(Read Part 5)
The next five dispensations relate to Israel as the primary recipient or covenant vassal of Yahweh, the divine Suzerain and Lord of all history. As in the previous three dispensations, God revealed instruction concerning how His people (Israel) should conduct their lives in a sanctified manner. The Lord also directed them in how to fulfill their kingdom role. Each dispensation concluded (or, in the cases of the dispensations of the church and the Messianic kingdom, will conclude) with Divine judgment for disobedience. The final dispensation, the eternal kingdom, has no conclusion and therefore no concluding judgment.
Just as the covenants reveal some of the attributes of God, the dispensations provide valuable lessons regarding mankind (see Part 5 for the first three dispensations):
- Dispensation of Promise: No matter what promises the Lord gave to Israel, generation after generation passed without the fulfillment of the promises because of Israel’s persistent rebellion and disobedience. The reception of Divine promises did not guarantee sanctified living.
- Dispensation of Law: Even with detailed written instructions, Israel’s depravity hindered their obedience to God’s will. The reception of Divine law did not guarantee sanctified living.
- Dispensation of the Church: Although through Jesus Christ God provided Israel and all mankind with a visible example of perfect obedience and proceeded to emphasize His grace, fallen humanity still hardens their hearts in rigid and determined unbelief. The reception of Divine grace does not guarantee sanctified living.
- Dispensation of the Messianic Kingdom: Even when God provides mankind with a perfect ruler (Christ) over a perfect government in a totally changed world, mankind will rebel and seek to overthrow the Messiah and His kingdom. Perfect government and perfect environment will never guarantee sanctified living.
- Dispensation of the Eternal Kingdom: Those who have believed from among fallen mankind finally will experience total fellowship with God in their glorified bodies and in a totally new creation. God will have accomplished everything. No unbelievers will enter this final era to contaminate it. Only final sanctification in a glorified state guarantees sanctified living.
Fallen mankind offers many excuses for not believing in and trusting God and His Messiah. Some will say, “I would believe, if God would only give me the same opportunity Adam had.” Innocence and a perfect environment did not prevent Adam’s disobedience. Some say, “My own conscience is a good enough guide.” How did that work out for everyone from Cain to the flood?
Others claim that they would certainly obey God if He would give them a land, promises and blessings like those God gave to Abraham. But, from Abraham through Moses, God’s people failed again and again to qualify for the fulfillment of those promises. Still others might say, “If God would just explain in detail what He demands of me, I would obey Him.” Yet, the laws, statutes and decrees God delivered to Moses were unable to fully change hearts and lives from Mount Sinai to Calvary. Then there are those who say, “I know I don’t deserve God’s mercy and goodness to me. His grace is sufficient.” But, people are still rejecting the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ and believers still occasionally disobey and sin.
Lastly, people look around themselves and say, “If God would only take control and insure justice, goodness, mercy, prosperity and health, I would believe Him and trust Christ as my Savior.” A final major rebellion near the close of the Messianic kingdom will demonstrate that this is just another excuse. The dispensations expose the hypocrisy and depravity of all mankind. No matter what God provides, the sinner will find a way to reject His grace, His goodness and His gospel message. Jesus exposed this thinking and its fallacy in Luke 16:29–31:
Abraham said to him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” And he said, “No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” But he said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”
(To be continued)
Dr. William D. Barrick served as professor of Old Testament and director of Th.D. studies at The Master’s Seminary from 1997 to 2015. He remains active in ministry as a theologian and a linguistics expert whose service, writings and translations have spanned numerous nations and languages. He is also the Old Testament editor of the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary from Logos Bible Software. We are most grateful to include him as a contributing author to Dispensational Publishing House.
Copyright © 2016 by Dr. William D. Barrick. Used by permission of the author.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.