(Read Part 3)

The Implementation of the Unifying Principle: The Dispensations (Continued)

3A. The Dispensation of Human Government: From the Flood to Abraham

1b. The New Revelation From God: The Noahic Covenant (Gen. 9:1-17)

  1. The fear of man put within the animals—v. 2
  2. Official permission to have a meat diet—vv. 3-4
  3. The imposition of capital punishment—vv. 5-6
  4. The promise of no more Noahic-type floods—vv. 8-17

The command to fill the earth with rational beings who are God’s image-bearers is reiterated (vv. 1, 7).

2b. The Goal of the Dispensation

1c. Fellowship With God

Loving fellowship with God was achieved as before; i.e., through faith in God’s provision of Genesis 3:15 accompanied by an animal sacrifice. There was no new, discernible redemptive revelation in this economy.

2c. The Rule of God

After the flood, God introduced the external restraints of human government, including the ultimate restraint of capital punishment. Collective man—man in the governmental sense—was now the vice-regent of God in fulfilling the dominion mandate. This more or less replaces the family unit as the main instrumentation of God’s rule over planet earth. This external rule presupposed what may be called the rights of due process.

Noah and his sons were sort of a new beginning whereby God could have fellowship with man and rule in loving sovereignty. Noah and his family were to multiply and fill the earth with God’s image-bearers (Gen. 9:1, 7). God put a protective hedge around them so the animals would not consume them in their task of carrying out the mandate (Gen. 5:2). God also introduced the restraints of civil government to prevent man from destroying himself through a wanton disregard for human life (Gen. 9:5-6). All of this was so that human beings could glorify God by fulfilling the dominion mandate in fellowship with their Maker and Ruler.

4A. The Dispensation of Promise: From Abraham to Sinai

1b. The New Revelation From God: The Abrahamic Covenant

  1. A seed or posterity—Gen. 12:2; 13:16; 15:13; 17:2, 6
  2. A land with defined boundaries—Gen. 12:1; 13:14, 15, 17; 15:18-21
  3. Blessing—Gen. 12:2-3

2b. The Goal of the Dispensation

1c. Fellowship With God

God was to be approached via animal sacrifices at designated places, especially places made sacred by His special appearings (theophanies). The principal text is Genesis 12:7 concerning Abraham’s sacrifice. Isaac did the same at Beersheba (Gen 26:24-25), as did Jacob at Bethel (Gen. 28:17-18;   31:13; 35:1, 7). Other sites for sacrifice were used, although the rationale is more difficult to find.

The content of faith took on an extension of the seed of the woman, i.e., extending to the promised posterity of Abraham. Blessing was through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jacob’s 12 sons. All this was via the covenant in its various reiterations and reaffirmations. This blessing would eventually extend to “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:3). The seed of the woman went from Abel to Seth (Gen. 4:25-26), from Seth to Shem (Gen. 5), and from Shem to Abram (Gen. 10-11). The faith that brought reconciliation and fellowship with God had to comprehend the fact that the personified seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15) will be genetically and ethnically tied to Abraham and his seed. Abraham believed this and was justified (Gen. 15:6).

2c. The Rule of God

Through Abraham and his seed would come the personified seed of the woman. The covenant provided for the ultimate fulfillment of the dominion mandate by Abraham and his seed and all the families of the earth. The “birthright” in the patriarchal clans seems to have had to do with the heir who would further the promised seed and its attendant heritage. With the birthright was the “blessing,” at least in the case of Jacob and Esau (Gen. 27:36). This was tied to the privileges of the covenant and the eventual coming, accomplishments and rule of the personified seed of the woman and the ideal Seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16).

The land promise provided the geographical arena for the descendants of Abraham to enjoy the loving fellowship of God. The land became the “headquarters” for the dominion mandate to be fulfilled and became the locus for the distribution of the blessings of Abraham and his seed to all the families of the earth.

God’s dominion in the economy of promise was chiefly through the patriarchal clans where the patriarch was God’s specially designated mediator. Abraham, Job, et al., were sort of kings and priests in their families (Gen. 14, 21, 22; Job 1:5). These miniature theocracies paved the way historically and theologically for the formal establishment of God’s theocratic rule in Israel, and  through Israel to the other nations of the world (Ex. 19:5-6).

In fulfilling the dominion mandate, the seed of Abraham in this economy were to stay ethnically separated from the other nations (Gen. 24:4; 26:34-35; 27:46; 28:1-4) and remain in the land of promise (Gen. 26:1-5). As a token of their fidelity to God in this regard, they were to receive the rite of circumcision, the sign of the covenant (Gen. 17:10-14, 23).

In summary thus far, God’s rule of loving sovereignty began in a face-to-face, daily fellowship with His created image-bearers during the dispensation of innocence. God ruled the earth through a husband-led and wife-subordinate—though complementary—relationship in fulfilling the dominion mandate.

With the entrance of sin and the subsequent revelation for the dispensation of conscience, fellowship with God was predicated on the faith-commitment of the sinner to the Divine promise of reconciliation—faith that was expressed in an atoning sacrifice. God’s rule in the dispensation of conscience was internal, but evidently still in the husband-led configuration of the original dominion mandate.

In the third administration of God’s unfolding of revelational light, the dispensation of human government, the structure for spiritual fellowship with Him remained unchanged. The dominion mandate, however, was carried out by mankind in the collective, governmental sense via the God-ordained restraints of civil rule.

In the fourth dispensation, promise, God narrowed His dealings to one man, Abram, a descendant of the seed of the woman through Seth, Noah and Shem. Fellowship between God and His reconciled—though sinful—image-bearers was on the basis of an atoning sacrifice and trust in His promised blessings through Abraham and his seed. God’s rule took on a more visible, concrete, theocratic, king-priest, civil-spiritual form within the patriarchal clans.

Thus, momentum was growing toward the day when man’s stewardship of God’s truth in ruling planet earth as His vice-regent would result in the Sovereign of the universe taking up royal, theocratic residence with the human race and localizing His dwelling among the descendants of Abraham.

(To be continued)

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.

Scripture quotations 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)