Explaining Dispensational theology in one post is about as explanatory as describing an internal combustion engine by saying that it burns gas and turns a shaft to run a car. By that, I mean that Dispensationalism is such a vast and complex topic that a cursory explanation does little more than create a thousand questions in the minds of the readers, and in this case, almost every reader is going to have a thousand different questions than any other reader! However, I think it is important to make an attempt, if simply to help provide a well-rounded experience when it comes to Bible doctrine, as well as to open up dialogue with people who have never seen the Bible in this light.
Buckle up: here we go!
Forewarning: I believe the King James Bible unquestioningly. I will tolerate no second-guessing of God's word, for the King James is certainly that word. No Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic or Chaldean will I appeal to against the King James, for I believe that God is able to not only magnify His word above all His name (Ps. 138:2), but He is able to preserve (Ps. 12:6-7) every word (Matt. 4:4) forever (Ps. 119:89), and He did, in the King James Bible.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
This verse is unique in that it is the only place in the Bible where we are commanded to study. (warning: all modern versions have removed this word, which explains why there is a dearth of doctrinal study in Christianity today) I explain the verse this way: "Study" is what to do, "to shew thyself approved unto God" is why to do it, "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed" is the result of not studying, and "rightly dividing the word of truth" is the how. That being said, we must understand that the proper study of the Scriptures requires understanding that we must "rightly divide" it, or know the correct divisions that are found in Scripture.
That being said, the actual divisions found in Scripture will have to be addressed at a different time.
Some Preliminary Things to Understand
Time does not permit me to fully supply all the proof texts and arguments for the following, but if need be I will answer, in another post, the questions about each. But for the purpose of this post, the following will be accepted as factual:
- There are three groups: the Jews, the Gentile, and the Church
- There are three parts to every human: the Body, the Soul, and the Spirit
- There are two Images: the image of God and the image of Adam
These are foundational truths that must be understood in order to proceed into the actual meat of Dispensational theology. While one might argue that God wouldn't make truth complicated (and He doesn't), theology is deep, because God Himself is incredibly deep, so studying Him is inevitably a very complex and long-lasting undertaking.
The Basic Theme of the Scriptures
Why are all these seemingly accessory things so important, you ask? Well, we must build line upon line, and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, and therefore we do so now.
Anyone who is familiar at all with the Bible knows that it is not laid out chronologically. Job is probably the oldest book, and falls somewhere between Genesis 10 and 12, most likely. Also, the books of Isaiah through Malachi occur within the books of Kings and Chronicles, which are actually concurrent, though each focuses on a different angle of Israel's history. (Yes yes, I have a point with all this!)
If we look at the beginning of the Scriptures, both chronologically and as it is laid out, we see that both ways, the Bible begins with a king and a kingdom. For clarification, read the words of Genesis 1:
Gen. 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
The key word in this passage is "dominion." The only person that has a dominion is a king or a ruler: a king rules a domain, or his dominion. Therefore, God made Adam a king over the entire creation, from the oceans to the atmosphere and to everything in between. Chronologically, Lucifer (Isa. 14) had a throne already, and attempted to exalt it above God's throne, but was cast out. This is not the place for that discussion either; sorry.
Then, at the end of the Bible, we again find a King, yet this time He is the KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS, reigning and ruling from Jerusalem with a rod of iron (Rev. 19) Therefore we see that the Bible begins with a king, and ends with a King, and if you trace it down through the Bible, you'll see that this struggle - for dominion and control over a Kingdom - is the main theme of the Bible. While most Christians assume that the Church is the main theme of the Scriptures, an honest look will give evidence that the Church Age is but a parenthetical, almost accidental time, where God gives grace to the Gentiles to provoke the nation of Israel - God's divorced wife - to jealousy.
Understanding what Dispensationalism Means
Now, for the good stuff!
When God created Adam, He gave him two commands: dress and keep the garden, and don't eat of that tree (paraphrasing, obviously). His existence required no faith, no redemption, and no blood, because he had no sin! God's plan for his life was simply to live in bliss in the garden and replenish the earth (again, we're not going there!). In fact, there was nothing BAD about the tree at all: God obviously had a plan for them to partake of it eventually, but until then, the act was disobedience, though the tree was not evil in and of itself.
However, after Adam sinned, and lost that perfect innocence and blissful existence, God provided a way for him to regain the lost image of God (made in God's image, lost the image through sin, Seth born in Adam's image, Gen. 5:3). Contrary to what most people today believe, however, that provision did NOT include faith in any way, shape or form: God provided animal skins, which were a sacrifice and a covering for sin. Adam's acceptance of God's provision is what covered his sin: Romans 10:9-10 had absolutely nothing to do with it!
Later, Noah's favor in God's eyes was not because of his faith, but because Noah was "a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God." (Gen. 6:9) In fact, Noah's obedience is the very thing that saved him: if Noah had not obeyed God and built the ark, there is no way that he would have wound up in Heaven! Again, like in the previous section, we again see the "dominion" (kingship) issue pop up: in Genesis 9, God grants authority and power over the creation to Noah and his sons.
There are so many more to talk about, but the main person of interest, from both Dispensational and non-Dispensational points of view, is Abraham. Quickly: Paul uses Abraham as "proof" of salvation by Grace in Romans 4 and other places, while James uses Abraham as "proof" of the necessity of works for salvation. The issue here is that God dealt with Abraham differently than He does with us today, and He will deal with others differently in another time period. Specifically, Abraham was sanctified (was imputed God's righteousness) when he believed God about Isaac (Rom. 4:3), but he was justified when he offered up Isaac (James 2:21). So regardless of the arguments from both sides of the issue, the fact is that Abraham's justification and sanctification were received separately, at different times, and for different reasons, while we are justified and sanctified at the same instant when we receive the free gift of Salvation. Therefore, "Things that are different are not the same," and thus we see that God dealt with Abraham differently than He dealt with us.
In Conclusion, and a Teaser…
I'll put my keyboard to rest here, but I do want to make mention of the underlying and yet overarching topic that I left entirely untouched: the Two Kingdoms. The Bible clearly speaks of two Kingdoms: the kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of God. One is literal, physical, and earthly, and the other is spiritual and heavenly. This is another vastly deep topic that bears much study and dividing, but perhaps my loyal readers will come up with some thoughts of their own before I actually approach that topic.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you receive a blessing from this.