Category: Dispensation


In classic dispensationalism, there are seven dispensations. It is important to remember that dispensationalism is a theology inferred from Scripture rather than an explicitly taught doctrine of God’s Word. The value of dispensationalism lies in its systematic view of history’s different eras and the various ways in which the Ancient of Days interacts with His creation.

The seventh and final dispensation brings about the culmination of life on Earth and the closest thing yet to how God really wanted to live with us on this planet. As its name suggests, the Millennial Kingdom of Christ will last for 1,000 years.

The Millennial Kingdom is the seventh dispensation (Revelation 20:1-10).

Stewards: The resurrected Old Testament saints, the glorified Church, and survivors of the Tribulation and their descendants
The Period: From the Second Coming of Jesus Christ until the final rebellion, a period of one thousand years
Responsibility: To be obedient, remain undefiled, and worship the Lord Jesus (Isaiah 11:3-5; Zechariah 14:9)
Failure: After Satan is loosed from the Abyss, sinful man rebels one more time (Revelation 20:7-9)
Judgment: Fire from God; the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:9-15)
Grace: Jesus Christ restores creation and rules righteously in Israel, with all saints assisting (Isaiah 11:1-5; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20)

The Millennial Kingdom will be a time characterized by peace (Isaiah 11:6-7; Micah 4:3), justice (Isaiah 11:3-4), unity (Isaiah 11:10), abundance (Isaiah 35:1-2), healing (Isaiah 35:5-6), righteousness (Isaiah 35:8), joy (Isaiah 55:12), and the physical presence of Christ (Isaiah 16:5). Satan will be bound in the Abyss during this period (Revelation 20:1-3). Messiah Jesus will be the benevolent dictator ruling over the whole world (Isaiah 9:6-7; 11). The resurrected saints of all times will participate in the management of the government (Revelation 20:4-6).

The Millennial Kingdom is measurable and comes after the Kingdom of God (embodied in Jesus Christ) came to man during the dispensation of Grace. On Jesus’ first visit to the earth, He brought grace; at His Second Coming He will execute justice and usher in the Millennium. Jesus mentioned His glorious return at His trial before the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:62), and He was referring to the Millennial Kingdom when He taught His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10, KJV).

The rebellion at the end of the Millennial Kingdom seems almost incredible. Mankind will have been living in a perfect environment with every need cared for, overseen by a truly just government (Isaiah 11:1-5), yet they still try to do better. Man simply cannot maintain the perfection that God requires. Mankind follows Satan any chance he gets.

At the end of the Millennium, the final rebellion is crushed, and Satan will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). Then comes the Great White Throne Judgment where all the unrighteous of all of the dispensations will be judged according to their works and also cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

After the final judgment, God and His people live forever in the New Jerusalem on a new earth with a new heaven (Revelation 21). God’s plan of redemption will have been completely realized, and the redeemed will know God and enjoy Him forever.

And, should it be understood literally?

The millennial kingdom is the title given to the 1000-year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth. Some seek to interpret the 1000 years in an allegorical manner. They understand the 1000 years as merely a figurative way of saying “a long period of time,” not a literal, physical reign of Jesus Christ on the earth. However, six times in Revelation 20:2-7, the millennial kingdom is specifically said to be 1000 years in length. If God wished to communicate “a long period of time,” He could have easily done so without explicitly and repeatedly mentioning an exact time frame.

The Bible tells us that when Christ returns to the earth He will establish Himself as king in Jerusalem, sitting on the throne of David (Luke 1:32–33). The unconditional covenants demand a literal, physical return of Christ to establish the kingdom. The Abrahamic Covenant promised Israel a land, a posterity and ruler, and a spiritual blessing (Genesis 12:1–3). The Palestinian Covenant promised Israel a restoration to the land and occupation of the land (Deuteronomy 30:1–10). The Davidic Covenant promised Israel a king from David’s line who would rule forever—giving the nation rest from all their enemies (2 Samuel 7:10–13).

