Summary: This article was written and published Nov. ’16; edited Aug. ’17; second edit Nov. ’23 All genuine Christians should have a desire to increase in the knowledge of God through a better understanding of His word (Col. 1:10). There are two main theological systems of men – covenant theology and dispensationalism. I believe that the dispensational system does a far better job of explaining both the counsels and ways of God found in the expanse of Scripture. This article serves to simplify the understanding of this system by defining the biblical principles associated with the only three dispensations worth studying. When you comprehend biblical principles, prayerfully asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten your understanding, you will be amazed by how much God’s word opens up to you – you will have the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:7-16).
(For a comprehensive explanation of what this short article attempts to discuss, go to my fourth book, How to Better Understand the Bible — Dispensationalism Made Simple. You can buy it on Amazon or read it on your own devise by going to the books page on this website)
A bible dispensation is a period of time in which God has given responsibility to a particular corporate group of His own choosing for His testimony on the earth. In the given time, this group represents God before the world, testifying of His glory. God looks for obedience to His will by this entire group representing Him. There are only three dispensations – the Jewish, the Christian, and the future millennium. All believers should be able to easily see these three dispensations in Scripture.
The Jewish dispensation has passed with the setting aside of Israel by God when they killed His Son (Matt. 21:33-44). The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in 70 AD was the physical declaration of this passing. God had effectively ended the practice of Judaism, their first covenant becoming obsolete and growing old, ready to vanish away (Heb. 8:13). Having rejected their Messiah, they rejected the Messianic kingdom – God takes the kingdom away from Israel, saying, “Call his name Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I will not be your God.” (Hos. 1:9) The world was complicit with the Jews in crucifying Jesus – it was, in fact, a Roman cross. The world shares in the guilt of crucifying its true King (John 1:10). But the prophecies and promises of His coming were always specifically given to the Jews (John 1:11), and certainly God’s ways in dealing with the world during the Jewish dispensation all centered on Israel and through them.
The Jewish dispensation starts with the beginning of the book of Exodus, and continues through the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John’s gospel is different in that Israel is set aside in his first chapter (John 1:11), and in all his writings the Jews are treated as such morally and characteristically. Matthew’s gospel is definitely dispensational, for it contains many characteristic passages of transition from Judaism to Christianity. Historical events in the book of Acts also serve as significant markers of the transition between the Jewish and Christian dispensations (Acts 7:59-60, 10:44-45, 28:26-28). The destruction of Jerusalem was the definitive end of Jewish things.
It is not easily comprehended what the real purpose was in God’s dealings with man during the Jewish dispensation. Very few theologians and ministers, it is sad to say, even approach it in their teachings. Yet understanding God’s purpose, God’s reasons in His ways, is critical for understanding scripture. What then was the general idea for the Jewish dispensation? It is this: God was proving the utter depravity of the children of Adam. From the time man was chased out from the garden by God, he was placed on probation. In order to test man, and this under the best of circumstances, God chose a people unto Himself, separated them as a nation from all other peoples, and privileged them with advantages above everyone else. During the Jewish dispensation, Israel served as the test-case representing the fallen human race in Adam. And what was the result of God’s testing of Israel? And wouldn’t this be the same as the outcome of the Jewish dispensation?
Rom. 3:19 (NKJV)
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”
The Jews were those under the law. By giving Israel the law (Judaism) and using them as a test-case, God shut every mouth and proved the guilt of the entire world. If you want to see God’s testimony of what man’s fallen condition in Adam is, simply read the passage that precedes the above conclusion (Rom. 3:9-18) – its entirety consists of quotes from out of the law and God’s communications to the Jews. It is “whatever the law says” and it describes, in no uncertain terms, the utter depravity of man in the flesh, clearly unveiling God’s general overriding purpose concerning the Jewish dispensation.
The Christian dispensation followed the ending of the Jewish dispensation. Although we can point to the day of Pentecost as the sending down of the Holy Spirit and the true beginning of the gathering of the church, and these two being some of the most important distinctions characterizing the new dispensation, yet the ending of the Jewish dispensation was slow in coming, and not “official” until the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. That is why we have better understandings of many passages of scripture if we consider a broad transition period between the two dispensations spanning many years (from John the Baptist to the destruction of Jerusalem is @ forty years).
