Many don’t fully understand that the bible was divided for divine purposes of distinguishing God’s Two Covenants he made with mankind. Even fewer know that there was a covenant made before the law of Moses. Hardly none know of the dispensation between the law of Moses and the the law of Christ. I hope to fully and biblically illustrate the 3 1/2 dispensations found within the pages of the bible.
The First Dispensation
The first dispensation is called the “Patriarchal.” Patriarchal means “Father or Ruler”. There were no written laws these “fathers” used to rule. God spoke to the heads of families, and the heads thereof spoke to their families. Hebrews explains this: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son . . .” Heb 1:1,2 After the children of Israel were led by Moses out of Egyptian bondage, they were taken into the wilderness where God gave them a written law on Mount Sinai. There, for the first time, a law was written by the finger of God, and was revealed through Moses to the people.
The scriptures reveal that where there is no law there is no sin, for sin is a transgression of the law. Rom 4:15 f; 1 Jn 3:4 Therefore, when Adam and Eve sinned, of necessity there also had to be a law given. The law given to Adam was specifically for the space of time Adam was in the Garden of Eden, and ended when he was driven out by God for his iniquities. Abraham was most noted as a ‘father’ for it was by him the promise was given that his seed would live forever. A promise which was fulfilled through Christ.
The Second Dispensation
The Mosaical law began on Mount Sinai and lasted till Jesus nailed it to the cross. The law of Moses was the law by which God ruled Israel. The law was nailed to the cross when Jesus died and fulfilled it. “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross”. Col. 2:14 Israel became a nation belonging to God. God established a priesthood from one family, the family of Aaron (the Levitical tribe). He gave directions for a moveable place of worship, called the Tabernacle. Animal sacrifices were offered to God as sacrifices. When Jesus died, the law ceased to be of force, and the last dispensation was gradually ushered in. Heb. 9:15-17
The 1/2 Dispensation
This period of time is noted between the fading away of the old law, and the beginning of the law of Christ. During this time miracles which have never been seen, or will be seen again here on earth were performed. They were not a part of the third dispensation as we know it today. People were receiving the Word directly from the Spirit of God, speaking in tongues, and prophesying. The apostle Paul stated to the Corinth church that when that which is perfect is come, then that which was done in part would be taken away. 1 Cor 13:8-10 That which was perfect was God’s written Word which had yet been printed for all to obey. The Hebrew writer stated that a new law which was prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah was to replace the law of Moses because it was found faulty. “In that he said, ‘A new covenant , he has made the first old. Now that which decays and grows old is ready to fade out.” Heb 8:7-13 This dispensation only lasted during the life of the apostles who were fulfilling the commission which Jesus gave them: “Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Mt 28:18-20 This was fulfilled by the time Paul wrote to the Colossians: “If indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Col 1:23
The Third Dispensation
Since it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away the sins of the world, of necessity Christ came into the world. Because Jesus was of the tribe of Judah, it was necessary to change the law, as a change of the priesthood had been made. The third period of time is called: “The Christian dispensation”. It began at Pentecost, following Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The Christian era is also properly called “The Last Days.” Peter said the events that occurred on Pentecost were in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies designating that time as “the Last Days” Acts 2:17 ff; Joel 2:28; Isa. 2:2; Micah 4:1 This period of time in which we live is the last of all God’s dispensations of time. The final sacrifice for sins was offered by Jesus’ shed blood and the church was established. The gospel was first proclaimed and repentance and remission of sins was preached for the very first time at the beginning of this third and final period of time. Luke 24:47
Conclusion: It is imperative to know which dispensation we are in lest we attempt to obey the commandments given to another dispensation with whom we have no hope of their promise. We are not bound by the law given to Abraham. We are not bound by the law given to Moses. We are not expected to speak in tongues, prophesy or receive the Word directly from the Holy Spirit. We are bound by the law of Christ to obey it, for by our obedience to it are we promised eternal life. Tit 1:2