At the second coming, these covenants will be fulfilled as Israel is re-gathered from the nations (Matthew 24:31), converted (Zechariah 12:10–14), and restored to the land under the rule of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Bible speaks of the conditions during the millennium as a perfect environment physically and spiritually. It will be a time of peace (Micah 4:2–4; Isaiah 32:17–18), joy (Isaiah 61:7, 10), and comfort (Isaiah 40:1–2). The Bible also tells us that only believers will enter the millennial kingdom. Because of this, it will be a time of obedience (Jeremiah 31:33), holiness (Isaiah 35:8), truth (Isaiah 65:16), and the knowledge of God (Isaiah 11:9, Habakkuk 2:14). Christ will rule as king (Isaiah 9:3–7; 11:1–10). Nobles and governors will also rule (Isaiah 32:1; Matthew 19:28), and Jerusalem will be the political center of the world (Zechariah 8:3).

Revelation 20:2-7 gives the precise time period of the millennial kingdom. Even without these scriptures, there are countless others that point to a literal reign of the Messiah on the earth. The fulfillment of many of God’s covenants and promises rests on a literal, physical, future kingdom. There is no solid basis for denying the literal interpretation of the millennial kingdom and its duration being 1000 years.

In the dispensation of Innocence, God worked face to face with His highest creation, made in His own image. After the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind was no longer innocent, and God appealed to humans to use their divinely implanted consciences to do right. That brought in the second dispensation (Conscience), which lasted for about 1600 years until God could tolerate the sin no more and brought a flood to destroy all but eight persons—a remnant to continue His sovereign plan for mankind. During the dispensation of Human Government, civil authority was established to govern society, but again, mankind rebelled—this time, at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:4). After God dispersed the people, He created the nation of Israel from Abraham and his descendants (the dispensation of Promise). After God had created the Hebrew people, He gave them the Law through Moses (the dispensation of Law). God’s people consistently broke the commandments, but the Law was finally fulfilled in Christ. The Lord then established the dispensation of Grace. God’s unmerited favor would finally allow His chosen people (believing Jews and Gentiles) to have lasting fellowship with Him.

Grace is the sixth dispensation (John 19:31 to Revelation 3:22).

Stewards: The church. All believers are ministers of their spiritual fruit and a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9)
The Period: From the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) to the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), a period of nearly 2,000 years and counting
Responsibility: To be perfected by sanctification; to love one another; to exhibit ever-increasing godliness (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 2 John 1:5)
Failure: A lack of maturity; worldliness; many churches falling into apostasy (Galatians 5:4; 2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Judgment: The blindness of apostasy and false doctrine (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Timothy 4:3)
Grace: Forgiveness of sins through Christ Jesus (1 John 1:3-7; John 14:20)

This dispensation of Grace is often referred to as the Church Age because it is during this era that Jesus is building His Church (Matthew 16:18). It began at Pentecost (Acts 2) and will end when all who are born again by the baptism of the Holy Spirit are raptured out of this world to be with Jesus Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The Church is mentioned again in Revelation 19 as returning to earth with the Lord Jesus at His Second Coming.

Grace is God’s benevolence to the undeserving. Grace is the rule of life for the Church, and through the Church God’s grace is extended to the whole world, as the gospel of Jesus Christ is taken to the ends of the earth. It has been said that grace saved us (Ephesians 2:8-9), it supports us (Romans 5:2), it teaches us (Titus 2:11-12), and it disciplines us (1 Corinthians 11:28-32; Hebrews 12:5-11). With the Holy Spirit indwelling His Church, we are able to walk with the Lord and live as He intends (Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 2:10; 5:17-18; Philippians 1:6; 4:13; Romans 8:14). It is not heaven yet, and it is far short of perfection, but as the Church is being sanctified, it provides a little taste of heaven on earth (Ephesians 2:21-22).

"Dispensation of Law"

“Dispensation of Law”

While the Abrahamic Covenant continues and has not yet been completely fulfilled (even to this day), God changed course with His chosen people Israel at Mt. Sinai. God added the Law, and with it a new dispensation, which had a beginning and an ending (Romans 10:4).