The “kingdom of heaven” phrase, which is found only in Matthew’s gospel, is descriptive of the present Christian dispensation, and indirectly refers to it (this statement is true only when considering the present period of time. Most of the doctrine and many of the parables about the kingdom of heaven refer directly to the Christian dispensation. Examples of this are the first four parables found in Matthew thirteen. But there are teachings and parables concerning the kingdom of heaven that take us well beyond the time of the Christian dispensation. Examples of these are the last three parables found in Matthew thirteen: the treasure buried in the field, the pearl of great price, and the dragnet. These express the mind of God as to the final results of the kingdom He accomplishes in His counsels). John the Baptist preached that the kingdom of heaven was “at hand” (Matt. 3:2). It wasn’t established yet, and couldn’t begin until Jesus went back to heaven. However, it being heralded as “at hand” meant it was soon to arrive. This preaching marks the beginning of the transition period (Matt. 4:17, 10:7). Because this phrase is used thirty-two times in Matthew, his gospel can be described as having the character of dispensational transition.
In Matthew thirteen (Matt. 13:11) Jesus speaks of the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” These are the mysteries of God kept hidden from the Old Testament prophets and their writings. The Christian dispensation is one of these mysteries. We would have to also include the practice of Christianity as God’s sanctioned religion during the dispensation. All things associated with Christianity are part of God’s mysteries — the existence of Christians in relationship with God as their Father; the forming of the church, the body of Christ, by the Holy Spirit’s baptism (1 Cor. 12:13); the heavenly calling given to the believer/church (Heb. 3:1) along with our heavenly hopes (our being removed from the earth to heaven in the rapture, to live forever in our Father’s house (John 14:1-3).
The mysteries also refer to all the matters of faith involved in Christianity. True faith involves things hoped for and things unseen (Heb. 11:1, II Cor. 4:18, Rom. 8:24-25). The Christian is to walk by faith (II Cor. 5:7). He is encouraged to see unseen things with the eye of faith (II Cor. 3:18, Col. 3:1-3, Heb. 2:9, 6:19-20, 8:1, 10:19-23, 11:13-16, 27, 12:1-3). By the first four parables of Matthew thirteen, three of which are similes of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus gives us the prophetic history and character of the Christian dispensation. The two preceding chapters in Matthew (11, 12) have the Jews rejecting Jesus as Messiah, and in turn, Jesus rejecting the nation of Israel and setting them aside. Only the disciples of Jesus were given by God the understanding of the mysteries; the Jews were not given ears to hear or eyes to see (Matt. 13:11-16). These disciples would become the first Christians in the soon to be established Christian dispensation. They would possess the Holy Spirit, the teacher of all truth (John 16:13).
In reference to the present Christian dispensation we have Jesus saying,
John 14:19-20 (NKJV)
“A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.”
- During the Christian dispensation the world cannot see Christ; they will not see Him. Jesus is hidden in God, at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1-3)
- During the Christian dispensation the true believer will see Him – we see Him by the eye of faith. By faith we see the things which are unseen (Heb. 11:1, II Cor. 4:18)
- Because I live…refers to after He was raised from the dead – a yet future event and time to when He was speaking to them. At the time He was speaking it was still the Jewish dispensation. A little while longer…indirectly refers to the coming of the Christian dispensation. He is raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God, but unseen. Because He lives, so do we live. Having the Son, the believer has eternal life (I John 5:11-12), and the life we have is Christ living in us (Gal. 2:20). These things are characteristic of Christianity and the Christian dispensation, not of Judaism and the Jewish dispensation.
- John 16:8-11 “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…of righteousness, because I go to the Father and you see Me no more.” This one who was made sin and crucified, rejected by the world, and seen no more by the world during this dispensation, has been exalted to the right hand of God, proving the righteousness of God in dealing with man’s sin. “When He has come…” refers to the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Christian dispensation. Similar phrasing is also used in John 14:16, 20, 26, 15:26, 16:7, 12-15, 23-26, referring to the time of the Christian dispensation.
