You Will Eat Your Dispensations and You Will Like Them!

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I’m hearing more and more about people who claim to be “non-dispensational”.  From time to time, I can’t help but think that maybe well established truths become stale to some and they have to come up with something new or “out of the box”.  Whether or not this is the heart motive of those that claim to be non-dispensational or not, I don’t know, but I’ve personally seen the mess that people get into when they do not apply the command to rightly divide the scriptures.
Before we jump into the problems of being non-dispensational, let’s clear up some common misconceptions about dispensationalism:

Common Misconceptions about Dispensationalism
1. Dispensationalism Teaches Multiple Plans of Salvation
I have been in Baptist churches all over this country and in a few in other countries as well.  Dispensations in its purest form have nothing to do with how people were saved before Christ and after the Rapture.  There are many believers that teach dispensations and believe everyone was and ever will be saved the same way, regardless of what dispensation they are in.  There are also many who believe otherwise as well.  Regardless, dispensationalism is not limited to believing a certain prescribed form of “multiple plans of salvation”, that is just another study along with many others that may overlap the study of dispensations.
2. Dispensationalism Teaches That We Only Read the Pauline Epistles
True dispensationalists believe that the entire Bible can apply to us one way or another and that we should read it and study it.  At the same time, a dispensationalist understands that there are passages that do not apply to us doctrinally and to try to apply them would be to mishandle the word of God.    
I am not a Calvinist, but I recognize the fact that there is such a thing as Calvinists and Hyper-Calvinists.  A Hyper-Calvinist takes the teaching to the extreme of not bothering to witness to anyone; a Calvinist believes the five points of T.U.L.I.P., but thankfully he just doesn’t act like he believes them (click here to read my articles on Calvinism).  A Hyper-Dispensationalist is the person that only studies the Pauline epistles, among other things.
3. Dispensationalists Teach That God’s Grace Only Applies to People Today.
Nothing could be further from the truth.  Nobody stands a chance without God’s grace being involved in their life, be it past, present, or future.
4. Dispensations Are Just Some People’s Way of Explaining Things They Don’t Understand.
No, dispensations are the logical way of explaining why God would tell one person one thing in the Bible, and another person 1,000 years later the complete opposite.  Without a working understanding of dispensations, you won’t know what to believe.

What Does Dispensationalism Teach?
In its most basic and accurate form, dispensations is the teaching that over the course of history and into the future God has dealt with different people and groups of people differently, and that it’s important to recognize that when studying the Bible. 
Strictly for the purposes of simplicity, one may say that for the most part dispensations refer to time periods, however there are cases in which more than one dispensation is taking place at the same time.  To “dispense” is to “give out”, therefore a dispensation is a giving out of a special commandment, promise, purpose, program, etc, for a specific person or group of people.
I hope that didn’t confuse you, if so, the important thing to understand is that everyone is going to draw their lines a little differently, but it’s important that you do in fact draw thoses line when you study your Bible.  By the time we get to the end of this article, I’ll show you how I draw my lines, and I hope it will help you in your own personal study.

Why Draw Dispensational Lines?
In this section, we’re going to look at several train wrecks that happen if you do not apply the Dispensational method.

1. Piggy Eaters?
Deut. 14:8, “And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it [is] unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase.
Acts 10:9-14, “On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
15 And the voice [spake] unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, [that] call not thou common.
It is a very common teaching amongst some heretical organizations that God forbids us from eating pork.  Yet it is very clear in Acts 10 that God is perfectly fine with it, and He calls it "clean".  These two verses are in direct contradiction to each other.  You cannot obey both, you must pick one or the other.  When you run into these situations, the teaching of dispensations will help you to understand which verse you are to defer to.  In this case, you defer to the Acts passage, and understand that the Deuteronomy verse was for those under the Old Testament law.  We will cover some of the basic ideas of deferment later in this article.

2. What?  Huh?  To Whom Am I Allowed to Witness?
Matthew 10:5-6, “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into [any] city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Matt. 28:18-19, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”
In one verse Jesus commands his followers to only witness to Jews, but later on he commands them to witness to everyone.  We defer to the Matthew 28 passage here, as it is chronologically closer to where we are today in history.  You don’t have to understand every little minute detail of the Bible to have a basic idea of how to rightly divide it.

3. Quit That Weekend Job?
In the Deuteronomy verse we’re supposed to kill each other for working that second job on Saturday morning, in the other verse we are not supposed to even cast dispersions or judge someone if they work on Saturday.  Which is it?  We defer to the New Testament over the Old Testament.  There are several groups who ignore the clear teaching of the Colossians verse and command their people to keep the Sabbath. 