The fifth dispensation is that of Law—Exodus 19:5 to John 19:30.

Stewards: Moses and the children of Israel as a nation at Mt. Sinai
The Period: from Mt. Sinai until Christ Jesus fulfilled the Law with His death
Responsibility: Keep the whole Law (Exodus 19:3-8)
Failure: The Law was broken (2 Kings 17:7-20)
Judgment: Worldwide dispersion (Deuteronomy 28:63-66; Luke 21:20-24)
Grace: The promised Savior is sent (Isaiah 9:6-7; Galatians 4:4-5)

Israel was never to be saved by keeping the Law (Romans 3:20). The Law was meant to govern their earthly lives, to define sin, and to point to the coming Savior. Neither did the Law change the provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant.

The dispensation of Law is named after the Mosaic Law, called a “covenant” in Exodus 24:7-8; Deuteronomy 4:13; and Galatians 3:19. It was God’s only conditional covenant with Israel in that blessing and success depended upon the people’s obedience to the Law (Exodus 19:5). It did not take long for the Law to be broken, as proved by the golden calf in Exodus 32.

The Law was also a temporary covenant to be made null and void by the institution of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:32; Hebrews 8:13; 10:9). The Law was added “because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come” (Galatians 3:19).

It is important to note that the Law of Moses was given only for the nation of Israel (Exodus 19:3-8; Deuteronomy 5:1-3; 4:8). Jesus made it clear that it was given to Israel and not the Gentiles (Mark 12:29-30). The apostle Paul said the Law was given to Israel and not the Church (Romans 2:14; 9:4-5; Ephesians 2:11-12). The dispensation of Law is over.

How unfortunate that Israel misinterpreted the purpose of the Law and sought a righteousness by good deeds and ceremonial ordinances rather than by God’s grace (Romans 9:31—10:3; Acts 15:1)! Because they were focused on attaining their own holiness, they rejected their Messiah (John 1:11).

Israel’s history from Mt. Sinai to the destruction of the temple in AD 70 was one long record of violating God’s Law. However, the Law was still fulfilled, as Jesus states, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Because of Jesus’ perfect fulfillment of the Law, we are saved through Him: “A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

Covenant with Abraham "Dispensation of Promise"

Covenant with Abraham
   “Dispensation of Promise”

  Each dispensation has a God-ordained responsibility, stewards (people commanded to fulfill that responsibility), a failure on mankind’s part, God’s judgment, and, finally, evidence of God’s grace. In the dispensation of Promise, God works in yet another unique way with man. This dispensation begins with the call of Abraham. It is called the dispensation of “Promise” because of the covenant made with Abraham, who lived in the “land of promise” (Hebrews 6:13; 11:9). Unconditional promises, both physical and spiritual, were made to Abraham and his descendants Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:4-21; 17:1-8; 22:15-19).

The fourth dispensation is that of Promise—Genesis 11:10 to Exodus 19:4.

Stewards: The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
The Period: From the call of Abraham to Israel’s arrival at Mt. Sinai, a period of about 430 years
Responsibility: Dwell in Canaan (Genesis 12:1-7)
Failure: Dwelt in Egypt (Genesis 12:10; 46:6)
Judgment: Egyptian bondage (Exodus 1:8-14)
Grace: Moses the deliverer is sent (Exodus 3:6-10)

The promise God made to Abraham was that he would be the father of a great nation, that God would bless Abraham and his descendants, and that the whole earth would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:1-3). As the patriarch, Abraham had failure in his life, notably in fathering Ishmael (Genesis 16), going to Egypt (Genesis 12:10), and deceiving others about his wife, Sarah (Genesis 20:2). Isaac failed in similar manner, and Jacob was an outright deceiver.

Later, the Hebrew people were faced with a test: would they believe the promise God gave to Abraham to protect, bless, and guide them, or would they not believe? They chose not to believe the promise and took upon themselves the bondage of law and separation from God (Exodus 19:10-13, 18, 21; 12:19). Still, God provided grace through Moses, through Passover protection, and through the miraculous meeting of their material needs (Exodus 12–18). In Exodus 19:4 God reminds the Israelites of His grace to them: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”

The dispensation of Promise ended at Mt. Sinai, where God gave Abraham’s people the Law to govern them in yet another manner.