Further, in reference to the present Christian dispensation we have Jesus saying,
John 4:21-24 (NKJV)
“Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father…but the hour is coming, and now is, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
- The Jewish dispensation eventually had the worship of Jehovah fixed in the temple in Jerusalem. Their worship, being ever a walk by sight, progressed and settled on this fixed location. The Samaritans, only being half Jewish, stayed with the revelation Jacob had, and progressed no further.
- The Christian dispensation involves believers as true worshipers of God. The Christian revelation is God known to the believer as his Father – this name is about relationship. Therefore the Christian dispensation is not the worship of God as Jehovah, but as the sons of God worshiping their Father (John 4:23), doing His will (John 5:30, Luke 22:42), and imitating Him in practice (Matt. 5:45-48, 6:1-33, 7:7-11, 21, Eph. 5:1-2, I John 2:6). During the Christian dispensation the believer walks by faith, and worships the Father unseen, and has no need of a fixed physical location (this certainly should make us consider what God thinks about all the church buildings man has built in Christendom – was God simply changing the physical location where He would be worshiped, or was the Spirit saying that true Christian worship of the Father no longer required a set physical location or building? I do not doubt the truth of God is in the later).
One more example of a New Testament passage depicting differences in reference to the Christian dispensation. In Matthew 9:16-17 Jesus makes this dispensational statement:
Matt. 9:16-17 (NKJV)
“No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
- The new wine of grace and the Spirit in the Christian dispensation cannot be put into the old wineskins of the flesh. The ordinances of the flesh of Judaism could not receive the new wine. New wine must go into new bottles – this shows the impossibility of that power and energy being introduced into that system in which Israel then stood (Judaism). A new dispensation was needed in which the new work of God producing life would be contained in a new nature given by God. In Christianity God provides both to the believer, whereas Judaism couldn’t touch either.
Israel was the corporate body given responsibility for the public witness for God in the world during the Jewish dispensation. Their failure under the law combined with their rejection of their own Messiah when He was sent are the reasons for God’s judgment of them and the ending of their dispensation. Christendom is the corporate body given the specific responsibility for the public testimony of God during the Christian dispensation. It has failed in its responsibility in a similar fashion as Israel did. This fact or truth is certain, not so much from our own thoughts or from the record of secular history, but from the unerring testimony of God’s word.
Christendom is the ruined crop in the field of the world, a mixture of planted wheat and tares (Matt. 13:24-26). Any diligent reader should understand that this crop represents a certain sphere or body in which the work of God has been mixed in with the work of the devil (Matt. 13:37-39). The field is the world. The crop is not the field; therefore the crop is not the world, but a corporate body that exists in the world, yet obviously, separate from it. The ruined crop is not the church, the body of Christ. Jesus alone builds the church (Matt. 16:18), and He doesn’t use the devils work in order to build it. The wheat alone forms the true church that Christ planted and builds by Himself. But, in fact, the ruined crop is both the work of God and the work of the devil mixed together. And what allowed Satan to come in and do his work? – “but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares…” (Matt. 13:25) Is this not man’s responsibility, and his failure in it, resulting in the spoiling of the crop?
Another important detail of this dispensational parable which helps distinguish Christendom as the ruined crop in the field is that this represents a new planting in the world. The crop doesn’t represent the world, because the world has existed from the time of Cain, when man was apart from the presence of God. Some dispensationalists teach that both the crop and the field are the world, and simply that the wheat are believers and the tares are unbelievers. However, this is an erroneous oversimplification, as well as the neglect of prophetic symbols and the progression of known biblical events. Also the crop does not represent Israel, which became a nation long ago under the leadership of Moses, God redeeming them out of Egypt. All these mistakes in interpretation lead to the setting up of a confusing, and certainly erroneous, dispensational system. The crop was a new planting in the world. It did not exist until after Jesus came into the world. The Son of Man planted the wheat (Matt. 13:37). The devil comes in to defile and ruin God’s new work.
It is critical to true and accurate dispensational teaching that we learn to distinguish the biblical differences between Israel and the church. However, it is equally critical as dispensationalists, especially as the teachers of the dispensational system, that we learn to distinguish the biblical differences between the true church and Christendom. It is Christendom that has the responsibility for the public witness of God in the world during the Christian dispensation. It is Christendom that is responsible to hold the candlestick of light before this dark and evil world. If the dispensationalist never recognizes Christendom spoken of in scripture, then he will never admit or agree with God’s testimony of its corruption and ruin. Judgment starts at the house of God (I Pet. 4:17). Why? Because the dispensational responsibility is found there, in the house of God (i.e. Christendom). God will always judge responsibility (I Pet. 1:17).
