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"Insights" From the New Testament Greek
By Bob Jones, Northside Bible Church, Jacksonville Florida
THE BIBLE TERM "DISPENSATIONS":
The Greek word "oikonomia"
1. The Bible term "dispensations" describes the distinct "divisions of time", that God designed into His plan for mankind.
2. The English word "dispensations" is in Eph 1:10 and 3:1&2, where it describes the Age we presently live in, the "Church Age", as the Age of "Grace" (unmerited favor), and the Age of the "fullness of times", (getting everything together).
3. The Greek word translated "dispensations" is "oikonomia", meaning "to manage a household". "Oikonomia" comes from a combination of two Greek words, "oikos", meaning "household", and "menos" meaning "to manage". God has "managed" His "household", or His people and their relationship to Him, in distinctly different ways, depending on the "dispensation" in which they lived.
4. The study and knowledge of the Biblical teaching of Dispensations is necessary for God's people to "Rightly divide" God's Word (2 Tim 2:15), and apply it correctly. We must know what "dispensation" we are in, in order to understand our relationship with God.
5. Most conservative Bible Scholars recognize a total of seven "dispensations":
--- First Dispensation: The Age of "Innocence". Adam and Eve were created perfect and sinless, and placed in the Garden of Eden, with all their needs provided.
--- Second Dispensation: The Age of "Conscience". After Adam and Eve's sin and expulsion from the Garden of Eden, they had to work with their hands to provide for themselves, and God dealt with the human race through their "conscience". (See Rom 2:14 and 15)
--- Third Dispensation: The Age of "Human government". After the Great Flood of Noah, God began to use human governments to "govern" the world. "Governmental powers" were answerable to God, as they ruled the nations of mankind.
--- Fourth Dispensation: The Age of "Promise". God called Abram, who lived in Ur, to believe in Him and travel to the land we call Israel today, to begin a new "nation" who would be "God's Chosen People", the Jewish race.
--- Fifth Dispensation: The Age of "Law". This Age begins with God giving His Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Mosaic Law was only for the Nation of Israel, and the Gentile world continued under "human government".
--- Sixth Dispensation: The Age of "Grace". The Nation of Israel rejected Jesus as the Savior, and the Age of Grace, also called the "Church Age", began on the day of Pentecost, in Acts chapter 2. John 1:17 "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ". Romans 10:4 "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth".
--- Seventh Dispensation: The "Kingdom" Age. After the seven year Tribulation, Jesus will return and set up His "Millennial Kingdom", to personally rule this earth, with a "rod of Iron".
For our purposes here, I would like to discuss God's management of His household as four MAJOR "dispensations", each one approximately 2000 years in length:
a. INNOCENCE/CONSCIENCE: From Adam to Abraham. (Approx 2000 Years). (Rom 5:13) The head of each family was responsible to God and sacrificed animals to God as a type and shadow of Jesus and His future work on the Cross. God also designed the constellations in the sky to teach His truth concerning His plan for man and His redemption in Christ. (Rom 1:18-32). Without a written Law, God wrote His "Law" into the hearts of people (all over the world, Rom 2:14&15) that He sovereignly made to be His own, through "regeneration", or the "new birth". Job is a good example of a person that lived prior to the Age of the Jew, a long way from Palestine, having no written "Law", but just read the book of Job to see the astounding knowledge of God that God sovereignly gave to Job!
b. AGE OF THE JEW: From Abraham to the day of Pentecost, in Acts Chapter 2. (Approx 2000 years). The Jews in the Age of the Jew were required to live by the Old Testament Law. But, gentiles who were children of God during the Age of the Jew were not required to live by this law, Rom 2:14 & 15. Note: The Gospels are part of the Old Testament. Jesus was a Jew who lived during the Age of the Jew, under the Old Testament Law, and kept it perfectly, and redeemed us from it.
c. THE CHURCH AGE: From the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, to the Rapture of the Church. (Approximately 2000 years?). We live by the Church Age Epistles to the Church, Romans to Jude, and are not under the Old Testament Law (Rom 6:14&15, Gal 4:1-7, Gal 5:14-18 & 6:2). The Church was a mystery hid in Christ and not revealed to the Old Testament prophets, Eph 3:1-5 and Col 1:25-27.