 "Dispensation of Human Government"

“Dispensation of Human Government”

After God had worked face to face with the first humans, Adam and Eve (the dispensation of Innocence, Genesis 1:28—3:19), they sinned, and all mankind became a fallen race living on a cursed planet. Conditions changed, and all subsequent families on earth were to do good based on what they knew to be right (the dispensation of Conscience, Genesis 3:23—8:19). Mankind again failed to fulfill their responsibility. So God brought a worldwide Flood to wipe out all but eight people. In the next dispensation, God works in a new way with His creation via Human Government.

Human Government is the third dispensation (Genesis 8:20 to 11:9).

Stewards: Noah and his descendants
The Period: From the Flood to the confusion of tongues at Babel, about 429 years
Responsibility: To scatter and multiply (Genesis 9)
Failure: Refusal to scatter and the building of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-4)
Judgment: Confusion of languages (Genesis 11:5-9)
Grace: Abraham is chosen—the start of the Jewish race (Genesis 12:1-3)

After the Flood God stepped back from directly judging men until the Second Coming; thus, a human agency known as civil government was divinely appointed to restrain evil and protect man from his own sinful nature. Noah and his wife and his three sons and their wives began to repopulate the earth. Shem would become the father of the brown or Mediterranean region dwellers and eventually the Jews (Semitic comes from the Latin word for “Shem”). Ham fathered the black race, and Japheth fathered the Anglo or white race, which would become the Europeans.

Noah and his family had practical knowledge of the failure under the dispensation of Conscience, and God made them responsible to protect the sanctity of human life. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6). In this way, God established the orderly rule of mankind for the good of society. Capital punishment is the most potent function of human government, and it presupposes all forms of legislation, organization, and enforcement. In the New Testament (Romans 13), man is still responsible to use this authority to enforce righteousness. In other words, God’s command in Genesis 9:6 has not been rescinded.

Sin (called “lawlessness” in 1 John 3:4) continued in the third dispensation. In fact, the time of Human Government was characterized by great idolatry and moral degradation. The height of disobedience was the rebellion against God at Babel—mankind built a tower to “make ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). Staying in one place was the one thing God told them not to do.

To enforce His command, God divided humanity into different language groups, and His sovereign will to populate the whole earth was accomplished. God also established a covenant with Noah that He would never again destroy the earth by water. His grace continued to be shown through His chosen people, beginning with Abraham.

Age of Conscience

“Dispensation of Conscience”

Dispensationalists see that God has worked with different people in different times in different manners. Usually, seven dispensations are identified as: “Innocence”, “Conscience”, “Government”, “Promise”, “Law”, “Grace”, and “Millennial Kingdom”. Each dispensation reveals a six-fold pattern involving the stewards of the dispensation, their responsibility, a specific period of time, a failure, the resulting judgment, and God’s grace.

The second dispensation is that of Conscience—Genesis 3:23 to 8:19.

Stewards: Cain and Seth and their families
The Period: From man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden until the Flood, a period of about 1,656 years
Responsibility: To do good and offer blood sacrifices (Genesis 3:7, 22; 4:4)
Failure: Wickedness (Genesis 6:5-6, 11, 12)
Judgment: The worldwide Flood (Genesis 6:7, 13; 7:11-14)
Grace: Noah and his family are saved (Genesis 6:8-9; 7:1; 8:1)

During the dispensation of Conscience, mankind only became worse and worse. Guided by conscience, man was supposed to choose to do good and approach God by means of a blood sacrifice (Genesis 4:4).  It was during this time that the first death occurred, when Cain slew his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8). God had accepted Abel’s animal sacrifice but not Cain’s grain sacrifice. Before the murder, God warned Cain of impending sin and told him that he could still choose to do well (Genesis 4:6-7). Cain had the opportunity to bring a proper sacrifice, after he saw what pleased God. But Cain let jealousy cloud his eyes. Cain demanded that God be pleased with his own efforts and refused to follow God’s plan. This kind of thinking still plagues mankind today, as people attempt to approach God on their own terms rather than on God’s terms.