The denying and non-recognition of the corrupt and ruined state of Christendom is, by far, the biggest blunder of contemporary dispensationalists today. And because I speak of the general overall evil of the body of Christendom, the blame for this denial is shared by all ministers and theologians. But it is the dispensationalist who is especially culpable – as a teacher and theologian, he should be particularly versed in dispensational principles and patterns. The record of man’s history is that whenever he is given specific responsibility to obey the will of God, he has failed to do so every time – in all biblical principles, in all biblical institutions, and in every dispensation of man. I will not multiply scripture here to prove to you what is the truth of God’s own testimony in His word as to the ruin of Christendom – the third book that the Spirit of God had me write, The Corruption and Death of Christendom, adequately shows what God’s testimony is. However, I think it beneficial to mention the dispensational pattern: There is always a divine work that begins the dispensation in His sovereignty; responsibility for the care of this work and public testimony to it is given to man; at the beginning of the dispensation there is failure by man in his responsibility, allowing in corruption, evil, and the seeds of apostasy; the dispensation continues on in the longsuffering and mercy of God until the evil has fully developed; God ends the dispensation by judgment of that body which was given the responsibility for His testimony, even though God always brings in a testimony before the judgment as a warning to the faithful remnant He separates and keeps secure. The Jewish dispensation followed this pattern, and the Christian dispensation is doing the same.
God always keeps a faithful remnant in spite of the failing corporate body. At the end of the Jewish dispensation a believing remnant is shown quite distinctly at the beginning of Luke’s gospel in the testimonies of Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon, Anna, and John the Baptist with all those he baptized. We can see the judicial declaration of the judgment of Israel in many passages in the gospels and the book of Acts. The one given by Jesus in Matthew thirteen is particularly striking (Matt. 13:11-15). Here are a few other examples (Matt. 21:19, 33-44, 22:7, 23:37-39, 24:1-2, John 1:10-11, 5:38-47, 7:33-34, 8:37-47, 9:39-41, 12:37-40, 15:22-25, Acts 7:51-53, 28:25-29). God’s testimony before His impending judgment on Israel separates the remnant with these words, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matt. 13:9, 16, 43)
As we said, the Christian dispensation is following the same course as the Jewish dispensation, and God’s testimony in scripture simply declares this to be true. I give you a few passages among many available in the New Testament as proof of the corruption and ruin of Christendom (Matt. 13:24-30, 37-43, Acts 20:28-31, Rom. 11:21-22, II Thess. 2:3-7, II Tim. 3:1-5, 4:1-4, I Pet. 4:17, II Pet. 2:1-3, I John 2:18-19, Jude 3-19, Rev. 2, and Rev. 3). In chapters two and three of Revelation we are given a prophetic historical progression of Christendom throughout its dispensation. In the first message (Ephesus – Rev. 2:1-7) we have the decline of the apostolic church towards the end of John’s life (the last living apostle). Christendom had waned in its love for Christ and had left its first position. She is threatened by the Lord with the removal of her candlestick. Years later in Christendom, with the rise of Romanism (@ 6th century), the Lord declares what His judgment of her will be (Rev. 2:18-23). This is the time in the history of Christendom when God views the corporate body as corrupt and irreclaimable, and He begins to separate a faithful remnant (Rev. 2:24-25). In the early 16th century the grace of God brings in a new divine work known to us as the Reformation. In some ways in the message to Sardis there are the hints of a fresh beginning in reference to this work of the Spirit. When men were given responsibility for this new work, the result was Protestantism (Sardis). The Lord judges this state as spiritually dead, although it had a good reputation of itself in the world (Rev. 3:1-3). A faithful remnant is again acknowledged by the Lord as being separate from the corporate body of Protestantism (Rev. 3:4). It is true that Jezebel (Romanism) will continue on, as she is, into the tribulation that ends this age (Rev. 2:22), but Sardis represents a separate branch of Christendom that parted ways with her. The divergence ends in the corporate body of Protestantism being spewed out of the Lord’s mouth (Laodicea – Rev. 3:14-18), while the remnant church (Philadelphia) is removed to the heavens (Rev. 3:7-13).
