[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).