According to Wikipedia, Dispensationalism “reflects a view that biblical history is best understood as a series of dispensations, or separated time-periods, in the Bible.” Dispensational Theology believes that God has related to human beings in different ways under different Biblical covenants in a series of “dispensations,” or periods in history. It is God’s way of administering His rule over the world as He progressively works out His purpose.
Many sources refer to only Seven Dispensations and describe them as God’s method of interacting with man. They are the Age of Innocence, Conscience, Human Government, Promise, Law, Grace (The Dispensation that we live under today), and Divine Government. There are other sources, however, such as Dake’s, that refer to two additional dispensations: The Dispensation of Angels and the Dispensation of Faithful Angels and the Redeemed. The Dispensation of Angels (Genesis 1:1-2) occurred prior to the Dispensation of Innocence and The Dispensation of Faithful Angels and the Redeemed will occur as the final dispensation.
The information that is presented is taken from the Dake’s Topical Index and The Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible 10th printing. March-2012
The First Dispensation: The Dispensation of Angels
1. Name. We call it the dispensation of angels, because angels were given rulership under God to administer His will and rule the earth and other planets (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:11-17; Matthew 25:41; Ephes. 1:21; Ephes. 3:9-10; Ephes. 6:12; Col. 1:15-18; 1 Peter 3:22; Rev. 12:7-10; Rev. 20:10).
2. Length. From the time the earth was created in the presence of angels (Job 38:4-7) to the time of chaos and defeat of Satan in his invasion of heaven (Genesis 1:2; Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:11-17; Luke 10:18).
3. Favorable beginning. Every angel, devil, and person was sinless to begin with (Ephes. 1:21; Ephes. 3:9-10; Col. 1:15-18; 1 Peter 3:22). Lucifer, the ruling cherub of earth, is described as “perfect in thy ways from the day that thou was created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezekiel 28:11-17). This scripture and Isaiah 14:12-14 picture his exalted position. He had a most favorable beginning and it would have remained so had he not exalted himself in an effort to dethrone God (Ezekiel 28:17; 1 Tim. 3:6).
4. Test. The test for angelic rulers was the same as for man-to obey Him in all that He commanded. Lucifer had ways to walk in (Ezekiel 28:15), and so did all other angels, or they could not have sinned. Sin is transgression of the law for angels as well as human beings (1 John 3:4).
5. Purpose of God. His purpose was to test angels to see if they would remain true to Him before using them eternally as trusted servants. For this same reason God tested man, His purpose for testing being alike for all free moral and responsible agents. Satan and others failed because they “abode not in the truth” (John 8:44; Ephes. 3:9-10; 1 Tim. 5:21; 1 John 5:18-19; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6-7).
7. Failure. Some angelic beings failed to continue in the truth (John 8:44) and the ways which God made clear to them (Ezekiel 28:11-17). Over one-third rebelled, including Lucifer who will be cast down to earth with the other rebellious angels in the middle of the future tribulation (Rev. 12:4,7-12). God found it necessary to charge them with folly (Job 4:18), sin (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6-7), and rebellion (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:11-17; Rev. 12:7-12).
8. Judgment for sin. God prepared hell “for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Some are in hell now (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6-7). Lucifer and those still loose with him will eventually be put into hell (Matthew 25:41; Rev. 12:7-12; Rev. 20:10). Immediate judgment came by their defeat and God taking away their rulership (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:11-17). They would not be pseudo-rulers of earth now if Adam, the new ruler of the earth, had not fallen and submitted to them (Genesis 3:1-24; Romans 5:12-21; Ephes. 2:1-3; Ephes. 4:27; Ephes. 6:1; 1 John 5:18-19; Rev. 12:9-12). Now, in Christ, man has power over them (Ephes. 6:10-18; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:7-9) and will eventually have the entire dominion restored to him (Psalm 8; Daniel 7:18,27; Hebrews 2:9-18; Rev. 5:10; Rev. 20:4-6; Rev. 22:4-6).
9. God’s provision of redemption. In what way God offered reconciliation to angels and how many availed themselves of His grace is not revealed, because the Bible is not a history of the creation, fall, judgment or redemption of angels, as it is of man. Whatever is said about angels, demons, pre-Adamites, and other creatures not of the present creation on earth, is limited to what is necessary to reveal God’s plan for man. When 1 Tim. 5:21 speaks of elect angels, the term is no doubt used in the same sense as elect men who are redeemed. We then conclude that angels had some means of grace and reconciliation, and that some are called elect because they became reconciled. God, who is all good, has always given mercy to rebels of the human race, and we can believe He was just as merciful to angels, demons, and pre-Adamite rebels, providing them with a means of grace befitting their nature and created purpose. Among those who ruled, the ones who rebelled when on probation and now persist in continued rebellion will be punished in the same way that human rebels will be (Matthew 25:41). Since both classes are to be punished, we conclude that angels, as well as human beings, have been given some means of grace even though not by blood sacrifice.
Paul speaks of “invisible things” in the heavenly world as being as real and understandable as the visible things on Earth (Col. 1:15-18). In fact, he states that these “invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom.1:19-23, emphasis added). That is, there is no excuse for being ignorant of heavenly things.