Every epic of Christendom represented by the seven messages contains a faithful remnant that is addressed by Jesus saying, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22) Only true believers possess the Holy Spirit who cries out in their hearts, Abba, Father! These are the sons of God (Rom. 8:14-16). It is only these who have the potential to hear what the Spirit is saying (I Cor. 2:12-16). Christendom is a corporate body made up of wheat and tares (Matt. 13:24-26). Only the wheat are the sons of God (Matt. 13:38). I say these have the potential to hear, for we know that even in hearing, not all believers will judge rightly and commit to following the Spirit where He may lead them.
At the end of the Christian dispensation, the faithful remnant is seen in the Philadelphian church (Rev. 3:7-13). It is interesting to consider the totality of the Lord’s instructions to them as to what their responsibilities are to be at the end of the age. First He states their condition saying, “…you have a little strength.” It is not Pentecostal or apostolic power which existed at the beginning of the dispensation. Their situation and circumstances have completely changed from the early church. Now they are in the midst of corruption and ruin which pervades throughout the house of God (Matt. 13:33). Their responsibilities are simple ones as outlined by the Lord – keep My word, do not deny My name, and keep the word of My patience (waiting with Christ as He waits – Heb. 10:13). No great feats of human accomplishment asked for, no apostolic commission held over their heads. On the surface what the Lord requires from them may seem very little, but in the midst of the evil and corruption of Christendom, when the Lord Himself refuses to acknowledge the corporate body as His and vital, being responsible in faithfulness to the Lord is a difficult task. He tells them (Rev. 3:11), “Behold, I come quickly! Hold fast what you have…”
The Character of the Christian Dispensation in comparison to the previous Jewish Dispensation:
- The church, the body of Christ, was the mystery of God hidden from prophecy (Eph. 3:1-11). It follows then that the Christian dispensation was hidden from prophecy, as well as Christendom as the corporate body in the dispensation. If the body of Christ was hidden, then also the individual Christian. And finally, the practice of Christianity as the sanctioned religion was hidden.
- Christendom is the corporate body given responsibility for the public witness of God and the name of Jesus Christ in the Christian dispensation. It is the new planting and crop that comes up in the world after Israel was set aside by God and the Jewish dispensation ended (Matt. 13:24-30, 37-43).
- The preaching of the gospel of the grace of God in Christ Jesus characterizes the Christian dispensation. Judaism is what characterized the Jewish dispensation. It is the religion of law and works for man to do – law/works is not grace, and grace is not law/works (Rom. 3:23-28, 4:1-5, 6:14-15, 11:5-6, Gal. 2:21, 3:10-12). Christianity is characterized by the grace of God; Judaism is characterized by the works of men. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation and eternal life (Rom. 1:16-17, Titus 1:2-3), and reveals the righteousness of God; Judaism/law has no power to give life or righteousness (Gal. 3:21). Christianity represents what God has done for men; Judaism is always what man thinks he can be for God.
- In the Jewish dispensation the middle wall of partition was up and maintained by God. Judaism was the means God used to separate Israel from the Gentiles. As long as Israel was acknowledged by God as His people, this wall remained intact. In great contrast to this, God actually breaks down and destroys the wall for the Christian dispensation (Eph. 2:14-16). In Christ, that is, in His body, God has abolished forever any semblance of a wall of division. The church is created in Christ as one body, as one new man. Therefore, in the church there is no Jew or Greek (Gentile), no nationalities, ever recognized (Gal. 3:26-28). To set up Christianity, it required God breaking down and ending the Jewish system entirely. Judaism had its existence by maintaining what the church had its existence by throwing down.
- Christianity is a walk of faith, not by sight (II Cor. 5:7); it is seeing the unseen with the eye of faith (II Cor. 4:18, Heb. 11:1). Judaism was a walk by sight and the following after signs (I Cor. 1:22, Matt. 12:38). Christianity is the religion of the heavenly calling; Judaism is the religion of the earthly calling and earthly things (John 3:12). The practical exercises of Christianity are in grace and as sons imitating the Father in heaven (Matt. 5:38-48); the practice of Judaism is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and hate your enemy. The differences between the two religions are quite significant, and reflect the different character of the two dispensations.