Mankind violated his conscience and failed in his responsibility to choose to do right. Apparently, God wanted man to discover that he could not let his conscience be his only guide. Conscience proved to be a very poor guide, indeed. Out of all that lived in this dispensation, only Abel, Enoch, and Noah were called righteous (Hebrews 11:2-7; Genesis 5:22-24; 6:8-9). Genesis 6:5 states, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” The Lord’s solution was to destroy man from the face of the earth, along with all land-dwelling animals (verse 7). “But Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the LORD” (verse 8).

Noah warned his contemporaries for 120 years as he built the ark and as the LORD showed His great patience. God as the righteous Judge must deal with sin, and judgment was often quick and severe in the Old Testament. His judgment then—and His grace within that judgment—should inform us today. “For if God . . . did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly . . . then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment” (2 Peter 2:4, 9). The heathen today are under the same responsibility as mankind was from the Fall to the Flood, with their “conscience bearing witness” (Romans 2:15).

God extended grace to Noah and his family and gave instructions to build the ark and established His covenant with them (Genesis 6:14-22). God saved eight people and brought them forth into a new dispensation (Genesis 7:1; 8:1; Hebrews 11:7). The apostle Peter uses God’s grace to Noah as an illustration of God’s grace today to us who are saved by faith. Just as Noah and his family were “brought safely through the water,” we are saved by the baptism of the Holy Spirit—“not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:19-21).

Age of Innocence

“Dispensation of Innocence”

[A seven part series on “Dispensationalism”:]

Dispensationalism is the system of theology that provides the best, most literal hermeneutic (method of Bible interpretation). Also, dispensationalism makes a clear distinction between Israel and the Church. The classic seven dispensations are Innocence, Conscience, Government, Promise, Law, Grace, and Millennial Kingdom. In each of these, there is a recognizable, six-fold pattern of how God worked with those living in the dispensation. God gives a responsibility to people, they fail to meet God’s requirements, their failure is judged, and God extends grace and hope for the future.

The first dispensation is that of Innocence—Genesis 1:28 to 3:19.

Stewards: Adam and Eve
The Period: From the creation of man to his temptation and fall
Responsibility: To obey God (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15-17)
Failure: Disobedience (Genesis 3:1-6)
Judgment: Curse and death (Genesis 3:7-19)
Grace: A new chance and the promise of a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15)

Innocence is the shortest of the dispensations. God created man to live in perfect harmony with Himself, and there was nothing known of imperfection or evil. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, and they were innocent of sin (Genesis 1:27). They had an eternal soul, a free will, and the ability to procreate. They walked and worked with God, who interacted with His creation (Genesis 2:15).

Adam and Eve were innocent until they disobeyed God, bringing sin and death into the world (Romans 5:12). This death affected their bodies and souls and those of all of their descendants. At the moment of Adam and Eve’s sin, they lost their innocence, as they were immediately aware, and they hid in shame from God (Genesis 3:7-8). The couple tried to cover their sin, which they somehow associated with their sex organs, but their attempt was futile.

God pronounced judgment on the man and his wife (Genesis 3:16-19), but He also showed mercy by killing an innocent animal and providing skins to cover over (atone for) their sin. God’s gracious provision showed the inadequacy of man’s attempt to atone for his own sin and the sufficiency of God’s atonement. The slaughter of the animals introduced the biblical principle “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

God’s ultimate solution to the sin problem was promised in Genesis 3:15. In His grace God would send One of supernatural birth to redeem mankind. This Savior would be truly innocent and would provide the way to escape the sin nature we inherit from Adam. Jesus Christ is the “Last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), who offered Himself as the final sacrifice for sin for all who place their faith in Him (1 Peter 3:18).

