The names through which God has revealed Himself in Scripture have different associations with the three dispensations. More so, a distinction can be made between God’s Old Testament names and how He was revealed when Jesus was sent into the world. However, this categorization requires further explanation: The Old Testament tells the history of the Jewish dispensation and, because of its prophetic content, reveals the future tribulation and millennium. The Old Testament has definite connections with the first and last dispensations, which concentrate on Israel and the different ways in which God has dealt or will have dealt with that nation as His chosen people. In contrast to this, the Christian dispensation is part of the mystery of God hidden from the Jewish prophets and their prophecies, hidden from generations and ages past, even hidden from before time and the foundations of the world. We may rightly say the Christian dispensation has no real or direct connections with the Old Testament writings.
If a name of God was revealed in the Old Testament, it is reasonable to assume it has a connection with the Jewish dispensation or the millennium or both. And this is what we find to be the pattern. I will not discuss all the names for God that may be found in Scripture, but only certain significant ones.
Genesis 17:1 (NKJV)
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.”
Exodus 3:15 (NKJV)
15 “Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’”
Exodus 6:2-8 (NKJV)
2 “And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Lord I was not known to them. 4 I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers. 5 And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. 6 Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord.’”
These passages distinguish two names particularly associated with the Jewish dispensation; God was revealed to Israel’s forefathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – by the name God Almighty (Heb. Elohim Shaddai); but to Israel He would be known by His name Lord (Heb. YHWH, traditionally Jehovah). He is the Almighty in that He has all sovereign power to protect and secure as He so desires. However, Jehovah is His name in relationship with the nation, in being faithful to keep the promises and covenant made with the forefathers concerning them, by redeeming and delivering them. Also, God is known as the eternal One, without beginning or end, the great I AM. But particularly to the Jews He made Himself known as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex. 3:6, 14–16, 4:5).
All of this has Jewish connections. The passages quoted above speak for themselves, relating God’s revealed names either to Israel or their forefathers. It is understandable why we link these names with the Jewish dispensation.
In Genesis fourteen, Melchizedek, priest of God Most High, blesses Abram after the defeat of all his enemies (Gen. 14:18–20). This story is typical, representing Israel’s millennial restoration and blessing through the presence of Jesus Christ. He will be King and Priest on the earth, representing the Most High God above, for the physical blessing of Israel after the defeat of all their enemies. It will be during the future tribulation and millennium when God will make Himself known as the Possessor of heaven and earth.278
278 [During the present Christian dispensation Satan is god of this world. Also, he is the source of spiritual wickedness in heavenly places – the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2). This will all begin to change sometime near the middle of the tribulation when the devil and his angels are cast out of heaven and down to the earth (Rev. 12). At the beginning of the millennium he will be physically removed from the earth (Rev. 20:1–3). At that time, God Most High (above) will be known as the Possessor of heaven and earth through the government of the glorified Son of Man on earth]
The same names for God, – Jehovah, Elohim, Shaddai – having a connection with the Jewish dispensation, also will be associated with the millennium. The final dispensation will see the nation of Israel as the center of God’s government of the earth. The failures of the Jews in the Jewish dispensation – with law, with government, with the coming of their true Messiah/King – will all be made good by the sovereign power and grace of God during the millennium. Appropriately, when the Bible topic of prophecy reveals details of the future tribulation – the transitional period leading to the final dispensation – these Old Testament names for God representing His relationship and associations with Israel again come to the forefront. The main portion of the Apocalypse (the book of Revelation) reveals prophetic details about the approaching tribulation and millennium. It presents God on His throne in heaven as the Lord God Almighty (Rev. 4:8, 11:17, 15:3, 16:7, 21:22).279
279 [I believe it is notable that there are only seven verses in the entire Bible in which all three of these names appear. The two from the Old Testament in which this occurs are quoted above (Gen. 17:1, Ex. 6:2–8). The names are in the same verse but separated. The other five verses all occur in the Apocalypse where the three names are linked together – Jehovah, Elohim, Shaddai. This is more biblical evidence that the first dispensation is similar in character to the last dispensation]
The Old Testament psalms have a notable Jewish character. A large portion of them are best viewed as giving a prophetic voice to the future end-time Jewish remnant. In many of the Psalms the remnant is seen crying out for deliverance from their enemies (during the future tribulation). They will eventually be saved from them by the Lord for their restoration and exaltation during the millennium. The psalms are writings associated with the past Jewish dispensation and prophetically connected to the future tribulation and millennium.
Psalm 91:1-2 (NKJV)
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
This passage is unique in that it mentions all four names discussed above. Other psalms use these names liberally (Ps. 81, 82, 83, 87). Their association with Jewish things is overwhelming.
In contrast to all the above, in the Christian dispensation God is revealed as Father. This name undoubtedly points to the relationship the believer has with God through Jesus Christ. The Christian has been placed into the same relationship that the resurrected Son of Man has with God (John 20:17) – His God and His Father is now our God and our Father. True Christians are born of God as sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12–13, Gal 3:26). The name Father puts the believer in the place before God as a son, with Jesus Himself, His Son.
