What do we mean by Dispensational in Christian Teaching?

Biblical history is divided by God into dispensations, defined periods or ages to which God has allotted distinctive administrative principles

J N Darby is sometimes referred to as the father of dispensational theology.  Whilst the thought was not new, and it is clear from scripture, there was in his time (and still is) a lot on muddled thinking amongst believers.  Many teach that we are part of a steady continuum, with for example the church replacing Israel, and that Christ’s kingdom is present, and that the interpretation of periods is purely spiritual or figurative – sometimes called ‘covenant theology’.

In view of this, A Day of Small Things is presenting a short outline of what we mean by the term ‘dispensation’, and where we fit in now.

J N Darby’s teaching, and also that of many servants of the Lord, has been based on the understanding that Biblical history is divided by God into dispensations, defined periods or ages to which God has allotted distinctive administrative principles.  Dispensationalists’ presuppositions start with the harmony of history as focusing on the glory of God and put God at its centre – as opposed to a central focus on humanity and their need for salvation[*].

The Word ‘Dispensation’

The word, οἰκονομία/oikonomia/Strong 3622— (Eph. 1:10), and translated “dispensation” there — is a compound word “house” and “law – the rules or administration, of a household, as in our word  “economy.  In the phrase, “dispensational truth,” it looks at the world as a great household, in which God is dispensing, or administering, according to rule of His own establishing, and in whose order He has from time to time introduced certain changes, the understanding of which is consequently needful, both to the intelligent interpretation of His word and to intelligent action under Him[†]

 

List of Dispensations

There are several lists of dispensations, and to my knowledge, Darby did not produce a formal list, but the classic view lists the following, each associated with a covenant between God and man[‡]:

Innocence– Adam under probation prior to the Fall. Ends with expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Some refer to this period as the Adamic period or the dispensation of the Adamic covenant or Adamic law. (Gen 1:28)

 

Conscience– From the Fall to the Great Flood. Ends with the worldwide deluge. (Gen 3:7)

Human Government– After the Great Flood, humanity responsible to enact the death penalty. Ends with the dispersion at the Tower of Babel. Some use the term Noahide law in reference to this period of dispensation. (Gen 8:15)

Promise – From Abraham to Moses. Ends with the refusal to enter Canaan and the 40 years of unbelief in the wilderness. Some use the terms Abrahamic law or Abrahamic covenant in reference to this period of dispensation. (Gen 12:1)

Law– From Moses to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Ends with the scattering of Israel in AD70. Some use the term Mosaic law in reference to this period of dispensation. (Ex 19:1)

Grace– From the cross to the rapture of the church. The rapture is followed by the wrath of God comprising the Great Tribulation. Some use the term Age of Grace or the Church Age for this dispensation. (Acts 2:1)

Millennial Kingdom– The 1000 year reign of Christ on earth centred in Jerusalem. Ends with God’s judgment on the final rebellion. (Rev 20:4)

 

 

Sosthenes

February 2019

[*]Elements of Dispensational Truth Volume 1 by R. A. Huebner, page 3

[†]From Edward Dennet The Christian Friend, pp. 67-69, 1876, referenced by Huebner above.

[‡]Wikipediabased on Schofield’s Reference Bible, published by Oxford University Press

The Things which shall be Hereafter (Rev 1:19)  – The Judgment Seat of Christ

The judgment seat of Christ will be the first thing that the believer in Jesus will experience following the rapture. It is a great blessing that we shall be with Jesus and have exactly His view on everything in our lifetime.

What’s upsets me, is that Christians sometimes confuse the judgment seat of Christ with the Great White Throne. The two things are totally different – the Greek word is also different The Great White Throne is for unbelievers – people who have refused the glad tidings.

The judgment seat of Christ will be the first thing that the believer in Jesus will experience following the rapture.  It is a great blessing that we shall be with Jesus and have exactly His view on everything in our lifetime.  As one wrote, ‘Not a cloud above – not a spot within’ (G.V. Wigram (1805-1879). – For full hymn click here.

What’s upsets me, is that Christians sometimes confuse the judgment seat of Christ with the Great White Throne.  The two things are totally different – the Greek word is also different (I will refer to that later).  The Great White Throne is for unbelievers – people who have refused the glad tidings.   They will be judged without mercy according to their works.   It says, ‘This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire’ (Rev 20:14-15).

 

What is the Judgment Seat of Christ?