He further speaks of heavenly bodies as being as real as earthly bodies: “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial . . . There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body . . . As is the earthy such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly (1 Cor. 15:35-50).
Let us forget the idea that Heaven is an invisible nothing, or merely a cloud that the redeemed will float around on in space and play a harp forever. The Heaven in which God dwells is a real planet, “a better country” than the planet Earth (Heb. 11:14-16). As we shall see in Lesson Forty-two, Heaven is a real place, created with cities, mansions, food, water, trees, and other things that we know of in this visible world. Lucifer is spoken of as having a “throne” (Isa.14:12-14; Ezek. 28:11-17) and other “thrones” are mentioned in Col. 1:16-18 as being in the heavens. These are evidently thrones of other angels, so there is such a doctrine as the dispensation of angels taught in Scripture.
1. Name. So-called because faithful angels and resurrected saints will help God administer the affairs of the universes from the earth which will be the eternal headquarters of His government. This dispensation is what we know as the New Heaven and New Earth. It could also be called the Eternal Future, the Eternal Perfect State, or the Eternal Sinless Career of the Earth (Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22-24; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Rev. 21:1-22:5).
2. Length. Eternity; world without end. It will be the time of perpetual generations, endless perfection, and eternal life. See Sixty-five Other Eternal Things.
4. Test. There will be no further need of moral or probationary tests to see if angels or human beings will prove true and worthy of eternal trust. All in the eternal ruling class-the elect and faithful among angels and human beings-will have been purged of all possibility of falling. They will be obedient to God, absolutely and eternally trusted to help administer the affairs of the vast creations (Ephes. 2:7; Ephes. 3:11; Rev. 21-22). Perpetual generations to come, who will be ruled by resurrected saints and others, will be born sinless.
5. The purpose of God. To be all in all again, as before rebellion began with Lucifer and Adam (1 Cor. 15:24-28; Ephes. 1:10), and to carry out His eternal plan of having creations and kingdoms which are willingly subject to Him and consecrated to the same end that He is consecrated to: the highest good of being for all-that is the purpose of God in the future eternal dispensation. See note 49, The Ten-fold Purpose of God in the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ, in Fifty Facts about the Millennium since this applies to the New Heaven and New Earth as well as to the Millennium.
6. The means of God in accomplishing His purpose. Throughout eternity, He will continue to use Christ, faithful angels, and redeemed human beings who will have proven themselves trustworthy in ministering to the human race (Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 2:9-18), and who will have come with Christ to take over the kingdoms of this world (Zech.14:1-5; Matthew 13:38-51; Matthew 24:29-31; Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thes. 1:7-10; Jude 1:14-15; Rev. 19:11-21).
7. Failure. There will be no failure throughout eternity with elect angels, elect resurrected men, or elect natural men who will carry out their part of the program as in the eternal purpose of God as His plan was before Adam’s fall. The fall did not do away with God’s original plan; it only postponed it until the restitution of all things in the New Earth (Acts 3:21; Rev. 21-22)
8. Judgment for sin. There will be no judgment for sin again, for all will be righteous and holy. Rev. 22:3-5 says, “there shall be no more curse … His servants shall serve Him: and they shall see His face … and they shall reign for ever and ever.”
9. God’s provision of redemption. This is the same as stated in point 9 of the seventh dispensation for man-Dispensation of Divine Government or Millennium. The redemption provided through Christ and the cross is eternal in its scope and benefits to mankind.
Before I close this presentation please allow me to present our current Dispensation: The Dispensation of Grace.
1. Name. So-called because of the fullness of grace brought by Jesus Christ (John 1:16-17). Human beings had grace in all previous ages, but not in fullness. The same was true of laws. People had laws in all periods before Moses, but the fullness of law came by Jesus Christ.
2. Length. From the preaching of the kingdom of heaven by John (Matthew 11:11; Luke 16:16) to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Considering that we reckon our time in A.D. from the birth of Christ, and that He was about thirty years of age (in A.D. 30) when John the Baptist announced the kingdom and when Law ended and Grace began (Luke 1:26; Luke 3:23), then we know that we will have already come 1,970 years in this dispensation by A.D. 2000. How many more years Grace will continue is not known because we don’t know when the second coming (which is to terminate this dispensation) will take place. Students of prophecy believe it will be soon. Grace cannot end until ten kingdoms are formed inside the old Roman Empire territory (Daniel 7:7-8,19-24), until the Antichrist has been here seven years after the rapture of the church (Daniel 9:27; 2 Thes. 2:7-8), and until all the events of Rev. 4:1-19:10 have been fulfilled in these last seven years (Rev. 4:1, note). Then, and then only, can Christ come (Rev. 19:11-21) and the Millennium begin (Rev. 20:1-10).
