OK – So dispensationalism is the method of theology that I would subscribe to. Here are some the basics for this ideaology:
1. A consistently literal interpretation of the Scriptures.
2. A definite difference between Israel and the church. (Covenant theologians say that the church replaced Israel as God’s chosen people.)
3. The main theme of the Bible is God’s glory. (Covenant theologians say it’s salvation of man.) I don’t understand how anyone could really think the world revolves around man instead of it being about God. I mean, does the watchmaker make the watch for Himself or for the sake of the watch?
Here’s how it works:
From the beginning of history God has been showing off His glory. One way He has done that is by saving man. That salvation has always been by grace through faith, but it has looked a little different throughout the ages. Each of these eras is called a dispensation. This is the most popular way of dividing up the dispensations:
1. Innocence – Before Adam’s fall. (Gen 1:28-3:6)
2. Conscience – Roman’s 2:15 shows that God dealt with man through his conscience after the fall. Man was to respond in faith based upon the convictions of his conscience. (Gen 4:1-8:14)
3. Government – Noahic covenant comes in here. God dealt with man by a government which included animals’ fear of man and capital punishment. (Gen 8:15-11:9)
4. Promise – God dealt with man (the patriarchs) by making promises to them and expecting them to respond in faith (Gen 11:10 – Ex 18:27)
5. Mosaic Law – God dealt with man by instituting the sacrificial system in which man was to respond in faith to God through the sacrifice. (Ex 19:1 – Acts 1:26)
6. Grace – This current dispensation is sometimes called the “church age.” God has dealt with man through a special grace offered to him through Jesus Christ. Man expresses faith by responding appropriately to the substitutionary death of Christ. (Acts 2:1 – Rev 19:21)
7. Millennium – God will deal more directly with man during the Millennial reign of Christ on the earth. (Rev 20:4-6)
Notice that man is asked to express faith in each dispensation. (It just may be a different way of expressing it from one dispensation to the next.) Salvation is always by grace through faith.
Just because a dispensation is over, does not mean that everything has changed. Some requirements found in an older dispensation may still be in effect – others may be abandoned or modified.
It’s also interesting to note that history of the dispensations is pretty cyclical. First, God sets up a dispensation and tests man’s obedience to it. Second, man fails. Third, God judges man, and eventually He arranges for a new plan/dispensation. The picture is one of stewardship. God (in His authority) gives man a duty which he is responsible for carrying it out. When and if he fails, the Master has the right to judge man and hold him accountable for his actions.
Anyway, there you have it – Dispensationalism all rolled up into one page.
My life will be lived differently in regards to how I relate to Israel. I can maintain a genuine respect and love for them as God’s chosen people. I will continue to share the gospel with them, but knowing that God has a plan for them beyond this dispensation helps me to be more appreciative of their stance in holding on to the promises of God.