Copyright © November 22, 2015
Modified October 29, 2018
Note. See, for more on Dispensationalism, Dispensations (a continuing Bible study), The Essence of Dispensationalism, God’s Covenants (a continuing Bible study) Dispensational Theology versus Covenant Theology as well as the first four sections of God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application for an accurate explanation (not the perversions of the doctrine which many follow) of the origin, definition, etc. of the term “Dispensational Theology.”
As my pastor teaches, the authority for all things of God is the Word of God. The Word of God is my authority for this article which challenges one to closely consider whether he is a dispensationalist and challenges the reader to consider whether certain other fundamental Bible truths or principles such as “salvation” fit within a dispensational scheme. Should you disagree with me, please do not get angry. Show me where my analysis is wrong. Keep in mind that this is only a primer and not a thesis.
This short article presents some basic Bible questions; many more could be added, but these few are adequate for one to determine whether he is a dispensationalist. Your answers will let you know whether you are a dispensationalist.
- Would you agree that God has run the earth with different economies, economy meaning, “the arrangement or mode of operation of something.” Before you answer this question, you may want to answer the following questions.
- Do you agree that the only direction and control (government) over man in the Garden of Eden was individual direction and control under God, was man’s only direction and control?
- Do you believe that, before the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, as ordained by God, man lived in a paradise on earth and would never die?
- Do you believe that, before the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, God gave man only one rule and set the consequence for breaking that rule? Do you believe that man broke that rule? Do you believe that man failed when his only control was individual government under God?
- Do you believe that God judged man, woman, and Satan when Satan tempted Eve and man broke that rule?
- Do you believe that, before the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, man had no knowledge of good and evil (conscience)?
- Do you believe that after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, God took man out of the paradise on earth, the garden of Eden, and gave man, woman, and Satan new rules? In other words, do you believe that at the fall, God established a new economy for man?
- Do you believe that after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, man had knowledge of good and evil (conscience) and that man would now die?
- Do you believe that God changed the the economy of mankind at the fall?
- Do you believe that, at the fall, God instituted family government?
- Do you believe that after the fall, man retained individual government but now with an additional check on his actions, his knowledge of good and evil (his conscience)?
- Do you believe that after the fall and until the flood, man’s conscience was to be the only control over his actions as he proceeded with both individual and family government?
- Do you believe that, after the fall and before the flood, God told mankind not to exert direction and control over another man (not to take vengeance against another – one who had murdered someone)?
- Do you believe that man, being guided by his conscience relatively soon arrived at the point where “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually?”
- Do you believe that man, being guided by his conscience relatively soon arrived at the point where “[t]he earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.”
- Do you believe that, at the flood, God changed the the economy for man? Do you believe that, at the flood, God instructed man to take direction and control over others by killing one who murders another whereas God had before instructed man not to take vengeance? Do you agree that one can call this new economy “civil government (man ruling over man in order to provide a direct control over certain evils?)?
- Do you believe that God divided the isles of the Gentiles in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations?
- Do you believe that after the flood and that after God instituted civil government man rebelled against God at the Tower of Babel?
- Do you believe that God judged this rebellion at the Tower of Babel?
- Do you believe that God called out Abraham to establish a people (a nation unto Himself)?
- Do you agree that all other nations continued under the original economy for civil government established by God at the flood?
- Do you believe that Abraham obeyed God, and that, as a result, a nation distinct from all others came into being?
- Do you believe that the Ten Commandments given by God to the Israelites changed the way God dealt with the Israelites as a nation (not as to individual salvation)?
- Do you believe that God combined religion and state in establishing the theocracy of Israel? Note. Of course, all heathen nations in general have always combined religion and state, but not according to the directive of God.
- Do you believe that Israel was to proceed as a theocracy under God whereas the Gentile nations were to continue to proceed under God’s plan established at the flood?
- Do you believe that God ordained something new, a new economy and a new type of government (direction and control), the church, as recorded in the New Testament?
- Do you believe that God gave directions to the New Testament church which are different from those directions he gave to the nation Israel and the Jewish religion?