- Jesus Christ is not sitting on His own throne, but sitting on His Father’s throne the entire time of the Christian dispensation (Rev. 3:21). What characterizes this dispensation is that He is hidden and waiting at the right hand of God. Although He was given all power and authority in heaven and earth upon His resurrection from among the dead (Matt. 28:18), still it is obvious to any spiritual mind that He is not exercising His power during this dispensation. For this reason Satan is still the god and prince of this world during the entire time of the Christian dispensation (II Cor. 4:4, Eph. 2:2, John 12:31, 14:30). In the world evil continues on, growing and ripening to a determined end, even prospering, it seems, to a certain extent. The time of the Christian dispensation is described by the Spirit of God through Paul as this present evil age (Gal. 1:4). Evil is not being judged by God in the present dispensation, although its full ripening is restricted to some extent by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the corporate church (II Thess. 2:6). Greater than the evil of the world, long brought about by Satan, the god of this world, is the evil and corruption the devil has worked into Christendom during the Christian dispensation (Matt. 13:25, 28-30, 31-33, 38-39). The greatest evil is where the truth and righteousness of God should have been found – in the house of God.
- The Son of Man is gone back to heaven and the Holy Spirit sent down to gather in the church, His body and bride. The Christian dispensation is characterized by Jesus Christ not being present on the earth; however, it is positively characterized by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and His dwelling in both the believer individually (I Cor. 6:19, Rom. 8:15-16) and the body of Christ corporately (Eph. 2:20-22, I Cor. 3:16). The dispensation is characterized by the gathering of the glorified Son of Man’s body, through the direct agency of the Holy Spirit sent down (I Cor. 12:12-13). The Spirit could not come unless Jesus went away and sent Him (John 16:7); the Spirit couldn’t come until Jesus was glorified (John 7:39).
- Calling is now with the church; Israel had been previously set aside by God. The church’s calling is heavenly (Heb. 3:1); she is destined to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and to be blessed there with every spiritual blessing possible (Eph. 2:6-7, 1:3). This is in distinct contrast to Israel’s calling and destiny, which is earthly and to be restored in the Promised land as their inheritance. God never deals with two different callings during the same dispensation. At this time and during the Christian dispensation God only recognizes the calling of the church.
- In the Christian dispensation the true believer suffers with Christ, so that later he will be glorified with Him (Rom. 8:17-18). He sojourns as a pilgrim and stranger in the same world which rejected Christ and put Him to death. Therefore Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation…” and “A servant is not greater than His master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 16:33, 15:20) The world will hate the believer is he looks anything like Christ, and follows in His footsteps (John 15:18-19). See also II Tim. 3:12. Our portion now is to suffer with Christ, because He is not sitting on His own throne as yet and ruling in the world, and God has not made His enemies His footstool.
- Prophecy is about Israel, the earth, and God’s government of the earth. Israel was set aside by God when He ended the Jewish dispensation. This implies certain negative truths and principles about the Christian dispensation which followed – God doesn’t recognize Israel as His people (Hos. 1:9); He isn’t dealing with the earth; God isn’t dealing with the government of the earth, except in His providence, which is unseen and unknown to all in unbelief. In principle, prophecy has been set aside with Israel during the Christian dispensation. The last prophetic event which occurred in its full fulfillment was the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in 70 AD (Dan. 9:26). There is no prophetic event that will take place before the rapture of the true church, because the church was the mystery of God hidden from prophecy. Prophecy is always about Israel and earthly things; the church is a heavenly body, and in Christ is associated with heavenly places and spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3, 2:6-7).
