Editor in Chief

Dispensational theology rests upon a premise that is widely acknowledged, even by non-dispensationalists—namely, that God deals with people in different ways at different times in history.

There are many instances in Scripture that could be used to illustrate this point. Perhaps one of the clearest is found in Matthew 16. Here the Apostle Peter, having just been blessed by Christ for his magnificent testimony of faith in which he proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah and the Son of God (Matt. 16:13-20), immediately receives Christ’s admonishment for his disastrous efforts to reprove the Lord Jesus after His first major proclamation of His coming death and resurrection.

“Get behind Me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:23) was Christ’s startling rejoinder to Peter at that moment.

The purpose here is not to examine the meaning of this phrase or some of the other difficult statements in the surrounding context. Rather, it is to make this essential point: one can clearly infer that Peter—the one Christ described as “blessed” and the one who had received revelation from the Father (Matt. 16:17)—was a saved man in this passage. The apostle, however, did not understand anything about Jesus’ coming suffering, death and resurrection—and did not believe that they were possible even when he was told.

Since the time of Christ’s death and resurrection, no one can be saved without holding to this basic knowledge, which is at the core of the gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3, 4). Peter, however, was saved without it at this point in history—as were a multitude of Old Testaments saints before him. Thus, it is clear that God has adjusted the application of His plan for people—who relate to Him as stewards to a heavenly Master—at various points in history, even in an area as fundamental as the content that must be believed in order for a person to be saved by grace.

The Bible calls each different stage in God’s unfolding plan for the world a “dispensation” in Ephesians 1:10 and 3:2. Those who emphasize the distinctiveness of these dispensations and believe that the Bible can best be understood by correctly identifying their significance are called “dispensationalists.”

Dispensationalists see history as the outworking of God’s plan, which involves separate programs for both Israel and the church. The distinction between these two people groups stands out as the most important such difference in the Bible.

God’s goal for history is to glorify Himself. Ultimately, He will do so by establishing the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as the king of Israel on the throne of David, where He will rule the world for 1,000 years (see Isa. 9:7; Rev. 20:1-6). Israel will finally be regathered to take her prophesied place as “the chief of the nations” of the world during this time (Jer. 31:7; see also Deut. 28:13; Ezek. 5:5). The church will also be exalted to a place of regal authority during the reign of Christ (see 1 Cor. 6:2; 2 Tim. 2:12). This millennial kingdom is explained in minute detail in a myriad of Scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments.

(Read Part 2)

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
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