4. When Do People Get Baptized?
Acts 8:35-38, “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
36 And as they went on [their] way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, [here is] water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
When Paul is recounting the type of baptism that John the Baptist performed, he explains that many of the people actually got baptized before Jesus arrived, and before they trusted in Christ.  In Acts 8, we see Philip point out to the Ethiopian that the thing that hinders him from being baptized was that he needed to believe in Jesus first – then he could be baptized. 
The doctrine of baptism is one of the most fouled up doctrines in the Bible!  From the Church of Christ down to the Roman Catholic Church there are so many different ideas about how, when, and why you should baptize.  All of these problems are a result of failing to rightly divide the Scriptures and apply dispensations where they fit.

5. Burn Heretics?
II John 1:10-11, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into [your] house, neither bid him God speed:
11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
Ok, in one verse God commands his people to kill those who worship other Gods, and in the next verse we’re just told to… not invite the guy into our house for coffee and crumpets.  If the whole Bible applies to you, then what are you going to do here?  In case you think I’m making a big deal out of nothing, for over a thousand years the Roman Catholic Church burned whoever they believed to be heretics and their justification for doing it was the Deuteronomy passage!  Obviously they weren’t dispensationalists, now were they?

5. Divorce Your Spouse… Because You Just Don’t Like Them Anymore?
Deut. 24:1-2, “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give [it] in her hand, and send her out of his house.
2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's [wife].”
Matthew 5:31-32, “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”
Divorce and remarriage is such a hot topic, and one of my absolute least favorites to discuss, so I hesitated to put it in here.  I felt compelled though, because the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is so remarkable.  Whether you believe divorce is not allowable, or allowable under fornication only, or allowable under fornication or desertion, or that remarriage is really the big “no-no” (do you see why I hate this subject?) – you can’t help but see in these two passages that there is a HUGE difference between what God told his people in the Old Testament and what He tells them now. 

6. Kill Or Love Your Enemy?
Ps. 139:19-22, “Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.
20 For they speak against thee wickedly, [and] thine enemies take [thy name] in vain.
21 Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.
Matthew 5:43-44, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
Here we see David praying against his enemies and praying for God to kill them.  Jesus in turn told us to love our enemies and pray on their behalf.  Not a big deal?  Consider the fact that during the Dark Ages the Roman Catholic Church’s modus operandi was to try to invade and destroy the nations that were not part of the Holy Mother Church.  Why, they were simply following the example laid down in the Old Testament!

7. Chug that Drano for Jesus!
Mark 17:17-18, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
I Cor. 1:21-22, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:”
According to the passage in Mark, believers have the ability to cast out devils, speak in tongues, snake handle, and drink poison all in interests and for the purpose of convincing others to believe in Jesus.  It was a package gift given to those who believed the word of the Apostles.  In I Cor. 1, it is made very clear that it is the Jews that require a sign and that the Gentiles require knowledge, furthermore it is preaching that God uses to convince the lost to trust Christ.  My fellow Charismatic believers, many of whom love the Lord and are good soul winners, tend to do amazing feats of exegetical gymnastics when they are confronted with the fact that if they can speak in tongues they had better be able to further convince me of their gift by chugging the bottle of Drano underneath the sink as well!
8. Do I Witness or Not?
Jer. 31:24, "And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Mark 16:15, "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
According to Jeremiah, there's no point in witnessing because everyone knows Jesus, but in Mark 16:15 we're told to go out and preach the gospel to every nation.  You have to recognize that the two passages are talking to different people in two different ages.

I think you get the point by now.  There are passages in the Bible that simply do not apply to us on a doctrinal level.  While all Scripture is certainly applicable on some level (I Tim. 3:16), not all is applicable to us on a doctrinal level or there wouldn’t be the eight examples (and many more) where both sides CAN’T be applicable that I just listed.