- Do you believe that the New Testament teaches that churches are to be entirely separate from the civil government? Note. God desires all nations to choose to operate under Him, but does not force them to do so. One nation under God is not the same thing as union of church and state. The church is not God, and God, not the religion was over the Old Testament “church” and the nation Israel. See God Betrayed, especially Section IV; or, for a shorter explanation see Is Separation of Church and State Found in the Constitution?
- Do you believe that Christ will establish the millennial kingdom?
- Do you believe in a literal interpretation of Scripture?
One who answers any one of the above questions “yes” and still denies that he is a dispensationalist does not understand dispensationalism, or may have, in his understanding of Scripture, combined elements of two or more opposing and mutually exclusive understandings of the Bible such as covenant theology and dispensational theology, or he may be a spiritual baby still living on the milk of the Word. There are perversions of dispensationalism such as “hyperdispensationalism” which should be exposed, not by demeaning the correct teaching of dispensationalism, but rather by exposing the errors. A correct understanding of dispensationalism is nothing more than a correct understanding of the Bible.
Of course, one must also understand that God also includes, within the pages of Scripture, facts and principles that run from Genesis to Revelation, and that are separate from economies or dispensations. One must also consider God’s various covenants as he considers the dispensations. See God’s Covenants (a Bible study). When one fails to do this, he will probably misunderstand other matters, such as the matter of how men are saved at various times or the matter of the time which the church was established. This happens because he does not distinguish between facts, principles, dispensations, covenants, etc.
The following facts, among others, run from the the creation of man to the end of Christ’s millennial reign:
- Everyone in every dispensation is a sinner except Jesus Christ; thus there is none good, no not one, except Jesus Christ. Psalms 14.1, 3; Romans 3:10; Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18.
- No man in any dispensation, except Christ, is righteous. Psalms 14:1; Romans 3:10.
- No man in any dispensation can do enough good works to earn salvation; man’s righteousness is as filthy rags. Isaiah 64:6.
- Salvation in every dispensation requires a sinless sacrifice.
- Christ, the God-man, is the only sinless man to ever live.
- God the Son, Jesus Christ, provided the sinless sacrifice required by God the Father.
- Salvation in every dispensation is by grace through faith.
On the matter of salvation, I offer the following very brief explanation to show that salvation has always, since the fall, been by grace, through faith:
- Paul speaks of that which justifies man before God, namely faith alone wholly apart from works (see, e.g., Romans 4). James, on the other hand, speaks of the proof before man; that he who professes to have justifying faith really has it. Paul speaks of what God sees – faith; James of what man sees – works as visible evidence of faith. Paul’s illustration in Romans 4 concerning Abraham is from Genesis 15.6 (“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”). James’ is from Genesis 22.1-19. James uses the phrase “ye see” (James 2.24) for man cannot see faith except as manifested through works.
- In Psalm 15 David is saying exactly what James said: “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18). As it has been said, “Faith alone saves, but faith that saves is not alone.”
- And what is and always has been, since the fall, the object of that faith? The Lord Jesus Christ. Only through faith in Him can one be saved. I cannot see Him, but I know, by faith, who He is and that He died, was buried and that he is risen. I, like all (including all who lived before resurrection of Christ) except those who witnessed His resurrection, can only, through faith, trust Him. Just as I know that He will return for His children at rapture only by faith in the Word of God, I can only know of His death, burial, and resurrection by faith in His Word, both Old and New Testaments. Adam and Even, Cain and Abel, Job (Job 13:15-17, 18-28; 19.25-27) Abraham, God’s Old Testament prophets, and their believing contemporaries knew of the coming Messiah. “And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together” (Genesis 22:8)[Bold emphasis mine](See also, CHRIST PROPHESIED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT: BEGINNING WITH GENESIS 3.15). The Old Testament, without reference to the New, reveals Him, His death, burial, and resurrection, sometimes in more detail than the New Testament (See, e.g., Isaiah 53 and the Messianic Psalms). The woman at the well, not a Jew, knew of the Messiah (John 4.22). How? Because of the Old Testament. Salvation is something separated from any dispensation and must be considered outside an examination of God’s economies or dispensations.