(1). Note: The 7 year Tribulation is the Age of the Jew RESUMED, and to be completed at the Second Advent of Christ.
d. THE MILLENNIUM: (Exactly 1000 years, Rev 20:1-7) From the Second Advent, (at the end of the 7 years Tribulation), to the Great White Throne of Judgement in Rev 20:11-15. There are approximately 500 prophecies in Scripture concerning the 1000 year Millennial kingdom.
6. During our present Age, the "Church" Age, we live by God's Word for this Age, contained in the Book of Romans to the Book of Jude. The Old Testament Books and the Gospels give us the wonderful history, and pictures, shadows and types of present truth. The Book of Acts is a "transitional" Book that describes the beginning of the Church Age and how God established His Church at one place, and at one point in time and then spread it throughout the whole known world. The transition ended when the Bible was completed in 96 AD. The book of Revelation portrays past, present and future, (Rev 1:19), with chapter 1 past, chapter 2 & 3 present, and chapter 4-22 future. I believe that we are presently on the Revelation time line at chapter 3:14-22, the Laodicean Church, meaning in the Greek, the Church of "human rights", which is described as making Jesus sick at His stomach, saying that they are rich, but really spiritually poor, blind, naked (not clothed by God's righteousness, see 1 John 1:9) and shameful.
7. An illustration of the drastic difference between the previous "Jewish age" and the present "Church age" is the relevance of the Old Testament Law that God gave the Nation of Israel. The "Old Testament Law" refers to the "decalogue" or "Ten Commandments", and the "Ceremonial Law" and "Dietary Law" that God gave the Jews in the book of Leviticus.
In the Jewish Age, the Jews were required to live by these Laws, but in the Church Age, we are no longer under these Laws:
a. No longer under the Law, but under grace, Rom 6:14, 7:6&6.
b. The Law was a curse, Gal 3:13, and Christ redeemed us from it.
c. The Law was our "schoolmaster" to bring us to Christ. No one can keep God's Law, so that leaves us hopeless and helpless and in need of a savior. Gal 3:23-26.
d. Jesus nailed it to His cross and took it out of the way Col 2:14.
e. Under the Old Testament Law, there was a priest who operated in a temple, the Spirit of God resided in the temple, and the priest offered sacrifices to God in accordance with the Law.
f. Now, in the Church Age, as a child of God, we are a priest, 1 Peter 2:5 & 9 and Rev 1:6, our body is God's temple and the Spirit of God lives in us, 1 Cor 6:19, and we offer spiritual sacrifices to God through our High Priest Jesus Christ . Our Church Age sacrifices:
(1). Our body, a living sacrifice, Rom 12:1
(2). Our praises to God, Heb 13:15
(3). Our sharing and fellowshipping with one another, Heb 13:16
(4). Our Divinely motivated good works, Phil 2:17
(5). Our Divinely motivated giving, Phil 4:18
8. Now that I understand God's Dispensations I can no longer teach non-Church Age Scriptures as New Testament Truths:
---I cannot teach "Matt 24:36-44 - as the Rapture of the Church. (Itís the OPPOSITE, this passage is the Second Advent, where, just like the flood of Noah's time, the wicked unbelievers are taken and the righteous remain to repopulate the earth for the Millennium in Matt 24:43 - 47)"
---The New Testament clearly teaches Grace "giving" to support God's people and work, but I cannot teach the "ordinance" of "storehouse tithing", Mal 3:7&8, when it is clear in the New Testament, in Col 2:14, that Jesus took the Old Testament "ordinances" (Mal. 3:7&14), that were "against" us, out of the way, nailing them to His cross.
I know that those of you who "tithe" (the word "tithe" means "10%"), and believe, and teach, that God will not bless a person unless they "tithe", will "bristle" when I point out that "tithing" was Old Testament Law and that the Church Age children of God are free from the Old Testament Law and "ordinances" - including "tithing", but just relax and read the Scriptures quoted here. You want to know God's truth don't you?