2 Cor 5 tells us, ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad’ (v.10).  The word ‘appear’ is in Greek is φανερόω/phaneroó.  This means ‘make clear or manifest’.  So it is not like appearing befor a court with prosecution and defence.  It is more, seeing everything in our lives, good and bad, just as Jesus saw it.  The thought of a judgment-seat is taken from Greek tradition.  The word used is βῆμα/bēma – a step or foot (up).  A judge, or umpire would sit on a slightly raised platform and would adjudicate.  For example he would judge the games, disqualifying cheats and giving prizes (usually a crown wreath of leaves) to the first, second and third places.  It is also like a tribunal, before which my namesake Sosthenes was beaten in Corinth (see Acts 18:17).  By way of contrast judgment at the Great White Throne is κρίμα/krima – the sort of judgment you get in a trial, from which, of course, we get our word ‘crime’.

The important thing here is that the Judge is also our Saviour, and what abounds is mercy.  Our time of responsibility will have finished.  There will be no guilt and no penalty.  Any idea of a period of purgatory is totally foreign.  Look at it from the Lord’s point of view.  He has finished the work, His church is complete, His bride is ready, He wants the marriage to take place immediately – ‘The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready’ (Rev 19:7).  We will be able to enjoy the Lord’s presence eternally, and the Lord will enjoy His bride in her perfectness.

The only other direct reference to the judgment seat of Christ is in Rom 14:10 ‘But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ’.  Here it is a question of judging our brother (or sister). The message here is that we should good relationships with the Lord and with our brethren now, so no adjustment will be necessary at the judgement seat.

A couple of hymns bring the positive aspects of the judgment seat of Christ

How shall I meet those eyes? 
Mine on Himself I’ll cast, 
And own myself the Saviour’s prize, 
Mercy from first to last

James Montgomery (1771-1854)

 

What will it be with God to dwell,
And there to gaze on Jesus’ face!
To meet the One we’ve known so well
As Priest and Saviour – in that place!
 
Before Christ’s judgment seat to stand,
With Him look back on all the way;
To learn the meaning, at His hand,
Of every deed in every day!
 
Clearer than ever shall we see
The grace which God our Saviour showed,
The love that led so faithfully
Along the pathless desert road.
 
How blessed when this time is o’er,
To find that love had all-sufficed,
As there upon the heav’nly shore
We reach the day of Jesus Christ!
Maria Carlsson-Carren (circa 1865-1955)

Little Flock Hymn Book No 299

 

When is the Judgment seat of Christ.

Scripture is not specific as to this. Clearly it must be between the rapture and the marriage of the lamb.  Personally I think of it being VERY quick – maybe as we are changed into our bodies of glory (see 1 Cor 15:52).

Quick and blessed!

 

 

A Little more about the Rapture (See last month)

I would like to thank everybody for the positive reaction to the article on the rapture.

One brother challenged me to back everything up by scripture.  Not that he disagreed, but we should be able to substantiate anything we say by the Word of God.

I wrote and spoke to several young believers and suggested they came back to me with scriptures.  Disappointingly nobody responded – so here is my attempt, based on the table showing the differences between the rapture and the appearing.  So please go through these and add to them, especially where it shows [?]

 

RAPTURE APPEARING
No one knows when it will be 2 Thes 2:3 [?] It will be 7 years (arguably 3½) after the rapture, but day unknown Matt 24:36 [?]
It will be private [?] It will be very public Matt 24:27
The Lord comes to the air 1 Thes 4:17 The Lord comes to the earth Zech 14:4
He comes FOR His saints 1 Thes 4:17 He comes WITH His saints Col 3:4
It is followed by the great tribulation Rev 3:10 It is followed by the millennium Rev 20:6
He is the Bridegroom Rev 19:7 He is the King Rev 19:6
He is the Morning Star 2 Peter 1:19 He is the Sun of Righteousness Mal 4:2
It is for the Church 1 Thes 4:15-16 It is for His earthly kingdom Rev 11:15
There is little in prophecy 1 Thess 4, 1 Cor 15 etc There is much in prophecy OT Prophets, Matt, Mark, Rev etc
The world will carry on Matt 24:37 Christ will reign Isa 32:1
The man of sin will be revealed 2 Thes 2:3 Satan will be bound Rev 20:2
There will be the judgment seat of Christ 2 Cor 5:10 The world will be judged Rev 18:10
People will be translated 1 Cor 15:51 People will not be unchanged [understood]
People will believe a lie 2 Thes 2:11 The truth will be acknowledged Zech 12:10

 

Additionally, our brother Mr K in Brisbane came back to me with a similar table that he had done.  You can see it at his blog http://hotspuds.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/scoffers-beware.html