3. Favorable beginning. Satan was defeated on the cross and made powerless to overcome any believer who would put on the whole armor of God (Ephes. 6:10-18) and resist him (Ephes. 4:27; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:7-9). In this matter, no difference was made between Jew or Gentile, male or female (Acts 2:16-21; 1 Cor. 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Col. 3:11). Furthermore, the dispensation of Grace began with ministries of power-that of Christ, John the Baptist, the apostles, and other men endued to perform miracles, as recorded in the Gospels and Acts. It began with complete grace (John 1:16-17), promises of the fullness of the Spirit (John 7:37-39), and a full commission to represent God and do the works of Christ (Mark 16:15-20; John 14:12). There is now no limitation to the believer regarding what he wants from God according to the promises. Everyone is privileged to receive according to his faith (Matthew 8:13; Matthew 9:29; Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21-22; Mark 11:22-24; John 14:12-15; John 15:7,16; Hebrews 11:6; 1 John 3:21-22; 1 John 5:13-14).
5. The purpose of God. To save all who would believe, to call out a people for His name, and to build the church (John 3:16; Acts 15:13-18; 1 Cor. 1:18-24; 1 Cor. 12:12-31; Ephes. 2:14-22; Ephes. 4:7-16; Ephes. 5:25-32; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Rev. 22:17).
6. The means of God in accomplishing His purpose. Preaching the gospel is His means to call out a people for the church (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-20; Romans 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18-24; 2 Cor. 4:4). For this work He uses called and gifted men (Romans 12; 1 Cor.__1 Corinthians__12; Ephes. 4:7-11). He also uses angels (Hebrews 1:14) and ordinary saved men to propagate the gospel as directed by the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17,26; John 15:26; John 16:7-15; Acts 1:4-8; Acts 2:38-39; Acts 5:32).
(1) The failure of Israel is seen in their rejection of John, Jesus, and the apostles; in the crucifixion of their Messiah; and in war on the early church. The gospel first went to Israel (Matthew 10:5-6) but they would not obey. So, it was taken from them and given to the Gentiles (Matthew 21:33-46).
(2) The early church began to fail God in the very beginning (Acts 5-6; Acts 15). All the epistles reveal divisions, strifes, heresies, unclean living, false leaders, and other evidences of backsliding and fallacy (1 Cor.__1 Corinthians__1; 1 Cor.__1 Corinthians__3; 1 Cor.__1 Corinthians__5; 1 Cor.__1 Corinthians__11; Galatians 3; Galatians 5; Ephes. 4; Col. 3; 2 Peter__2 Peter__2; Jude 1:3; Rev. 2-3).
(3) The post-apostolic church continued in failure-not evangelizing the world, living clean lives, preaching the full truth, or being one as Christ had prayed (John 17:21-23). The church entered the dark ages when popes and bishops lorded it over civil rulers and murdered millions who would not conform to organized religion. A reformation finally took place and Christianity has now been revived (in part) as in the New Testament, but the church as a whole is still slow to recognize its full rights and privileges in the gospel.
8. Judgment for sin. For their rejection of John (Matthew 3:7; Matthew 21:23-27), Jesus (Matthew 11:11-27; Matthew 12:1-50; Matthew 23:1-39), and the early disciples (Acts 4:1-31; Acts 6:8-7:59; Acts 8:1-4; Acts 9:1-8; Acts 12:1-5; Acts 16:19-38; Acts 17:1-18:18; Acts 22:1-28:31), Israel was destroyed as a nation in A.D. 70 and scattered among the other nations (Matthew 24:1-3; Luke 21:20-24). They will not be restored until the second coming of Christ (Romans 11:25-29). This dispensation will end with great apostasy (Matthew 24:4-41; 1 Tim. 4:1-16; 2 Tim. 3:1-13; 2 Tim. 4:1-4; 2 Thes. 2:1-12; 2 Peter__2 Peter__2; Jude 1:3-18). The question in Luke 18:8 is: “when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” Judgment will include the greatest tribulation ever known on earth (Matthew 24:15-24; Rev. 6:1-19:10; Daniel 12:1). Because men will not receive the truth, God will send strong delusions to damn such rebels (2 Thes. 2:8-12; Rev. 13; Rev. 16:13-16; Rev. 19:20).
9. God’s provision of redemption. The provision for this period and every other one is the death of Christ on the cross (1 Cor. 1:18-24; Col. 1:12-20; Col. 2:14-17; 1 Peter 2:24). People in previous dispensations looked forward to it by faith to receive its benefits. People now look back in faith to receive its benefits (Romans 3:24-25; Ephes. 2:8-9; Hebrews 11). God sent His Son to take the place of all person in death, so that all who believe might be fully redeemed, reconciled, and restored to original dominion (Psalm 8; Galatians 3:13; Ephes. 2:11-18; Hebrews 2:9-18; 1 Peter 1:18-23).
Remember that today is the day of salvation 2 Corinthians 6:2 (KJV) 2 …now is the day of salvation. The day that you hear his voice you must not harden your heart. Hebrews 3:15 (KJV) 15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. If you do not take advantage of the grace that God has provided through the death of His only begotten Son, you will wind up in hell and no other dispensation will matter to you. The Rapture of the church is the next great thing on God’s calendar. Get right church and let’s go home.
Dake Topical Index.