When and How Do You Draw Dispensational Lines?
I always though this picture was a little creepy...
We understand the need for recognizing dispensational boundaries, but where do we put these lines?  When do we draw them?  Do we automatically dismiss everything in the Old Testament?  We’re going to look at some guidelines for looking at passages dispensationally.  These are not always hard and fast rules, but they are guidelines to help you correctly apply the Bible.  
When you run into a case where two passages conflict, that is usually a good time to consider if there’s a dispensational boundary. 
1. Defer to the New Testament Over the Old Testament
Many times God changed things when going from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  This should be abundantly clear when reading Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  In such cases, defer to the New Testament.
2. Defer to the Pauline Epistles Over the Rest of the New Testament
Throughout the gospels and Acts, the manner in which God was dealing with people was constantly changing.  Baptism, signs and wonders, the Holy Spirit, and other things were all in a state of flux.  An example of this is especially apparent when people were getting saved early in the book of Acts but didn’t get the Holy Spirit until later (Acts 8:15).  There is no middle ground once you reach the Pauline Epistles, if you do not have the Spirit you’re not saved (Rom. 8:9). 
We conclude therefore that the Pauline epistles are more applicable to us doctrinally than the gospels or the book of Acts is.  This doesn’t mean that we throw out the gospels or the book of Acts, but rather that we defer to the Pauline epistles if there is confusion or an apparent contradiction.
3. Put the Emphasis Where God Puts It
There’s nothing wrong with using verses in the Old Testament to teach solid truths.  While it is certainly possible to bring a truth out of the Old Testament and apply it us today without New Testament backing, it’s better if you can find something in the New Testament or the Pauline epistles to support it. 
Along these same lines, be careful about putting an incorrect emphasis on something.  If God said it in the Old Testament, but He never reiterated it in the New Testament, you need to put the appropriate amount of emphasis on it that God did.  In other words don’t live and die, or alienate and besmirch all your fellow believers over one verse or principle in Leviticus that has no New Testament backing.  Yes, God said it.  Yes, it is the word of God.  Yes, you should apply it if it is compatible with Church Age doctrine.  But no, you should not demonize other Christians (in direct contradiction of the New Testament commandment to do all things in charity) and leave or split your church (please click here to read my article on the importance of the local church) over it just because there are others who may not take your interpretation.  

Where Rick Draws His Lines
You don’t have to draw all your lines the way I do, but here’s an idea of how I do.  Every dispensation has a different test of obedience, and in every dispensation man fails the job, other than the last one.  This is going to be very brief, but it will give you an idea of how to study the Bible on your own and how to understand the chain of events leading up to where we are and where we’re going.

1. Innocence.
This is the first dispensation, with Adam and Eve. In it man is commanded to not eat of the tree.  He blows it, and is kicked out of the garden.
2. Conscience.
Man now lives by his conscience.  There is no revealed law written down for men to follow.  God communicated with men personally and audibly.  Among other things, Cain rocking Abel’s brains out shows that man isn’t up to the job.
3. Human Government.
In this dispensation, right around Genesis 11, men begin to form laws and governments to be a law unto themselves.  What results is mankind getting together to overthrow God at the Tower of Babel.
4. Promise.
God begins working with a family, Abraham’s family, and promises that one day Someone from his line will bruise the head of the serpent and end this whole mess.  This dispensation ends in failure as the Jews wind up in Egypt instead of the Promised Land, serving as slaves to the heathen. 
5. Law.
God raises up Moses to lead the nation of Israel out and into the Promised Land.  They barely make it, with only Joshua, Caleb, and the little ones actually making it in.  The nation grows and becomes a great kingdom.  Towards the end of the Law, King Jeconiah is cursed by God saying that “…no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” Therefore the future promised seed must be from a virgin woman of the tribe of Judah because all male seed from the line was just cursed and could not rule with the blessing of God.  The age ends in utter apostacy, again.
6. The Apostolic Age.
John the Baptist arrives on the scene, followed by Jesus and then the apostles.  The nation of Israel rejects Christ, and following His resurrection they are still given the opportunity to accept Him.  Over the course of the book of Acts, the Jews repeatedly reject Christ.  While this transition is occurring, the gospel is going more and more to the Gentiles.
7. Church Age.
The Church Age and the body of Christ begin at the cross, with the death of the Testator, Jesus Christ.  This mystery is revealed to Paul, and throughout the Pauline Epistles the Church Age doctrine is spelled out.  This dispensation ends with Christians becoming liberal and lackluster about God and the Bible all the while compromising with the world.
8. Tribulation.
The church is raptured out before the Tribulation begins.  During the Tribulation, a program similar to the Apostolic Age reappears on the scene with signs, wonders, and miracles as God is once again dealing with the Nation of Israel and drawing them back to Him.  Under the direct rule of Satan, this is the most terrible time period ever, and man utterly fails.
9. Millennium.
Jesus Christ returns at the end of the Tribulation in war against the armies of the Antichrist.  He then rules the world from Jerusalem with rod of iron.  At the end of the 1,000 years, Satan deceives the nations to turn on Christ.  Jesus then wipes them out, again. As my niece puts it, “Epic fail.”
10. Everlasting Kingdom.
God burns up the universe and makes a new one that is perfect.  New Jerusalem comes down to Earth.  There is no more sin and death, everyone lives happily ever after. 

The End!

This is one of the dispensational charts by Clarence Larkin,
I recommend his works though I don't agree with all of the content.

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