The revelations concerning this relationship of Father with sons goes farther. Later, near the end of the Christian dispensation, as sons, the Father will conform us into the image of His Son – for before time began the Father had predestined it to be so (Rom. 8:28–30). At that time, the same Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead, the same Holy Spirit who dwells in the mortal body of every true Christian during the Christian dispensation, will give life to (quicken) our mortal bodies (Rom. 8:11). All the dead in Christ will be raised and all the living in Christ will be changed (John 11:25–26), and together caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:13–18), thus we will always be with the Lord. And still, this is not all. There are two significant privileges documented in New Testament Scripture which the glorified Christian will experience as the product/consequence of his relationship with God his Father:
- As a son who readily cries out “Abba, Father”, he is made an heir of God and joint heir with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:15–17). In Him, the Christian has obtained an inheritance, and has been given the Holy Spirit, who is the seal and guarantee of this promised possession (Eph. 1:11–14).280
280 [The true Christian will share the same inheritance given by God to Jesus Christ as the raised and glorified Man. In themselves, the two passages listed above in the first point show a notable distinction between the second and third dispensations in relation to the believer: In the Christian dispensation the believer (through his sonship) has title to being an heir of God with Jesus. However, during the dispensation, he does not possess the inheritance in any way or measure. Instead, the Holy Spirit serves as the seal and guarantee that God will be faithful to give the inheritance. It is in the millennial dispensation when the Christian will actually possess the inheritance of all things with Christ, while still possessing the indwelling Spirit]
- As a son, he will be taken by Jesus to the Father’s house in the heavens, where abodes have been prepared by the Lord for every glorified believer (John 14:1–4). This is the place of the Father’s personal and intimate blessings given to His sons in Christ. Now that they have been conformed into the image of His beloved Son, that is, now holy and blameless before Him and in His presence in heaven, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will bless them with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3–6).
One of the specific purposes for Jesus coming into the world was to reveal God as the Father in the Christian relationship. Along with His work of redemption, this revelation was essential to the characteristics and principles of the Christian dispensation.
John 1:18 (NKJV)
“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
John 17:25-26 (NKJV)
“O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
Matthew 11:27 (NKJV)
27 “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
To whom was the Son willing to reveal the Father? To those who would become sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ – to Christians. The revelation of the Father is confined to Christians, Christianity, and the Christian dispensation. The associations of God as the Father are all Christian.281, 282
281 [The church is a heavenly body being gathered on the earth by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. She has a heavenly calling and citizenship. She is destined to sit in heavenly places and be blessed with every spiritual blessing. The epistle to the Ephesians reveals this as the work of Jesus’ God and Father (1:3); but in the verse before this, God is said to be our Father also (1:2). For the most part, the New Testament describes God as the Christian’s heavenly Father or as our Father in heaven. In the Sermon on the Mount, a version of this reference is used ten different times. I remind the reader that the Sermon is the Lord’s teachings concerning practical Christian living and discipleship. In many places in it, Christian teaching is set in contrast with Jewish teaching. The revelation of God as our Father in heaven harmonizes with Christian doctrine and the Christian dispensation]
282 [I must add here that this revelation of the Father by the Son, that which we see in the three passages quoted above from the New Testament, a revelation which we feel is connected solely to Christianity and the Christian dispensation, is not something to be found in the Old Testament. But this needs further explanation in order to pre-emptively answer potential critics of such a claim. Granted, the relationship of the Son is revealed in the Old, so that it is not something foreign to it. But the revelation in the Old is very different from what we find in the New:
- The Old Testament has Christ as the Son, but it is sonship employed in a conventional way, according to birth and the process of time, according to human thoughts and reasoning. It is a relationship formed on the earth. Therefore, it is said in Ps. 2:7, “I will declare the decree…’You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” And again, “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son.” This is the glorious and true title of Messiah, the King of Israel. This later quote is found in Samuel spoken to Solomon, the type of Messiah, son of David. And in Ps. 89:27, “Also I will make Him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.” All of this has a time element connected with it and is therefore very Jewish and earthly.
- The New Testament revelation of Jesus as the Son is very different. It has no dependence on time. John’s gospel, particularly his first chapter, shows the eternal Son, who existed as the Word before time began. Here the Son of God title is founded upon the intrinsic nature of His person in the Godhead. In the New Testament we get the Son in His own proper relationship with the Father.
Therefore, concerning the revelation of the Father, John says, no man has ever seen God at any time. Yet the Son is in the bosom of the Father (instead of saying “was” in the bosom). He has declared Him (John 1:18). The impression made is that only God could reveal God (Matt. 11:27). The eternal Son is responsible for declaring the Christian revelation of the Father (John 17:25–26). It did not take place in the Old Testament, but is associated with the Christian dispensation]