- The counting of time is an integral part of prophecy. Since prophecy is heavily associated with Israel, in scripture we only see time being counted in relation to Israel and earthly things. Time was counted in the prophecy in Daniel nine which determined the fate of Daniel’s people (the Jews) and their holy city Jerusalem (Dan. 9:24-27). Sixty-nine of the seventy weeks elapsed when Jesus Christ came to them as their Messiah in His humiliation. He was rejected and the counting was suspended. One week or seven years remain. The woman of Revelation twelve symbolizes Israel in the counsels of God (Rev. 12:1). When she has fled into the wilderness the end-time Jewish remnant will be protected by God for one thousand two hundred and sixty days (3 ½ years – Rev. 12:6, 14). This period of time is known as Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7). The thousand year millennium is when Israel is restored in their land and they grow and prosper, becoming the greatest nation on the earth. When time was suspended after Messiah was cut off without receiving His kingdom (Dan. 9:26), the gathering of the church filled the timeless gap in the prophecy. The church is a heavenly body and time isn’t counted concerning heavenly things.
- Editors note: Nov. ’23; when we look at it closely, it is clear that the prophecy in Daniel nine is counting down the remaining years in the Jewish dispensation (Dan.9:24-27). It begins with the time when the decree was made by Cyrus allowing a remnant of Jews to return to the land to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and its temple. It ends with the restoration of Israel in the land at the beginning of the future millennium, the time when God will have put an end to their iniquity and transgressions. The Christian dispensation is not seen in this prophecy because it is always hidden as a mystery from all Old Testament prophecies. A gap of time occurs in the prophecy after we reach the completion of the 69th week with the cutting off of Messiah and He receives nothing. The remaining week or seven years of the prophecy is still out in the future and is yet to be counted down. That week represents the future seven year tribulation. This understanding has these implications: instead of saying the Jewish dispensation ended or passed away, it is better to say that God suspended it in the past with seven years left to be fulfilled; with the crucifying of Israel’s Messiah God no longer acknowledges their calling; God allows the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the Romans, effectively ending the practice of Judaism. All things Jewish were suspended, creating a gap between the 69th and 70th week, allowing room for the hidden Christian dispensation.
The final dispensation will be the 1000-year millennium (Rev. 20:1-10). After this is eternity future, what we would call the eternal state (Rev. 21:1-8). God’s purpose in the last dispensation is revealed to Christian believers in Ephesians:
“Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him.”
There are many prophecies in the Old Testament about this final dispensation because the earthly glory of Christ involves God’s faithfulness to fulfill every promise He has made to Israel’s forefathers. The Jews will be restored in their land and will inhabit the full extent of it without Gentile incursion. God will have them to physically prosper (in every way imaginable), to multiply exceedingly, and to become the greatest nation on the millennial earth. The government of the world will be centered in Israel; Jerusalem will be called the city of the great King. If the character of prophetic writings is that they are about Israel, about the earth, and about God’s government of the earth, then it is no surprise all these things and more are well documented in prophecy.
The Character of the Millennial Dispensation in comparison to the previous Christian Dispensation:
- Jesus will be physically present on the earth, and Satan will be bound in the pit and out of the way (Rev. 20:1-3). In the Christian dispensation Jesus was absent from the earth, and Satan was free to roam, as a lion, both the earth and the heavens, seeking whom he may devour (I Pet. 5:8).
- During the Christian dispensation the body of Christ, the true church, is being gathered by the Holy Spirit on the earth. In this dispensation, the world is a wilderness for the Christian, a dry place of no spiritual sustenance. The believer lives and walks as a pilgrim and stranger on the earth during the Christian dispensation (Heb. 11:13), realizing that his portion is to suffer with Christ in the same world in which Christ suffered (Rom. 8:17-18). He understands that he will be rejected by the same world that rejected Christ. But after the rapture, the church is taken from the earth to the Father’s house in the heavens (John 14:1-3). During the millennium, the church lives in the heavens and has the responsibility to rule with Christ over the earth. The believer has a heavenly calling and a heavenly citizenship (Heb. 3:1, Phil. 3:20), and is destined to live in the Father’s house with all God’s sons. God’s rest is His paradise in the heavens, that which all Christians are destined to enter into (Heb. 4:9-11, Rev. 2:7). In the Christian dispensation, the church is gathered on the earth; during the millennial dispensation, the church lives with and before the Father in the heavens (Rev. 3:11-13, 4:4, 9-11, 12:10-12, 13:6).
- Jesus will be the prince of the world during the millennium. He will be seen and known as King of kings, Lord of lords for the Gentiles, and Messiah, Son of David and King of the Jews for Israel. In comparison, during the present Christian dispensation, Satan is the prince and ruler of this world (John 12:31, 14:30). He is now the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2).