Dispensation is a method of interpreting history that divides God’s work and purposes toward mankind into different periods of time. Usually, there are seven dispensations identified, although some theologians believe there are nine. Others count as few as three or as many as thirty-seven dispensations. In this article, we will limit ourselves to the seven basic dispensations found in Scripture. [In the coming days we will go into greater detail with each of the seven.]

The first dispensation is called the “Dispensation of Innocence” (Genesis 1:28-30 and 2:15-17). This dispensation covered the period of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In this dispensation God’s commands were to (1) replenish the earth with children, (2) subdue the earth, (3) have dominion over the animals, (4) care for the garden, and (5) abstain from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God warned of the punishment of physical and spiritual death for disobedience. This dispensation was short-lived and was brought to an end by Adam and Eve’s disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit and their expulsion from the garden.

The second dispensation is called the “Dispensation of Conscience“, and it lasted about 1,656 years from the time of Adam and Eve’s eviction from the garden until the flood (Genesis 3:8–8:22). This dispensation demonstrates what mankind will do if left to his own will and conscience, which have been tainted by the inherited sin nature. The five major aspects of this dispensation are 1) a curse on the serpent, 2) a change in womanhood and childbearing, 3) a curse on nature, 4) the imposing of difficult work on mankind to produce food, and 5) the promise of Christ as the seed who will bruise the serpent’s head (Satan).

The third dispensation is the “Dispensation of Human Government“, which began in Genesis 8. God had destroyed life on earth with a flood, saving just one family to restart the human race. God made the following promises and commands to Noah and his family:

1. God will not curse the earth again.
2. Noah and family are to replenish the earth with people.
3. They shall have dominion over the animal creation.
4. They are allowed to eat meat.
5. The law of capital punishment is established.
6. There never will be another worldwide flood.
7. The sign of God’s promise will be the rainbow.

Noah’s descendants did not scatter and fill the earth as God had commanded, thus failing in their responsibility in this dispensation. About 325 years after the flood, the earth’s inhabitants began building a tower, a great monument to their solidarity and pride (Genesis 11:7-9). God brought the construction to a halt, creating different languages and enforcing His command to fill the earth. The result was the rise of different nations and cultures. From that point on, human governments have been a reality.

The fourth dispensation, called the “Dispensation of Promise“, started with the call of Abraham, continued through the lives of the patriarchs, and ended with the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, a period of about 430 years. During this dispensation God developed a great nation that He had chosen as His people (Genesis 12:1Exodus 19:25).

The basic promise during the Dispensation of Promise was the Abrahamic Covenant. Here are some of the key points of that unconditional covenant:

1. From Abraham would come a great nation that God would bless with natural and spiritual prosperity.
2. God would make Abraham’s name great.
3. God would bless those that blessed Abraham’s descendants and curse those that cursed them.
4. In Abraham all the families of the earth will be blessed. This is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and His work of salvation.
5. The sign of the covenant is circumcision.
6. This covenant, which was repeated to Isaac and Jacob, is confined to the Hebrew people and the 12 tribes of Israel.

The fifth dispensation is called the “Dispensation of Law“. It lasted almost 1,500 years, from the Exodus until it was suspended after Jesus Christ’s death. This dispensation will continue during the Millennium, with some modifications. During the Dispensation of Law, God dealt specifically with the Jewish nation through the Mosaic Covenant, or the Law, found in Exodus 19–23. The dispensation involved temple worship directed by priests, with further direction spoken through God’s mouthpieces, the prophets. Eventually, due to the people’s disobedience to the covenant, the tribes of Israel lost the Promised Land and were subjected to bondage.

The sixth dispensation, the one in which we now live, is the “Dispensation of Grace“. It began with the New Covenant in Christ’s blood (Luke 22:20). This “Age of Grace” or “Church Age” occurs between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel 9:24. It starts with the coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and ends with the Rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4). This dispensation is worldwide and includes both Jews and the Gentiles. Man’s responsibility during the Dispensation of Grace is to believe in Jesus, the Son of God (John 3:18). In this dispensation the Holy Spirit indwells believers as the Comforter (John 14:16-26). This dispensation has lasted for over 2,000 years, and no one knows when it will end. We do know that it will end with the Rapture of all born-again believers from the earth to go to heaven with Christ. Following the Rapture will be the judgments of God lasting for seven years.