I sincerely believe that more harm has been done to God's precious people by teaching that they must "tithe" to please God, than all the "good" done by the "tithes" collected from them! I would even venture to say that 90% of the Chtistians that do not attend church today would tell you that "tithing" is one of their top reasons for not attending. - 2 Cor. 3:6 "The LETTER KILLS but the SPIRIT gives LIFE".
a. In the Church Age, the Age of Grace, Eph 3:2, we "give as we purpose in our own heart", not out of "necessity", 2 Cor 9:7&8. In the Jewish Dispensation, temple worship and the Jewish priesthood were supported by "tithes", plural, there was not just a "tithe", but there were many different "tithes" in Old Testament times.
b. In the New Testament Epistles to the church, "tithing" is only mentioned one time, in Heb 7:5-9, where Old Testament "tithing" is mentioned in passing to illustrate that Jesus is greater than Abraham. In verse 5 it says that "the sons of Levi have a commandment to take tithes of the people ACCORDING TO THE LAW". (The church is not under the Old Testament law, Rom 6:14 & 2 Cor 3:6)
c. Divinely motivated giving, YES!. Christian stewardship, YES! A 10% requirement, NO. When you mature in Christ, you might cheerfully give MORE than 10% to Christian ministries, but there is no "percent" given as a requirement to the church.
d. Think about it, the Old Testament tithes, in the previous Jewish Age, were to support the Old Testament priesthood and temple - now, in the Church Age, ALL of God's children, worldwide, ARE the priesthood, and ALL of God's children worldwide ARE God's temple. Now, we give as God impresses us, to support each other and Christian ministries that are true to God's Word. There is no more physical "temple" to support, and the Church is not a building, but God's people. The "local" church is God's people (each one is a holy temple) banded together to do God's work and grow in GRACE and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 1 Pet 3:18. All New Testament giving is for the "necessity of the saints", Rom 12:13. (ALL of God's children, from the least to the greatest are God's "saints" because of what Jesus has done for them, not because of anything that they have done, 1 Cor 1:2, 10, &11, and 1 Cor 3:1-3).
e. The early New Testament church met in homes. There are no church buildings or "programs", or "order of service" mentioned in the New Testament. What we see as "church" today is entirely man-made and optional. No one has the right to say "this is the way it must be done". But EVERYONE has the right to worship as they see fit, "as unto the Lord".
f. Some teachers and Bible footnotes point to Abraham giving "tithes" to Melchizedek (a type of Christ, our King and High Priest) "before the law was given", to say "the tithe existed before the Law, so it still exists even though the church is not under Old Testament Law". If we really want to know the truth, let's look in our Bible at Genesis 14:5-24, and read the verses AROUND where this event occurred, and we find that:
(1) In Gen 14:11&12, Abram's brother's son Lot, and the wicked Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah were defeated and taken prisoner by Chedorlaomer. (Abram means "father of high and windy places", or "full of hot air". God would later, in Gen 17:5, rename him "Abraham", meaning "father of many nations").
(2) In Gen 14:14-17, Abram and his army went to fight the armies of Chedorlaomer and free Lot and the armies of Sodom and Gomorrah.
(3) In Gen 14:17-19, Abram and his armies were returning with all the spoils of war, from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and he passed through Salem, (shalom=peace, where Jerusalem is today, "Jerushalom = city of peace"). Melchizedek, king of Salem, and priest of the most high God, came out to meet Abram as he returned by way of Salem.
(4) In Gen 14:20-24, Abram gave Melchizedek "tithes of all", or 10 percent of the spoils of the war, which was customary for passage rights, returning through another king's country.
(5) Concerning "tithing", Abram gave Melchizedek "tithes" of the spoils of war that belonged to the WICKED, PAGAN, KINGS OF SODOM AND GOMORRAH, and in Gen 14:21-24 Abram refused to take ANY of the spoils from the war for himself. So, Abram gave 10 percent of the spoils of the war to Melchizedek, and the other 90 percent, he gave back to the original owners, the Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. We find in Gen 13:2 that Abram was "very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold", and there is no reference, or even "inference" that Abraham ever "tithed" any of his personal wealth.