- The principle of the millennium will be “every eye will see” (Rev. 1:7); this is a walk by sight, and very much Jewish. It is not a dispensation where faith is characteristic of anyone’s walk, because faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen (Heb. 11:1).
- Worship of the Most High God will be in Jerusalem. Worship for Israel will center around a new millennial temple in Jerusalem (Ez. 40:1 – 48:35). Judaism will be revisited to a large degree, the law as a new covenant written on the minds and hearts of the Jews, instead of tablets of stone (Jer. 31:31-34). In this way of grace, God enables the Jews to finally fulfill the law, obey it, and to be physically blessed in every way as a result (Deut. 28:1-14).
- The judgments of God will be in the earth – the world will learn righteousness and justice (Isa. 26:9-10). Jesus Christ will reign over the nations with a rod of iron (Ps. 2:8-9, Rev. 12:5). He will directly judge evil. This is not grace or the Christian dispensation, where you love your enemies, turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, and give the other garment. Jesus Christ will destroy all His enemies, putting them all under His feet. Obedience by all men on the millennial earth will be paid to Christ’s manifested power, even when men are not converted. When obedience is not given, excision will take place so that Christ’s reign will be one of justice and righteousness, bringing in peace. “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.” (I Cor. 15:25) This is perfect government made good everywhere by the second Adam, the Son of Man. The future millennial dispensation is when evil will be eliminated from the earth – please read Isa. 11:1-9. The present Christian dispensation is described in scripture as “this present evil age” (Gal. 1:4) – when evil continues to grow and ripen in the earth, and it is not being eliminated by God.
- During the millennium the wall of separation will still be in the world. Israel will be separated again by God from the Gentiles, accomplished by His restoring them in their land. The Jews receive the land as an inheritance, and they are blessed in it with every physical blessing possible. Israel becomes the greatest nation in the millennial earth, and the Gentile nations serve them.
- During the millennium the general form of the kingdom of God will be the existence of two distinct kingdoms – the Father’s kingdom in the heavens, and the Son of Man’s kingdom on the earth (Matt. 13:40-43). Evil will still exist on the earth during the millennium. Men on the earth are still fallen in Adam, and biblically described as in the flesh (Rom. 7:5, 8:8-9) Although all restored Israel will be born-again, possessing a new spirit and nature within (converted), and will have a new covenant with the law written in their hearts and minds, still the Gentiles will be mainly unconverted. Christ must reign until He puts all enemies under His feet. “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” (I Cor. 15:26, 54-56) But after the church is glorified and perfected in the pre-tribulation rapture, she will not be found in the Son of Man’s kingdom in the millennial earth. Her place will be in the heavens in the Father’s kingdom during the millennium (Eph. 1:3, 19-23, 2:6-7, John 14:1-3).
- What characterizes the Christian dispensation is the gathering of the church by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. The church’s home and citizenship is in heaven, and so, she will be taken there before the future tribulation. What characterizes the millennial dispensation will be the gathering of the Jewish remnant out of the nations by the Lord’s angels, and restoring them back in their land (Matt. 24:31). Israel has an earthly calling; the church has a heavenly calling.
- During the Christian dispensation the Lord does not have His own throne; He sits at the right hand on His Father’s throne (Ps. 110:1, Heb. 1:3, 10:12-13, Rev. 3:21). Satan is still god of this world and evil continues to grow and prosper in it. But during the millennial dispensation Jesus will have His own throne on the earth, and an earthly kingdom as well (Matt. 25:31, Luke 1:31-33, Rev. 11:15, Dan 7:14). Satan will be bound in a pit, and evil will be directly judged and removed from Christ’s kingdom. Christ will rule as the mediatorial Man, and the millennium represents the last rule of man on the earth. Then the kingdom is given up to the Father, delivered up, and God is all in all, and the mediatorial reign ends (I Cor. 15:24-25). Even though He will not then be reigning as the mediatorial Man, this official position having ended, nevertheless, in His person He will never cease to be the Man, “the first born among many brethren.” Subjection is man’s place in perfection – then also the Son Himself will be subject (I Cor. 15:27-28). He will always be the second Adam, the eternal source of all blessing for man.