The seventh dispensation is called the “Millennial Kingdom of Christ” and will last for 1,000 years as Christ Himself rules on earth. This Kingdom will fulfill the prophecy to the Jewish nation that Christ will return and be their King. The only people allowed to enter the Kingdom are the born-again believers from the Age of Grace and righteous survivors of the seven years of tribulation. No unsaved person is allowed access into this kingdom. Satan is bound during the 1,000 years. This period ends with the final judgment (Revelation 20:11-14). The old world is destroyed by fire, and the New Heaven and New Earth of Revelation 21 and 22 will begin.

A dispensation is a way of ordering things—an administration, a system, or a management. In theology, a dispensation is the divine administration of a period of time; each dispensation is a divinely appointed age. Dispensation is a theological system that recognizes these ages ordained by God to order the affairs of the world. Dispensation has two primary distinctives: 1) a consistently literal interpretation of Scripture, especially Bible prophecy, and 2) a view of the uniqueness of Israel as separate from the church in God’s program. Classical dispensation identifies seven dispensations in God’s plan for humanity.

Dispensationalists hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible as the best hermeneutic. The literal interpretation gives each word the meaning it would commonly have in everyday usage. Allowances are made for symbols, figures of speech, and types, of course. It is understood that even symbols and figurative sayings have literal meanings behind them. So, for example, when the Bible speaks of “a thousand years” in Revelation 20, dispensationalists interpret it as a literal period of 1,000 years (the dispensation of the Kingdom), since there is no compelling reason to interpret it otherwise.

There are at least two reasons why literalism is the best way to view Scripture. First, philosophically, the purpose of language itself requires that we interpret words literally. Language was given by God for the purpose of being able to communicate. Words are vessels of meaning. The second reason is biblical. Every prophecy about Jesus Christ in the Old Testament was fulfilled literally. Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, and resurrection all occurred exactly as the Old Testament predicted. The prophecies were literal. There is no non-literal fulfillment of messianic prophecies in the New Testament. This argues strongly for the literal method. If a literal interpretation is not used in studying the Scriptures, there is no objective standard by which to understand the Bible. Each person would be able to interpret the Bible as he saw fit. Biblical interpretation would devolve into “what this passage says to me” instead of “the Bible says.” Sadly, this is already the case in much of what is called Bible study today.

Dispensational theology teaches that there are two distinct peoples of God: Israel and the church. Dispensationalists believe that salvation has always been by faith—in God in the Old Testament and specifically in God the Son in the New Testament. Dispensationalists hold that the church has not replaced Israel in God’s program and that the Old Testament promises to Israel have not been transferred to the church. Dispensationalism teaches that the promises God made to Israel in the Old Testament (for land, many descendants, and blessings) will be ultimately fulfilled in the 1000-year period spoken of in Revelation 20. Dispensationalists believe that, just as God is in this age focusing His attention on the church, He will again in the future focus His attention on Israel (see Romans 9–11 and Daniel 9:24).

Dispensationalists understand the Bible to be organized into seven dispensations: Innocence (Genesis 1:1—3:7), Conscience (Genesis 3:8—8:22), Human Government (Genesis 9:1—11:32), Promise (Genesis 12:1Exodus 19:25), Law (Exodus 20:1Acts 2:4), Grace (Acts 2:4Revelation 20:3), and the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:4–6). Again, these dispensations are not paths to salvation, but manners in which God relates to man. Each dispensation includes a recognizable pattern of how God worked with people living in the dispensation. That pattern is 1) a responsibility, 2) a failure, 3) a judgment, and 4) grace to move on.

Dispensationalism, as a system, results in a premillennial interpretation of Christ’s second coming and usually a pre-tribulation interpretation of the rapture. To summarize, dispensation is a theological system that emphasizes the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy, recognizes a distinction between Israel and the church, and organizes the Bible into different dispensations or administrations.