Editor’s Note: Today we resume this series on dispensational theology by Dr. Rolland McCune. We interrupted this series during our month of emphasis on the Ark Encounter to bring you Dr. McCune’s article on ‘The Genesis Flood’: A Renewed Call to Biblical Literalism. You can see all the previous articles in this series by clicking here.
(Read Part 2)
The Implementation of the Unifying Principle: The Dispensations
1A. The Dispensation of Innocence: From the Creation to the Fall
1b. The Creation of the Universe and Man (Gen. 1-2)
The creation account comprehends especially the earth and its features; it has a general geocentric perspective. However, the creation of man was the crowning glory of God’s creative activity. Thus the creation narrative is not only geocentric but anthropocentric in that man is the apex of creation. It is fairly evident that the rest of creation is designed to serve man and his activity for his Creator. The supplemental account of creation (Gen. 2) emphasizes Day 6, especially the creation and original activity of man. Genesis 1 is somewhat universal and cosmic in scope; Genesis 2 narrows down to human, personal matters.
Man replicates his Creator on a finite level. Theologians speak of the two aspects of the image of God. There is the formal or public and broad aspect which made man a personal, rational and spiritual being. There is also the material or private and narrow aspect which, for Adam and Eve, included a true knowledge of God, and an original righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).
3b. The Dominion Mandate (Gen. 1:26-28)
As a result of the image of God, man was given “dominion over” the earth (Gen. 1:26, 28, KJV). Adam especially was to exercise God-given lordship over the rest of the creation, including the woman. He was truly the “king of the earth.” Note that he (1) named the animals [Gen. 2:19-20]; and (2) named Eve [Gen. 2:23]. She was the only member of creation “suitable for” [Gen. 2:18, 20] or complementing him. [To name something or someone showed lordship or dominion over it/him; cf. Gen. 17:5; 32:8.]; and (3) was to care for the garden [Gen. 2:5, 7, 15] and, by implication, the rest of creation, in a husband-led family unit.
4b. The Original Fellowship With God (Gen. 3:8)
God walked in the garden apparently on a daily basis because Adam and Eve expected Him to arrive at the usual time. God was ruling in a sovereign relationship of love and fellowship with the creatures in His image. How long this lasted is difficult to know. It would appear that Day 8 would be the earliest for the fall into sin since the seventh day is still a Divinely hallowed day; but more probably God walked with His image-bearers for several days if not a little longer. During this time He was receiving the maximum self-glory possible from His young universe. The infinite, uncreated, self-existent and eternal One walked with the finite, created, dependent and temporal ones for a while at the very dawn of all time-space-mass relationships.
The creation was made for mankind and man was made for the creation. He was given a vice-regency over the creation for God’s glory. See Psalm 8:3-8, noting especially the regal language in v. 5 (“crown him”) and v. 6 (“rule over the works of [God’s] hands”). See also Genesis 1:28: “subdue” and “rule.”
2A. The Dispensation of Conscience: From the Fall to the Flood
1b. The New Revelation From God (Gen. 3:15)
The new revelation was a three-fold promise: (1) God would unilaterally impose an “enmity between” Eve and Satan [Gen. 3:15, KJV]. (2) God would also unilaterally place an enmity between believers (the seed of the woman) and unbelievers (the seed of the serpent). (3) God promised the success and final triumph of the personified seed of the woman.
This new revelation was redemptive in thrust. This promise eventually looks ahead to the God-man of later revelation and history who would redeem fallen humanity, become the head of a new humanity, and one day will rule the earth as a member of the human race.
In all of this the original dominion mandate is still in force. Man is still the vice-regent of God. New revelation from God is cumulative in force. Many revelational principles are carried forward into succeeding dispensations either intact or adjusted, sometimes called continuing principles or carryovers.
2b. The Goal of the Dispensation
The purpose of this section here and in the following dispensations is to show how the unifying principle of God’s activity is worked out. Of what did the walk of loving fellowship between God and His human image-bearers consist, and how was His rule of sovereignty and thus His ultimate goal effected? That is to ask, how is the unifying center being implemented or fulfilled?
1c. Fellowship With God
God’s provision of reconciliation and fellowship was in the promises of Genesis 3:15. Man was to respond to this provision in faith expressed in an animal sacrifice (Gen. 3:21; 4:3-4). The sacrifice carried the theological ideas of satisfaction and substitution. Thus man could, in fact, have a loving relationship with his Sovereign, although not quite in the same sense as before the fall. Sin was still present.
2c. The Rule of God
God’s rule at this time was internal, through the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the conscience. Genesis 6:3 signifies this internal rule: “My Spirit shall not strive (rule/govern; Hebrew verb din, דִּין) with man forever (indefinitely, Hebrew olam, עוֹלָם).” In this context the Divine warning is announcing the end of the dispensation and this internal rule in 120 years. Led by his conscience, each person was to fulfill the dominion mandate as God’s vice-regent on earth and thus glorify Him. This still appears to be through a husband-led and wife-subordinate, but complementary, family unit.
(Read Part 4)
Dr. Rolland D. McCune served at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary from 1981 to 2009 as professor of systematic theology, dean of the faculty and president. He previously taught at Central Baptist Seminary for 14 years. He is the author of A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity, 3 vols. (Allen Park, MI: DBTS, 2008-2010) as well as other books and many journal articles. It is a truly a blessing to include him as a contributing author to Dispensational Publishing House.
Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Rolland D. McCune. Used by permission of the author.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated,
are taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995
by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture quotations marked KJV are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.