(6) Bottom line, in the Church Age, the Age of Grace, Eph 3:2, we "give as we purpose in our own heart", not "grudgingly", not out of "necessity", and God loves a "cheerful" giver, 2 Cor 9:7&8. And 2 Cor. 9:6 states "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully".
--- I cannot teach that you have "blood on your hands if you don't get your relatives and people around you saved", Eze 33:7-9, when it is clear in the New Testament that "salvation" is a sovereign act of God, and we can only give out the gospel, or "good news" and the result is up to God Himself, 2 Cor 2:14-17.
--- I cannot teach "praying for Godís Spirit, like David did in Psa 51:10&11". In the Church Age, all God's children are permanently indwelt by the Spirit of God, Rom 8:9. In the Church Age, the issue is not how much of God's Spirit do you have, but how much of YOU does God's Spirit have.
--- I cannot teach "Sabbath keeping" (Saturday or Sunday) Col 2:14-16. For the Christian, every day is a sabbath, where we rest from our own works, and allow God to work through us, Heb 4:1-10.
a. There is no special day of the week given for Christians in the New Testament. The Old Testament sabbath requirement was nailed to Jesus' Cross and taken out of the way, Col 2:14-16, it was a "shadow" of our completeness in Christ ALL WEEK LONG.
b. Rev 1:10 is the only Scripture that I know of where it appears that a special day exists for the church, but the Greek in Rev 1:10 says that John "was made to become spirit and placed into the Day of the Lord" (The "Day of the Lord" all over the Scriptures is the 7 year Tribulation ending in the Second Advent of Christ). There is no "Lord's day" in the New Testament.
c. Even the idea that we should worship on the first day of the week because Jesus was raised on the first day of the week is not correct, the tomb of Jesus was empty before the first day of the week started, Matt 28:1. He was raised from the dead on the sabbath. Matt 28:1 records the first trip to the empty tomb by Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and in the Greek states: "Now late on the sabbath, as it was beginning to get dark toward the first day of the week". The Jewish first day of the week starts at 6 PM on Saturday the Jewish sabbath day, and Jesus was already raised from the dead.
d. What is the point? We are free to worship God every day all day long and attend church gatherings when ever we desire, with no regard to a special day. Christians are free to personally make any day of the week special to themself , but we are not to judge anyone else for having or not having a special day, Rom 14:4-13.
--- I cannot teach Old Testament laws on marriage and re-marriage. (Church Age truth on marriage divorce and re-marriage is in 1 Cor chap 7, 1 Tim 4:1-3, and 1 Tim 5:14 ).
--- I cannot teach that those in religious office cannot marry. In 1 Tim 4:1-3, Paul calls this a "doctrine of devils" also. The teachers themselves may be called "Father" (But in Matt 23:9 Jesus said to call no man "father", speaking of religious titles), or "Priest" (1 Pet 2:5 & 9 and Rev 1:6, but every believer is now a "priest", and every believer is now a "saint", not because of what they have done, but because of what Jesus has done for them). If we are not aware of the Dispensation we live in and aware of what the Word teaches, error builds on error.
--- I cannot teach that the church is going to have to endure the 7 year Tribulation. (See my 20 reasons why I believe we will not on the question and answer page.)
9. A correct knowledge of DISPENSATIONS (Rightly dividing the truth, 2 Tim 2:15) can add to the joy of your salvation, make the Bible come alive with rich meaning, promote rapid growth in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 2 Pet 3:18, and prevent false teachings from stealing your rewards , Col 2:8-18.
I urge you read your Bible, and to find a Bible teaching local church, if you are not in one, and if you absolutely cannot find one, start one yourself. A New Testament Church can be as small as two or three people, and Jesus is always there, because He permanently lives in His people (John 14:23 & Eph. 1:13 & 14).