9;
Genesis 9:2, 3, 6, 1; 11:4, 9.

4.   The Dispensation of Promise or Patriarchal Rule, Genesis 12:1-
Exodus 18:27; Hebrews 11:9; Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:8;
Ezekiel 37:11-12; 38:8, 16; Luke 21:24; Matthew 24:32-34.

5.   The Dispensation of Mosaic Law, Hebrews 11:23-29;
Matthew 23:37-39.

6.   The Dispensation of the Church or the Christian Dispensation,
Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:20, 11-22; II Timothy 3:1-4:4;
Revelation 7:3-17; Revelation 17-18.

7.   The Dispensation of the 1,000 year Kingdom, Revelation 20:1-6;
Revelation 20:7-10.